April 2006 Forecast
By Michael Bentley
1) Scary Movie 4
The main question is: will this play more like Scary Movie 2 or Scary Movie 3? The former did rather lukewarm business in theaters five years ago, before barely scratching its way over the $70 million mark domestically. The latter was a legitimate success and, while showing virtually no staying power, somehow managed to parlay an amusing trailer into a $48 million opening. The question secondary to that is: how long can they keep this shtick going? I mean there are only so many "scary" movies you can parody. Are they going to have to resort to parodies of Alone in the Dark or Stay Alive? Heck, the funniest part of the trailer isn't even from a movie! (That would be Leslie Nielsen, one of the original members of the Spoof Hall of Hame, doing a dead-on Dubya impersonation vis-a-vis "My Pet Goat").
The answers to these questions are: "yes," "as long as we keep going," and "I hope not." I don't expect Scary Movie 4 to be a watershed moment in film for 2006; $50 million just doesn't seem very likely, especially since part 3 opened just prior to Halloween. But that trailer is pretty funny, and I doubt I'm the only one who thinks that.
Opening weekend prediction: $35 million.
2) The Wild
There have been a few misses in the CGI subcategory of animated films, but the hits seems to far outweigh the losers. Coming in on the heels of insta-hit Ice Age 2, The Wild roars into theaters in April. Interestingly, the top two picks this month are both scheduled to open on the same weekend. Will that hurt either of them? Probably not, as it's probably a reasonably good bet that Scary Movie 4 and The Wild have fairly different audience demographics.
That being said, will the fact that this seems like a carbon copy of last year's Madagascar be a red flag to anyone? Once again we have a group of four misfit animals from a New York zoo, including a lion and a giraffe. Replacing Madagascar's hippo and zebra are The Wild's squirrel, koala, and an anaconda. Now all we need are some wacky penguins and some annoying music and we can have a wild party in Africa! I expect some good results here, but it isn't quite getting the massive marketing push that would propel it into "instant sequel" territory. What is really surprising is that it's a Disney picture, so you'd expect to see merchandise all over the place. Still, don't be surprised if it does well enough to warrant several of those lucrative straight-to-video follow-ups.
Opening weekend: $27 million.
3) The Benchwarmers
Another slot, another comedy. In fact, if you're idea of a hilarious comedy involves David Spade, Rob Schneider, Jon Lovitz, or uber-nerd Jon Heder (i.e., Napoleon Dynamite), or if you were one of those sorry kids who always got picked on in school and chosen last for sports, then The Benchwarmers is probably you're idea of movie heaven. This has the potential to be a big breakout hit.
Opening weekend: $26 million.
4) The Sentinel
In what is sure to be one of the more adult-friendly pictures of the month, The Sentinel is a thriller with an all-star cast of Kiefer Sutherland, Michael Douglas, Kim Basinger, and Eva Longoria. Douglas is a Secret Service agent who is convinced that a Neo-Nazi has somehow managed to find a job inside the White House. His investigation unravels though, and he must not only save himself, but the president as well.
Think: In the Line of Fire meets Absolute Power. Interestingly, both of those films starred Clint Eastwood. Sounds good to me.
Opening weekend: $25 million.
5) Silent Hill
Well, this video game turned movie has at least one good thing going for it: it's not directed by Uwe Boll. Oh, and it actually looks pretty decent. Better looking than Doom, anyway.
Opening weekend: $20 million.
6) United 93
Was anyone really itching for this movie? Was there really any good reason to make this now instead of, say, 20 years from now? They will make a movie about anything these days, won't they?
These are all valid questions, but none of them really matter because the movie is now upon us. Directed by Paul Greengrass (you might recognize his name from The Bourne Supremacy), United 93 tells the tragic story of one of the doomed aircrafts from 9/11/01. You'd really have to have been living in a cave to not be familiar with it. In short, this was the fourth plane; several passengers on board got wind of what was going on and what had happened to the other planes, and decided to take down the terrorists on board. They would ultimately crash into a field in rural Pennsylvania. It is a story that is incredibly heart-breaking, but also a truly heroic tale.
Undoubtedly many people will be turned off by the story and the fact that it is "too soon" for something like this (or Oliver Stone's upcoming World Trade Center). Heck, already reports have surfaced that some people have been complaining about the trailer. But other people will see this out of curiosity or perhaps simply the human nature of "rubbernecking." In any case, it is one of the more difficult movies to predict in quite some time.
Opening weekend: $18 million.
7) American Dreamz
Director Paul Weitz has moved from American Pie to American Dreamz (no, that's not a typo). On the surface this seems like a bad C-list movie that is trying to cash in on the American Idol craze, as the primary focus is on a very popular television singing contest. Hugh Grant stars in an obvious jab at AI judge Simon Cowell. Except that it isn't just some cheesy affair, but rather a stinging satire of both popular entertainment *and* politics. If that sounds outrageous then consider the movie's marketing poster: "Imagine a country where the president never reads the newspaper, where the government goes to war for all the wrong reasons, and where more people vote for a pop idol than their next president."
Indeed. Quite frankly, as someone who despises American Idol, I think this movie sounds very intriguing. The box office forecast is a little dicier though. I certainly don't expect 35 million American Idol viewers to see this, but no doubt that some of them will. Throw in the Hugh Grant fans, plus those turned on by the political angle, and you have the makings of a profitable picture.
Opening weekend: $15 million.
8) Lucky Number Slevin
Lucky Number Slevin is no Snakes on a Plane. The fine and subtle art of movie titles took a sour turn with this picture, with a title that could very well end up on any short list of Bad Movie Titles. In this thriller, Josh Hartnett stars as Slevin (I hope that is his last name) and unwittingly gets caught up in a lethal game of mistaken identity. He gets pursued by several people including a detective (Stanley Tucci), an assassin (Bruce Willis), and a pair of crime lords (Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley). Throw in Lucy Liu as the potential love interest and you have what sounds like a nice, solid thriller.
Opening weekend: $14 million.
9) Take the Lead
Mark it down: Take the Lead is bound to be regarded as one of the greatest movies about ballroom dancing ever! Antonio Banderas (recently seen in The Legend of Zorro) is a former dancer who becomes a dance teacher at a public high school in New York. Of course, ballroom dancing isn't exactly a hip thing for today's teens but they work together and manage to create a fun, new style of dancing.
Certain to appeal to the ever-fickle young female demographic, as well folks interested in ballroom dancing, Take the Lead has actually been getting some heavy marketing play. It may bring in a lot more of the MTV crowd then you might imagine.
Opening weekend: $12 million.
RV is sort of a modern-day National Lampoon's Vacation, replacing Chevy Chase with Robin Williams, Beverly D'Angelo for Cheryl Hines, trading the Family Truckster for a rented RV, and Jeff Daniels and other weirdoes replace Cousin Eddie. Barry Sonnenfield is the director, and he is no stranger to success with films like The Addams Family and Men in Black on his resume (we'll just ignore Big Trouble and Wild, Wild West). It's a family comedy to be sure, and certainly has hopes of following in the path of Cheaper by the Dozen. I just don't see it though. As funny as Williams' stand-up act is sometimes, and as good as a dramatic actor as he has become, his movie comedies have been overwhelmingly stinkers.
Opening weekend: $9 million.
Just Under the Radar
Friends with Money
It's hard to top this cast of stellar female actresses: Jennifer Aniston, Joan Cusack, Frances McDormand, and Catherine Keener. Despite the title and presence of Aniston though, it is definitely more of a drama than a sitcom, about a group of friends and their love lives, friendships, and various struggles.
Now Kinky Boots is on here for one reason, and one reason only: anything with the name Kinky Boots can't be bad. Right? I'm not sure about that, but it is a tale of man's effort to save his late father's struggling shoe business.
Recent Academy Award nominee Amy Adams stars in Standing Still, a story about a happy wedding weekend that turns quite dramatic after old friends return and stories and bitter memories get told. The rest of the cast includes many young actors with recognizable faces.
* Please note that all opening weekend estimates are preliminary and do not account for final screen counts.
Marty Doskins's April 2006 Forecast