April 2015 Box Office Forecast
By Michael Lynderey
April 2, 2015

Who let Jason Statham on the set?

April 2015 seems wedged helplessly between what are bound to be two of the year's biggest films. The studios have accepted this fate, scheduling a fairly limited slate of releases in between the two monstrosities, early April's Furious 7 (cannot wait!) and early May's Avengers 2 (was the first Avengers really crying out for a sequel?). Two of April's other weekends offer basically only one wide release, while the third strangely piles on four. Outside of the headlining car race sequel, only two or three films are likely to even pass $30 million total (and there's an offhand chance they won't). In short, if you've been looking for a lot of free time to watch Furious 7 over and over, you're in luck!

1. Furious 7 (April 3rd)

It was really Fast & Furious (2009) that began the tradition of releasing a sure-fire blockbuster on the first weekend of April, a date that has since launched juggernauts like Clash of the Titans and Captain America 2. The Fast & Furious franchise itself is pleasantly unique as one of the few remnants from the pre-fanboy box office era: it's practically the only live-action film series out there right now that isn't based on a pre-existing property (yes, there's a 1955 film called The Fast and the Furious, but the connection is tenuous). The series' history is fascinating: I still remember how two B-movies about car races were scheduled to open just months apart in 2001: Sylvester Stallone's Driven, about the Champ Car World Series, and the first The Fast and the Furious, which was street racing all the way. Few expected the latter film to overtake Stallone's, but an amazing thing happened: Driven, out at the end of a particularly slow April, totaled at $32 million and faded from the scene. Fast and Furious, with a plum June release date, opened bigger ($40 million) than Driven's entire gross, and launched a high-action franchise the likes of which even its makers could not have anticipated.

The series seemed to die off in 2006, before being brought back in a major way just three years later, the original cast together again as if nothing had changed at all. And each film since then has been better than the one before it (here's to this sequel continuing the tradition). Part 7 re-unites most of the cast to face off against Jason Statham, who's found himself in two likely blockbusters this year (see also Melissa McCarthy's already well-reviewed comedy, Spy, due in June). Also on hand is Kurt Russell, welcome to see in a big action film again. The presence of Paul Walker, playing his last film role in the franchise that made him a household name, is significant in unpredictable ways. Furious 7 is likely to be the biggest film of the series, it'll sure give most summer movies a run for their money, and it might just finally crack the $300 million domestic mark, a first for this series. I was there at the beginning, and I'll be rooting for it to go all the way.

Opening weekend: $130 million / Total gross: $295 million

2. The Longest Ride (April 10th)

While the title alone sounds glaringly like a Fast and Furious parody (and indeed, having a film called The Longest Ride released a week after Furious 7 borders on ironic), this is actually another from the Nicholas Sparks factory. It follows more or less in the release plan of The Lucky One from 2012, although the last Sparks picture, The Best of Me, showed that his Southern-set romance brand is not commercially infallible. This film's leads are not big draws - yet - but there's a nice aura of rising stardom emanating from Britt Robertson (soon headlining Tomorrowland) and Scott Eastwood (the surname is vaguely familiar), and even from supporting players Jack Huston (soon to star in, and as, both Ben-Hur and The Crow) and Oona Chaplin (yes, three of these actors' surnames sound very familiar indeed). For those who like this sort of film, the movie should play as respectable counterprogramming (and it's got its release date all to itself). For those who hate Sparks' output, The Longest Ride will surely confirm their worst fears.

Opening weekend: $19 million / Total gross: $50 million

3. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (April 17th)

Yes, this is going to be another box office history lesson, but the occasion calls for it: on a late December day in 2008, as I hunkered down safely to watch Adam Sandler's sainted film Bedtime Stories, the movie screen filled with a trailer for a film called, directly enough, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, and scheduled for release in mid January. I predicted to myself right there and then that Paul Blart would gross something like $4 million (by the time it left theaters). No, I'm not kidding. I don't think I was being unreasonable. It was a good prediction. Then came the onslaught of January 2009 box office, which in its entirety is hard to explain (see also Gran Torino and Taken), with Kevin James's first film as solo lead standing above the month's rest as a titan, grossing $146 million without any conceivable explanation. I'm sure sturdy box office analysts have tried to make sense of it. I reject their reasoning, whatever it is, as insufficient. And to this day, I rank Mr. Blart as among the five biggest surprises in my history as a box office observer.

So here we are, over six years later, and what have we done? Kevin James, whose filmography subsequent to Blart has been hit-or-miss, finally reprises what has become his signature film character. The sequel doesn't seem to be particularly anticipated by a huge host of people, but then again I've been wrong here from the start. Can we say, however, that the magic-in-the-bottle that enchanted the moviegoing population in January 2009 has long-ago subsided? Can we use logic and common sense in forecasting Paul Blart box office this time around, or must we once again surrender to the unknown? And speaking of which, does the Avengers sequel stand a chance of outgrossing Paul Blart Part 2? Any at all? At least internationally? Furious 7 is a sure thing. But Paul Blart 2 is the real question of the day.

Opening weekend: $17 million / Total gross: $45 million
(just kidding. Actual prediction: Opening weekend: $784 million / Total gross: $2.5 billion)

4. The Age of Adaline (April 24th)

The Age of Adaline gets points for daring to declare itself practically the sole contender opening in that last, bittersweet, pre-Avengers weekend. It's hard to forecast for this vaguely Benjamin Button-ish historical fantasy about an ageless title character, although it looks like a film that with just a bit more romance could have been a Nicholas Sparks production (to be even more Sparksesque, it would also need to add unseemly, sudden, violent deaths of major characters). The picture is carried by Blake Lively, who's been spotted in a film or two since her Gossip Girl heyday (Green Lantern and Savages immediately come to mind, though they may not stay). It's tough to say how strong a film they've made here, but Adaline's got an intriguing premise, and ought to play well to adults seeking shelter from the franchise hordes storming the rest of the multiplex. Reviews will decide if it can carve out a decent niche for itself.

Opening weekend: $11 million / Total gross: $35 million

5. Child 44 (April 17th)

This one's a dark serial killer film set on misty foreign shores in Stalin's old Soviet Union (there are shades of Gorky Park, also a Moscow-set murder mystery with an American/British cast). Lead Tom Hardy hasn't headlined too many hit films, but he's a solid actor with a lot of credibility, and the supporting cast (Noomi Rapace, Gary Oldman, Joel Kinnaman) are uniformly excellent. Whether or not plot similarities exist, there are shades here of Run All Night, another dark thriller, and one that underwhelmed at the box office a few weeks ago. With such a grim premise, only strong reviews could lift the tide here, and the film could plausibly do modestly well in the mid-month period.

Opening weekend: $9 million / Total gross: $25 million

6. Unfriended (April 17th)

That busy mid-April weekend of the 17th brings us another shaky cam, ghost-themed, cyber-based horror film (in other words, another milkshake mix of The Ring (2002) and Paranormal Activity (2009), which remain, along with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), among the most influential horror films of the past 15 years). This genre's done just fine this year, with a general range of total grosses between $20 million and $30 million dollars (see The Woman in Black 2 and The Lazarus Effect). There doesn't seem to be much branding this out from the rest of the pack, other than a catchy social media title that could just as easily have fit a romantic comedy (which I am pretty sure this is not).

Opening weekend: $8 million / Total gross: $18 million

7. Woman in Gold (April 1st)

Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds go on the trail of justice, with Mirren playing a Holocaust refugee seeking the return of her family's stolen property. Woman in Gold is a limited release whose prospects for wider play are unclear, but Helen Mirren seems adept at carrying these European-set prestige films to decent final numbers (see Calendar Girls, The Queen, and The Hundred-Foot Journey, none of which actually have much at all in common with each other or with this film). The addition of Reynolds is intriguing. Reviews aren't particularly good, though, and the film likely won't play for too many weeks even if it does expand further.

Total gross: $11 million

8. Monkey Kingdom (April 17th)
Narrated by Tina Fey, Monkey Kingdom is another in the Disneynature series of films that have been persistently released on or around this weekend every year since 2009 (as consistently as a Saw sequel! And with twice the body count). I never expected these documentaries to continue on such a regular basis as they have, but they still do somewhat well for what they are: the total grosses for the films range from $32 million for Earth to $15 million for African Cats. Monkey Kingdom should continue the cycle with little fanfare or alteration (although just about everybody loves monkeys).

Opening weekend: $5 million / Total gross: $15 million

9. Little Boy (April 24th)

Not to be confused with the film Fat Man and Little Boy (1989), about the Manhattan Project, this one's also a World War II movie. I have to say that I don't know much about this, although it looks like Open Road Films is giving it a wide release. As with every motion picture that bravely enters the marketplace, defying this set of odds or that, I wish Little Boy good luck. I do not, however, endorse its box office prospects, and I would warn against wagering a whole lot money on the chances of its box office success. I apologize for my candor.

Opening weekend: $1 million / Total gross: $1 million