April 2005 Forecast
By David Mumpower
April is a month that sees a paucity of wide releases. Only nine new projects enter the marketplace, and a full third of those are instantly forgettable dogs. The middle three projects all have some positives, but none of them strikes me as either a big opening or a film project with potential legs. The top three films have a pair of solid box office performers and one I expect to blow past $50 million opening weekend.
1) Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
I should offer the caveat here that I am a huge fan of the books. As such, it’s entirely possible that I am experiencing difficulty in differentiating my own desire to watch the movie vs. the taking the pulse of North American audiences as a whole. I don’t think that this is the case, though. Just this morning, there is a piece in Hollywood Reporter discussing the massive popularity of the trailer. The fact that the books are among the biggest sellers of the past 50 years also helps. Many consider the entire franchise to be far too quirky for mass consumption, but recent box office trending shows that the unusual is being embraced more and more by mainstream audiences. I simply do not see that as reason enough to dismiss a brilliant set of trailers, an extreme amount of awareness, and a dramatic popularity among Douglas Adams loyalists. This smells like the biggest opening of 2005 to date to me.
2) Sin City
Since the moment I did the write-up for this movie listing, it has been ensconced at the top of my Must See Movies of 2005 list…coincidentally enough, just behind Hitchhiker’s Guide. From a box office perspective, though, I have not had a firm grip on realistic expectations for it. On the one hand, the commercials indicate a slick, stylized blockbuster. On the other hand, anthologies do about as well at the box office as Pauly Shore/Carrot Top buddy pics. Plus, Sin City is violent, disturbing fare that might prove too intense for a large segment of the viewing audience. What I have been expecting all along is a decent theatrical run followed by a celebrated life on home video as a passionately embraced genre flick. Lately, that opinion has changed a bit. There is an undeniable rise in awareness among the under 35 crowd. More and more folks are being drawn in by the gritty noir feel, which is enjoined with the black and white look of the project. And the star power doesn’t hurt any. I think a $28 million opening is within range before it makes a killing on DVD with 73 special edition releases.
3) The Amityville Horror
Big opening, zero legs. That’s the joy of a major horror film re-make. Michael Bay’s production team proved with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre that they know how to effectively market a proven slasher concept. The Amityville Horror offers nothing in the way of star power, but the trailer contains several moments that will make the hairs on your neck stand up. The straightforward tone is almost militaristic in its desire to follow the rules of engagement for scare tactics. The franchise had been run into the ground by embarrassing retread sequels that did nothing to advance the concept but instead trying to make a quick buck here or there off the name. This is my only real concern as the release date for the new project approaches. Has there been so much tainting of the Amityville name that a certain amount of viewers will stay away? I could see a reasonable presentation of this argument made, but my expectation is that most of the people who will flock to see the film on opening weekend are too young to remember Amityville 1992: It’s About Time. Here’s hoping MGM does a better job of protecting the property license this iteration.
4) XXX: State of the Union
Rather than return to the familiar territory of The Fast and the Furious, Vin Diesel took on the role of agent xXx. Then, he chose to do the shamelessly commercial family film, The Pacifier, rather than make a XXX sequel. With roughly $90 million in the coffers, that certainly appears to have been the right chance for Vin, as he has re-established himself as a potential box office comer. The question is whether the casting of Ice Cube as his replacement pays off equally well for Sony/Columbia/Revolution Studios. I’m on the fence about it as Cube has shown some surprising box office pull over his career. In fact, he has flipped careers with Vin in their last two outings. Diesel did XXX then the ‘tough guy has to play nanny” film while Cube started with Are We There Yet? before swapping off to the XXX franchise. Cube catches a break in that he gets a better director in Lee Tamahori, but I don’t expect to see anywhere near the same level of box office as the original’s $141 million. We might, however, get a much better movie out of it.
This feels like the quickest sequel in history. It might have nothing to do with Flight of the Phoenix, but I can't shake the nagging suspicion that it's exactly the same sort of movie that audiences just ignored in December. I recognize that as far as logical inferences go, this is a relatively lazy one. But the occam's razor of the evaluation holds. This was the least popular of the Super Bowl ads, and I just don't see anything going for the movie project. It has no bankable leads and a mediocre looking concept. I might be wrong, but it seems like $130 million thrown down the drain.
6) Fever Pitch
I feel the same way about Jimmy Fallon that clergymen feel about original sin. His banishment from our species would be a welcome respite in these troubled times. The fact that this New York native was allowed to shoot the climax of Fever Pitch on the same field where moments earlier the Red Sox had ended an 86 year dry spell is an abomination to me. But as much as I hate him and want to hate this project for being a bastardization of Nick Hornby’s concept, I can’t. The honest evaluation is that the movie appears to encapsulate the charm and hopeless humor intrinsic to being a diehard fan of a historically inept franchise. As a lifelong Braves fan, I can relate. Even with the presence of the abomination that is Jimmy Fallon, I still plan to see Fever Pitch on opening day. And I expect a surprising amount of sports fans to do the same, particularly the ones in New England.
7) The Interpreter
Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn star in a Sydney Pollack film. Why is this movie being released in April instead of December? Oh yeah, it’s because it is a thriller in the vein of The Peacemaker rather than a glossy art house awards contender. The Kidman name means something at the box office, but the lack of marketing thus far is troublesome. I know people who have never heard of this film, an amazing thought for a Penn/Kidman outing. The pedigree makes me think I am going to love it as a movie, but I could use some reassurances about the marketing push. There are still three weeks to get the word out, but it's getting late in the game to still be an unknown commodity.
8) King’s Ransom
This project has proven tricky to market. The film is an Anthony Anderson tour de force, but the actor found himself facing rape charges during the Hustle and Flow shoot. Until those allegations were dropped, King’s Ransom was in limbo. Now that release date is approaching, the discomfort from the situation has caused New Line Cinemas to actively run away from advertising it until now. Since Anderson’s charges have been expunged, it’s possible that a last minute push could be given. Even so, this was never intended to be anything more than a slight production that would make back its budget on DVD and cable. The legal woes of its star simply confirmed the fact that it was never going to be anything other than a minor factor at the box office.
9) A Lot Like Love
Somewhere down the line, a series of movie producers got the notion that That 70s Show star Ashton Kutcher could be a romantic lead. No, I don’t understand it either. Whatever the cause, Kutcher has become a surprisingly decent box office draw as represented by the recent success of Hollywood bastardization Guess Who. Not everything he touches turns to gold, though. My Boss’s Daughter, his last attempt in the romantic comedy genre, made $15 million total. A Lot Like Love thankfully feels more like that Tara Reid insta-classic than Guess Who or Just Married. But it does co-star my beloved Jack & Jill vixen, Amanda Peet, so I won’t be torn up about it if I’m wrong.
Marty Doskins's April Forecast
Kim Hollis's April Forecast
John Seal's April Forecast