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2007 Preview: April

April 1st, 2007

April is an interesting month to open a movie. Interesting, but not a particularly good month. This year it does start with Easter, but that's traditionally not a strong long weekend. Only one movie has topped $40 million over that weekend and only one other has cracked $30 million. Worst still, it's jammed right up against May, the start of the summer blockbusters season. Ironically, the closer you get to this most lucrative time of year, the tougher it is for films to make a buck. No movie wants to open the weekend before Spider-man 3, for instance. Overall, there are a few hits to be found in the month, and a few misses, but nothing that really stands out above the pack.

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Name: Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters
Studio: First Look
Official Site: KingColon.com
Release Date: April 13, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for crude and sexual humor, violent images and language
Source: Based on a TV Series
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Food... What? They are items of food.
Production Budget: $750,000
Box Office Potential: $10 million
Notes: This won't be the widest release of the month with the opening theater count being estimated at 800 theaters, although that is tentative at the moment and could grow or shrink. Given the film's incredibly low production budget, it won't take much to show a profit, which is good because it won't earn much. This has cult appeal written all over it and if it takes in more than $5 million opening weekend I would be greatly surprised. Even if it earns half that, it will still show a profit in increased DVD sales alone. On a side note, the name is not a joke. It is there for a serious purpose. You see, fans of ATHF tend to take their comedy... how should I say this? Chemically enhanced. And if they don't mention the movie will be shown in theaters three times in the title, you just know half the people who want to see it will be sitting at home on the 13th saying, "I thought the movie was supposed to be on TV tonight, but it's just a repeat. Dude, uncool."

Name: Are We Done Yet?
Studio: Sony
Official Site: SonyPictures.com
Release Date: April 4, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG for some innuendoes and brief language
Source: Sequel and Remake
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Home Improvement
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at between $20 and $30 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million
Notes: One of the weirder releases of the month, this is both a sequel to Are We There Yet? and a remake of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (the latter film was also remade as The Money Pit). It's not often a sequel is also the remake of an unrelated film. As for the film's chances, they are not good, either with critics or with moviegoers. Ice Cube didn't have a single release last year and has really struggled to build his box office base. The $82 million Are We There Yet? earned was the most in his career. On the other hand, the mere 12% positive was some of the worst of his career and that could really hurt this film as many won't have fond memories of the original. On the other hand, even if the film earns half of what the original made, it could still be on its way to showing a profit by its initial push into the home market.

Name: The Condemned
Studio: LionsGate
Official Site: WatchThemDieLive.com
Release Date: April 27, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive strong brutal violence, and for language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Reality TV
Production Budget: $20 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: Some are mistaking this film for a remake the Japanese film Battle Royale, but these two films are unrelated. (But don't worry fans of remakes, that film is being turned into a Hollywood production that is tentatively scheduled for a 2008 release.) This movie is also being mistaken for a remake of either The Running Man and / or No Escape, which speak volumes to the lack of originality in this project. Not that originality has been the hallmark of the other films produced by WWE Films so far, which probably explains why the previous two each made under $20 million. This film should do about the same business, maybe a bit more, but will become a bigger hit on the home market.

Name: Disturbia
Studio: Dreamworks
Official Site: Disturbia.com
Release Date: April 13, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 on appeal for sequences of terror and violence, and some sensuality (originally R)
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Serial Killer
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at between $30 and $50 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million
Notes: A lot of people are calling this Rear Window for the high school set. But while there are certainly some similarities between this movie and the Hitchcock classic, it would be unfair to dismiss this movie. Early word is the film is very effective thriller with a good script, good execution, and a great cast. Speaking of the cast, I don't think a lot of people who first saw Shia Labeouf in Even Stevens would have thought he would be this good of an actor. But I guess using a family show as a reference point is not the best idea. As for the film's box office potential, I don't think it will be the biggest opening film of the weekend, but it should have better than average legs and become a sleeper hit. But it is important to note that I am more bullish that many analysts are with regards to the film so take that into consideration.

Name: Firehouse Dog
Studio: Fox
Official Site: FireHouseDogMovie.com
Release Date: April 4, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG for sequences of action peril, some mild crude humor and language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy with elements of Action
Keywords: Animal Lead and Movie Business
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at between $40 and $60 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million
Notes: Originally this film was set for a June 1st release. That's a piece of prime real estate for a family film. So it was a bit of a shock when the movie was moved to the first weekend in April. Granted, the first weekend in April is Easter, but that's not a great holiday for movies. Even worse, there's a lot of competition going after the same demographic including both holdovers (Meet the Robinsons), and new releases (Are We Done Yet?) One of these films might be able to dominate the market and win big, but odds are they will be in a close battle and the most this film can hope for is to become a midlevel hit. Interestingly, two films with Bridge to Terabithia alumni are opening on the same weekend: this movie with Josh Hutcherson and The Reaping with AnnaSophia Robb.

Name: Fracture
Studio: New Line
Official Site: FractureMovie.com
Release Date: April 20, 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Suspense
Keywords: Courtroom Drama, Lawyers
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at between $30 and $50 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million
Notes: This film has one of the best trailers for any that are coming out this month. That said, there's almost no chance the film will have one of the biggest openings of the month. In fact, the best-case scenario has it opening in the mid-teens, but it should have good legs. This should also be another step up in the career of Ryan Gosling, who got his start up here in Canada doing TV shows and has become one of the best young actors working today. On the opposite end of his career, Anthony Hopkins is one of the best established actors around and could coast on past accomplishments for the rest of his career. However, he is still choosing challenging roles, and while they don't always match expectations, he is nearly always a highlight of the movie.

Name: Grindhouse
Studio: Weinstein Dimension
Official Site: GrindhouseMovie.net
Release Date: April 6, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for strong graphic bloody violence and gore, pervasive language, some sexuality, nudity and drug use. Recut from NC-17
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Segments, Serial Killer, Zombies
Production Budget: $53 million, (some rumors mistakenly reported that each movie cost $50 million for a $100 million total)
Box Office Potential: $65 million
Notes: I hate this movie. Not as a fan of movies, but as a someone who tries to predict the box office results for movies. This is just one big wildcard. There's quite a lot of buzz for the film, but most of it is on the Internet and that doesn't mean a whole lot when it comes to box office numbers. Also, since the movie is a 2 for 1, it's very long, clocking in at 3 hours. That runtime will hurt the box office by limiting the number of showings per day. On the other hand, both Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino are hot right now and have a loyal fanbase and their name alone can add $20 to $30 million to a film's box office potential. Add in a trailer that just screams cool, and this could be a breakout hit of the month, perhaps even topping $100 million at the box office. However, I can't shake this Snakes on a Plane vibe. A lot of hype, but little payoff. Another factor to watch for is the rating. It was cut down to get an R-rating and there are conflicting reports about just how much was chopped. This, and the nearly 100% likelihood of an Unrated DVD in the film's future, has caused some to say they will skip the theatrical release altogether and wait for the home market instead. This will of course hurt the film's theatrical box office, but will more than make up for it in the end.

Name: The Hoax
Studio: Disney
Official Site: None
Release Date: Limited: April 6, 2007
Release Date: Wide Expansion: April 13, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for language.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Writers and Confidence Men
Production Budget: $50 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million
Notes: Starring Richard Gere, this film may or may not get a wide release. It might start in limited release before expanding, or it may start wide, or never go wide. There's a lot of confusion here. If it does open wide, there's a chance that it will only open in 1,000 theaters or so. This wide degree of uncertainty has been taken into account in the box office prediction above. Also taken into account was the change in release date. Originally the movie was set for a limited in November and the change is not likely to reflect confidence by the studio in the movie. I can see why as there's probably not a lot of interest in Howard Hughes, even after Leonardo DiCaprio played him in The Aviator. So a movie about a fake autobiography is not likely to generate a whole lot of buzz, and so far, it hasn't. There's still a chance it can surprise, but the marketing better get a whole lot stronger really fast. Last minute update: It appears the film is opening in select cities this Friday with a planned expansion next Friday. However, with still not much publicity (there's not even an official site), there's not much chance this plan will succeed.

Name: Hot Fuzz
Studio: Focus Features
Official Site: HotFuzz.com
Release Date: April 20, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for violent content including some graphic images, and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Serial Killer and Culture Clash (big city / small town)
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at between $10 and $15 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: This movie is not opening wide, however, it is nearly guaranteed to expand wide. The Wright / Pegg / Frost follow-up to Shuan of the Dead, which pulled in $13.5 million here and $30 million worldwide on a budget of just $5 million. After that success, this film made with twice as much money, but that still means it is very low budget by Hollywood standards. Hot Fuzz should perform much better at the box office for two reasons. Firstly, the three main creative forces in the film (the above mentioned Wright, Pegg, and Frost) all have added to their popularity since before Shuan of the Dead was released. And secondly, this film is a parody of action cop films like Die Hard, which are more popular at the box office than the Zombie movies that Shuan of the Dead spoofed. So far this film has made nearly $40 million in the U.K. alone. Using that as a guide, this film should make close to $50 million at the box office, which could be enough to pay for the production and P&A budgets. However, that seems a tad generous given the highly British nature of the movie and $30 million seems like a safer bet. It is also more than enough to be considered a success.

Name: In the Land of Women
Studio: Warner Independent Pictures
Official Site: MySpace.com
Release Date: April 20, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, thematic elements and language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: TV Writer
Production Budget: $10.5 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million
Notes: There are mixed reports as whether this movie will open in wide release. I think it is safe to assume if it goes wide, it will be semi-wide at most. These releases often struggle because the studio can't afford a national ad campaign so there isn't enough name recognition for the movie. While this confusion over the release strategy makes predicting its box office difficult, I'm having greater difficulty with the target demographic. Are they going for woman who can relate to Meg Ryan, or are they going for girls Kristen Stewart's age? If it is the former, then the older demographic will result in a lower opening weekend but better legs (assuming it avoids the movie-of-the-week feel). The latter and the film has the potential to be fluff. If all things work out, then the film could have cross-generational appeal and pull in between $30 and $40 million. Or it could struggle in semi-wide release and make less than $10 million. The above potential is a weighted average of those two extremes.

Name: The Invisible
Studio: Disney
Official Site: TheInvisible-Movie.com
Release Date: April 27, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, criminality, sensuality and language - all involving teens.
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Hauntings
Production Budget: Unknown - estimate at between $20 and $30 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: Moved from January to late April, and like every other film opening this late in the month, I don't have much hope for it. After all, it only has one weekend to make a bundle before Spider-man 3 absolutely destroys it. The buzz around this movie is almost non-existent with most talk centered not on the quality of the movie, but on the general problems encountered when Hollywood remakes of foreign language films. Another problem dealing with the scheduling change, anyone interested in seeing the movie when it was originally scheduled for January will have forgotten about it and a strong ad campaign will be needed if it stands any chance of making it. I just don't see it happening.

Name: Kickin' It Old Skool
Studio: Yari Film Group
Official Site: KickinItMovie.com
Release Date: April 27, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual content and language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Dancing
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: The law of supply and demand states, among other things, that if there is no demand, the supply should dry up. So why is Jamie Kennedy still making movies? It's clear from his box office record that there is no demand for his films. His last movie cost $100 million to make and brought in less than $20 million at the box office. That's so bad it should have killed careers. To be fair, the trailer for this movie isn't the train wreck I thought it would be, but it still didn't sell me on the premise. In fact, the combination of a dance competition, 80s pop references, and the cheesy romance angle are all working hard against this movie. It won't do as poorly as Son of the Mask, but it won't do as well as Malibu's Most Wanted either and it is not like that latter film was a box office hit either. It won't be a hit by any definition, but it will do enough to convince someone to hire Jamie Kennedy again.

Name: Next
Studio: Sony
Official Site: NextMovie.com
Release Date: April 27, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violent action, and some language.
Source: Based on a Short Story
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: ESP and Predicting the Future
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at between $50 and $70 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million
Notes: I haven't done comprehensive research, but my limited data set shows that most people's first reaction to seeing the trailer for this movie is, "What's up with Nicolas Cage's hair?" This film is based on a Philip K. Dick story, which is a blessing and a curse, but mostly a curse. This means the root of the story is excellent and should make a great cinematic treat. But based on the past history of such films, this one will struggle just to match its production budget at the box office. I don't think Hollywood in general knows how to turn a cerebral science fiction story into a movie with real box office potential. They either just crank out an action film with just a superficial link to the source, or if they do remain faithful to the story, the result has nothing but cult appeal. So given the overall history there's good reason to be skeptical in general, but given the track record of the director and screenwriters, ther's specific reasons to not be hopeful. The director's previous film was xXx: State of the Union while the two writers' last projects were The Punisher and Navy Seals. (Oooh! Navy Seals!) Those who have read the book will likely be disappointed in the movie while those who know nothing about Philip K. Dick outside of Hollywood adaptations will wonder why so many people praise him.

Name: Pathfinder
Studio: Fox
Official Site: PathfinderTheMovie.com
Release Date: April 13, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for strong brutal violence throughout.
Source: Remake
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: A kind of Culture Clash
Production Budget: $30 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: Another film that's been beaten around by the studio. Originally set for a June release, that's June of last year, the film was bounced to September (ick), and then to January of 2007 (still ick), before landing in April. Even then, the date changes were not finished, as it has had three release dates within April. All this suggests the studio doesn't have a lot of confidence in this movie, which is an attitude shared by many box office analysts. The film seems rather generic and the lead isn't exactly a household name. The buzz is stronger than expected and a good advertising campaign might get the film a good opening weekend. But the competition is just too fierce that weekend for that to be a strong likelihood and it might struggle just to be a midlevel hit.

Name: Perfect Stranger
Studio: Sony
Official Site: SonyPictures.com
Release Date: April 13, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, nudity, some disturbing violent images and language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Undercover or False Identity or even new genres of Multiple Identities and Internet
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at between $40 and $60 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million
Notes: Both Halle Berry and Bruce Willis have had a number of hits recently. However, for both people they were either part of an ensemble or just has cameos. When they were called on to lead a film, they've struggled, producing midlevel hits at best. This film is unlikely to perform any better, especially with the lackluster buzz. What buzz there is out there is evenly divided between how bad will it be, how much nudity is in it, and how many references to Perfect Strangers can be made before that joke is no longer funny. (Answer: 3.) On a side note, they made three endings to this movie, which means either the script was so skillfully created that the three endings are each logically consistent and satisfying, or the whole movie is nothing by a McGuffin and is so inconsequential that any ending can just be tacked on. One can hope for the former, but the latter seems more likely.

Name: The Reaping
Studio: Warner Bros.
Official Site: TheReapingMovie.WarnerBros.com
Release Date: April 5, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for violence, disturbing images and some sexuality.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Religious, Good vs. Evil, and End of the World
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $50 and $60 million
Box Office Potential: $65 million
Notes: Another religious horror film. Recently there has been The Exorcism of Emily Rose, two Exorcism Prequels, The Omen, and others. This film also has a lot in common with 1408 as they both deal with skeptics who run into real supernatural phenomenon after spending years debunking them. (On a side note, I'd like to see the skeptics win more often in movies like they did in the original Scooby Doo show. If you see a glowing monster in the woods, it's a man in a suit not a ghost of a pirate trying to protect his treasure.) This film is getting a strong marketing push and should be a reasonably easy sell, especially if they can generate some controversy by releasing a movie about the anti-Christ on Easter weekend. Speaking of the anti-Christ, AnnaSophia Robb is playing the devil child, but I'm not sure that's good casting or not. On the one hand, she has proven in her short career that she is a very talented actress and I'm convinced with good choices in projects she will have a very long career. On the other hand, she's just too cute to be the anti-Christ. Even if I thought she really was the anti-Christ, I wouldn't be intimidated by her. "Oooooh, who's the little cutey-wutey?" By the way, calling the anti-Christ a, "cutey-wutey" is a good way to get a smiting.

Name: Redline
Studio: Chicago
Official Site: MySpace
Release Date: April 13, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, illegal and reckless behavior, sexual content, language and drug references.
Source: Original Screenplay, assuming it had a screenplay.
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Street Racing
Production Budget: $26 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million
Notes: I've heard this described as a low-rent version of The Fast and the Furious, to which I respond, The Fast and the Furious was a low-rent version of The Fast and the Furious. This is a movie filled with fast cars and sexy women, which is the cinematic equivalent of a frontal lobotomy. It is especially telling that on the official site they offer plenty of shots of the aforementioned fast cars and hot women, but barely mention anything about the cast, crew, or even the plot (something about organized crime and revenge). Does this mean it will be a terrible movie? That depends on your definition. Will is get good reviews? Not very likely. Will it be entertaining? Possibly. Will it make its money back? Most likely, but it will have to wait until the home market to do that. Call it a guilty pleasure for car enthusiasts.

Name: Slow Burn
Studio: Lionsgate
Official Site: Lionsgate.com
Release Date: April 13, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for sexuality, violence and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Gangs, Corrupt Cops, and Lawyers
Production Budget: $15.5 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million
Notes: There are conflicting reports on whether this film will open wide, or if it does, how wide will it be. There are more troubling signs including the time it has taken to get theaters and the number of release dates. This pains me to say since there are a number of people in the cast I really like (Ray Liotta, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Fisher Stevens, etc.), but I don't see this film becoming a hit. Most likely it will only open in 1,000 or so theaters without nearly enough marketing support, and will then disappear from theaters within two or three weeks. On a side note, is it just me, or are there way too many Thrillers opening this month? This is genre overload and that can't help the box office of the individual movies.

Name: Vacancy
Studio: Sony
Official Site: SonyPictures.com
Release Date: April 20, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for brutal violence and terror, brief nudity and language
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Serial Killer
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at roughly $20 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million
Notes: Yet another thriller, although this one could also be called a horror film as well. I like the setup for this film, but I'm wary of the execution. The urban legend of a snuff film combined with the hidden camera aspect of the motel is a great setup for this type of move. Buzz is mixed, at best, and even opening on one of the less busy weekends of the month, this film will struggle to open with $10 million. On a side note, the film stars Kate Beckinsale and Luke Wilson, who, if reports are accurate, hated each other. It is unknown if this alleged on set animosity affected the film, but that is another variable to consider.

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Filed under: Monthly Preview, Disturbia, Fracture, The Reaping, Grindhouse, Perfect Stranger, Hot Fuzz, The Invisible, Vacancy, Next, Firehouse Dog, In the Land of Women, Pathfinder, The Condemned, The Hoax, Redline, Kickin It Old Skool, Slow Burn, Are We Done Yet?, Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters