March 2007 Forecast
By Michael Bentley
It's a crowded film release month this March, with a few sure-fire hits and a bunch of other mid-level wide-release movies that are each hoping to break out of the pack. I'm not sure there will be any blockbusters out of the month's openers, but it looks like it will at least be a fairly solid prelude to the summer season.
1) Blades of Glory
In just a few short years Will Ferrell has been a middle-aged frat boy, a six-foot elf from the North Pole, a '70s news anchor and a race car driver, among other things. Now he is taking his act to the world of professional figure skating. His co-star is Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite) and together they star as rival ice skaters who, after a tussle, get kicked out of the sport and are permanently banned from men's singles. Desperate to get back in the ring, they realize that a loophole allows them to skate together in the pairs competition. Hilarity, hijinks, and loud voices ensue.
There is little doubt right now that Ferrell has quickly become one of Hollywood's most bankable stars - especially when he sticks to adult comedies. On paper this is almost a sure-fire homerun . I do wonder, though, whether and how much the March opening (as opposed to summer or December) will affect Ferrell's box office.
Opening weekend prediction: $35 million.
After the relative financial and critical success of the film adaptation of Frank Miller's acclaimed comic book Sin City, there was plenty of interest in developing some of Miller's other comic projects. One of those was 300. Like Sin City, this is a highly stylized and very visual film with many scenes copied almost perfectly from the comic - from the words, to the composition, and even the lighting. The style isn't for everyone, but for those who like it, it is a real treat. The story is about the ancient Battle of Thermopylae, where the king of Sparta led his army against the powerful Persians. In the battle, a special force of just 300 men valiantly fought and survived for days against a much larger and superior group. It is considered one of the key moments in military history.
Sin City was co-directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller (with Quentin Tarantino even "guest" directing a scene), but this time there is only one directing credit: to Zack Snyder, who ably made his mark in the Dawn of the Dead remake. Nobody is going to see this for the stars, but they include Gerard Butler (whose resume includes The Phantom of the Opera and Timeline), Lena Headey (The Cave), and Dominic West (The Wire). Sin City opened in early April 2005 to $29 million domestic. While that arguably had a bigger comic following than 300 and with a few more notable actors, 300 may have the story and visuals that will appeal to a broader audience. Plus, it is sure to bring in fans of Oscar-winning Gladiator, which took in nearly $35 million almost seven years ago. However things go, it is currently one of the most anticipated films of the year.
Opening weekend: $32 million.
3) Meet the Robinsons
The latest Disney effort at producing a hit CGI animated film is Meet the Robinsons - which was predominately made prior to Pixar and John Lasseter's day-to-day involvement with the animation division. In the movie, Lewis is a young boy who hopes to find his family. One day he meets inventor and boy genius Wilbur Robinson through an unusual turn of events via a time machine. They end up in the future where they go on an adventure and meet many wondrous characters.
Other than the Pixar releases, Disney hasn't had more than middling success with any animated films in several years. Few of the voice talents are household names (where's Morgan Freeman when you need him?), so this will have to be sold on the story and animation alone. That is up to the marketing team, but word-of-mouth will decide its fate after the opening weekend.
Opening weekend: $27 million.
4) Wild Hogs
Are you having a midlife crisis this month? If so, Wild Hogs might be right up your alley. In the story, a group of middle-aged suburban men create their own little motorcycle club and then take to the road ...in search of adventure. I'm not sure if this was intentional or not, but several of the actors in the movie are going through mid-career crises of their own, be they creative or financial bumps or both. The group includes Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, and William H. Macy. The Disney movie is trying to appeal to a wide range of people with its marketing campaign and its middle of the road PG-13 rating. And it does look like there be some good laughs. My guess is that it will most appeal to those who liked last year's Robin Williams comedy RV.
Opening weekend: $25 million.
Zodiac is based on the true story of the notorious serial killer who frightened the San Francisco area in the 1960s and '70s and taunted police investigators with his series of very cryptic messages. The story has actually been seen on film a few times before, most recently just last year in a version that featured several C-level actors including Philip Baker Hall, Justin Chambers, and Rory Culkin. This one, though, is likely to be considered the definitive version because it is directed by the well-liked critical and fan-favorite David Fincher. The story actually focuses on several investigators, including Jake Gyllenhaal as an editorial cartoonist for the local paper, who gets heavily involved with tracking the story - ultimately becoming obsessed by it. Others in the respectable cast include Mark Ruffalo, Brian Cox, Robert Downey Jr., and Anthony Edwards (I had wondered what happened to him).
The box office draw, though, other than the story, is Fincher. Fincher's last film, Panic Room, opened to $30 million in March 2002. That had the benefit of A-lister Jodie Foster to help its cause, which isn't really the case here. Even so, there should be plenty of adult demand for this, and if it's as good as the rest of Fincher's resume, it could be in theaters for quite a while.
Opening weekend: $23 million.
Academy Award nominee Mark Walhberg stars in Shooter, as a former sniper who is brought back into action when a possible assassination of the U.S. president is uncovered. Unfortunately for his character it is actually a setup and he ends up on the run from the law while also trying to solve the puzzle and find the real culprits (a la The Fugitive). Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), Shooter is bound to be one of the top action films of the season.
Opening weekend: $21 million.
My memories of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are as follows: action figures that any kid who was anybody owned, early first-print comic books that were quite valuable (at least to a kid), a fun animated TV series, and a series of movies that went from okay to bad to worse. And now, for whatever reason, the turtles are back. Using CGI technology, the pizza-eating boys are getting a revamp. I can't get a real handle on this one; I could see it being a big flop, but it might very well break out and become a modest hit. If it wants to be a hit, though, it will need to attract old fans of TMNT plus plenty of youngsters one as well.
Opening weekend: $20 million.
8) I Think I Love My Wife
Sometimes-controversial comedian Chris Rock moves behind the camera for his second directing gig (after Head of State) in I Think I Love My Wife. He also co-wrote and stars in the romantic comedy about a married man with kids who begins to daydream about other romantic opportunities. He loves his wife - I think - but, well, her busy life has been a sort of turn-off and he begins to think of straying. It's certainly not a typical Rock film, but I think he's on to something here. The trailer for this is very well done and could appeal to a number of different people: as a good date movie, for married folks, and for fans of Rock. Take a wait-and-see approach with the reviews, but it has the background to be a certifiable hit.
Opening weekend: $16 million.
9) The Hills Have Eyes 2
The remake of the original The Hills Have Eyes opened last March to a solid, but not great, $15 million. Despite the fact that there is a new director (former music video and commercial director Martin Weisz) and much of the cast is new, I can't imagine that this will depart from that total too much. Fans of the last one will return, as well as general fans of the horror genre. Then expect a quick fade from theaters and certainly a short window before the DVD release.
Opening weekend: $13 million.
Sandra Bullock stars in Premonition, a thriller about a woman whose husband tragically dies in a car accident but reappears to her the next day. Or does he? She has a "premonition" or, to quote Star Wars, she "has a bad feeling about this" and readjusts her life to try to avoid the same fate. It seems like a been-there, done-that sort of movie, but Bullock certainly has her fans.
Opening weekend: $12 million.
Just Under the Radar
Color Me Kubrick
The premise of this indie film says it all: it is based on the true story of a man who posed as famed director Stanley Kubrick during the production of his last film, Eyes Wide Shut. Yet, he (John Malkovich) looked nothing like him and knew very little about his body of work.
This Korean horror film, about a creature that emerges from a river, was a big hit in its native country.
From director Mira Nair (Vanity Fair; Monsoon Wedding), this dramedy is about a young Indian-American man who is torn between finding his own identity in American culture and that of his parent's heritage. Kal Penn (Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle) stars.
* Please note that all opening weekend estimates are preliminary and do not account for final screen counts.
Marty Dosksin's March 2007 Forecast