April 3rd - 5th-
It's rare that you seen a seventh movie in a franchise that is as highly anticipated as Furious 7. Usually the response to a sequel this high is like, "Really? Another one? When are they going to stop?" The casual fan who has skipped all the Fast and Furious movies still might say this, but those who have seen all the movies are more like, "Heck yes! Another Fast and Furious movie!" I say this because starting with Fast Five, the franchise has taken things to the next level and audiences have loved it. In addition to that, Furious 7 was initially supposed to come out last summer, but the tragic death of the beloved actor Paul Walker during production caused them to have to re-write the whole ending to the movie and thus postpone it until now. It's been an emotional ride for those involved, especially Vin Diesel, who was like a brother to Paul Walker both in the movie and in real life. Vin Diesel was even chocking up quite a bit during the premier. Had Paul Walker not died, this movie still would've been huge, but now it's going to be even bigger because people are going to be really interested in seeing the late actor one last time in his most popular role. Last year, Captain America: The Winter Soldier broke the April opening weekend record with $95 million. Look for Furious 7 to shatter that record. And with the lack of competition for the rest of the month, there's a decent chance that this movie stays at number one for the entire month.
April 10th - 12th-
Given how male-centered Furious 7 is, the only logical choice of movie to release during its second release is a chick flick. Yup, that's what's happening in the second weekend of April with The Longest Ride. The Nicholas Sparks brand is a fairly good and reliable brand of chick flicks. They aren't exactly known for their originality, but that's not the point here. The point is to make a movie showing two people falling in love. Out of the previous nine Nicholas Sparks adaptations, eight of them ended with over $40 million, while five of them ended over $60 million. The concerning statistic is that the one that missed the $40 million mark is the most recent one, last year's The Best of Me. That shows that the brand is not invincible. The key to making a successful chick flick is getting at least one, but preferably two lead actors that are recognizable. This has Scott Eastwood and Britt Robertson. Who? Exactly. This seems like a miss, but sometimes a chick flick can be hard to predict.
I said there was only one wide release this weekend and I didn't lie to you. However, there are a couple of platform releases worth talking about and the first one is Clouds of Sils Maria. This premiered in the Cannes Film Festival last year and has since hit the rounds of film festivals and is finally getting a theatrical release, at least a small one. The movie is about an actress who takes a role in the play that sparked her career 20 years previously. The overall movie itself hasn't exactly been praised, but what has been praised are the performances from the actresses in the movie, specifically one Kristen Stewart who recently won the Cesar award for best supporting actress. The Cesar Awards are the French equivalent of the Oscars and Kristen is the first American actress to ever win a Cesar award. It's way too early to predict next year's Oscars, but this could be a good omen for Kristen.
The second platform release worth mentioning is Ex Machina. This has been released already in various countries around the world and had it's US debut at the South by Southwest Film Festival a few weeks back. Unlike the previously mentioned movie, this actually has received very strong reviews as it currently stands at an 89 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and 8.0 on IMDb. This is a sci-fi thriller about guy who participates in an experiment involving a beautiful artificially intelligent robot woman. The line becomes machine and robot becomes very thin as this guy tries to figure out who he can trust, the robot girl or the guy doing the experiment. Ex Machina stars two up-and-coming stars in Oscar Isaac and Domnhall Gleeson. If you aren't familiar with this two, come year's end you definitely will be. They're both in Star Wars: Episode VII, which is of course released in December.
April 17th - 19th-
After two weeks of smartly playing the game of avoiding Furious 7 like the plague, a whole handful of movies get released on the third weekend of April as studios attempt to earn a bit of cash before everything gets destroyed by Avengers: Age of Ultron in the first weekend of May. Still, though, there's a good chance that Furious 7 takes the weekend because none of these seem too strong. The first movie that will attempt to dethrone Furious 7 is Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2. I don't know if the world really needed or wanted a sequel to Paul Blart: Mall Cop, but we got one anyways because the first one made just under $150 million on a $26 million budget back in 2009. If this sequel tops or matches that total, it could end up winning the weekend, depending of course on how much Furious 7 falls after in its second and third weekends. The huge advantage Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 has is that the options for family audiences is very slim pickings right now, which is one reason why last month's Home was such a big hit. It fed a starving audience even if the response to it was so-so. Star Kevin James does actually have a decent track record when he does his family-friendly movies. Critics may hate movies like Zookeeper or Here Comes the Boom, but young kids don't care one bit about what a critic says.
If Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 falls short this weekend, the other candidate to stop Furious 7 is the new horror movie Unfriended. Horror movies are very hit and miss. A couple years back, there was a huge string of very successful horror movies. Last year tried to replicate that but instead ended with a huge string of duds that no one cared about. Unfriended is attempting to go where no horror has gone before. Social media. I actually don't know if there have been any other social media horror movies. I haven't cared enough to look to hard. I'm just going by the trailer's claim that this is a new genre of horror movie. What happens in this is that a girl kills herself and for some reason her suicide was recorded and posted on the internet. So she comes back and haunts all her friends via social media. Is this unique and new enough to attract horror fans and take the weekend? We shall see.
The third option of the weekend seems much less likely to breakout, but yet has all the ingredients of a potential sleeper hit. This is Child 44. The family audience and the horror audience are pretty huge, even if they don't end up taking the trip to see these specific films. Getting a huge crowd out to see an R-rated thriller is a lot harder, especially since this is April. However, Child 44 does have an intriguing premise as it's about an investigation of a string of child murders during the Stalin era of the Soviet Union. The director is a man by the name of Daniel Espinosa who directed the movie Safe House back in 2012, which was a huge sleeper hit. That's the second thing the movie has going for it. Finally, the cast is quite excellent as it stars Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Noomi Rapace, and Charles Dance among others. So yes, the pieces are there for a sleeper hit, but sometimes potential sleeper hits stay asleep, so its hard to tell for sure.
Finally we have what has essentially become an Earth Day tradition for Disneynature, releasing some sort of nature documentary in this weekend in April. This year it's Monkey Kingdom. Since 2009, Disneynature has released documentaries on Earth, Oceans, African Cats, Chimpanzees, and Bears. The only year they missed since 2009 was 2013. They've been consistently getting around $20 million overall. So they aren't huge, but for anyone who wants to go learn about monkeys, the option is there!
April 24th - 26th-
The final weekend of April is always a very dangerous one because the first weekend of May starts Hollywood's summer season and Marvel loves that spot. This year they have Avengers: Age of Ultron on the docket. If by chance you've been like Rip Van Winkle and have been asleep for the last 20 years, the first Avengers made more money in its opening weekend than most movies make in their entire run. Considering how beloved that movie is, Age of Ultron will most likely make even more, at least in the opening weekend. Moral of the story concerning the final weekend of April is that the two movies here essentially have seven days before everything gets stomped on. The first movie daring to come this weekend is The Age of Adaline. Earlier in the month, we got our Nicholas Sparks chick flick and now we end the month with this romance movie. I'm not sure if I want to call this one a chick flick, though. It might simply be a romantic drama, which is different than a chick flick. At least in my book. Adaline is a girl that has been stuck in time, so to speak. She hasn't aged in a long time, thus falling in love seems hopeless because she literally can't grow old with any man. This could end up being a chick flick, but the trailers seem to have focused a lot less on the romance and more on the idea of life and the disadvantages of staying young forever. I'm not sure if this will make more money than The Longest Ride, but one thing it does have on that movie is recognizable cast members which include Blake Lively and Harrison Ford.
Last and potentially least is another drama, this one being Little Boy. I haven't seen very much advertising on this one at all, so I don't know if there is a huge push by the studio. They might just be hoping to pick up a dollar or two by spending close to nothing to get the word out. It's a father/son drama about a little boy whose father just went off to World War II and the boy wants his father back. The trailer also gives off the vibe that this could be a faith-based drama, so that crowd might be interested in this one. But I don't know, I fail to see how this one is going to get enough interest to do anything. I'm thinking most movie goers are just going to skip it because they are saving their time and money for Avengers: Age of Ultron the next weekend. This does have a recognizable cast, though. It's Kevin James' second movie of the month and along with him are Emily Watson and Tom Wilkinson. I don't think that's going to be enough, though.