2012 Preview: March

February continued 2012's winning streak, which has now reached eight weeks. Will that streak continue in March? I'm not sure it will. There are some very good signs. For instance, last March, only one film reached $100 million, Rango, while there were a couple others that cracked $75 million, Battle: Los Angeles and Limitless. Plus the final weekend of this month lines up with the first weekend of April last year, which also had a $100 million hit, Hop. This time around, things look a whole lot better at the top with a potential $200 million hit, The Hunger Games, and two more that should hit the century mark, Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, and Wrath of the Titans. Plus a couple others, 21 Jump Street and John Carter of Mars, that could top $75 million. However, there are a few weeks that look soft when compared with last year. I suspect The Hunger Games will be such a huge hit that overall March 2012 will perform better than March 2011, but I also think there will be a couple weeks of year-over-year declines. On the plus side, very few films feel like filler; in fact, there are very few films, period. Over the next five weekends, only nine films are opening wide, which is odd for this time of year. In fact, it would be slow for the heart of summer, when most weeks have a blockbuster and one counter-programming film. Will this help the overall box office, as no films will be squeezed out? Or will the lack of choices hurt the box office? We will soon find out, but I remain cautiously optimistic.

Weekend of March 2nd, 2011

March begins with what could become the biggest hit of the year, at least for a little while. Dr. Seuss' The Lorax is the obvious choice for the number one film this weekend, the only real question is whether or not it will match last year's opening of Rango. Most evidence suggests that it will. The only other new release of the week is Project X, which is more of a wild card and could open with $10 million or $20 million and no one would be shocked. We might do better at the top of the chart when compared to last year, but last year might have better depth with The Adjustment Bureau doing rather well compared to Project X. (Beastly didn't make a lot of noise at the box office, while the less said about Take Me Home Tonight, the better.) The streak might end during the first weekend of the month, but it will likely be just a momentary hiccup.

Dr. Seuss' The Lorax

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheLoraxMovie.com
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: March 2nd, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG for brief mild language.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Environmental, Romance, Coming of Age, Non-Chronological, Government Corruption, AgitProp, 3D, and more
Directed By: Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda
Starring: Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Danny De Vito, Ed Helms, Rob Riggle, Betty White, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $80 million to $100 million
Box Office Potential: $150 million

Zac Efron provides the voice for a 12-year old boy who is in love with a girl, voiced by Taylor Swift. He wants to get her the perfect gift, and decides it should be a tree. That might not seem like a romantic gift, but where they live, there are no tree, or flowers, or grass, or anything organic besides the people. But in order to find a tree, he has to leave his town and travel to the land of The Lorax.

I'm optimistic about this film's chances for two reasons. Firstly, it is based on a book by Dr. Seuss and none of the recent films based on his books have flopped. (Cat in the Hat did reach $100 million, but it cost $109 million to make, so you could argue that one was a miss, but not an outright bomb.) Secondly, it is co-directed by the man who made Despicable Me, which made more than $250 million domestically and more than $500 million worldwide. Granted, that's not a guarantee this film will be a success, especially with its release date. But if early reviews are right, it could open with more than $50 million and finish with close to $200 million. Matching Horton Hears a Who is probably more likely and that should be enough to keep the studio happy and ensure another adaptation is given the greenlight.

Last Minute Update: Early reviews are very positive, as expected, and I'm a little more hopeful about the film's legs.

Project X

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: ProjectXTheMovie.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: March 2nd, 2012
MPAA Rating: R for crude and sexual content throughout, nudity, drugs, drinking, pervasive language, reckless behavior and mayhem - all involving teens.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Filmed by a Character, Loss of Virginity, Black Out Drunk, Out of Control Party, Inspired by a True Story, and more
Directed By: Nima Nourizadeh
Starring: Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, Jonathan Brown, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $12 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million

Three high school students Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper and Jonathan Brown decide to throw a party in order to get a reputation. It gets out of hand. That's it for the plot.

Todd Phillips is the producer here, which helps explain why this film is being described as The Hangover, but for high school kids. It's also being described as a mix of Superbad and Jackass. However, while those films were all hits, this one will be lucky if it makes in total as much as Jackass 3D made during its opening weekend, as there is simply not enough buzz to predict it will be anything more than a midlevel hit. It only has one review on Rotten Tomatoes, but it is positive. On the other hand, I've seen a few reviews online that suggest the film's appeal will be very limited. They suggest that you really can judge this film by its trailer.

Last Minute Update: As more reviews come in, its Tomatometer Score has sunk. It feels like a movie aimed at people too young to see R-rated films.

Weekend of March 9th, 2011

It's the busiest weekend of the month, with just three films. Did I mention it is a slow month when it comes to new releases? Also, none of the three films are expected to be big hits. The film that is expected to do the most business at the box office is John Carter, but while the film has a summer blockbuster budget, some are predicting it won't even pull in numbers that are 'Good for a spring release.' The other two releases are Silent House and A Thousand Words. The former is being released by a very new distributor, so I'm not sure how much push it will have. The latter was filmed nearly four years ago, but has been yanked around the release schedule for the past two years. They both have the potential to be minor hits, or open below the Mendoza Line before disappearing within a couple weeks. By comparison, last year Battle: Los Angeles opened with $35 million, which is a figure I don't think John Carter will match. Red Riding Hood and Mars Needs Moms combined for just over $20 million, but I'm not convinced Silent House and A Thousand Words will match that figure. It could be a bad weekend at the box office and 2012 might be dealing with a mini-slump in the year-over-year comparison.

John Carter

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Disney.Go.com/JohnCarter
Distributor: Disney
Release Date: March 9th, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: 3-D, Rescue, Culture Clash, Civil War, War, Development Hell, and more
Directed By: Andrew Stanton
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lily Collins, Willem Dafoe, and others.
Production Budget: Rumored to be $250 million, but could be $100 million more or less than that
Box Office Potential: $70 million

This could be a disaster. John Carter stars Taylor Kitsch as a Civil War era soldier who finds a portal to Mars and becomes embroiled in a war there. It's based on the first of an elven-novel series written by Edgar Rice Burroughs and if it becomes a hit, Disney could have a franchise that lasts more than a decade. However, the buzz surrounding this movie is terrible and more people are talking about what films this movie reminds them of or the film's budget than whether or not it will be worth seeing. This isn't really fair, as the movie is based on a novel first written almost a century ago, so it isn't a rip-off of Star Wars, Avatar, etc. On the other hand, there are some definitely similarities that you can't deny and as I believe Friedrich Nietzsche said, "There is no reality only the perception of reality." If people think it is a rip-off, they will avoid it, even if they are wrong.

Speaking of the film's budget, it is rumored to be $250 million. The studio say that's ridiculous and that the film only cost half that. However, there are also rumors that with extensive re-shoots, the film actually cost much more than $250 million to complete. Unless this film is a massive hit, and by that I mean it opens with close to $70 million instead of finishes with $70 million, the studio is going to take a huge hit on this one.

Silent House

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: WhyIsThisHappeningToMe.net
Distributor: Open Road
Release Date: March 9th, 2012
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing violent content and terror.
Source: Remake of an Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Foreign Language Remake, Surprise Twist, Real Time, and more
Directed By: Chris Kentis Laura Lau
Starring: Elizaveth Olsen and almost no one else
Production Budget: Estimated at $10 million or less, perhaps significantly less
Box Office Potential: $35 million

This film is a remake of La Casa Muda, which is Spanish for The Silent House. That film cost just $6,000 to make but earned very good reviews and generated enough buzz that a Hollywood remake was practically inevitable. I'm a little surprised it took such a short period of time. The buzz for this film is rather quiet and I'm not 100% sure it will open wide. The distributor, Open Road, is very new and this is only their third film. It is also only the third film for the co-directors, Chris Kentis and Laura Lau. As for its star, Elizabeth Olsen, this is only her second theatrical release. However, since her first film, Martha Marcy May Marlene, earned her Oscar buzz, she is the biggest selling feature of the film. Will that be enough to be a midlevel hit? I don't know. However, if it really did cost as little as suspected, it won't need to be a midlevel hit for the studio to breakeven.

Last Minute Update: Early reviews are just starting to trickle in and while it is still too early to predict the film's final Tomatometer Score, so far it is at 100% positive. Not only that, but a lot of the positive reviews are enthusiastically positive. It will still need studio support to become anything more than a middling hit, but I'm bumping my prediction from $25 million to $35 million.

A Thousand Words

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: ThousandWordsMovie.com
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: March 9th, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual situations including dialogue, language and some drug-related humor.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Curse, Religious, Writers, New Age, and more
Directed By: Brian Robbins
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Cliff Curtis, Kerry Washington, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $60 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

Eddie Murphy plays a literary agent who lies to everyone. But when he lies to a guru, Cliff Curtis, over a book deal, the guru curses him, giving him only a thousand words before he dies.

This movie was filmed in 2008, but for various reasons, it sat on a studio shelf for the past three years. Usually when this happens, it's because the film is terrible and the studio doesn't want to spend money on prints and advertising to release it. However, in this case, the film was caught up in the divorce between Paramount and DreamWorks. Perhaps it is a good movie that just got unlucky. Unfortunately, Eddie Murphy was on a losing streak with critics and moviegoers since this film was made, so perceptions are even more important and the release date dance might kill it before it has a chance. If the early reviews are bad, this film's box office chances will sink even lower.

Weekend of March 16th, 2011

Only one wide release this week, an adaptation of 21 Jump Street, which is the TV show that helped launch Johnny Depp's career... 25 years ago. I don't think most of the target demographic for this show was even alive back then and those that were in the target demographic of the original show when it was first on TV are now in their 40s. There were three wide releases this week last year: Limitless, The Lincoln Lawyer, and Paul. None of them were $100 million hits, but none of them were bombs either, so last year's depth is likely too much for 2012 to overcome. This means there is a chance we will be mired in a three-week slump after eight weeks of solid growth.

21 Jump Street

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: 21JumpStreet-Movie.com/
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: March 16th, 2012
MPAA Rating: R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, drug material, teen drinking and some violence.
Source: Based on a TV Show
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Buddy Cop, Undercover, High School Hell, Prom, Slobs vs. Snobs, Narcotics, and more
Directed By: Phil Lord and Chris Miller
Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Dave Franco, Rob Riggle, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $40 million to $60 million
Box Office Potential: $65 million

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as two bad cops (that's bad as in incompetent not bad as in corrupt). After screwing up a bust, they are sent to 21 Jump Street, a unit for cops that go undercover in high schools as students. Their first assignment is to figure out who is dealing a new designer drug and identify the supplier.

Like I said, most people in the target demographic for this movie weren't alive when the TV show debuted. This could explain why they decided to go the Starsky & Hutch route and instead of making a faithful adaptation, they made a Buddy Cop comedy that makes fun of the parts of the show that were taken too seriously the first time around. This does mean using 21 Jump Street's name won't be useful to sell the movie. I've seen a few early reviews and they are mostly positive. If you like Jonah Hill, you will likely enjoy this film. On the other hand, if you avoided The Sitter, this one probably won't interest you either. On the plus side, it does have the weekend all to itself, so that should help it top the chart during its opening.

Weekend of March 23rd, 2011

Like last weekend, there is only one wide release this weekend. Unlike last weekend, it's The Hunger Games. The buzz surrounding this film, and the franchise it will likely spawn, is somewhere between Harry Potter and Twilight. It could have the second best March opening of all time. It will almost assuredly open with more than the combined openings of last year's two wide releases, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules and Sucker Punch, and lead 2012 to an easy victory. It should also quickly become the biggest hit of the year and stay there till The Avengers kicks off the summer blockbuster season.

The Hunger Games

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheHungerGamesMovie.com
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: March 23rd, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense violent thematic material and disturbing images - all involving teens.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Author Adapting their Own Work, Dystopia, Government Corruption, Reality TV, Ensemble, and more
Directed By: Gary Ross
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and many others
Production Budget: $78 million after subsidies ($90 million to $100 million in total)
Box Office Potential: $200 million

Unless this film is all hype, The Hunger Games will become only the third film released by Lionsgate to reach $100 million, and there's a 50/50 chance it will become the studio's first film to top $200 million. On the 22nd of February, the film had advance sales and broke the one-day record, so a $75 million opening weekend is entirely within reach. The buzz surrounding this film is very loud and it is nearly 100% positive. The closest I've seen to real complaints are people debating who might have been a better casting choice for what role. The only downside with all of this buzz is that it sets up high expectations. If the reviews are merely good and not amazing, some people will be really disappointed.

Weekend of March 30th, 2011

March ends and April begins with a couple wide releases: Wrath of the Titans and Mirror Mirror. The former is the sequel to Clash of the Titans, which did surprisingly strong business, for one weekend till its reviews caught up with it. The latter is the first of two Snow White movies coming out this year. I don't expect monster numbers for either film, but Wrath should cross $100 million, while Mirror should do well in the counter-programming position. Looking back at 2011, this weekend last year wasn't the end of March, but the beginning of April. Wrath should top Hop at the box office, while Mirror could make as much as Source Code did. However, that still leaves Insidious do deal with. I think The Hunger Games' sophomore stint will more than compensate and the month should end on a solid winning note.

Mirror Mirror

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: MirrorMirrorFilm.com
Distributor: Relativity
Release Date: March 30th, 2012
MPAA Rating: PG for some fantasy action and mild rude humor.
Source: Based on a Fairytale
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Royalty, Prince/Princess, Rescue, Gangs, and more
Directed By: Tarsem Singh
Starring: Julia Roberts, Lily Collins, Armie Hammer, Nathan Lane, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $60 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million

This film is directed by Tarsem Singh, who previously made The Cell, The Fall, and Immortals. So you can expect a visual feast. On the other hand, it might be too visual to appeal to a mass audience. Or to put it another way, the visuals might overwhelm the basic storytelling to the point that it becomes hard to sell to a lot of people. I'm also getting a Red Riding Hood vibe, which is bad news, as that film only made $37 million. Finally, there is Snow White and the Huntsman, which is an adaptation of the same fairytale and comes out this summer. That film is the bigger movie, and while they won't compete directly for the same audience because the release dates are far enough apart, the comparisons might hurt both movies, as the air of unoriginality surrounds both of them.

Wrath of the Titans

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: WrathOfTheTitans.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: March 30th, 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated - Likely Aiming for PG-13.
Source: Based on Mythology / Sequel
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: 3D, Gods/Goddesses, Visual Effects, Sword and Sorcerer, Monsters, Rescue, Hell, Dysfunctional Family, and more
Directed By: Jonathan Liebesman
Starring: Sam Worthington, Ralph Fiennes, Liam Neeson, Edgar Ramirez, Bill Nighy, Rosamund Pike, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $125 million
Box Office Potential: $125 million

Perseus has to rescue his father, who has been kidnapped by Hades and Ares and taken to hell.

Clash of the Titans earned a boatload of money back in 2010, so it is not surprising that a sequel was made. However, Clash also earned bad reviews and isn't remembered fondly by a lot of people. I don't expect Wrath of the Titans to match its predecessor, and it might not open in first place. (That depends heavily on how well The Hunger Games does during its debut the week before and how well it holds up.) It should still be a big enough hit that the studio will be happy, especially if it does proportionally as well on the international market. (Which would be $125 million domestically and $250 million internationally.)


- C.S.Strowbridge


Date posted: 2012-03-01