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2009 Preview: April

April 1st, 2009

April is a transition month. At the beginning it is strong, but as we near May, the looming competition is just too great and that scares away the big-ticket releases. That said, there are still a few films that could reach the century mark this month, and it does look stronger than last April and that will help 2009 extend its lead in the box office race.

Weekend of April 3rd, 2009
Just one truly wide release this week, which should help that film succeed. But there is also a smaller film that should please critics more, as well as a limited release expanding wider.

Name: Adventureland
Distributor: Miramax
Official Site: AdventurelandTheFilm.com
Release Date: April 3rd, 2009
MPAA Rating: R for language, drug use and sexual references
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Coming of Age, Bad Jobs, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: First an update from last month. The film was pushed back a week and will now opening in an estimated 1,800 theaters on its first weekend. This is not a huge amount; in face, it is below the 2,000 theaters usually associated with a truly wide release, but with a low estimated production budget, it could be enough to be a success. From writer / director Greg Mottola, whose last film was Superbad. That movie was made for a very low budget, but earned stellar reviews and more than $120 million at the box office. That's a tough act to follow, and if this film can earn reviews that are even close to 87% positive and half as much at the box office, then it will make the studio very, very happy. It does have a few things going for it, including a very effective trailer, while the early reviews have risen to 71% positive. (There are still far too few to judge where the final figure will be, but this is a good sign.) I think it will open with a respectable per theater average, but not enough to expand significantly, while earning enough in total to show a profit by its initial run on the home market. On the other hand, there's a chance it will crash and burn during its opening weekend and never make it to $10 million in total. Update: Reviews have climbed to 90% positive, which is the best of the year so far, at least for a wide release. That said, analysts are not bullish on this film and $25 million in total might not be on the cards.

Name: Fast & Furious
Distributor: Universal
Official Site: FastAndFuriousMovie.net
Release Date: April 3rd, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sexual content, language and drug references.
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Street Racing
Production Budget: Reported at $80 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million
Notes: The first film of this franchise was a surprise hit back in 2001. The second film opened faster, but didn't have the staying power. This is common for sequels. The third film was a disappointment, opening with just under $24 million and finishing with just over $60 million in total. The studio is clearly hoping the return of Vin Diesel and Paul Walker will help the franchise return to the century mark. I'm not sure that was wise. After all, it has been a while since either man has pulled in $100 million. For Vin Diesel, his last $100 million movie was The Pacifier, which hardly has the same target audience as this movie. And for Paul Walker, it was 2 Fast 2 Furious. I think the film will bounce back from the last outing, and it could hit $100 million, but I wouldn't bet on it. Update: So far the film has earned zero positive reviews out of five currently on Rotten Tomatoes. However, analysts seem to think a $50 million opening is likely, which would give the film $125 million in total. I don't see that happening, but perhaps my prediction of $75 million is too low.

Name: Sunshine Cleaning
Distributor: Overture Films
Official Site: SunshineCleaning-TheMovie.com
Release Date: March 13th, 2009 (limited)
Release Date: April 3rd, 2009 (wide)
MPAA Rating: R for language, disturbing images, some sexuality and drug use
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Huh? ... I'm going to have to review this one before I can answer this
Production Budget: Reported at $5 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million
Notes: This film's wide release was pushed back a week, and it will be limited to 500 or so theaters. On the plus side, it has done relatively well in limited release, and it has earned its expansions. I don't think it will have major breakout success, but it could reach a few more milestones before it is done with its theatrical run, while it should be a hit on the home market.

Weekend of April 10th, 2009
Three wide releases this week, and all three have relatively divergent target audiences. That's the good news. The bad news is none of them are guaranteed hits. Also of note, Case 39 was supposed to open wide this week, but it has been pushed back and there is no set release date at this time. In fact, it has been pushed back a number of times and I fear it might be dumped direct-to-DVD.

Name: Dragonball Evolution
Distributor: Fox
Official Site: DragonballTheMovie.com
Release Date: April 8, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG For intense sequences of action/violence and brief mild language
Source: Based on TV
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Live Action Cartoon, Good vs. Evil, Martial Arts, etc.
Production Budget: Reported at $100 million
Box Office Potential: $60 million
Notes: Based on a cartoon, which is in turn based on a popular manga, which means there are two Fandoms it can disappoint. That might not be fair, but the buzz is not good for this movie and more people are making fun of Goku's hair than talking about the quality of the movie. After watching the trailer, I can't imagine a lot of neophytes being interesting in the film. Plenty of special effects, not a lot of interesting characters, and a plot that is best described as, "Who cares?" Totally superfluous. On the other hand, there could be enough Fanboys interested in the movie to make it a midlevel hit, while the Wednesday release will let it get a jump on the competition, and it should continue to perform relatively well in Asian markets. In fact, it has already made $18 million in 8 Asian markets, including $6 million in both China and Japan. With that strength, it could make a reasonable profit during its home market run, even with a production budget that is higher than I would have approved had I been asked.

Name: Hannah Montana the Movie
Distributor: Disney
Official Site: Disney.Go.com/DisneyPictures/HannahMontanaMovie
Release Date: April 10, 2009
MPAA Rating: G for General Audiences
Source: Based on a TV Series
Major Genre: Drama / Comedy
Keywords: Musicians, Secret Identities, etc.
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $35 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million
Notes: Last year Miley Cyrus broke records with Best of Both Worlds, which was all Disney needed to see to greenlight a movie based on Hannah Montana. This is not the first time a Disney Channel product has made it to theaters, as High School Musical 3 made the leap last year, while Lizzie McGuire did it in 2003. I think this film will finish somewhere between those two films. It does have nearly six years of inflation on Lizzie McGuire, while it never pulled in the same ratings as High School Musical. Then again, I expect it to have better legs than either High School Musical 3 or Best of Both Worlds. And with a production budget of $35 million, it should have little trouble showing a profit during its initial push into the home market. International markets, on the other hand, will likely not be a factor.

Name: Observe and Report
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Official Site: Observe-And-Report.WarnerBros.com
Release Date: April 10, 2009
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, graphic nudity, drug use, sexual content and violence.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Dark Comedy
Keywords: Mall Cop, Bi-Polar, Dysfunctional Family, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: Some are comparing this movie to Paul Blart, and for obvious reasons. However, all reports suggests this is a lot more than just an R-rated version of Paul Blart, but the comparison might still hurt it. Written and directed by Jody Hill, whose first film was The Foot Fist Way. That film had a lot of advance buzz going into the movie and many thought it would be the breakout limited release hit of the summer. That didn't work out. Early reviews suggest it suffers from a lot of the same problems. For instance, Seth Rogan's character is not portrayed as sympathetic enough in the trailer, and that could turn off a lot of moviegoers. For that matter, dark comedies in general are very difficult to sell to the general public. I could see it opening in fewer than 2,000 theaters and struggling to match even the low end of its estimated budget. It also has a chance to be a midlevel hit, but I don't think it has a good chance to do so.

Weekend of April 17th, 2009
This is where spring ends and the studios start preparing for summer by clearing the schedule. This week is filled with films that have limited upsides, or movies that looked good on paper but the end result didn't live up to expectations.

Name: 17 Again
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Official Site: 17AgainMovie.com
Release Date: April 17th, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language, some sexual material and teen partying
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Mid-Life Crisis and Body Swap.
Production Budget: $20 million to $50 million - reports vary
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: This is a big movie for the career of Zac Efron, as it is his first chance to show if he can carry a movie. I'm not so sure he can. Also, the late April release date doesn't suggest the studio has a whole lot of confidence in this movie either. In the film, Matthew Perry plays a middle-aged man who feels his life isn't going the way he wants and wishes he was young again, only to wake up as a 17-year old. This is not an original idea and there are plenty of similar films like Big, 13 Going on 30, 18 Again, Freaky Friday, etc. So this film will have to rely on the trailer to sell the movie, and it just doesn't work. I don't think it will have a 13 Going on 30-like opening, and I doubt it will have the reviews necessary for long legs at the box office.

Name: Crank 2 - High Voltage
Distributor: Lionsgate
Official Site: Crank2.com
Release Date: April 17, 2009
MPAA Rating: R for frenetic strong bloody violence throughout, crude and graphic sexual content, nudity and pervasive language
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Organized Crime, Revenge, Gratuitous Cameos, and more
Production Budget: Reported at under $20 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million
Notes: It's a Jason Statham action movie. What more do you need to know? Seriously, similar films have almost always earned between $30 and $40 million, and I see little reason to suspect this one will be different. As for the plot, in the movie a mob boss steals Chev Chelios' nearly indestructible heart and replaces with an inferior model, one that requires electrical shocks every once and a while to keep it going. ... Huh? Fortunately, the plot is superfluous, because that one doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I doubt the reviews will be strong, but fans will still flock to the theaters, and with a low production budget, it shouldn't take long for the movie to show a profit.

Name: State of Play
Distributor: Universal
Official Site: StateOfPlayMovie.net
Release Date: April 17, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence, language including sexual references, and brief drug content
Source: Based on a TV series
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: News, Political, Conspiracies, and more
Production Budget: Reported at $60 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million
Notes: A movie about a group of investigative journalists who are investigating the death of a young woman, who turns out to be the mistress of a politician. And it turns out she was involved in a conspiracy. There are a lot of big names in this movie, but the buzz is weak. Well, not weak exactly, but light. There's not a lot of buzz positive or negative here, which makes it more difficult to predict its box office chances. The source material, a British mini-series, earned amazing reviews, and a ton of awards, which is a good sign. Also, since the show was British, odds are that most people haven't seen it and it won't suffer from the comparison. That said, the trailer was only moderately effective and unless the ad campaign turns up the heat, it is unlikely that the movie will be anything more than a midlevel hit.

Weekend of April 24th, 2009
The last weekend in April. This means the films opening this week have very little time between opening day and when they are crushed by Wolverine. Because of that, not a lot of A-list films are coming out this week. In fact, all of them could bomb.

Name: Earth
Distributor: Disney
Official Site: Disney.com/Nature
Release Date: April 22, 2009
MPAA Rating: G for General Audiences
Source: Based on a TV Series
Major Genre: Documentary
Keywords: Nature, Animal Lead, Underwater, and more
Production Budget: $40 million for the TV series, $15 million for the movie
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: Planet Earth was a BBC series that earned strong ratings in its native country, and is one of the best selling High Definition releases of all time. However, it was cut down to a 90-minute movie and shown in theaters in many markets and in several of these it did huge business. So much so, that it was only a matter of time before it earned a theatrical release here. I'm not entirely convinced it will open wide. If it does, it could pull a March of the Penguins and earn $75 million, or more. Or if it opens in limited release, it could stumble out of the gate like Arctic Tale did and not reach $1 million. The above box office potential is a weighted average of those two extremes. I don't think either is likely, but the lower end is more likely. I'm still predicting it will earn enough to show a profit. In fact, it could be the biggest documentary hit of the year, while its home market numbers might be even better.

Name: Fighting
Distributor: Universal
Official Site: FightingMovie.net
Release Date: April 24, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense fight sequences, some sexuality and brief strong language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action / Drama
Keywords: Mixed Martial Arts, Orgainized Crime, and more
Production Budget: Unknown - hopefully less than $20 million
Box Office Potential: Less than $20 million
Notes: Now there's a generic name. It matches its generic trailer. I'm having a hard time coming up with anything interesting to say about this movie or its chances at the box office. It appears that most of the buzz is people making fun of the name or the fact that it feels like a remake of Never Back Down. I don't think this film will make as much money as that one, mainly because it doesn't feel as fresh, but it likely didn't cost a lot to make, so the studio could still come out on top.

Name: Obsessed
Distributor: Sony
Official Site: AreYouObsessed.com
Release Date: April 24, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual material including some suggestive dialogue, some violence and thematic content
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Relationships Gone Wrong, Stalking, etc.
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $30 to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: The trailer makes this film look very generic, which is not good, because by the time it opens in theaters, ads for the summer blockbusters will be flooding TVs. It is most notable as Beyonce Knowles' first dramatic role that is not music related, which could bring in the curious, but I don't think it will be a major selling point. Then again, I don't think there's anything here that's a major selling point, and even becoming a midlevel hit could be out of the question.

Name: The Soloist
Distributor: Paramount
Official Site: SoloistMovie.com
Release Date: April 24, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, some drug use and language
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Biography, Musicians, Mental Illness, Journalist, and more
Production Budget: Reported at $60 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: Originally set to come out during the heart of awards season, which is an amazing time of year to release a film. Then it was pushed back to mid-March, which is a mediocre time of year to release a film. Then it was pushed back to the weekend before the start of summer, which is a terrible time of year to release a film. Given its subject matter, its cast, its original release date, etc. one would not be out of line to assume it was made to win Oscars. One would therefore not be out of line to call it busted Oscar bait. It could still earn strong reviews and become a midlevel hit, but that seems like a long shot now.

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Filed under: Monthly Preview, Fast & Furious, Hannah Montana the Movie, Obsessed, 17 Again, State of Play, Earth, The Soloist, Observe and Report, Fighting, Crank 2: High Voltage, Sunshine Cleaning, Dragonball Evolution, Adventureland