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2018 Preview: March

March 1st, 2018

Ready Player One

February was an amazing month, thanks mainly to Black Panther, but Fifty Shades Freed and Peter Rabbit were also significant hits and overall the month was a massive improvement over last February. Looking forward, there’s nothing opening in March that will earn as much in total as Black Panther did during its opening weekend. That said, A Wrinkle in Time and Ready Player One should have no trouble getting to $100 million, while Tomb Raider has a 50/50 chance of getting there. Unfortunately, compared to last March, this is still a pittance. There’s a chance that no film opening this March will earn as much in total as Beauty and the Beast opened with last march. We will need Black Panther to have good legs to keep 2018 ahead of 2017 by the end of the month.

Weekend of March 2nd, 2018

Red Sparrow

The month stars off with two wide releases: Red Sparrow and Death Wish. (Gnome Alone is apparently opening this week as well, but the official site doesn’t have a release date and there have been no Tweets about the movie, since last October, so I think there’s a problem.) Red Sparrow is expected to be a solid midlevel hit, while the buzz suggests it could be a surprise $100 million hit. On the other hand, the buzz around Death Wish is equal parts quiet and bad. This weekend last year, Logan opened with $88.41 million. If Red Sparrow earns that much in total, I will be pleasantly surprised. In short, 2018 is going to start with a loss, unless Black Panther’s legs are so good it can make up for the weak new releases.

Death Wish

Death Wish
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: DeathWish.Movie
Distributor: Annapurna Pictures
Release Date: March 2nd, 2018
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, and language throughout.
Source: Remake
Genre: Action
Keywords: Revenge, Death of a Son or Daughter, Death of Other Extended Family, Death of a Spouse or Fiancée / Fiancé, Vigilante, Remake
Directed By: Eli Roth
Written By: Joe Carnahan, Brian Garfield
Starring: Bruce Willis
Production Budget: $30 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

This film began development in 2006 and Eli Roth is the fifth director attached to the film. That’s a prime case of Development Hell. There are some films that have been stuck in Development Hell, but the end result is still a classic. On the other hand, there are films in Development Hell for a good reason: The movie just isn’t worth making. I think in this case it’s is the latter. The original book was a cautionary tale about the act of revenge and what it costs a person. The movies, on the other hand, celebrate acts of revenge. That might have flown during the 1970s, when crime rates were at near historic highs, but now the crime rates are at nearly 50-year lows, I think the target audience for this film is too small. On the positive side, the film likely didn’t cost a lot to make, so it could still make a profit some time on the home market.

Last Minute Update: There are still no reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, so it likely is quite a bad movie. However, I wasn’t expecting good reviews in the first place.

Red Sparrow

Red Sparrow
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: RedSparrowMovie.com
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: March 2nd, 2018
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, torture, sexual content, language and some graphic nudity.
Source: Based on Fiction Book/Short Story
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
Keywords: C.I.A., Forbidden Romance, Secret Agent, Ensemble, Hitmen
Directed By: Francis Lawrence
Written By: Eric Warren Singer, Justin Haythe, Jason Matthews
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence
Production Budget: $69 million
Box Office Potential: $65 million

The early reviews for this film are good, but not great. However, the film’s trailer created a lot of buzz and that should help it at the box office. Jennifer Lawrence has a lot of drawing power. That said, it is not one of the biggest releases of the month and Black Panther will likely still be in first place during this weekend. I think it will be a solid midlevel hit and there’s a chance it will be a breakout hit, but I think being more cautious and predicting $65 million is the safer bet.

Last Minute Update: Black Panther’s holding on better than expected and that film and Red Sparrow share more of their target audience, so perhaps this film won’t do as well as a result. Maybe drop its box office potential to $55 million from $65 million.

Weekend of March 9th, 2018

A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time debuts during the second weekend in March and it is widely expected to compete for biggest hit of the month. Unfortunately, there are three other films that open wide this week, so the number of new films will likely hurt all of the films’ box office chances. The Strangers: Prey at Night is the delayed sequel to The Strangers, which was a very profitable low-budget horror film from back in 2008. I don’t think it made enough of a cultural impact to warrant a sequel a decade later. Gringo is a black comedy and that genre almost never does well at the box office. Finally there’s The Hurricane Heist. The buzz for this one is even quieter than for Gringo, which I was not expecting. This weekend last year, Kong: Skull Island was the only wide release, but it and Logan made nearly $100 million combined. That might be more than the top five earn this year. We would have to have A Wrinkle in Time beat expectations and have stronger than average holdovers for 2018 to compete with 2017 this weekend.

Gringo

Gringo
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Gringo-Movie.com
Distributor: STX Entertainment
Release Date: March 9th, 2018
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout, violence and sexual content.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Black Comedy
Keywords: Mexico, Drug Cartels, Mercenaries, Smuggler
Directed By: Nash Edgerton
Written By: Anthony Tambakis, Matthew Stone, Matthew Stone
Starring: David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton, Amanda Seyfried, Thandie Newton, Sharlto Copley
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $20 million to $40 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million

A pharmaceutical company sends an underling to Mexico to deliver a formula. When he gets kidnapped, the kidnappers demand $5 million in ransom, but the company doesn’t want to pay. The last black comedy to be a monster hit at the box office was American Hustle, and that’s a boarderline Black Comedy. The buzz for this film is really quiet and not very positive. There are a few moments in the trailer that work, but not enough to think it will earn positive reviews.

The Hurricane Heist

The Hurricane Heist
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: https://www.hurricaneheistmovie.com/
Distributor: Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures
Release Date: March 9th, 2018
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of gun violence, action, destruction, language and some suggestive material.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
Keywords: Heist, Extreme Weather, Hackers, Same Role, Multiple Actors
Directed By: Rob Cohen
Written By: Jeff Dixon, Scott Windhauser, Anthony Fingleton, Carlos Davis
Starring: Toby Kebbell, Maggie Grace
Production Budget: Reported at $35 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million

A heist film that takes place under the cover of a hurricane. The buzz for this film is so quiet that I’m not 100% sure it will open truly wide. Even if it does open wide, it is the smallest film in a busy week. I know this is a short entry, but there’s really nothing more I need to say.

The Strangers: Prey at Night

Strangers: Prey at Night
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheStrangers2018.com
Distributor: Aviron Pictures
Release Date: March 9th, 2018
MPAA Rating: R for horror violence and terror throughout, and for language.
Source: Based on Real Life Events
Genre: Horror
Keywords: Home Invasion, Trailer Park, Delayed Sequel, Road Trip
Directed By: Johannes Roberts
Written By: Bryan Bertino, Ben Ketai
Starring: Christina Hendricks, Martin Henderson, Bailee Madison, Lewis James Pullman
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $10 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

A sequel to The Strangers, which opened a decade ago and became a solid midlevel hit. I’m not surprised it got sequel, but I am surprised it took this long. In fact, it has taken so long, that I don’t think enough people will remember the first film well enough to be a selling point and being a sequel to a film no one remembers might be worse than being an original script. On the other hand, the film likely cost only a little to make, so it should do well enough to break even, eventually.

A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Movies.Disney.com/A-Wrinkle-In-Time
Distributor: Walt Disney
Release Date: March 9th, 2018
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements and some peril.
Source: Based on Fiction Book/Short Story
Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Research Scientist, Missing Person, Child Prodigy, Twins
Directed By: Ava Duvernay
Written By: Jennifer Lee, Madeleine L'Engle
Starring: Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Storm Reid, Chris Pine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe
Production Budget: Reported at $103 million
Box Office Potential: $150 million

This is a movie of firsts. It is the first book by Madeleine L'Engle to get a big-budget adaptation, which is shocking to me, given how prolific her writing career was. Additionally, Ava Duvernay becomes the first African-American woman to direct a film that cost more than $100 million to make. Fortunately, the buzz surrounding the film is loud and positive, so it should do well enough that this will not be the last big-budget adaptation of a Madeleine L'Engle novel, nor will it be the last big-budget movie helmed by Ava Duvernay. There are some who think this will be the biggest hit of the month, but I think Ready Player One will take that crown. I do hope I’m wrong.

Last Minute Update: There are still no reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, which is normal for a movie that doesn’t open for over a week. However, there’s some rumblings that the film is a mixed bag. Perhaps the early reports are not accurate, but in the meantime, I’m lowering the film’s box office potential from $150 million to $135 million.

Weekend of March 16th, 2018

Tomb Raider

There are only two wide releases this weekend. (I Can Only Imagine is opening in limited release, according to most sources.) Tomb Raider should be a $100 million hit, but the buzz is too quiet and there are other larger films coming out this month. Love, Simon is a Young Adult adaptation, but as I’ve said many times recently, this genre is off its peak. This weekend last year was the weekend Beauty and the Beast debuted. It is possible that no film opening this month will earn as much in total as Beauty and the Beast did during its opening weekend. 2018 is going to get absolutely demolished in the year-over-year comparison. Fortunately, 2018 should still end the weekend with a lead over 2017.

Love, Simon

Love, Simon
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: FoxMovies.com/Movies/Love-Simon
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: March 16th, 2018
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual references, language and teen partying.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Drama
Keywords: Romance, LGBT, Closeted Homosexual, Coming of Age, Coming Out
Directed By: Greg Berlanti
Written By: Isaac Aptaker, Elizabeth Berger, Becky Albertalli
Starring: Nick Robinson
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $10 million to $20 million
Box Office Potential: $30 million

A Young Adult adaptation about a gay high school student who hasn’t come out of the closet. He begins to “date” another gay student online, but doesn’t actually know who they are in real life and decides to find out. This could do well as counter-programming, but even under the best of circumstances, becoming a midlevel hit is asking a lot.

Last Minute Update: The early reviews are excellent, so perhaps I underestimated its box office chances. The genre is still weak at the box office, but I’m bumping its chances from $30 million to $40 million.

Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TombRaiderMovie.com/
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: March 16th, 2018
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and for some language.
Source: Based on Game
Genre: Action
Keywords: Non-Chronological, Archaeology, Marooned, Genocide, Secret Societies, 3-D
Directed By: Roar Uthaug
Written By: Geneva Robertson
Starring: Alicia Vikander
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $50 million to $60 million
Box Office Potential: $75 million

The original Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is still the highest-grossing movie based on a video game and sadly, one of the best. Okay, that’s mostly joke, as even among video game adaptations, a Tomatometer Score of 20% is bad. There were some who think Tomb Raider will be the best video game adaptation ever, but there are also fans of the video game who are worried about some of the changes that have been made. Sadly, the competition from the second weekend of A Wrinkle in Time and buzz surrounding Ready Player One will hurt it at the box office.

Weekend of March 23rd, 2018

Pacific Rim: Uprising

This is the busiest weekend of the month with five wide releases. Unfortunately, none of them are expected to do much business at the box office, at least not locally. Pacific Rim: Uprising was made because the original was a $100 million hit in China and the producers are hoping for significant growth from the sequel. I’m pretty sure they don’t really care how much business it does here. Sherlock Gnomes is another sequel. I don’t think many people reading this will even remember the original. Paul, Apostle of Christ is a faith-based film and those films haven’t done well recently. Midnight Sun feels like a Young Adult Adaptation, but it is actually a remake of a Japanese film of the same name. Finally there’s Unsane, which is from Bleecker Street and it may or may not open truly wide. On related note, Isle of Dogs is widely expected to be the first breakout limited release hit of the year. This weekend last year, Power Rangers opened with $40 million. That’s more than any film opening this weekend will make. Worse still, Beauty and the Beast added $90 million. 2018 will get absolutely destroyed in the year-over-year comparison.

Midnight Sun

Midnight Sun
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: MidnightSunMov.com
Distributor: Open Road
Release Date: March 23rd, 2018
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some teen partying and sensuality.
Source: Remake
Genre: Drama
Keywords: Foreign-Language Remake, Romance, Musicians, Secret Admirer, High School Sports, Coming of Age, Medical and Hospitals
Directed By: Scott Speer
Written By: Eric Kirsten
Starring: Bella Thorne, Patrick Schwarzenegger
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $10 million to $20 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million

Bella Thorne stars as a teenager with a rare disorder that makes her allergic to the sun. While this isn’t actually a Young Adult Adaptation, it certainly feels like one, specifically the Dying Girl subgenre. Unfortunately, the target audience for these films just isn’t showing up. Furthermore, there’s way too much competition this week to expect this film to do well.

Pacific Rim: Uprising

Pacific Rim: Uprising
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: PacificRimMovie.com
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: March 23rd, 2018
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Action
Keywords: Mecha, Kaiju, 3-D, Ensemble, Father's Footsteps
Directed By: Steven S. DeKnight
Written By: Steven S. DeKnight, Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder, T.S. Nowlin, Guillermo del Toro
Starring: John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Jing Tian, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman
Production Budget: Reported at $150 million
Box Office Potential: $65 million

Looking at the Pacific Rim box office, home market numbers, etc. and I don’t think it justified making a sequel. Granted, it made more in China than it made here, but that’s still just over $100 million in either market and $400 million worldwide on a $190 million budget. One has to assume the studio is relying on a strong growth in China, but this might come at the cost of a lower domestic box office. On the positive side, it is the biggest release of the week, so at least it won’t be overshadowed during its opening weekend.

Paul, Apostle of Christ

Paul, Apostle of Christ
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: PaulMovie.com
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Release Date: March 23rd, 2018
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violent content and disturbing images.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Faith-Based, Religious, Christians, Discrimination, Prison, Political Prisoner, Ancient Rome, Hagiography
Directed By: Andrew Hyatt
Written By: Andrew Hyatt
Starring: James Faulkner, Jim Caviezel
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at between $20 million and $40 million
Box Office Potential: $35 million

A faith-based film opening the weekend before Easter. This is a great time to release such a film. Unfortunately, there’s direct competition opening the weekend after. This one will likely earn much better reviews and might even have some crossover appeal, but I doubt it has enough to become even a midlevel hit.

Sherlock Gnomes

Sherlock Gnomes
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: SherlockGnomes.com
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: March 23rd, 2018
MPAA Rating:
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Private Investigator, Romance, Animated Inanimate Objects, Delayed Sequel, Missing Person
Directed By: John Stevenson
Written By: Ben Zazove, Kevin Cecil
Starring: Johnny Depp, James McAvoy, Emily Blunt
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at between $30 million and $40 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million

The original Gnomeo and Juliet came out seven years ago. That means kids who were in the target audience for that film are now too old for this film. Likewise, kids that are young enough for this film are too young to remember the first film. This sequel seems pointless. On the other hand, it will be the only animated family film in theaters, so that should help its box office chances.

Unsane

Unsane
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: BleeckerStreetMedia.com/Unsane
Distributor: Bleecker Street
Release Date: March 23rd, 2018
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing behavior, violence, language, and sex references.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
Keywords: Psychological Horror, Mental Hospital, Stalker, Therapists / Therapy
Directed By: Steven Soderbergh
Written By: Jonathan Bernstein, James Greer
Starring: Claire Foy
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $10 million
Box Office Potential: $15 million

Claire Foy volunteers to go to a mental hospital due to the stress of a stalker. However, when she thinks one of the orderlies is her stalker, the doctors don’t believe her and thinks she’s suffering from a real mental illness. Steven Soderbergh retired from filmmaking, but only a few months later, he’s back. Unfortunately, this might actually be the smallest of the five wide releases this week and unless the buzz gets a lot louder from now until its release date, it will truly struggle at the box office.

Weekend of March 30th, 2018

Ready Player One

The final weekend of the month is Easter weekend. This is not a long weekend in the States, although it is in Canada. That said, the biggest film of the month could be opening this weekend. That film is Ready Player One, which is based on a book that has elicited opinions, very strong opinions in a lot of people. Acrimony is a thriller from Tyler Perry and it will be interesting to see if branching out gets him more recognition, or if it will just alienate his base. Finally there’s the third God’s Not Dead film. It’s not expected to do better than the second. This weekend last year, The Boss Baby opened with just over $50 million. Ready Player One is expected to top that. However, last year’s depth is expected to be much better than it will be this year, so 2018 will likely lose in the year-over-year comparison. Hopefully it will still be ahead year-to-date, but it could be close.

Acrimony

Acrimony
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Acrimony.movie
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: March 30th, 2018
MPAA Rating: R for language, sexual content and some violence.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
Keywords: Relationships Gone Wrong, Infidelity, African-American, Revenge
Directed By: Tyler Perry
Written By: Tyler Perry
Starring: Taraji P. Henson
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at between $20 million to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $45 million

Tyler Perry has made a ton of money over his career, but he has tended to stick with a formula that works for him. Acrimony is a departure from that style. It is too soon to tell if the critics will be impressed, but I think his fans will show up and it will earn close to his career average at the box office.

God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness

God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: GodsNotDead.com
Distributor: Pure Flix Entertainment
Release Date: March 30th, 2018
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements including some violence and suggestive material
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Drama
Keywords: Faith-Based, Discrimination, College, Ensemble
Directed By: Michael Mason
Written By: Michael Mason
Starring: David A.R. White, John Corbett, Jennifer Taylor
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $5 million
Box Office Potential: $20 million

The original God’s Not Dead came out of no where, earning over $60 million on a budget that was barely more than $1 million. The distributor, Pure Flix Entertainment, was off to a great start. However, in the four years since then, they’ve had only one other film earn more than $20 million at the box office and their most recent film opened below the Mendoza Line. I don’t think this film will do that poorly at the box office, but I also don’t think it will help the studio recover from its slump.

Ready Player One

Ready Player One
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: ReadyPlayerOneMovie.com
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: March 29th, 2018
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action violence, bloody images, some suggestive material, nudity and language.
Source: Based on Fiction Book/Short Story
Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Near Future, Virtual Reality, Video Game, Environment, Government Corruption, Poverty
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Written By: Eric Eason, Zak Penn, Ernest Cline
Starring: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Simon Pegg, Mark Rylance
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $100 million to $150 million
Box Office Potential: $175 million

The novel this book is adapted from has mixed reviews. There are plenty of people who love it, but just as many who hate it. The main complaints about the book, outside of just plain bad writing, are the unlikable main lead and ham-fisted use of nostalgia. Here’s a writing tip: If you have to explain a pop-culture reference, then it isn’t an important enough pop-culture artifact to be worth mentioning. That said, I don’t know of any director better at tapping into nostalgia than Steven Spielberg and if anyone can turn this mess of a novel into a compelling movie, it’s him. That said, the source is so bad that I’m not expecting a miracle. If it earns overall positive reviews, I will be satisfied.

Filed under: Monthly Preview, Pacific Rim: Uprising, Ready Player One, Midnight Sun, Sherlock Gnomes, Tomb Raider, A Wrinkle in Time, Red Sparrow, Isle of Dogs, God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness, Death Wish, Gringo, Gnome Alone, Acrimony, I Can Only Imagine, Paul, Apostle of Christ, Love, Simon, The Strangers: Prey at Night, The Hurricane Heist, Unsane, God's Not Dead, Johnny Depp, Bruce Willis, Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt, Joe Carnahan, Rob Cohen, Sharlto Copley, John Corbett, Guillermo del Toro, Joel Edgerton, James Faulkner, Maggie Grace, Martin Henderson, Taraji P. Henson, Toby Kebbell, Rinko Kikuchi, Francis Lawrence, Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, Ben Mendelsohn, Thandie Newton, Simon Pegg, Zak Penn, Tyler Perry, Chris Pine, Nick Robinson, Eli Roth, Mark Rylance, Amanda Seyfried, Steven Soderbergh, Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Claire Foy, Burn Gorman, Charlie Day, Christina Hendricks, Greg Berlanti, Nash Edgerton, John Stevenson, Kevin Cecil, Bailee Madison, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Scott Eastwood, Alicia Vikander, Anthony Tambakis, John Boyega, David Oyelowo, Jennifer Lee, Matthew Stone, Scott Speer, Ava Duvernay, Andrew Hyatt, Tye Sheridan, Justin Haythe, Roar Uthaug, Eric Warren Singer, Johannes Roberts, Olivia Cooke, David A.R. White, Jing Tian, Bella Thorne, , Jennifer Taylor, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Ernest Cline, Ben Ketai, T.S. Nowlin, Steven S. DeKnight, Bryan Bertino, Levi Miller, Madeleine L'Engle, Geneva Robertson, Storm Reid, Lewis James Pullman, Eric Eason, Deric McCabe, Jason Matthews, Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder, Brian Garfield, Scott Windhauser, Isaac Aptaker, Elizabeth Berger, Becky Albertalli, Eric Kirsten, Carlos Davis, Anthony Fingleton, Jeff Dixon, Jonathan Bernstein, James Greer, Michael Mason, Ben Zazove
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