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2017 Preview: April

April 1st, 2017

The Fate of the Furious

March was a month of extremes, led by two strong performances: Beauty and the Beast breaking records and Logan cracking $200 million with ease. There were also two other $100 million hits and another potential $100 million hit that we don’t have significant box office numbers for yet. This is fantastic. On the opposite end, there were three films on last month’s list that didn’t even open truly wide. This month won’t be as lucrative at the top, as The Fate of the Furious is the only film expected to top $100 million. Fortunately, it is expected to open with over $100 million. On the other extreme, there are many, many films on this list that I’m not sure will open wide. Fortunately, last April wasn’t any better. The Jungle Book made nearly $1 billion worldwide, but the other nine films combined made less than half of that. To emphasize: the other nine films that opened last April averaged less than $50 million worldwide each. If The Fate of the Furious can just come close to the previous installment of the franchise, then 2017 has a solid shot at topping 2016.

Weekend of April 7th, 2017

Smurfs: The Lost Village

The month starts with three wide releases: Smurfs: The Lost Village, Going in Style, and The Case for Christ. Smurfs: The Lost Village is a digitally-animated family film and it has a real shot at $100 million, except a another digitally-animated family film, The Boss Baby, opens the week before and that’s just too much direct competition to thrive. Going in Style is a remake of a film from the 1970s. There’s not a lot of buzz, but the film has a shot at becoming a midlevel hit. The Case for Christ is one of the films on this list that I’m not sure will open truly wide. This weekend last year, The Boss opened with just under $24 million, while BvS earned just over $23 million. It is going to be tough for this year’s crop of new releases to match that. On the other hand, there were only three films that earned more than $10 million last year and this year we could have as many as six.

The Case for Christ

The Case for Christ
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: CaseForChristMovie.PureFlix.com/
Distributor: Pure Flix Entertainment
Release Date: April 7th, 2017
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements including medical descriptions of crucifixion, and incidental smoking.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Genre: Drama
Keywords: 1980s, Atheism, Faith-Based, Christians, Investigative Journalist
Directed By: Jon Gunn
Written By: Brian Bird, Lee Strobel
Starring: Mike Vogel, Erika Christensen, Faye Dunaway, Robert Forster
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at under $5 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million

I’m not 100% convinced The Case for Christ will open wide, as it is from Pure Flix Entertainment. Their first film, God’s Not Dead, was a huge hit for a faith-based film, as it earned $60 million on a $1 million budget. However, they have since released seven films that have made barely more than $60 million combined. Ouch. There is a chance that theater owners simply give up on the studio’s films. On the other hand, the book the film is based on, also called The Case for Christ is famous among Christian Apologists. If you don’t know what Christian Apologetics is, then you are not part of this film’s target audience. If the studio can convert knowledge of the book into ticket sales, then it could become their biggest hit. Or it could fail to open wide and / or open below the Mendoza Line. There is a huge range of possibilities here and the above prediction is a weighted average of the two extremes.

Going in Style

Going in Style
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: GoingInStyleMovie.com/
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: April 7th, 2017
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for drug content, language and some suggestive material.
Source: Remake
Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Remake, Heist, Money Troubles, White Collar Crime, Revenge, Autumn Years, Retirement
Directed By: Zach Braff
Written By: Theodore Melfi, Martin Brest
Starring: Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Alan Arkin
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $20 million to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

This is a remake of the film of the same name from the 1970s. In the original, the three men decided to rob a bank to spice up their lives. In the remake, the three retirees lose their pension and decide to rob the bank that was responsible.

This is only the third film directed by Zach Braff and his previous two, Garden State and Wish I Was Here, had mixed results. Garden State was a huge indie hit, but Wish I Was Here struggled to find an audience. This film doesn’t have a lot of buzz, but still has a shot at becoming a midlevel hit. A lot of it will depend on its reviews. Unfortunately, there are still no reviews as I write this, so it is too soon to tell.

Last Minute Update: It is the wee hours of the morning on April 1st and there are still no reviews. This is not a good sign. It doesn’t necessarily mean the distributor is trying to hide the film from critics, but they are also not excited to get the word-of-mouth going early.

Smurfs: The Lost Village

Smurfs: The Lost Village
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: SmurfsMovie.com/
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Release Date: April 7th, 2017
MPAA Rating: PG
Source: Based on Comic/Graphic Novel
Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Reboot, 3-D, 3-D - Shot in 3-D, Road Trip, Animal Lead
Directed By: Kelly Asbury
Written By: Stacey Harman, Pamela Ribon
Starring: Demi Lovato, Joe Manganiello, Jack McBrayer, Danny Pudi
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $75 million
Box Office Potential: $105 million

Smurfette sees what she thinks is an unknown Smurf, who runs away, but drops a map as they leave. She then leads an expedition to find the legendary Lost Village. I think what they find is supposed to be a spoiler, but you can figure it out by just looking at any cast list that has character names.

Normally I would assume this film had a 50/50 chance of hitting $100 million domestically; however, The Boss Baby, another digitally animated film, opens the week before, while there are two more, albeit smaller, animated films opening during April. That’s too much competition. It is the biggest of these four films, but I still think the competition will prevent it from reaching its full potential.

Last Minute Update: The early reviews dropped from 40% positive to 24% positive. That’s not good, not even for a family film. Furthermore, The Boss Baby’s reviews have improved and are nearly 50% positive. This competition will likely prevent this movie from getting to $100 million.

Weekend of April 14th, 2017

The Fate of the Furious

This weekend, and this month, will be dominated by The Fate of the Furious. I do think the franchise has peaked, but this film should have no trouble becoming the biggest international hit of the year so far, likely even the biggest worldwide hit of the year as well. On the other hand, I’m not convinced Spark will open truly wide. It is being released by Open Road and they normally open films in between 1,500 and 2,500 theaters. This weekend last year, The Jungle Book opened with $103 million, while Barbershop: The Next Cut pulled in $20 million. The Fate of the Furious could make more than those two films combined during its opening weekend. It likely won’t have the same legs as The Jungle Book, so the coming weeks won’t be as good in the year-over-year comparison.

The Fate of the Furious

The Fate of the Furious
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: FastAndFurious.com/
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: April 14th, 2017
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for prolonged sequences of violence and destruction, suggestive content, and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Action
Keywords: Sequels Without Their Original Stars, Friends turned Enemies, Car Chase, Terrorism, Enemies Forced to Work Together, Betrayal, Prison, Prison Riot, Ensemble
Directed By: F. Gary Gray
Written By: Chris Morgan
Starring: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Charlize Theron
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $200 million
Box Office Potential: $300 million

Furious 7 became the biggest hit in the franchise and one of the biggest hits of all time. The Fate of the Furious isn’t expected to match that. In fact, some pundits think it won’t match Fast and Furious 6, which made $239 million at the domestic box office. That’s a little too pessimistic for me. I do think it will hit $300 million domestically and over $1 billion worldwide; however, even if it just matches the sixth film, it will be a financial hit for Universal and they will continue with the franchise for at least two more installments.

Spark

Spark
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: SparkASpaceTail.com/
Distributor: Open Road
Release Date: April 14th, 2017
MPAA Rating: PG for some action and rude humor.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Space Opera, Animal Lead, Talking Animals, Prince/Princess, Robot
Directed By: Aaron Woodley
Written By: Aaron Woodley
Starring: Jace Norman
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimate at $30 million to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million

I give Spark about a 50/50 chance of opening truly wide. The film is being released by Open Road, which is not one of the major studios, and tends to open films in around 2,000 theaters. I assume they are hoping for another hit like The Nut Job, but that seems hopelessly optimistic. Its buzz is barely above that for Ratchet and Clank, which opened with $4.8 million, and the competition is intense. Not only will The Fate of the Furious likely earn more than $100 million during its opening weekend, but there will be two bigger animated films already in theaters: Boss Baby and Smurfs: The Lost Village. I am not optimistic about this film’s chances.

Weekend of April 21st, 2017

Free Fire

This is the busiest weekend of the month, kind of. There are five films that are expected to open wide, but I really don’t think all five will get there. Born in China is the latest film from DisneyNature and while these films open in a lot of theaters compared to the average documentary, they don’t often open truly wide. A24 had an amazing year last year and Moonlight became its biggest box office hit. However, if Free Fire does open wide, it would only be their second film to do so, after The Witch. Leap! is the fourth animated film to open in as many weeks and that’s too much direct competition. The Promise is the second Open Road release in as many weeks and this one actually has worse buzz. Only Unforgettable is being released by a major studio, but that’s not going to save it. This weekend last year, The Jungle Book remained in top spot with over $60 million. None of the new releases this week will earn $60 million in total. All five combined will very likely open with less than $60 million. 2017 is going to take a beating this weekend in the year-over-year comparison, unless Fate of the Furious does something special.

Born in China

Born in China
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Nature.Disney.com/Born-In-China
Distributor: Walt Disney
Release Date: April 21st, 2017
MPAA Rating: G
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Genre: Documentary
Keywords: Voiceover/Narration, Animal Lead, China, Nature Documentary, Environment
Directed By: Chuan Lu
Written By: David Fowler, Brian Leith, Phil Chapman, Chuan Lu
Starring:
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $40 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

The latest DisneyNature documentary. So far these films have earned an average of just over $20 million, at least those that got theatrical releases. I think Born in China will do better than average because people like pandas. Well, most people like pandas. I tend to agree with Corky and the Juice Pigs on this subject. However, I’m in the minority here, so I think this film will do well at the box office, for the genre.

Free Fire

Free Fire
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: FreeFire-Movie.com/
Distributor: A24
Release Date: April 21st, 2017
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, pervasive language, sexual references and drug use.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Action
Keywords: Gangs, Gunrunner, One Location, No Honor Among Thieves, 1970s, Boston, Ensemble
Directed By: Ben Wheatley
Written By: Ben Wheatley, Amy Jump
Starring: Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Jack Reynor, Armie Hammer, Sharlto Copley
Production Budget: Reported at $10 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

A24 has quickly grown into one of the most important independent distributors; however, they hasn’t made the leap to big player just yet. They have only released one film that opened truly wide, while their biggest box office hit is Moonlight, which will finish with less than $30 million domestically. Could Free Fire top that figure? It is possible, but not very likely. The film does have a great cast and the early reviews are nearly 80% positive. That said, the competition is too intense. I don’t think any of this week’s wide releases will find break out success due to the competition. I do think Free Fire has a shot at becoming the biggest hit of the week, on the other hand.

Leap!

Ballerina
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: No Official Site for American Release
Distributor: Weinstein Co.
Release Date: April 21st, 2017
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Ballet, Dancing, Orphan, Orphanage, Inventor, Paris, Runaway, France, 1880s, Coming of Age, Big Break, 3-D, 3-D - Shot in 3-D
Directed By: Eric Summer, Eric Warin
Written By: Carol Noble, Eric Summer, Laurent Zeitoun
Starring: Elle Fanning, Dane DeHaan, Nat Wolff
Production Budget: Reported at $30 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million

Oh Weinstein Co. The monthly preview takes a while to complete, so I generally start writing it a week in advance. This is usually not a problem, as I edit the box office potential as last minute information becomes available. In this case, the last minute information is Weinstein Co. pushing the release back to August 30th... or September 4th. I’m getting conflicting reports. (Weinstein Co.’s official site still has it opening on April 21st, so that’s no help.) Hopefully this will be settled by the time I start writing the August preview. On a positive note, the rest of the wide releases this week will get a boost from having less competition.

The Promise

The Promise
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: SurvivalPictures.org/The-Promise/
Distributor: Open Road
Release Date: April 21st, 2017
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material including war atrocities, violence and disturbing images, and for some sexuality.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Drama
Keywords: Genocide, Love Triangle, Investigative Journalist, Refugee
Directed By: Terry George
Written By: George Swicord, Robin Swicord
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Charlotte Le Bon, Christian Bale
Production Budget: Unknown - Some reports have the budget at close to $100 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million

The Promise is a movie, set during World War I, about a love triangle that uses the Armenian Genocide as a backdrop. The film reportedly cost nearly $100 million to make, but I’m not convinced it will open wide. The early reviews are weak and there’s more talk about vote-bombing on IMDb than anything else. That’s a really bad sign. I don’t even think the controversy will bring in audiences, because not enough people have a personal connection to the Armenian Genocide. Finally, it is being released by Open Road and, as I’ve already noted, they rarely release films truly wide. So you have a film about an historical event that won’t resonate with most people, that is earning weak reviews, and might not open truly wide. This adds up to a monster bomb.

Unforgettable

Unforgettable
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: UnforgettableMovie.com/
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: April 21st, 2017
MPAA Rating: R
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
Keywords: Romance, Relationships Gone Wrong, Obsessive Love, The Other Woman, Social Media
Directed By: Amma Asante
Written By: Christina Hodson
Starring: Katherine Heigl, Rosario Dawson
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $30 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

This is the only film opening wide this week that is being released by a major studio. That should give it an edge, but frankly Katherine Heigl has been box office poison for quite some time. Add in a lack of buzz and a lot of competition and I just don’t see the film doing well in theaters.

Weekend of April 28th, 2017

The Circle

This is the last weekend of the month and at this point, the only film people will be talking about is Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2, which will still be a week away. Of the three wide releases this week, The Circle is the only one that has a shot at becoming a midlevel hit. How to be a Latin Lover isn’t guaranteed to open truly wide, as films aimed at an Hispanic audiences don’t have a great track record at the box office. Finally there’s Sleight, which is being released by High Top Releasing, which has only released one film that earned more than $10 million at the box office. This weekend last year, there were three wide releases, none of which earned more than $10 million over the weekend. I think the same could happen this weekend, so it will be a battle of the holdovers. The Jungle Book will give 2016 the advantage.

The Circle

The Circle
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: http://thecircle.movie/
Distributor: STX Entertainment
Release Date: April 28th, 2017
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Source: Based on Fiction Book/Short Story
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
Keywords: Internet, Corporate Life, Big Brother, Dystopia, Shadowy Organization
Directed By: James Ponsoldt
Written By: James Ponsoldt, Dave Eggers
Starring: Emma Watson, Tom Hanks
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $20 million to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million

Emma Watson plays the newest employee at The Circle, a social network company. She quickly rises the ranks, but soon suspects something nefarious is happening there. This is the only film opening on the 28th that is earning any real buzz. Furthermore, it might be the only truly wide release and the lack of competition will help. On the other hand, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2 is opening the following week, and the competition is going to be deadly.

How to Be a Latin Lover

How to Be a Latin Lover
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: HowToBeALatinLover.movie/
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: April 28th, 2017
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude humor, sexual references and gestures, and for brief nudity.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Dysfunctional Family, Bad Role Models, Faked Romance, Relationships Gone Wrong, May / December Romance
Directed By: Ken Marino
Written By: Jon Zack, Chris Spain
Starring: Eugenio Derbez
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $10 million to $20 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million

The latest from Pantelion Films, which is a label under Lionsgate for movies aimed at Hispanic audiences. They started in 2011 with From Prada to Nada and had their first breakout success with No Instructions Included. Since then, most of their films have done well for limited releases, but very few have earned any real measure of mainstream success. How to Be a Latin Lover has a shot, as its overall cast has a lot of star power. That said, there is always a chance it won’t open truly wide and it might struggle to get to $5 million. I choose to be cautiously optimistic.

Sleight

Sleight
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Facebook.com/SleightMovie/
Distributor: High Top Releasing
Release Date: April 28th, 2017
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout, drug content and some violence.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Action
Keywords: Young Child Dealing with the Death of a Parent, Orphan, Secret Magic, Stage Magician, Magical Technology, Surprise Twist, Kidnap, Rescue, Organized Crime, Gang Warfare, Money Troubles, African-American
Directed By: J.D. Dillard
Written By: J.D. Dillard, Alex Theurer
Starring: Jacob Latimore
Production Budget: Unknown - estimated at $10 million
Box Office Potential: $10 million

A street magician gets mixed up with a gang in order to make enough money to care for his younger sister after the death of their parents. This is the smallest film opening this week. The early reviews are good, but plenty of good films have slipped between the cracks. I fear this will be one of them.

Filed under: Monthly Preview, Smurfs: The Lost Village, Unforgettable, Free Fire, The Fate of the Furious, The Circle, The Promise, Going in Style, Sleight, How to Be a Latin Lover, Born in China, The Case for Christ, Fast and the Furious, Morgan Freeman, Tom Hanks, Faye Dunaway, Charlize Theron, Alan Arkin, Kelly Asbury, Christian Bale, Zach Braff, Martin Brest, Michael Caine, Erika Christensen, Sharlto Copley, Rosario Dawson, Eugenio Derbez, Vin Diesel, Elle Fanning, Robert Forster, F. Gary Gray, Armie Hammer, Katherine Heigl, Oscar Isaac, Dwayne Johnson, Brie Larson, Joe Manganiello, Ken Marino, Cillian Murphy, Jason Statham, Mike Vogel, Emma Watson, Jack McBrayer, Ben Wheatley, Dave Eggers, Chris Morgan, Jacob Latimore, Dane DeHaan, Nat Wolff, Robin Swicord, Amy Jump, James Ponsoldt, Charlotte Le Bon, Terry George, Amma Asante, Brian Bird, Theodore Melfi, Jack Reynor, Danny Pudi, Chris Spain, Christina Hodson, Laurent Zeitoun, George Swicord, Demi Lovato, Chuan Lu, Jon Zack, David Fowler, Aaron Woodley, Jon Gunn, Pamela Ribon, Eric Summer, Lee Strobel, J.D. Dillard, Alex Theurer, Eric Warin, Carol Noble, Brian Leith, Phil Chapman, Stacey Harman, Jace Norman