March 2017 Box Office Forecast

By Michael Lynderey

March 2, 2017

Tale as old as time.

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4. The Boss Baby (March 31st)

From DreamWorks SKG and Tom McGrath, helmer of Megamind and the Madagascar films, The Boss Baby is a very high-concept CGI animation, this one about a blond, intemperate toddler/CEO who must juggle an awful lot of responsibilities for such a young age, regaining the affection of his parents while maintaining control of his corporation (I envision lots of scenes of babies screaming at each other and jumping up and down at the New York stock exchange). The Boss Baby stars Alec Baldwin as the title creature, and unlike some of the actor's recent work, the film aims not for political satire but as a gentle animated film for little children, perhaps with a moral lesson at its core. Indeed, by the time it opens in late March, it'll be perhaps the first true kids' movie in many a week, though the young ones' attention will likely be riveted by the likes of Power Rangers, Beauty and the Beast, and even Mr. Kong. Still, The Boss Baby looks cute enough to play as a respectable March CGI entry, along the lines of Meet the Robinsons or the under-seen Mr. Peabody & Sherman, and it may juggle its way to $100 million through the quieter afternoons of April.

Opening weekend: $32 million / Total gross: $99 million

5. Ghost in the Shell (March 31st)

Not to be confused with the underrated 1993 computer horror film Ghost in the Machine (if I can get a recommendation in here), this film sees Scarlett Johansson aim to continue a hot streak of action stardom, initiated and fulfilled by her performances in multiple Captain America films, and in Luc Besson's truly bizarre and very profitable Lucy. Here, she's stuck in a futuristic art-deco nightmare, a live-action remake of the 1989 Japanese manga series about a cyborg-enhanced policewoman fighting back the future in mid twenty first century Japan. Ghost in the Shell is helmed by Rupert Sanders, who previously directed the lush and effective Snow White and the Huntsman (2012), while Johansson is joined by the likes of Juliette Binoche, Takeshi Kitano, and Michael Pitt, who give the film an artier flair than expected (they also leave it as a referendum on Johansson's drawing power in action roles). Visually striking and hitting on all the tropes of the material (black leather, cyberpunk post-industrial dystopia, guns blasting away at the malcontented), fans of the material must be thrilled at a big-screen revisit, and Ghost in the Shell should get their benefit of the doubt at least through its opening weekend.

Opening weekend: $27 million / Total gross: $67 million


6. Life (March 24th)

Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds star in this science fiction thriller, which comes to town looking like a sort of comfortable mix of Gravity and Alien, with the stars as astronauts whose space station receives an unwelcome extra-terrestrial visitor ("the creature wasn't nice"), a foreign being who evidently wishes to organize and execute an impromptu sightseeing tour of Earth; this, they must prevent. Gyllenhaal and Reynolds are riding pretty high right now (the former on moody awards-friendly material, the latter as everyone's least favorite superhero), while Ferguson's role in Mission: Impossible 5 still stands strong in memory. The director is Daniel Espinosa, previously of Sweden's Easy Money and the U.S.'s Safe House, but absent more information, I can best peg this as a kind of mid-level science fiction spring thriller, a la Gyllenhaal's own Source Code, and perhaps one that lands in somewhere north of 50 million dollars. Therefore, assuming it's interested, Eddie Murphy's prison comedy Life (1999; $63 million total) may well keep its status as the highest-grossing film with this title.

Opening weekend: $20 million / Total gross: $61 million


7. Power Rangers (March 24th)

Following the television series of the same name, five more teenagers are plucked from their unassuming and worry-free California lifestyle to battle kvetching intergalactic villains. These are bad guys who go for the same old world-domination ploy every week, almost never changing their strategy or learning their lesson (and since the giant alien monsters they sent down to earth inevitably attacked no place else but the same small California town where the rangers lived, it's a wonder no one ever asked them to move).

Largely unknown actors take up the ranger mantles, while Bryan Cranston of all people plays the disembodied essence of their mentor, Zordon. The villain is Rita Repulsa, from Season 1, and the trailer makes it clear that the rangers' giant robots (zords) will again do battle with scaly monsters over surprisingly endless cityscapes (like I said, small town, right?). The film seems to strike a more serious tone, losing some of the goofy humor that characterized the show and its two film spin-offs (the first, in 1995, did fairly at $38 million; the second, in 1997, disappeared with a mere $8 mil).

As a devoted childhood viewer of the 1990s Power Rangers show, this is a film reboot that I must admit I hope is a big hit, if only because there are so many great Power Rangers villains who could be adapted to the big screen - from the hefty mid-Atlantic-accented King Mondo, ruler of the Machine Empire, to the elegantly skeletal Rito Revolto, and of course, Rita's father, Master Vile (she calls out to him, "Papa can you hear me?", a Yentl reference I'm embarrassed to admit I didn't get in 1996). For me, Power Rangers was all about the bad guys.
And that brings us to this film's incarnation of Rita Repulsa: Elizabeth Banks is, I must object, not a good fit for Rita, traditionally depicted as a late middle-aged, non-statuesque, raspy-voiced, and ill-tempered woman (who also happens to be Asian). Banks is none of those things. Aside from miscasting Rita, this choice is a waste of a perfectly good Banks, who is in fact a great fit for one of the series' later villains, space pirate Divatox (flanked on a hilltop by an army of monsters supportively cheering her name, Divatox opens the proceedings by exclaiming, "yes, I am worth every moment of this!" - a line I can easily imagine Banks saying, as I can a current world leader). Perhaps part of a trend, casting Banks as Rita is somewhere on the wavelength of Marisa Tomei's placement as Aunt May in the upcoming Spider-Man film (to be honest, I always saw Aunt May as more of a Jennifer Lawrence or Kate Upton type myself; maybe Elle Fanning if they wanted to go a little younger).

So, putting fan service aside, Power Rangers comes in at the latter half of a very loud and flashy special effects blockbuster month. That placement may not help the film, but if it's good, I think it can find its audience.

Opening weekend: $24 million / Total gross: $55 million

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