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2008 Preview: April

April 1st, 2008

April is not a good month to release a movie. In fact, it is one of the worst months to release a movie, especially late in the month as the May mega-releases begin to loom large on the horizon and you don't have a lot of time to pull in some cash before summer starts and the competition becomes too much to handle. There are, however, a few limited release this month that have a real shot at expanding. Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden? could reach $10 million, which would be amazing for a documentary, but it is doubtful it will expand wide.

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Name: 88 Minutes
Distributor: Disney
Official Site: 88Minutes-Movie.com
Release Date: April 18, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing violent content, brief nudity and language (re-rated)
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Framed and Real Time
Production Budget: Unknown - Reported at $30 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million
Notes: Al Pacino stars as a professor / forensic psychologist who receives a phone call when someone tells him he will be killed in 88 minutes. Good setup for a thriller with a great cast, and not just the lead. But I have almost no faith in this movie's box office chances. First of all, it was made in 2005, but it took three years to get to theaters and a long delay like that is never a good sign. Secondly, it has opened in many international markets, going direct-to-DVD in more than a few of them. It is rare for a domestic film to open outside the United States first, and to be available on DVD before it his theaters here is a terrible sign. The reviews are not good, and I'm not entirely convinced the movie will open truly wide. None of this bodes well for its box office chances. It could surprise and become a midlevel hit, around $50 million, but even half that might be out of reach.

Name: Baby Mama
Distributor: Universal
Official Site: BabyMamaMovie.net
Release Date: April 25, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language and a drug reference
Source: Orignial Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Unexpected Families
Production Budget: Unknown - reported at $15 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million
Notes: Only the second lead role for Tina Fey, whose first role was in Mean Girls, which she also wrote. Her she plays Kate Holbrook, a career women who wants a kid but finds out that's not very likely, so she hires a surrogate mother. But while getting her apartment ready for the new baby, her surrogate mother becomes homeless and moves in. This is clearly a chick flick, but I don't have a problem with that and I was sold on the trailer. That said, it has a first time director in Michael McCullers, who wrote the Austin Powers series with Mike Myers, and its release date is just bad. It's in theaters for just one week before Iron Man arrives to crush all competition while Made of Honor will take the counter-programming audience. It's like it has been set up to fail. That said, it cost very little to make and with a little luck could match its production budget during its opening weekend and should earn a profit early in its home market run.

Name: Deception
Distributor: Fox
Official Site: Deception-Movie.com
Release Date: April 25, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, language, brief violence and some drug use
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Heist
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $30 to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: A movie working on its third title starting with The Tourist, The List and now Deception, none of which are particularly engaging. The two leads are Ewan McGregor and Hugh Jackman, both of whom have had major hits, as well as they fair share of box office misses. It appears this will land in the latter category. Not only is it on its third name, it is opening on one of the weaker weekends of the year, and with little to no advance buzz. Likewise, the trailer is only marginally effective and I can't imagine this movie will be a huge hit. Perhaps it will top my prediction, but midlevel hit is likely the best it can hope for.

Name: The Forbidden Kingdom
Distributor: Lionsgate
Official Site: ForbiddenKingdomMovie.com
Release Date: April 18, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of martial arts action and some violence
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre:
Action
Keywords: Martial Arts and Time Travel
Production Budget: Unknown - reported at $70 million, which seems high
Box Office Potential: $50 million
Notes: A teenage boy finds a magical staff that transports him to ancient China where he meets with two martial arts experts who are trying to free an imprisoned king. These two martial arts experts... Jackie Chan and Jet Li. This is the first time these two men have been in a movie together, at least a theatrical release, and this alone should draw in more than a few moviegoers. However, I don't think it will be a major hit. Neither man has huge box office drawing power at the moment, but they have cult market appeal and should do especially well on the home market. Internationally, that's another matter and this film should more than cover its expenses overseas, making whatever it earns here pure gravy.

Name: Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Distributor: Universal
Official Site: ForgettingSarahMarshall.com
Release Date: April 18, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, language and some graphic nudity
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: Relationships Gone Wrong
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $30 to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $60 million
Notes: Judd Apatow has taken a one-two punch after Drillbit Taylor and Walk Hard struggled at the box office. Fans are asking if this will be a return to form for the gentleman, or the third strike. Early reviews suggests the former. However, reviews are not the only factor for a film's box office chances. The film stars Kristen Bell as the titular character. She rocketed to fame with hit TV show, Veronica Mars, but she hasn't been able to translate that into a film career, yet. Her first starring role was in Pulse, but that was panned by critics and ignored by moviegoers. Her second film, Fanboys has been pushed around so many times, I'm not sure it will ever hit theaters. This film could open with more than the rest of her movies have made in total, and it could become a $100 million hit. However, I'm not convinced it will and the box office potential above is more conservative than that. But even if it fails to match that prediction, it should still be a financial success and reach profitability sometime during its initial push into the home market.

Name: Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay
Distributor: New Line
Official Site: HaroldAndKumar.com
Release Date: April 25, 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated - Very likely aiming for an R-rating
Source: Sequel
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Terrorism, Road Trip, Fugitive, and Wrongfully Accused / Imprisoned
Production Budget: $6 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million
Notes: It is very likely that this movie will bomb at the box office. It is even more likely that in 3 or 4 four months after its theatrical run it will become a big hit on the home market thanks to an Unrated DVD. I know it's coming out on an Unrated DVD. You know it's coming out on an Unrated DVD. Theater owners know it's coming out on an Unrated DVD. Household pets know it's coming out on an Unrated DVD. It's the second last one that's the issue. The prospect of an Unrated DVD drives down ticket sales; after all, why watch an edited version of the movie in the theaters when the full version can be seen in the comfort of your own home? Theater owners hate this and are less likely to book the movie, which in turn pushes the theatrical box office even lower. However, with a production budget of just $6 million, I can't imagine the movie won't show a profit the week it comes out on the home market and it might even do well enough to make the franchise into a trilogy.

Name: Leatherheads
Distributor: Universal
Official Site: LeatherheadsMovie.com
Release Date: April 4, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: Football, Reporters, World War I, and others
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $40 million to $60 million
Box Office Potential: $60 million
Notes: George Clooney's first directorial effort since Good Night and Good Luck. This alone should help the film at the box office, at least somewhat. However, it is hard for romantic comedies to become major hits, and one that tries to balance football, romance, and the period piece aspects will have additional troubles. That said, I think it will do relatively well with critics and will be a solid performer at the box office. Not a blockbuster, but a financial hit. Internationally, the football theme could hurt the film more and I doubt it will match its domestic box office overseas.

Name: Nim's Island
Distributor: Fox
Official Site: NimsIsland.com
Release Date: April 4, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG for mild adventure action and brief language
Source:
Based on a Book
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Writers, Rescue, Animal Leads
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $30 to $60 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: A fantasy adventure with a child actor in the lead. We've seen plenty of those recently and most have failed to connect with audiences. Further complicating matters, this movie hasn't exactly had a major marketing push, and it opens this Friday. Worse still, the film was made by Walden Media, which has a terrible track record with these movies. Sure, they made Narnia, but they also made The Seeker, Hoot, Mr. Magorium, which are three of the worst box office performers for saturation level wide releases. (3,000 or more theaters.) In fact, The Seeker and Hoot hold records for box office ineptitude at that level of release. I don't think this film will be as bad as those two or struggle as much at the box office, but I can't see it being a major, or even midlevel hit. There's just not enough evidence to support that prediction.

Name: Prom Night
Distributor: Sony
Official Site: SonyPictures.com/Movies/PromNight
Release Date: April 11, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and terror, some sexual material, underage drinking, and language
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Teenage Slasher and Revenge
Production Budget: Unknown - reported at $18 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: Wow. A horror remake. We've only had four of those so far this year. At least the original isn't Asian, which sets it apart. Actually, the original is Canadian and starred Jamie Lee Curtis at the height of her 'Scream Queen' run. The 1980 version is considered a classic by some, but not by many. Most feel it takes too long time to get going, and additionally, it is hampered by a low budget, and some suspect acting. So I don't think it has the built in fanbase as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre had. Then again, so far this year these films have been very steady performers at the box office and it seems destined to become a midlevel hit, so it should have no trouble paying back its low production budget.

Name: The Ruins
Distributor: Paramount
Official Site: RuinsMovie.com
Release Date: April 4, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and gruesome images, language, some sexuality and nudity
Source: Base on a Book
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Teenage Slasher and Surprise Twist
Production Budget: Unknown - reported at $8 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: An extremely generic sounding title for a horror movie with an interesting hook. It's going to need a very strong ad campaign to overcome the name, and sadly the trailer is not even close. Add in a cast that doesn't have a lot in combined box office drawing power, and this is a movie that could really struggle at the box office. Then again, it was also a cheap movie to make and even if it just matches the previous horror films of the year, it should earn a profit sometime down the road. But I can't be more enthusiastic than that.

Name: Smart People
Distributor: Miramax
Official Site: SmartPeople-TheMovie.com
Release Date: April 11, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for language, brief teen drug and alcohol use, and for some sexuality
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: Dysfunctional Family and Mid-life Crisis
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million
Notes: She has only been in a few films during her young career, but Ellen Page has already become one of very few actors that instantly makes a movie intriguing to me just by being in it. And the rest of the cast of Smart People are no slouches either. The film stars Dennis Quaid as a university professor who has a reputation with his students for being unreasonably tough, who starts a relationship with one of his ex-students and current doctor, Sarah Jessica Parker. The film also has Thomas Haden Church, who, along with Ellen Page, tends to steal the movie from the two stars. Some critics have complained that the supporting characters are more interesting than the leads, but I prefer to think of the impressive supporting characters as a strength and not a weakness. That said, this movie doesn't have massive hit in its future. It should become a midlevel hit, and if its production budget is as reasonable as I have estimated, that should be more than enough for the film to show a profit before it hits the home market.

Name: Street King
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Official Site: FoxSearchlight.com/StreetKings
Release Date: April 11, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and pervasive language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Corrupt Cops
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $30 to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million
Notes: Written by James Ellroy, who wrote L.A. Confidential, and directed by David Ayer, who wrote Training Day. So behind the camera we have a lot of experience in the crime drama department. The film also has a great cast including Forest Whitaker, Hugh Laurie, and others. That said, its box office prospects are not particularly strong. The release date is only mediocre, and the lead is Keanu Reeves, who doesn't exactly personify the archetypal hardened cop. Whether or not he pulls off the performance is another matter, but it is definitely hurting the buzz here. Add in a trailer that is way too generic, and I can't see the film having a huge opening, say $10 to $15 million. And if it gets good reviews, it could still become a solid, midlevel hit. If not, its box office prospects slump to less than $30 million.

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Filed under: Monthly Preview, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Baby Mama, The Forbidden Kingdom, Nim's Island, Prom Night, Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, Leatherheads, Street Kings, The Ruins, 88 Minutes, Smart People, Deception