2013 Preview: March

February is over, and for the most part, we should be very happy it is done and buried. The biggest hit of the month turned out to be Identity Thief, which will cross $100 million shortly. There were also a couple of impressive midlevel hits, like Warm Bodies and Escape from Planet Earth, but for the most part, it was miss after miss. This is bad news for March, which is not only dealing with a slumping 2013 box office, but will be compared with a strong March of 2012. Last March started with The Lorax, which earned more than $200 million. There's a good chance no March release this year will reach this milestone. Last March was also the month The Hunger Games opened, which earned more than $400 million. There's a chance the top three films opening this month won't earn that much combined. 2013 is going to take a beating in the year-over-year comparison and it is already $100 million behind last year's pace.

Weekend of March 1st, 2013

The first week of March is a busy one with four films opening wide, although one of them is earning no buzz and I'm not sure it will be a factor at the box office. Jack the Giant Slayer should lead the way, but most analysts agree it will flop compared to its $150 million production budget. The Last Exorcism Part II should be a midlevel hit, just like its predecessor. 21 and Over is trying to be the next Project X, but I'm not hearing the same level of buzz. Finally, there's Phantom. Up to last week, I didn't think this film was opening wide. Last year, The Lorax opened with more than $70 million. All four new releases this year will make less than $70 million combined. There is a good chance none of them will make $70 million in total. 2013 is going to get crushed in the year-over-year comparison.

21 and Over

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Facebook.com/21andOver
Distributor: Relativity
Release Date: March 1st, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, some graphic nudity, drugs and drinking.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: One Night, Black Out Drunk, and more
Directed By: Jon Lucas and Scott Moore
Starring: Justin Chon, Skylar Astin, Miles Teller, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $13 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

Justin Chon stars as Jeff Chang. It's his 21st birthday and his two friends come by to take him to the bar to have a night of debauchery. However, he has a very important interview the next day to get into medical school, so he agrees to only one beer. The night doesn't stop at one beer.

It's Project X meets The Hangover. The trailer wasn't as bad at the former's, so hopefully the reviews are closer to the latter. Unfortunately, there are no reviews at the moment, so it is impossible to judge the quality, but there's enough buzz to suggest it will be a midlevel hit. At the very least, it should cover its production budget during its theatrical run, while its home market numbers will push it to profitability.

Last minute update: The reviews are in and they are bad, really bad, and I've dropped the box office potential from $40 million to $35 million.

Jack the Giant Slayer

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: JackTheGiantSlayer.WarnerBros.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: March 1st, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13 intense scenes of fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief language.
Source: Based on a Fairytale
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Princess, Rescue, Giants, Visual Effects, 3D, and more
Directed By: Bryan Singer
Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, and others
Production Budget: $150 million
Box Office Potential: $65 million

A grittier take on Jack and the Beanstalk fairytale. ... It cost $150 million to make. I guess the filmmakers were hoping for a box office run similar to Snow White and the Huntsman, and it will need to make close to $400 million worldwide to break even. However, the buzz is not good. The early reviews are good, but have been falling, and the advertizing push isn't there. Most people expect this film to bomb, at least compared to its production budget. Its buzz is closer to Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters then it is to Snow White and the Huntsman. Unless analysts are wrong about this film, or it performs much better internationally, the studio could lose a fortune on this one.

Last minute update: The reviews have continued to fall and are now just under 50% positive, which is more in line with my original expectations. However, I remain a little under the average prediction.

The Last Exorcism Part 2

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheLastExorcism2.com
Distributor: CBS Films
Release Date: March 1st, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for horror violence, terror and brief language.
Source: Original Screenplay / Sequel
Major Genre: Horror
Keywords: Demon, Possession, Religious, Sequel Without the Original Star, and more
Directed By: Ed Gass-Donnelly
Starring: Ashley Bell, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $5 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million

The first The Last Exorcism cost less than $2 million to make, but pulled in more than $40 million domestically. The second installment, The Last Exorcism Part II, should make relatively close to the same amount. The first film's reviews were good enough that I think fans will want to come back, but this one isn't being screened for critics, so it will likely have terrible reviews and really short legs. Then again, it will likely make more on its opening day than it cost to make and break even early in its home market run, if not sooner.

Phantom

Trailer: Coming Soon
Official Site: PhantomTheFilm.com
Distributor: RCR Media Group
Release Date: March 1st, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for violence.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Underwater, In a Boat, Cold War, Commies, and more
Directed By: Todd Robinson
Starring: Ed Harris, David Duchovny, and others
Production Budget: $18 million
Box Office Potential: $5 million

Usually, by the time a movie is about to come out, I have already quite a bit of information on the film and there's not a lot of new research I need to do. However, very rarely, a film slips beneath my radar until I start the monthly preview, and I have to do more research. In the case of Phantom, I had too look up the distributor. I had never heard of RCR Media Group before last week. They've produced a few movies in the past few years, mostly direct-to-DVD sequels and a few limited releases like Jack and Diane. This film will be their first that opens wide, but I'm not at all convinced this is a good idea. The early reviews are bad, there's no buzz, no ad presence, etc. There are limited releases opening in March that have more buzz and higher box office potential than this film does. If it does open in 2,000 theaters, just avoiding the Mendoza Line will be a bit of a victory. It will be a Pyrrhic victory, but that will likely be as good as it gets.

March of February 8th, 2013

There are only half as many new releases during the second weekend of March, but these two films should make more than the four wide releases from the week before. In fact, Oz The Great and Powerful should make more than all four films combined. Unfortunately, it cost $200 million to make, so it will need to be a monster hit to break even. I don't think that's going to happen. Dead Man Down, on the other hand, will struggle to become a midlevel hit, at best. Last year, John Carter of opened weakly. This could be seen as a bad omen, and John Carter and Oz The Great and Powerful share a lot in common, including a hefty production budget. If Oz The Great and Powerful doesn't share the same fate, then 2013 could finally break the losing streak it's been on.

Dead Man Down

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: BloodDemandsBlood.com
Distributor: FilmDistrict
Release Date: March 8th, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language throughout and a scene of sexuality.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Hitmen, Organized Crime, Revenge, Death of a Spouse, Death of a Child, and more
Directed By: Niels Arden Oplev
Starring: Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Terrence Howard, and others.
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

From the director of the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This makes it interesting to look at. On the other hand, he doesn't have a track record at the box office, so Dead Man Down has a lower box office potential as a result. For that matter, Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, and Terrence Howard, also have weak track records at the box office. For that matter, so does the distributor, FilmDistrict. Finally, it is counter-programing to what could be the biggest hit of the month. That's a lot of strikes against it. It wasn't an expensive movie to make, so it should break even, eventually.

Oz The Great and Powerful

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Disney.Go.com/TheWizard
Distributor: Disney
Release Date: March 8th, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG for sequences of action and scary images, and brief mild language.
Source: Spin-Off / Based on a Book
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Prequel, Stage Magician, Visual Effects, 3D, and more
Directed By: Sam Raimi
Starring: James Franco, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis, and others.
Production Budget: $200 million
Box Office Potential: $145 million

This film was clearly made with the hopes it would be the next Alice in Wonderland. There are very few people who think Oz The Great and Powerful will make $400 million domestically and $1 billion worldwide. In fact, there are some who think it will make less in total that Alice in Wonderland made during its opening weekend. The director, Sam Raimi, does have some huge hits under his belt, and there are some big names in the cast, but the buzz just isn't there. Granted, it is growing, and at the right time, but I don't think this film will match its production budget domestically, meaning it will have to be a bigger hit internationally to break even early in its home market run. If it does miss expectations domestically and struggles just as much internationally, then it could cost the studio a lot of money. Granted, I'm a little less optimistic than most, but the overall box office is weak and there have already been some high profile films to fail to reach expectations this year.

Weekend of March 15th, 2013

The two biggest hits of the month will likely be Oz The Great and Powerful and The Croods. This weekend is sandwiched in-between those potential monster hits. As such, the box office chances of the three releases are likely capped at midlevel hit, while there is a good chance all three combined will make less than $100 million. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone has the best short at being a surprise hit, but there's also a chance it will fail to become a midlevel hit. The Call has some of the quietest buzz for the month. Meanwhile, it looks like Spring Breakers is opening in limited release this week before a planned wide expansion the following week. That is always a risky move. This weekend last year had a surprise hit in 21 Jump Street. I don't see any film matching its opening, but the only other new release in the top ten was Casa de mi Padre. Hopefully 2013 will have better depth and squeeze out a win.

The Call

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Call-Movie.com
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: March 15th, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for violence, disturbing content and some language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Serial Killer, Kidnapping, Rescue, and more
Directed By: Brad Anderson
Starring: Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $13 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

A 9-11 operator, Halle Berry, gets a call from a woman who has an invader in her house, but a mistake by the operator gets the woman killed. Flash forward and the same operator gets a call from a teenage girl, Abigail Breslin, who has been kidnapped. The operator tries to talk her through the ordeal, but soon the kidnapper finds the phone and taunts the operator. She realizes it is the same guy and is determined to save this girl where she failed the earlier one.

That's a good setup. Also, the film is directed by Brad Anderson, who previously made The Machinist and Transsiberian, both of which are amazing movies. I am cautiously optimistic that the film will be worth watching, although there are no early reviews yet. (Nor are there normally reviews this early.) On the other hand, this will be his first wide release. Also, Halle Berry hasn't had a major box office hit since X-Men: The Last Stand, while Abigail Breslin is too young to have any real box office drawing power. It did only cost $13 million to make, so it won't need to be a big hit to break even, but I am not overly optimistic.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheIncredibleBurtWonderstone.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: March 15th, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13 sexual content , dangerous stunts, a drug-related incident and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Stage Magician, Las Vegas, Comeback, Retirement, and more
Directed By: Don Scardino
Starring: Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Jim Carrey, Alan Arkin, Olivia Wilde, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $30 million
Box Office Potential: $50 million

Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi star as two stage magicians that have fallen out of favor with the public, because a new street magician, played by Jim Carrey is all of the rage. Steve Carell meets his inspiration, Alan Arkin, who is now retired, looking for to regain the magic.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone has a great cast, but its director is mostly known for TV work, so doesn't have a box office track record to look at. I did like the trailer and there is some good buzz. Perhaps it will be a breakout hit; it certainly has the best shot out of the three wide releases this week, but I think becoming a midlevel hit will be as good as it gets for the movie.

Spring Breakers

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: SpringBreakersTheMovie.com
Distributor: A24
Release Date: March 15th, 2013 (Limited)
Release Date: March 22nd, 2013 (Expands Wide)
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content, language, nudity, drug use and violence throughout.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Gangs, Narcotics, Hitmen, Spring Break, and more
Directed By: Harmony Korine
Starring: Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Rachel Korine, Ashley Benson, James Franco, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $10 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million

Four girls, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Rachel Korine, and Ashley Benson, rob a fast food restaurant to get the money to go on Spring Break. When they get there, they get into legal trouble and are bailed out by James Franco, a drug dealer, who gets them to kill a rival drug dealer.

The film is written and directed by Harmony Korine, who previously made Kids, which was controversial, to say the least. This movie does have quite a bit of buzz, with the Disney Girls Gone Wild angle, but I'm not sure that will be enough to allow it to expand. Even if it does expand, becoming a midlevel hit is probably too much to ask for. There is also a chance it will struggle in limited release and never truly expand. The early reviews are good, but not great, so the lower end is more likely. The above box office potential is a weighted average of those two extremes, but it could double that figure if it expands truly wide.

Weekend of March 22nd, 2013

It is a busy week with four wide releases, plus the planned expansion of Spring Breakers. That's a lot of competition and it is likely at least two films will fail to find an audience. The Croods is probably the only film coming out this week guaranteed to find an audience. The only question is whether or not this audience is big enough to cover its production budget, which is likely between $100 million to $200 million. Admission is counter-programing, but it has a chance of becoming a sleeper hit. Olympus Has Fallen is a thriller with a very similar premise to White House Down, and the latter already has more buzz, despite not opening till June. Finally there's InAPPropiate-Comedy, which is being compared to Movie 43. Yuck. This time last year The Hunger Games opened with more than $150 million over the weekend. That's more than the entire box office might make this weekend. This will likely mark the weekend that 2013's chances of winning the year-over-year comparison will die.

Admission

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: AdmissionMovie.com
Distributor: Focus Features
Release Date: March 22nd, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language and some sexual material.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Romantic Comedy
Keywords: Adoption, Romance, College, and more
Directed By: Paul Weitz
Starring: Tina Fey, Paul Rudd, Nat Wolff, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $30 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million

Tina Fey is a college application officer who reunites with a college classmate, Paul Rudd, who thinks one of his students, Nat Wolff, might be the son she gave up for adoption when she was in college.

The film is directed by Paul Weitz, which does give me some hope it will be a good movie and it does have the potential to become a sleeper hit. Tina Fey and Paul Rudd do have more than a few such hits in their combined careers. The buzz is good, but not very loud, but there's time for that to change. If the buzz does grow and the reviews match my expectations, then it could be a surprise hit earning $75 million or more. I'm not courageous enough to make that prediction.

The Croods

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheCroodsMovie.com
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: March 22nd, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG for some scary action.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Prehistoric Times, 3D, Dysfunctional Families, In-Laws, End of the World, and more
Directed By: Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke, Cloris-Leachman, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $125 million
Box Office Potential: $125 million

A film about a dysfunctional family living in the stone age that has to deal with incredible changes in their world. The studio is obviously hoping to have a box office run similar to Ice Age, which opened this time of year just over a decade ago. Unfortunately, it feels a little too close to Continental Drift, and that could hurt its buzz. The film is co-written and co-directed by Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco. The former made Lilo and Stitch and How to Train Your Dragon, both of which were excellent. The latter made Space Chimps, which was not excellent. Early reviews are mostly good and hopefully the buzz will continue to grow as its release date nears.

InAPPropiate Comedy

Trailer: Coming Soon
Official Site: inAPPropriateComedy.com
Distributor: Freestyle Releasing
Release Date: March 22nd, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language and drug use.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Sketch Comedy, and more
Directed By: Vince Offer
Starring: Adrien Brody, Lindsay Lohan, Michelle Rodriguez, Rob Schneider, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $10 million to $20 million
Box Office Potential: $5 million

I don't know if this movie is opening truly wide. Given the buzz, I really doubt it. This movie is being compared to Movie 43, but its box office potential is actually worse. If it does open in limited release, it will likely crash and burn. If it opens truly wide, it will likely miss the Mendoza Line in its opening weekend before disappearing as soon as the theater owners are contractually able to drop it. In a few years, if the film is remembered at all, it will be remembered as an example that Sketch Comedy just don't work in theaters.

Olympus Has Fallen

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: OlympusMovie.com
Distributor: FilmDistrict
Release Date: March 22nd, 2013
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and language throughout.
Source: Original Screenplay
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Political, Terrorism, Kidnaping, Rescue, Secret Service, and more
Directed By: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhart, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $80 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million

Gerard Butler stars as a secret service agent, who was involved in a car crash while protecting the president, Aaron Eckhart, in which the president's wife died. He hasn't been able to recover, but when terrorists take over the White House and kidnap the president, he's the only one who can rescue him.

This is not a bad setup, but there is simply not enough buzz given its production budget and how close we are to its release date. If it earns good reviews and the buzz grows, perhaps it can be a surprise hit and match its reported production budget, but that is probably asking too much.

Weekend of March 29th, 2013

The month ends with three wide releases, all of which are going after different target audiences. G.I. Joe: Retaliation is the big action film of the week and should become the biggest hit. On the other hand, if even half of the Twilight fans show up to The Host, it will be a surprise $100 million hit. Meanwhile, Tyler Perry's Temptation is the latest Tyler Perry film and there's not much more that needs to be said about that. This weekend last year was still dominated by The Hunger Games, but Wrath of the Titans and Mirror Mirror both opened well. ... 2013 is going to get crushed yet again.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: GIJoeMovie.com
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: March 29th, 2013
MPAA Rating: Not yet rated - Likely PG-13
Source: Based on a Toy / Sequel
Major Genre: Action
Keywords: Framed, Terrorism, Identity Theft, Government Corruption, 3D, 3D Post-Production Conversion, and more
Directed By: John M. Chu
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Channing Tatum, Bruce Willis, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $185 million
Box Office Potential: $125 million

The president of the United States declares the G.I. Joe team traitors and tries to eliminate them. The survivors realize he's under the control of Cobra and strike back.

This is actually a good setup for a sequel to G.I. Joe, but just a month before the film's original release date, it was pushed back nearly a full year. It went from a prime summer release to a much weaker March release. This is a really bad sign. That said, it is still one of the most talked about March releases, while the original did make more than $300 million worldwide, so it should be a hit, just not a monster hit.

The Host

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheHostTheFilm.com
Distributor: Open Road
Release Date: March 29th, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sensuality and violence.
Source: Based on a Book
Major Genre: Thriller
Keywords: Alien Invasion, Possessed, On the Run, End of the World, and more
Directed By: Andrew Niccol
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Diane Kruger, and others
Production Budget: Reported at $44 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million

Based on a book by Stephenie Meyer. On the one hand, Stephenie Meyer is a terrible author. On the other hand, Saoirse Ronan and Diane Kruger are really good actresses, so I'm hoping this film will be better than the Twilight films were. I don't think it will be nearly as good at the box office, as the buzz just isn't there, at least not to that level. There is enough buzz to think it will become one of Open Road's biggest hits.

Tyler Perry's Temptation

Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TemptationTheMovie.com
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: March 29th, 2013
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence, sexuality and drug content.
Source: Based on a Play
Major Genre: Drama
Keywords: Love Triangle, Romance, Relationships Gone Wrong, Marriage Counselors, Author Adapting his Own Work, and more
Directed By: Tyler Perry
Starring: Jurnee Smollett, Robbie Jones, Lance Gross, and others
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million

Jurnee Smollett plays a married marriage counselor who falls for a very rich man. It's a Tyler Perry movie, so there's little that needs to be said about its box office potential. His films tends to bring in roughly the same time and time again. The non-Madeaones don't make as much money as those that feature his most famous creation, but this film should still make enough to show a healthy profit.


- C.S.Strowbridge


Date posted: 2013-03-01