February 2010 Forecast
By Michael Lynderey
February 5, 2010

She'll teach that Valentine's Day to keep hanging around year after year!

By some happenstance of scheduling, February 2010's gathered up just eight wide new releases. Not that I'm complaining. We could all use a break from filmgoing, especially after that whole Avatar thing.

1. Valentine's Day (February 12th)

Here's a movie that headlines so many name actors that it almost plays like a parody of last year's He's Just Not That Into You, a film this one is trying to emulate in classic Cannonball Run-style. The veritable thespianic army assembled herein includes rising stars (Bradley Cooper, Anne Hathaway), A-listers who may have peaked (Jennifer Garner, Jamie Foxx), alumni of That 70's Show (Ashton Kutcher, Topher Grace), survivors of the Great Depression (Shirley MacLaine, Hector Elizondo), prime subjects of teen adulation (Taylors Swift and Lautner), teens who are less known if no less qualified (Carter Jenkins, Emma Roberts), Hollywood royalty (Julia Roberts, Queen Latifah), starlets named Jessica (Mlles. Biel and Alba), TV doctors (Patrick Dempsey and Eric Dane?!?), and miscellanea (sorry, George Lopez and Kathy Bates). And hey, I've just gone and named them all, and yep, they've all been carefully selected to appeal to just about any demographic you can shake a stick at. It's all presided over by the old romantic comedy master himself, Gary Marshall, back again in his natural habitat. Now, any box office analyst with a brain would take one look at this one and immediately put it down for $100 million, plus tip; but I am a box office analyst with heart, you see, and so I can't help but surmise that Valentine's Day will be that rare mid-February romantic comedy to open big, but then drop off in classically front-loaded style. After all, remember how good those Cannonball Run movies were?

Opening weekend: $42 million (four-day) / Total gross: $89 million

2. Shutter Island (February 19th)

Welcome to Scorsese-DiCaprio '10. This one's a high profile Oscar contender pushed back from a plump October date that could have guaranteed it $100 million, and that makes it an interesting choice for the late February slot (usually occupied by Tyler Perry). But here's where the really weird part comes in: despite fleeing from potential Oscar voters, Shutter Island is actually getting pretty good early reviews! The forecast seems generally positive to me, with reservations: that star/director combo has certainly delivered at the box office before, though always with the benefit of awards-season legs, and it's a little hard for this type of movie to really break out in the Oscar off-season (though the obvious thriller elements and name recognition certainly won't hurt). That said, this one could still turn into an adult-driven box office hit with some real longevity, perhaps recalling the February '91 double-bill of The Silence of the Lambs and Sleeping with the Enemy. Perhaps.

Opening weekend: $24 million / Total gross: $77 million

3. Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (February 12th)

We're going to see a lot of mythological beasties duking it out at the movies this year, and it all starts here. Now, I'm a little confused as to the box office potential of Percy Jackson: other children's book series have been getting big-screen treatments right and left lately, with box office results as admirable as those accorded to The Spiderwick Chronicles ($71 million), or as disheartening as the ones dug up by The Seeker ($8 million) and Cirque du Freak ($13 million). Percy Jackson's certainly got impeccable genre credentials, with Harry Potter veteran Chris Columbus at the helm and a recognizable supporting cast (Uma Thurman, Pierce Brosnan, Rosario Dawson) buffering up the younger leads. So the question is - just how big are the Percy Jackson books among their readership, anyway? And how much of an audience will the film nab outside its base?

Opening weekend: $26 million (four-day) / Total gross: $68 million

4. The Wolfman (February 12th)

The horror remake invasion continues. Indeed, with its lush cinematography, big studio budget, and name cast, The Wolfman comes off like the long-lost third chapter in that '90s series of old school horror redos - Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994). While star Benicio Del Toro hasn't headlined anything in a while, Anthony Hopkins and Emily Blunt are around to provide some English-accented respectability. There's also some all right action and suspense in the trailers, and the opening day or two ought to deliver. What's troubling, though, is that The Wolfman has been getting delayed longer than almost any major film of late - having originally been scheduled for November 2008, before bouncing its way up into the next decade. So what's the deal with this one?

Opening weekend: $22 million (four-day) / Total gross: $48 million

5. Dear John (February 5th)
Here's a romantic drama that comes off like a subdued alternative to the presumably more comic shenanigans of Valentine's Day. More to the point, it's one of two Nicholas Sparks adaptations that await us in the spring - and this is the one without Miley Cyrus. Amanda Seyfried and Channing Tatum are the rising stars doing the weeping in this weeper, and indeed Dear John looks to follow the Sparks trademarks to a tee - it's about initially-reluctant lovers, it's set right on the beach in the Carolinas (South, this time), it contains a strong father figure (the masterful Richard Jenkins), and at the end, someone will no doubt meet their untimely demise (Will it be Seyfried with a terminal illness? Tatum off at war? Or could it be Jenkins, mauled to death with a pogo stick?). Either way, Dear John's been scheduled at exactly the right time of year for such an estrogen-tinted enterprise, and if reviews are good (or quite possibly even if they aren't), this will rack up a decent enough sum - and pave the way for the Cyrus-Sparks box office blow-out that will follow in April.

Opening weekend: $15 million / Total gross: $42 million

6. From Paris with Love (February 5th)

Welcome to another travail into European action, with movie stars shooting off at unknown thugs while landmarks pass by in the vague background. But hey, the trailers look breezy enough, if generally plotless, and there's a decent bout of star power - Jonathan Rhys Meyers and John Travolta, the latter looking increasingly like Terl the Psychlo, and seemingly enjoying himself as another loose-cannon killer. From Paris with Love was helmed by Luc Besson-protege Pierre Morel (who also directed Taken, as the trailers correctly point out), and while this surely isn't going to get as strong an audience reaction as the Neeson picture, it does look like a decent enough time at the action sweepstakes. At the very least, it should have a higher body count than Dear John.

Opening weekend: $14 million / Total gross: $38 million

7. Cop Out (February 26th)

After some 2000s-era indulgences (Clerks II, Jersey Girl, the Die Hard cameo), Kevin Smith returns with what looks to be a frankly mainstream piece of entertainment. Cop Out's a buddy comedy about mismatched policemen, a subgenre that has not been much heard from lately. As far as the cast goes, Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan sound like a good team for such an endeavor, but the whole premise just seems kind of old and worn-out - doesn't it? - and the trailers didn't much convince me otherwise. So, #7 it is.

Opening weekend: $9 million / Total gross: $21 million

8. The Crazies (February 26th)

Another week, another horror remake. This time around, though, we're digging real deep into the well of lesser-known titles - the widest release I can find for George A. Romero's original 1973 Crazies was a mere four theaters, and indeed that makes it a film not likely to have been much seen, even by horror fans. The cast is led by a pack of the usual genre stalwarts (Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell), the premise is reasonably intriguing, if not spectacularly original, and the late month timeslot ought to be able to sustain just one more horror film. But just the one.

Opening weekend: $9 million / Total gross: $19 million