March Top Ten Forecast

By David Mumpower

10. Showtime
There is no precept of comedy more successful than the forced-buddy picture. From 48 Hours to Trading Places to Lethal Weapon to Rush Hour, audiences worldwide have always adored the concept of two people who don't like each other being forced by circumstances to work together as a team. Robert DeNiro re-invented himself in Analyze This and Meet the Parents by showing that a part of being the best actor in the world is an ability to do comedy. It's no surprise that he has tried to find someone after Ben Stiller and Billy Crystal who he could use as a partner to further this newfound success. Eddie Murphy is basically the guy who popularized this style of comedy, as we see from two of the examples mentioned above. The two of them should theoretically make for a perfect match of crime-fighting good guys who play by their own rules but get results. Unfortunately, the trailers make the film see like an updated version of The Hard Way, a Michael J. Fox/James Woods buddy movie from the early '90s that was best forgotten before I reminded you of it.

9. ET The Extra Terrestrial
I feel that even including this in the list is something of a hedge, because obviously ET is going to do well in re-release. We have seen from Grease and the Star Wars trilogy that if a studio glosses up a proven commodity and hypes it some, a lot of people who either haven't seen the movie in a theater or who just prefer to see a movie on the big screen will show up opening weekend. It's win/win, because all of the money earned is profit for the studio, and exhibitors can use a proven commodity to advertise for upcoming releases while making a killing at the concessions stand. When adjusted for inflation, ET is the number-one film of the last two decades. People who saw the film as small children now have the opportunity to share this experience with their children, and they will do so. It wouldn't even surprise me if ET turns out to be one of the top three openings of the month, but since it's a known commodity, I just don't feel right about putting it that high on a forecast. You don't need to call the Psychic Friends Hotline (and that call would apparently cost you $75 anyway, if you believe federal investigators) to know that ET is going to be popular again when it returns to theaters on March 22nd.

8. Death to Smoochy
Some clever industry sort was watching the Gabbo episode of the Simpsons one day and said, "Hey! What if Krusty tried to kill Gabbo?" Someone else in Casting then figured out which Hollywood actor people most wanted to see get his ass kicked up and down the screen. Russell Crowe was working on a different project, so they settled for Fight Club's Ed Norton. I guess the theory is that if audiences will pay $37 million to see Brad Pitt beat the living daylights out of him, just imagine how much these same people will pay to see Norton killed by Robin Williams. Putting Norton in a big blue rhino suit is either some sort of private vendetta being carried out or an odd tip of the cap to Hugh Grant and Tom Arnold beating up a similarly-attired person in Nine Months. Under any circumstance, this film sounds sick, twisted, demented, and totally my cup of tea. Whether it is too sadistic for normal movie-going audiences remains to be seen, but I expect the Smoochster (only I can call him that) to prove popular in theaters and become downright legendary on video.

7. Panic Room
Speaking of Fight Club, director David Fincher finally returns to the chair as he helms this unusual film concept. Originally scheduled to be a Nicole Kidman vehicle, Panic Room ended up being headlined by Jodie Foster, and her presence here as a determined mother trapped in an impossible situation definitely sounds like a winning combination. Fincher has said in interviews that this movie is something of an homage to Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window. The action mainly takes place in one small area where Foster's character, Meg Altman, protects her child from invading burglars who want something hidden in the house Meg has just purchased. There is no place for her to run and the claustrophobic environment should make for gripping tension that should keep audiences everywhere wound up throughout the movie. Panic Room looks to be classic Fincher and should also do significantly better at the box office than the ultra-violent, nihilist Fight Club due to its more universal appeal.

6. 40 Days and 40 Nights
This film and the one at number five have obviously been discussed in significant detail this week since they are released on Friday. To read Kim's, Walid's, Reagen's and my more detailed thoughts on each one, check back tomorrow for our weekend forecasts but for now, the obvious comment about 40 Days and 40 Nights is this: Josh Hartnett is coming off of two blockbuster films in Pearl Harbor and Black Hawk Down, plus a film that got tons of press for its content in "O". He is perfectly cast here as a guy who wants to prove to himself that he can follow through on something and his odd choice for a project is abstinence. Right as he starts to believe he will make it, the girl of his dreams arrives and throws his entire world into chaos. The project looks like a more suggestive yet similarly tender-hearted version of the wonderful 10 Things I Hate About You and should make teen hearts swoon to a similar degree throughout the month.

5. We Were Soldiers
Mel Gibson is the latest A-list actor to star in a war film. This particular tale is about an early conflict in the Vietnam War where one man's mistake leads to a group of soldiers being outnumbered on all fronts by the enemy. It is obviously not a happy tale, but the success of Black Hawk Down emphatically demonstrates that people will watch this style of film if it looks like it will be worth the effort. The combination of the difficult subject matter and recent run on war films makes We Were Soldiers unlikely to be an upper-echelon performer for the month, but Mel consistently draws a crowd, and even his box office disappointments, such as The Patriot, Payback and Conspiracy Theory, still make $75 million as a rule. In fact, we have to go all the way back to 1993's Man Without a Face to find the last Mel Gibson Hollywood film that made less than $75 million. I think We Were Soldiers will finally be the film to break this streak but then again, I thought Payback would break it and that one wound up making over $80 million. People love Mad Max.

4. The Time Machine
Personally, I think the marketing department for this movie is making a big mistake in not pushing the fact that the movie is directed by the great-grandson of H. G. Wells, the legendary author who wrote the book upon which this film is based. Having said that, The Count of Monte Cristo's recent performance demonstrates that Guy Pearce is beginning to become a box-office draw. Buena Vista, the distributing studio for that film, even indicated surprise at the $11.4 million opening. They had put the film on the shelf after pushing it off the 2001 release schedule and had not created a significant marketing campaign, yet the many fans of Mr. Memento still showed up, to the point that it will cross $50 million this weekend. Time Machine looks like a much better product, and as an added opening weekend-performance bonus, it's sci-fi. As with most films of this genre, I expect a very strong first weekend and then a quick burnout from there.

3. Ice Age
Fox yet again attempts to break into the animated market with a CGI film about pre-historic animals trying to avoid an ominous change in the weather. Ice Age has not turned out to be the slam-dunk I was hoping it would be from the early advertising campaign. I expect that the heart of the problem here is that at its core, Ice Age is a difficult concept to sell as anything more than a series of one-liners without giving away a lot of the plot. This is because the plot is not unlike Monsters, Inc. in that two goofy-looking creatures - in this case a woolly mammoth and a giant sloth - wind up in possession of a lost child that they need to return home. Obviously, the films have only the surface similarity, but it's important to avoid comparisons with superior quality films, if at all possible. Despite this difficulty, the fact of the matter is that the animation looks very clean and the commercials have been nothing short of adorable. I fear that the film will be unfairly compared to Shrek and Monsters, Inc. when it should be analyzed against off-season fare such as The Road to El Dorado, Doug's First Movie and Return to Neverland, all of which it will almost certainly destroy. How well Ice Age does beyond that is predicated upon its quality and there's good news on this front. Early word-of-mouth indicates they have brought the goods here to the point that I have seen it described as the anti-Dinosaur. Woo-hoo!

2. Resident Evil
This film has so much positive buzz going for it that I agonized over whether or not to make it number one and will not be at all surprised if it winds up there before all is said and done. Based upon the concept of the popular videogames but not a direct re-telling of any of them, Resident Evil is a combination flick with elements of action, sci-fi and horror all mixed together to offer up a Molotov cocktail of entertainment. Resident Evil has been one of the most popular trailer downloads on Yahoo! for weeks now - in fact, it's currently number one - and seems to be generating as much pre-release buzz as later blockbusters such as The Scorpion King and Spider-Man. Fans of both the games and the Night of the Living Dead/Army of Darkness genre seem to have this one locked in on their radars. Even more amazingly, the videogame tie-in isn't even being used in the advertising for the film. They KNOW they have that audience's money, so there is an attempt being made to draw in all of the other youth demographics by highlighting the babes and gunfights, just as Tomb Raider did last summer. Resident Evil is Alien meets Aliens with its blend of action and horror, and looks to break Liar Liar's record for a March opening weekend on its way to stellar business. The producers of this flick are so confident that they are already leaking word about a sequel making its way into theaters within two years.

1. Blade II
For a long time now, I have had this on radar as the top production of March and the reason why is obvious. Blade was a huge hit in theaters when it opened in 1998 (total box office inflation adjusts over $80 million) and the sequel to the project has been one of the most hotly discussed fan-boy topics for several years now. I expect this to be one of those Austin Powers/Scream cases where the sequel doubles the opening weekend of the original and then some. Sequels generally open better anyway, but this is one of those times where the concept is truly killer. The vampire hunter played by Snipes is forced to become the leader of the vampires as they face an even more terrifying new type of creature of the night. As we discussed with Showtime, audiences love it when unlikely heroes are allied together by circumstance and in the case of Blade II, the trailers driving this point home are absolutely perfect. More than any other film on the March calendar, I will be there opening weekend for Blade II and I say that as a huge fan of CGI such as is used in Ice Age and as a person who bought the original Playstation version of Resident Evil on its first day in stores. As big a fan as I am of the RE series, Blade's marketing has made me want to see it the most.

  • Read Walid Habboub's March forecast
  • Read Kim Hollis's March forecast