April 2016 Box Office Forecast

By Michael Lynderey

April 1, 2016

A boy and his kitty cat.

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4. Barbershop: The Next Cut (April 15th)

Squarely in the recent tradition of belated sequels comes this third Barbershop movie, which could even be called the fourth if you count Queen Latifah's spin-off Beauty Shop as a sequel (and I do. Why not?). That last film was all the way back in 2005, and the time spent since may have only made the heart grow fonder: the first two Barbershops got very solid reviews, and are, I suspect, remembered well by those who saw them. Nothing of consequence seems to have been changed from its predecessors in this go-around. The regulars in the cast are back - Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, and Anthony Anderson are among the barbers or those in need of one - along with some new additions like Nicki Minaj and Common, the better to reflect the changing of the guard.

As with all of these belated sequels, one could be extremely skeptical of its prospects, but I think there's no question there's a loyal fan base here that's just ready to turn out and give this franchise another big gross (I don't even think $100 million is out of the question), especially considering the film plays to an underserved African-American demographic that probably does miss these characters. Ice Cube's box office draw is not to be underestimated, either, after spearheading Straight Outta Compton and the Ride Along films to some really quite staggering numbers. And for the future? When it comes to spin-offs and match-ups at the box office, I think a Barbershop v Madea would simply be unstoppable, even if Madea does set the shop alight.

Opening weekend: $33 million / Total gross: $71 million

5. God's Not Dead 2 (April 1st)

If anyone was wondering who was brave enough to challenge Batman v Superman's second weekend, the answer is right here: God's Not Dead 2 is almost the only wide release on its weekend, after the previously-scheduled Amityville: The Awakening refused to compete with the almighty and moved to next year, while Meet the Blacks is enjoying only a more modest bow (and speaking of the latter film: yes, that title means exactly what you think it means...). The first God's Not Dead was a real surprise hit two years ago, opening with $9 million and finishing with $60 million, and still stands as an apex of Christian films made outside the studio system, one of the biggest earners of the bunch. It's safe to assume the target audience enjoyed it, so much so that when it comes to sequel naming conventions, God's Not Dead 2 has chosen the easy way out (no God's Still Not Dead or God's Not Dead, Either here).

The film has been directed by the memorably named Harold Cronk, who also helmed the original, and much of the production team is the same, though there is a change in casting: the stars this time are Melissa Joan Hart and Jesse Metcalfe, mostly unseen on the silver screen lately but still remembered for their TV roles (Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and Desperate Housewives, two shows with more than a whiff of the ungodly, in one way and another). The story - about a lawsuit that leads to religious disenfranchisement (to word the situation in an extremely diplomatic manner) - is meant as catnip to the faithful, and gives the film a courtroom setting for its unabashedly melodramatic battle between the religious and the militantly secular. It's often tough to predict films in this genre, but the trailer is cornball and plays to its base all the way, and given the numbers on the first film, that's clearly a winning strategy.

Opening weekend: $15 million / Total gross: $48 million


6. Mother's Day (April 29th)

Director Garry Marshall and his cast seek to redeem the movie title "Mother's Day," which was previously carried by a notorious 1980 slasher film that received no more (and no less) than a zero star review from Roger Ebert, a tidbit I share in case you needed any further encouragement to see it. That film was remade under-the-radar in 2010, and this new take on the holiday borrows the title but none of the inspiration - no homicidal mother living with her crazed sons in the backwoods, no teenagers falling under the villains' blade, and no higher a body count than is absolutely necessary. No, much like Valentine’s Day (2010) and New Year’s Eve (2011) before it, Mother’s Day 2016 replaces the slasher films of the 1980s with a highly-ensembled series of occasionally interlocking romantic comedy vignettes.

Valentine's Day took in $110 million and New Year's Eve pulled in $54 million, and the laws of diminishing returns almost certainly will be applied to this third outing. There’s not as much of an ensemble this time around, either: I count 15 movie stars pictured on the poster of Valentine's Day and 18 on New Year's Eve's, while the comparatively modest poster for this one has, thus far, just four (Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Julia Roberts, and Jason Sudeikis, who therefore finds himself in good company). Roberts, who also stars in Money Monster in May (alliteration here is unintentional), still looks like a draw in romantic comedies, and adding fellow genre veterans like Aniston and Hudson is a doubling- and tripling-down on that idea. But this type of film does have a decidedly unspectacular reputation at this point, even if the release strategy is sound enough - they get a free weekend in late April, and then there'll be an uptick when the holiday itself hits on May 8th, even as they're up against the first weekend onslaught of Captain America 3, a film that may scorch all in its path.

Opening weekend: $12 million / Total gross: $43 million

7. Criminal (April 15th)

This crime thriller with a vaguely science fictional tint (about the memories of one CIA agent implanted into the other's) is helmed by Ariel Vromen, who most recently delivered The Iceman, a crime saga with some good reviews, and is headlined by a cast that's definitely on the impressive side, led by Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman, and Wonder Woman Gal Gadot, in her third film in as many a month (she's taking May off). Ryan Reynolds, the definitive movie star of the first third of 2016, is also around, but he's not the main draw here. The star is definitely Costner, who has quietly built up a sterling record of headlining these pretty good little movies to respectable numbers (his 3 Days to Kill, Draft Day, and MacFarland, USA, were all well-made smaller films lost in the shuffle). Criminal may follow suit, with its inscrutable title, twisty crime plot, and strong cast, reminding me also much too much of Gadot's first film this year, Triple 9, which mostly passed by unnoticed a few weeks ago, and which may meet Criminal in the cinematic next life much too soon for comfort.

Opening weekend: $10 million / Total gross: $28 million

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