March movie madness
blog by The Canisius Griffin • March 07, 2012 @ 3:24pm
While Buffalo continues to have its weather identity crisis, movie studios are gearing up for their spring releases. The spring movie season in particular gets more crowded each year and as a result, continues to bleed into the earlier months. The box office has been on a hot streak following a weak 2011. Attendance is already up 15 percent on the year with revenue right behind at 14 percent, and with the upcoming slate of blockbusters, it isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. March is poised to do huge business with the potential for several new franchises to take off. Here’s a rundown of what’s in store this month.
The month starts off with a weekend full of counter-programming, the box office’s favorite kind of weekend (if it had a mind of its own that is), so success is likely for the three major releases hitting theaters. From the creators of Despicable Me comes Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, voiced by Danny DeVito. Fun fact: DeVito is the same height as the Lorax in real life. Betty White, Zac Efron and Taylor Swift round out the lineup of voice actors on the film. Also to be released March 2 is the top-secret comedy, Project X. Produced by Todd Phillips (The Hangover Pts. 1 & 2), the film stars a cast of newcomers, much like Superbad back in 2007, and is hoping to capitalize on a similar theme as the outrageous night of debauchery that McLovin and friends found themselves in. Rounding out the weekend is Bel Ami, starring Robert Pattinson, Uma Thurman and Christina Ricci. In the film, Pattinson sleeps with a lot of aristocratic women, which must be a nice change of pace from the awkward teens he seduces in the Twilight series.
The weekend of March 9 is a big one for a couple of reasons. It marks the release of the first real blockbuster of the year, and if all goes according to plan it will prove that Disney can once again launch a franchise that doesn’t star Johnny Depp. John Carter (previously John Carter of Mars, which sounds much cooler in my humble opinion) is directed by Andrew Stanton, who is responsible for many childhood memories thanks to his films Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Wall-E. He is Pixar’s poster child, but this is his live-action debut. The film’s lead is Taylor Kitsch, who is far from being a household name, and unless this project is a success, he may stay that way if the rest of his year is any indication (i.e., Battleship. I wish I were kidding.) Eddie Murphy returns with the comedy A Thousand Words, about a fast-talking literary agent who learns he only has, you guessed it, a thousand words to speak before he dies. Here’s hoping Murphy’s character is asked to read The Divine Comedy aloud in the opening scene. It will have to do battle with the dramedy Friends with Kids, starring a group of people whom audiences are far more likely to trust with their hard-earned money, including Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, John Hamm and Adam Scott. Lastly, the movie being sold with the tagline “Real fear in real time,” Open House, is a supposed one-take horror film starring indie darling Elizabeth Olsen. Clocking in at a brisk 86 minutes, the duo behind 2006’s Open Water hopes to strike gold again with their latest gimmick.
The following weekend presents a few new comedies for audiences to choose from, including the remake of 21 Jump Street, starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as undercover cops who attempt to infiltrate a high school, reviewed this week in The Griffin. Will Ferrell returns to the big screen in the Spanish-language film Casa de mi Padre, and Jason Segel and Ed Helms team up in Jeff Who Lives at Home, which is about a slacker who comes to the realization that he should move out of his mother’s basement.
Things may have slowed down for a second there, but March 23 is set to be one of the biggest days of the year for the movie business. Lionsgate will learn if it has a new franchise on its hands with the release of The Hunger Games. Lionsgate has a lot riding on the film, and if it performs even slightly below the enormous expectations, it could be disastrous for the emerging studio, which just acquired Summit Entertainment (the studio behind The Twilight Saga) in a nine-figure deal. All signs point to the film being a major cash cow though, so the only question that remains is how big the opening weekend will be. Interestingly, last week the film accounted for 83 percent of online ticket site Fandango’s sales, more than a month ahead of its release. Other films opening that weekend registered between two to three percent of daily sales. First day presales of The Hunger Games tickets even surpassed Twilight’s previous record, and hundreds of screenings have already sold out. Surprisingly, no other major releases opted to open the same weekend, so the playing field is all set for Games to take home an easy win.
Never an industry to allow too much breathing room, the following weekend offers some serious competition for The Hunger Games. Sam Worthington returns in Wrath of the Titans, the sequel to the 2010 picture Clash of the Titans. The film is said to feature a more “Gods” heavy storyline than the first time around, correcting what many believed to be a crucial flaw with Clash. The first of the year’s two, count ‘em two, Snow White films, Mirror Mirror will bow as well. If the trailer is any indication of the final product, audiences will run in the opposite direction like they have for every other Julia Roberts film since, well, Runaway Bride coincidentally. There’s a film about a cross-dressing Sean Penn, but no one will see it. Finally, the month concludes with the hockey comedy, Goon. Acquired back at TIFF, Goon, which stars Seann William Scott and Liev Schreiber, played quite well with audiences and critics.
The months from January through March are typically quiet, but 2012 is bucking that trend. Almost every weekend so far has surpassed the corresponding weeks of 2011. That being said, March is merely a warm up for the proven heavyweight contenders of the summer movie season. We could easily see The Hunger Games franchise move to a more competitive July or November slot with its sequels, but for now, it’s positioned to gain its footing in March. Audiences have The Avengers, The Amazing Spiderman, The Dark Knight Rises and Prometheus to look forward to during the warmer months, so March’s offerings will have to tide us over until then.
By Sam Scarcello