March 3rd - 5th-
Easter isn't until April 16 this year, but the faith-based film The Shack will be hoping that faith-based audiences will be in the mood to celebrate a bit early. This time of year has typically been pretty kind to this genre. Last March, "Miracles from Heaven" earned $61.7 million after opening in mid-March. Granted, Easter was only two weeks away at that time, but "Risen" also did fairly well last year after opening in mid-February, which had about the same amount of time to Easter then as "The Shack" does this year. That said, "The Young Messiah" last March was a major flop, earning only $6.4 million total, and "God's Not Dead 2" only earned a third as much as its predecessor after opening just after Easter, so a faith-based film around Easter doesn't guarantee good box office receipts, so we'll see how well "The Shack" does. "The Shack" is a story about a father who receives a letter that he assumes is from God, asking him to return to the place where his daughter was abducted and assumed to be murdered, which is a small shack. The father obliges and returns to the shack, where he hasn't been since the abduction. The film stars Sam Worthington, Octavia Spencer and Tim McGraw.
The final movie of the weekend is Before I Fall, which is essentially a version of "Groundhog Day" intended for teenage girls, as it's also based on a young adult novel of the same name by Lauren Oliver, which is a genre of movies that has started to die out recently, meaning this movie might be a few years too late. It stars Zoey Deutch ("Dirty Grandpa," "Vampire Academy," "Why Him?") as a girl who dies in a car accident one night and is then forced to re-live that day of her death every day for a week. Hence the comparison to "Groundhog Day" with that time loop idea. You can probably guess that there's a lesson that she needs to learn, much like Bill Murray needed to, before she's able to escape the time loop. The opening weekend for "Before I Fall" is tracking on par with "The Edge of Seventeen" and "The Space Between Us," which made $4.7 million and $3.7 million respectively on their opening weekends, which suggests an opening for "Before I Fall" of less than $5 million.
March 10th - 12th-
March 17th - 20th-
There's only one movie that will be challenging "Beauty and the Beast" and it's looking like it won't make much of a dent. That movie is The Belko Experiment. The premise of "The Belko Experiment" is that 80 people are locked in their office and are told by a voice coming from an intercom that they need to start killing each other or else a higher percentage of them will end up dead. Thus we have a twisted social experiment similar to a graphic adult version of "The Hunger Games." The movie is directed by Greg McLean, who directed "The Darkness" last year, "Wolf Creek" in 2005 and a small handful of other overly graphic low-budget action/horror films. In terms of box office comparisons, McLean's "Wolf Creek" opened to $2.8 million in 2005 while "The Darkness" opened to $4.9 million last year. There's also a lot of small action movies that get released around this time. Last year, "Hardcore Henry" opened to $5.1 million and "Criminal" opened to $5.8 million. "The Gunman" opened to $5.0 million in 2015 while "Sabatoge" opened to $5.3 million in 2014. Seeing a trend here? An opening around $5 million seems about right for "The Belko Experiment."
While it's not hitting a wide release this weekend, it's definitely worth noting the limited release of T2 Trainspotting, which has already been released in over 20 countries worldwide, which started in the U.K. in late January. The movie has already earned $20.1 million over there, which makes sense since "Trainspotting" has been lauded as one of the greatest British films of all time. The original "Trainspotting" was released in 1996 and only earned $16.5 million in the United States, but has since become a cult classic. The movie was a black comedy about a man who was trying to overcome a heroine addiction. It was directed by Danny Boyle and starred Ewan McGregor, Ewan Bremner, Johnny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle as a unique group of friends. "T2 Trainspotting" reunites the group of friends 20 years later, with all four actors reprising their roles. Director Danny Boyle also returns, having directed movies such as "28 Days Later...," "127 Hours," "Slumdog Millionaire" and "Steve Jobs" in between his "Trainspotting" movies. Critics so far have labeled "T2 Trainspotter" as a worthy successor as is currently certified fresh with 77 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
March 24th - 26th-
Each year for the last four years we've had a big-budget, sci-fi space movie released. And no, I'm not talking about "Star Wars." I'm talking about "Gravity" (2013), "Interstellar" (2014), "The Martian" (2015) and "Passengers" (2016). This year's space movie comes a little earlier in the year and is called Life. Yeah, that's a bit of a generic title, but the movie is about six astronauts that are aboard the space station and are studying a sample that was collected from Mars that has proven that there is life on Mars. What they have on their hands is a large, single-celled organism that has made them all ecstatic with their discover. At least initially. The trailers show evidence of panic and chaos ensuing when they discover that there may be more to this than the originally thought, turning the movie into a sci-fi thriller. Directing this movie is Daniel Espinosa, who is best known for directing "Safe House," which was a breakout movie in February 2012 that earned $126.4 million domestically after surprising people with a $40.2 million opening. I'm sure Espinosa would love another breakout performance here in late March. We'll see if it happens. Best case scenario here might be "Passengers," which is currently sitting at $99 million after opening around Christmas. "Life" does have a good cast going for it, which includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson and Ryan Reynolds.
Next up is the first raunchy comedy of the month in CHiPs. In fact, this is the first R-rated comedy since "Fist Fight" in February and "Why Him?" before that in December. That means fans of raunchy comedies have been a bit under-served as of late, meaning that "CHiPs" is in prime position if it can play its cards right and entertain audiences. The movie stars Michael Pena and Dax Sheppard as two California Highway Patrol officers (CHiPs) making their rounds on their motorcycles. The movie is a remake of the TV show "CHiPs," which ran for 139 episodes over the course of six seasons from 1977 to 1983. That makes this the second remake of a TV show this weekend between this and "Power Rangers," the two aiming for two obviously different audiences. With this being more of a buddy comedy released in late March, I'm sure the creators of this would love for a response similar to that of "21 Jump Street," which was also a remake of a TV show starring two male leads that made $138.4 million in March 2012. Although the star power of Michael Pena and Dax Shephard isn't near the level of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. This is also written and directed by Dax Shephard, whose only previous work as a director is a few small movies and TV show episodes.
March 31st - April 2nd-
Next up is the latest addition to DreamWorks Animation Studio's cannon with The Boss Baby. DreamWorks has had an interesting history. The came onto the scene in the late 90's shortly before exploding with "Shrek" in 2001. This was followed by them dominating the animation scene along side Pixar for the greater portion of the decade. Then they got a little carried away and started going quantity over quality, which caused them to crash in a major way starting with "Rise of the Guardians" in 2012. A major overhaul happened after a lengthy streak of failures, which caused a lot of people their jobs and forced the company to shelf or outright cancel many of their major projects. The goal here was to focus more on quality instead of quantity, which recently has them on a bit of a winning streak as their last three movies, "Home," "Kung Fu Panda 3" and "Trolls" have all done decently well at the box office. "The Boss Baby" is a bit of an interesting idea for an original animated movie that is focused on a baby who has the mind of a bossy adult, voiced by Alec Baldwin. If this does connect, it'll be in pretty good position as, outside "Smurfs: The Lost Village" the next weekend, the next major animated movie doesn't come until June with DreamWorks' fellow animated movie "Captain Underpants," which will be followed shortly by "Cars 3" and "Despicable Me 3."
Finishing off the month will be the World War II drama The Zookeeper's Wife. This is looking like it will be more of a small release that will rely on reviews and word of mouth in hopes to hold well throughout April. The movie tells the true story of Antonina and Jan Zabinski, who lived in Poland during World War II. As you can probably guess, Jan was a Zookeeper of the Warsaw Zoo in Poland. When the German invasion of Poland began in 1939, the zoo was destroyed, but the Zabiniskis continued to live there and used the zoo to hide up to 300 displaced Jews during the war. The movie is based on the book of the same name by Diane Ackerman, which drew on the diary of Antonina, who is played in the movie by Jessica Chastain. "The Zookeper's Wife" is directed by Niki Caro, who most recently directed the sports drama "McFarland, USA," a movie that only opened to $11 million in February 2015, but rode good word of mouth to eventually make $44.5 million. Focus Features will be hoping for a similar run here, but that will be dependent how strong the reviews and the word of mouth for the film end up being. This could turn into a sleeper hit. Or it might just stay asleep.