March 2005 Forecast: A Box Office Preview

By John Hamann

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Last year in March, box office was strong, with thanks mostly going to The Passion of the Christ, even though it opened in February. This year, there are no juggernauts destined to drive sales, so studios will have to release some solid titles to stay ahead of last year. Surprisingly, there is some potential for March this year, if the three sequels set to come out can improve on the domestic grosses of their original. I’ve laid out a top ten below by potential opening weekend.

1. The Ring Two – DreamWorks - $50-$60 million open

I love DreamWorks' decision to release The Ring 2 in the frame prior to Easter Weekend. Diehard fans of the original will be out in force over the initial weekend, and be available to Joe moviegoer over the following long weekend. The original movie from DreamWorks was a phenomenon – it opened with only $15 million, but over the following three weekends, it was able to outgross the opening. It went on to earn about $130 million domestic, and almost $250 million worldwide, while IMDb lists the budget estimate at only $45 million. I’m looking for the sequel to at least triple and maybe quadruple the original’s opening weekend, coming in between $50 and $60 million.

2. Miss Congeniality 2 – WB - $30 million open

Another sequel with a built-in audience comes in the form of Miss Congeniality 2 from Castle Rock and Village Roadshow, being distributed by Warner Bros. Like The Ring, the original Miss Congeniality grossed over $100 million both home and abroad, however this sequel falls more into the 'unnecessary' category. Another downside is that its going up against Guess Who? with Ashton Kutcher, aimed also at the lucrative date crowd. So far, at least in this market, Guess Who? has much more awareness via television advertising. Miss Congeniality 2 does hit theatres over the Easter Weekend, so that may also help, but the film will really have to work to gross more than $30 million over opening weekend.

3. Robots – 20th Century Fox - $30-$35 million

I may be in the minority, but I don’t believe Robots is an instant home run when it hits theaters on March 11th. Many people these days can tell the difference between Pixar, Disney and DreamWorks, even if it is subconsciously. However, with recent successes of SpongeBob SquarePants and The Polar Express, attitudes may slowly be changing, although I would argue that The Polar Express would have been an even bigger hit with the Pixar label and the Disney marketing machine. All that said, Fox Animation and Blue Sky Studios' release of Robots follows the two companies' Ice Age, which was a huge, huge hit. Ice Age opened to over $46 million in 2002 before going on to find over $175 million domestically. It went on to gross more than $200 million overseas. Ice Age seemed easier to market than Robots, as awareness for Fox's latest fare does not seem high at all. I'm looking for an opening weekend in the $30 million range, with more upside than downside for the Fox product, but they have to kick the marketing machine into high gear - quickly.

4. Be Cool – MGM - $20-$25 million open

Reviews and word-of-mouth are going to kill this one, but not before it rapes its heritage while making millions. Be Cool is the sequel to one of the great films in Get Shorty, and was John Travolta’s last good acting job before he started to do 'movies for the masses' (is it just me or does he come off like a robot now?). Still, there will be a large, mostly unaware, built-in audience looking to see more of Chili Palmer. Maybe the scariest thing here is that the script is from Peter Steinfeld, who did the disastrous Analyze That, sequel to a good film in Analyze This. MGM should still be able to shake $20 to $25 million out of Be Cool before word gets out after opening weekend.

5. Beauty Shop – MGM - $20-$25 million open

On the heels of one MGM disaster, is another that may shine. Beauty Shop, starring Queen Latifah and Djimon Hounsou, debuts at the end of the month on March 30th. It's got the pedigree of the Barbershop movies (Ice Cube is an executive producer) and a great trailer. Queen Latifah is hot – she managed to get the awful Taxi to open above $10 million, and scored big hits in Bringing Down the House, Barbershop 2 and Chicago. With the success of Diary of a Mad Black Woman, awareness is going to be high, so I’m going to look for an opening in the $20 to $25 million range, with a whole lot of upside yet to build.

6. Guess Who? – Sony - $18-$23 million open

Columbia Pictures hopes the combination of Bernie Mac and Ashton Kutcher will work this spring, as they are set to launch Guess Who? The comedy is a remake of Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, and may be able to build on the success of Meet the Parents/Fockers. Kutcher has been able to open four films above $10 million, with only one real dud in My Boss’s Daughter. Bernie Mac had a miss on his first big outing trying to open a film in Mr. 3000, but appeared in Ocean’s Twelve. This has a good trailer and some good exposure so far. I expect an opening in the $18 to $23 million range.

7. Ice Princess – Disney - $8-$12 million

Surprised that this Disney outing is from the writer of The Princess Diaries? Leave it to Disney to stick with what works, as The Princess Diaries and its sequel were big hits for the studio. Aimed at the fickle teen girl set, these types of things are often hit and miss – but since TPD hit with such success, I’m looking for an opening in the $8-12 range.

8. Hostage – Miramax - $5-$10 million

As for Hostage, can Bruce Willis breathe some new air into his faltering career with another action movie? He’s had a string of disappointments since Unbreakable, so Hostage will have to be pretty special to break his current run. Miramax, an unlikely suitor for a film like Hostage, is the US distributor. This film is set to start between $5-10 million.

9. The Pacifier – WB - $4-$7 million

The big flop of March should go to The Pacifier, as the Vin Diesel movie has just come out in February’s Man of the House. Diesel was ignored in the Chronicles of Riddick and A Man Apart, and that shouldn’t change here. $4 to $7 million open.

Marty Doskins's March Forecast
Dan Krovich's March Forecast
David Mumpower's March Forecast
John Seal's March Forecast



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