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2015 Preview: March

March 1st, 2015

Cinderella poster

February was strong thanks to The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water and Fifty Shades of Grey, both of which beat expectations. This March could actually be even better, as there are three or four films that have a decent shot at earning $100 million or more. The top film will likely be Cinderella, which has a real shot at $200 million. Insurgent will almost assuredly get beyond the $100 million mark, while Get Hard, Home, and perhaps Chappie will also get to the century mark. Last March, there were four $100 million hits, led by Divergent, which pulled in $150 million. While this March should be better than February, I'm not sure it will be better than last March. I don't think March 2015 will be much worse than last year, but I think its percentage lead will be chipped away at by the end of the month.

Weekend of March 6th, 2015

Chappie poster

There are three wide releases during the first weekend of the month, I think. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is opening wide, but its predecessor opened in limited release and never expanded significantly beyond 1,000 theaters. Therefore, this film might not open truly wide. Unfinished Business is an R-rated comedy and this genre has produced a huge number of hits, but even more misses. Finally, there's Chappie, which has an outside chance at $100 million. Even if it doesn't get there, it should still become the biggest hit of the week. This weekend last year, there were two wide releases: 300: Rise of an Empire and Mr. Peabody and Sherman. Both of these films earned more than $100 million. Chappie has maybe a 10% chance of getting to that milestone and the other two combined likely won't top Chappie, so it looks like the month will start on a losing note.

Chappie

Chappie poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Chappie-Movie.com
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: March 6th, 2015
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language and brief nudity.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Robots, Dystopia, Corrupt Cops, and more
Directed By: Neill Blomkamp
Written By: Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Sharlto Copley, Sigourney Weaver, Dev Patel, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million

This is Neill Blomkamp's third feature-length film. His first, District 9, earned excellent reviews and was a surprise $100 million hit. His follow-up, Elysium, earned good reviews, but failed to live up to expectations at the box office. Chappie is earning the best buzz of the three wide releases this weekend, but its release date isn't as good as his first two films had, so it is unlikely to crack the century mark. That said, it should get close enough to be a financial success.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: FoxsearchLight.com/TheSecondBestExoticMarigoldHotel
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Release Date: March 6th, 2015
MPAA Rating: PG for some language and suggestive comments.
Source: Original Screenplay / Sequel
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Autumn Years, Romance, December / December Romance, Retirement, India, and more
Directed By: John Madden
Written By: Ol Parker
Starring: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Dev Patel, Celia Imrie, Richard Gere, Maggie Smith, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $10 million to $20 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million

Comedy sequels. I've recently talked about comedy sequels and how they rarely work out. Too often the sequel is more like a remake with the same characters dealing with the same situations and this really hurts the film both with critics and with moviegoers. Will this happen with The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel? Possibly. However, we do have some good news. The early reviews are currently 75% positive, which is nearly identical to the first film's reviews. Also, it is going to open in more theaters than the first film's peak theater count was. Even so, I don't think it will match its predecessor. Then again, I think it will come close enough that it won't matter too much.

Last Minute Update: The early theater count estimates are in and this film is expected to open in 1,400+ theaters. That plus means they are trying for more theaters, but I seriously doubt they will opening in 2,000 or more. Since it is not opening truly wide, I'm dropping my box office potential from $40 million to $30 million.

Unfinished Business

Unfinished Business poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: FoxMovies.com/Movies/Unfinished-Business.com/
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: March 6th, 2015
MPAA Rating: R for some strong risqué sexual content/graphic nudity, and for language and drug use.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Buddy Comedy, Professional Rivalry, Fired, Sex Comedy, Money Troubles, and more
Directed By: Ken Scott
Written By: Steven Conrad
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Tom Wilkinson, Dave Franco, Sienna Miller, James Marsden, Nick Frost, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million

R-rated comedies have had a weak hit-to-miss ratio recently and Vince Vaughn has contributed more than his fair share of misses. In fact, the last time he was in a $100 million movie was 2009 with Couples Retreat. The last time he was in a $100 million movie that also earned good reviews was The Wedding Crashers, which turns ten years old this year. That's a long losing streak and the buzz suggests that streak won't end with Unfinished Business. It will probably open faster than The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel will, but it won't have the legs and it will become the weakest of the three films opening this weekend.

Weekend of March 13th, 2015

Cinderella poster

There are two wide releases coming out this week, I think. Cinderella should become the biggest hit of the month. It is the only film with a legitimate shot at $200 million. Live-action films based on fairytales have become more common recently. However, for every Snow White and the Huntsman, there is a Jack and the Giant Killer. Run All Night is the other possible wide release. It was originally scheduled to open in April, but it has been rescheduled for this week. Its release date was changed with not a lot of advanced warning, which suggests the studio isn't overly optimistic about the film's chances. This weekend last year, there was only one movie that made more $20 million, Mr. Peabody and Sherman, while the best new release was Need for Speed, which only managed third place. Cinderella should top last year's number one film easily. In fact, it should top the top two films combined. This should help 2015 win in the year-over-year comparison.

Cinderella

Cinderella poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Movies.Disney.com/Cinderella
Distributor: Disney
Release Date: March 13th, 2015
MPAA Rating: PG for mild thematic elements.
Source: Based on Fairytale or possibly remake
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Death of a Parent, Step-Family, Dysfunctional Family, Royalty, Prince / Princess, Romance, Cross-Class Romance, Fairy Godmother, Animal Leads, Money Troubles, Costume Drama, and more
Directed By: Kenneth Branagh
Written By: Aline Brosh McKenna and Chris Weitz
Starring: Lily James, Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Holliday Grainger, Sophie McShera, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at over $100 million
Box Office Potential: $175 million

Cinderella is the second Disney live-action adaptation of a fairytale they've released in less than a year. The previous film was Maleficent, which cost $180 million to make and earned more than $500 million worldwide. I liked Maleficent more than the average critic did, but when I watched the trailer for Cinderella, I wasn't really engaged. On the other hand, the early reviews are unanimously positive at the moment at 13 and 0. Hopefully the critics are right, but a weak trailer is not a good sign. I do have some concern over the star power. The two lead actors, Lily James and Richard Madden, are known mostly for their TV work, while the film lacks anyone with as much box office drawing power as Angelina Jolie has. Then again, there are very few people in Hollywood with as much drawing as Angelina Jolie has.

Overall, I think the positives outweigh the negatives and the film should dominate the weekend box office and become the biggest hit of the month. $200 million isn't out of reach, but I wouldn't bet on it getting there.

Run All Night

Run All Night poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: RunAllNightMovie.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: March 13th, 2015
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, language including sexual references, and some drug use.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: On the Run, Organized Crime, Revenge, Death of a Son, Dysfunctional Family, Hitmen, One Night, Out of Retirement, and more.
Directed By: Jaume Collet-Serra
Written By: Brad Ingelsby
Starring: Liam Neeson, Ed Harris, Joel Kinnaman, and other
Production Budget: Estimated at $40 million to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million

Liam Neeson plays a former mob hitman who kills a man in order to protect his son. However, the person he shot was the son of his previous mob boss, Ed Harris. Now he has to protect his son and his son's family, while killing all of the hitmen Ed Harris sends his way. This sounds too much like John Wick. Both movies focus on a former hitman turning on his boss, although in this case the revenge angle is reversed. That's not a good sign, as John Wick had less competition and louder buzz, but still struggled at the box office. Then again, Liam Neeson has a lot more box office drawing power. Perhaps that will be enough to help this film become at least a midlevel hit. I'm not 100% sold that it will, but it could come close enough to break even on the home market.

Weekend of March 20th, 2015

Insurgent poster

There are two or three wide releases coming out this weekend, led by Insurgent, the second part of the Divergent franchise. The first film earned mixed reviews and Insurgent will need to improve in a number of areas if it is to grow at the box office. The Gunman has a great cast, but the trailer makes it feel like a typical political thriller without enough to stand out. That doesn't mean it will be a bad movie, but it does mean it will need good reviews to sell it to moviegoers. Finally, there's Do You Believe, which may or may not open truly wide. It is a faith-based movie, which means it won't need to open in 2,000 theaters to find an audience, as God's Not Dead showed us. This weekend last year was led by Divergent, which opened with $54.61 million during the weekend, while Muppets Most Wanted and God's Not Dead played the role of counter-programming. I think 2015 will be weaker than 2014, as far as new releases go, but I think 2015 will have better depth. Call it a tie.

Do You Believe?

Do You Believe? poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: DoYouBelieve.com
Distributor: Pure Flix Entertainment
Release Date: March 20th, 2014
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, an accident sequence and some violence.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Faith-based, Ensemble, and more
Directed By: Jonathan M. Gunn
Written By: Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon
Starring: It's an ensemble cast. There's more than a dozen actors here.
Production Budget: Estimated at less than $10 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

From the same people who brought you God's Not Dead, only with a better cast. Obviously they are hoping to have the same level of success, but it is not likely. God's Not Dead was lightning in a bottle type success, so repeating it is nearly impossibly. That said, if it merely gets halfway there, it will still be very profitable.

The Gunman

The Gunman poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheGunmanTheFilm.com
Distributor: Open Road
Release Date: Match 20th, 2015
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, language and some sexuality.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Hitman, Political Assassin, Retirement, Corporate Malfeasance, Revenge, Out of Retirement, Rescue, Kidnap, Former Soldiers, Special Ops, PTSD, and more
Directed By: Pierre Morel
Written By: Don Macpherson and Pete Travis
Starring: Sean Penn, Javier Bardem, Idris Elba, Jasmine Trinca, and more
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million

Sean Penn plays a hitman who quits his job because he wants to live a normal life with the woman he loves. However, his boss isn't happy with this, because the corporation he works for wasn't always taking jobs that were on the up-and-up and Sean Penn knows too much. When his boss goes after his family, he has to go on the run and take the corporation down. None of this sounds even remotely fresh and original. Add in the weak buzz and the competition and this film will likely not do well enough to become a midlevel hit.

Insurgent

Insurgent poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheDivergentSeries.com
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: March 20th, 2015
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense violence and action throughout, some sensuality, thematic elements and brief language.
Source: Based on a Book / Sequel
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Dystopia, On the Run, Political, Young Adult Adaptation, and more
Directed By: Robert Schwentke
Written By: Brian Duffield and Veronica Roth
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Octavia Spencer, and more
Production Budget: Estimated at $85 million
Box Office Potential: $125 million

Insurgent is the second film in the Divergent franchise. The first film, Divergent, cost $85 million to make, which is much higher than originally intended, but after the success of The Hunger Games franchise, the studio upped the budget. I don't think this move was a real success. Divergent made $150 million domestically and nearly $300 million worldwide, so it made a profit. However, it wasn't a monster hit. I assume the budget for the second film will remain about the same, but if the box office drops here, the third and fourth films will need to be scaled back to avoid losing money. The main complaint about the first film was that it didn't seem fresh. Sadly, the trailer for this film doesn't really address that issue. It just feels like more of the same. Maybe the full film will be an improvement over its predecessor. I hope it is an improvement. If not, the box office potential could drop further.

Weekend of March 27rd, 2015

Home poster

The month ends with two wide releases, Get Hard and Home, both of which have a shot at $100 million. Both Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart have starred in $100 million hits in the past. For Kevin Hart, it was barely a year ago that Ride Along boosted his box office drawing power. Will Ferrell has starred in six $100 million hits over his career. That's starred in and does not include the films he had a cameo in or provided a voice role for. Meanwhile, Home will be the first animated film to come out since Sponge Out of Water. It is not uncommon for animated films that are released in March to earn $100 million. In fact, Mr. Peabody and Sherman did it last year. I'm not saying both of these films will get to $100 million, but I think there's a 50/50 chance one of them will do it. Noah led the box office last year with $43.72 million on its way to a $100 million run. Neither of the two wide releases will make that much this year, but combined they should easily top the top two films from last year. I think 2015 will end March with a win in the year-over-year comparison.

Get Hard

Get Hard poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: GetHardMovie.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: March 27th, 2015
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive crude and sexual content and language, some graphic nudity, and drug material.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: White Collar Crime, Buddy Comedy, Prison, Prejudice, Falsely Convicted, and more
Directed By: Etan Cohen
Written By: Jay Martel and Ian Roberts
Starring: Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $85 million

Will Ferrell plays a successful businessman who is falsely convicted of tax evasion and sentenced to ten years in prison. He turns to Kevin Hart, who ran his motor pool, to help him adapt to prison so he will be able to survive. He assumes Kevin Hart went to prison, but that's not the case. Kevin Hart agrees to help train Will Ferrell to get him ready for prison. This movie could be a $100 million hit, or it could be a train wreck and barely earn half of that figure. The concept has the potential to go either way. It is obviously too soon for reviews and it is also the director's first feature-length film, so we can't look at his past work to help judge this film's potential. This film probably has the most uncertainty of any film on this month's list.

Home

Home poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: MeetTheBoov.com
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: March 27th, 2015
MPAA Rating: PG for mild action and some rude humor.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Friendly Aliens on Earth, On the Run, and more
Directed By: Tim Johnson
Written By: Tom J. Astle, Matt Ember, and Adam Rex
Starring: Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Steven Martin, Jennifer Lopez, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $132 million
Box Office Potential: $105 million

Jim Parsons provides the voice for Oh, an alien, who is in charge of looking for a new planet for his people. He messes up so many times that by the time he gets to Earth, he's on the run from his commander. There he meets up with a girl, voiced by Rihanna, who takes him in.

Ice Age was the first digitally animated film released in the month of March coming out in 2002. Since 2005, there has been at least one major digitally animated film released in March every year and the last time no such film earned at least $100 million was back in 2007 with Meet the Robinsons. That film pulled in nearly $98 million, so it came very, very close to the century mark. This historical record does help Home's chances, but the trailer doesn't really help it stand out, nor is the buzz great. Then again, I'm outside of the target audience and films with young kids as the target audience rarely have a lot of pre-release buzz. I think this film will top $100 million, barely, but I am a little more bullish than most, so keep that in mind.


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Filed under: Monthly Preview, Home, Cinderella, Chappie, Unfinished Business, The Divergent Series: Insurgent, Run All Night, Get Hard, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Gunman, Do You Believe?, Hunger Games, Cate Blanchett, Judi Dench, Angelina Jolie Pitt, Liam Neeson, Maggie Smith, Sigourney Weaver, Kate Winslet, Richard Gere, Sean Penn, Javier Bardem, Neill Blomkamp, Helena Bonham Carter, Kenneth Branagh, Sharlto Copley, Idris Elba, Will Ferrell, Nick Frost, Ed Harris, Kevin Hart, Celia Imrie, Hugh Jackman, Tim Johnson, Jennifer Lopez, John Madden, James Marsden, Steve Martin, Sienna Miller, Pierre Morel, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Vince Vaughn, Chris Weitz, Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton, Shailene Woodley, Dave Franco, Robert Schwentke, Theo James, Aline Brosh McKenna, Terri Tatchell, Pete Travis, Jaume Collet-Serra, Holliday Grainger, Octavia Spencer, Joel Kinnaman, Ol Parker, Jim Parsons, Jasmine Trinca, Rihanna, Steven Conrad, Lily James, Ian Roberts, Etan Cohen, Matt Ember, Veronica Roth, Ken Scott, Tom J. Astle, Richard Madden, Sophie McShera, Brad Ingelsby, Cary Solomon, Chuck Konzelman, Brian Duffield, Jonathan M. Gunn