March Preview (Part 1): '300,' 'Mr. Peabody,' 'Need for Speed'

by Ray Subers
300: Rise of an Empire

March 4, 2014

With major releases like Divergent, Mr. Peabody & Sherman and 300: Rise of An Empire, the box office should see a bit of an uptick this March. Still, without anything on par with The Hunger Games, it's unlikely that March 2014 beats 2012's $943 million record.

March 7

The first weekend of March features a showdown between long-awaited sequel 300: Rise of an Empire and DreamWorks Animation's Mr. Peabody & Sherman. Both should open over $30 million, though it's likely that Mr. Peabody has the edge in the long run.

In March 2007, 300 became a surprise box office sensation: the movie grossed over $210 million in the U.S. and turned director Zack Snyder in to one of Hollywood's hottest big-budget filmmakers. Unfortunately, the movie had a fairly definitive ending, which made it difficult to immediately crank out a sequel.

Seven years later, audiences are finally getting that sequel, though box office prospects don't seem nearly as high for Rise of an Empire. The movie lacks the focus of the original, which was pretty clearly marketed as an underdog story about King Leonidas and his small group of warriors fighting to protect their home (there's no "This is Sparta!" moment this time around). It also doesn't help that 300's innovative style has been worn in to the ground by imitators (Immortals) and parodies (Meet the Spartans) during this seven year gap.

Still, the original movie has a huge fanbase, and Warner Bros. is executing a broad, aggressive marketing effort for Rise of an Empire. Add in ticket price inflation and 3D premiums, and it's tough to see this falling short of $100 million at the domestic box office.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman
is the latest DreamWorks Animation movie to open in March. Their last three March releases were all very successful: Monsters Vs. Aliens, How to Train Your Dragon and The Croods each earned between $187 million and $218 million at the domestic box office..

It may be called Mr. Peabody & Sherman, but the marketing has been pretty heavily focused on Mr. Peabody. And why not? People love their dogs, and the idea of one who can talk and time travel is highly-appealing. One downside: Peabody is opening on the heels of The LEGO Movie, which is still drawing large audiences in its fourth week of release. If it does well out of the gate—a DreamWorks standard $40 million debut would be fine—it should be able to ultimately get past $150 million.

Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel also opens on March 7th, albeit in four locations in New York and Los Angeles. Anderson is coming off one of his biggest hits ever in Moonrise Kingdom, and Budapest is drawing a lot of attention with its vibrant, funny previews. With strong reviews, it's hard to imagine this earning less than $20 million.

March 14

The second weekend of March is a race between Need for Speed and Tyler Perry's The Single Moms Club.

Need for Speed
is Hollywood's latest attempt to find success adapting video games. So far, it hasn't really worked out: the first Tomb Raider is the only one to earn over $100 million at the domestic box office. That might be why Disney is mostly ignoring the video game connection, and is instead fashioning this as a straight-forward racing thriller. While it doesn't seem like Need for Speed has enough gas to be the next Fast & Furious, an aggressive marketing campaign (including a Super Bowl spot and countless word-of-mouth screenings) should be enough to make this a solid little hit.

The Single Moms Club
is writer/director Tyler Perry's 15th movie in the past seven years. It could also be his last for a bit: there aren't currently any other Perry movies on the calendar, and it was recently announced that he and Lionsgate have ended their first-look arrangement.

Perry's movies tend to be fairly consistent at the box office: the last eight releases earned between $35 million and $66 million. Of course, the ones outside of the Madea franchise tend to fall on the lower end of this range. Odds are that Single Moms Club also winds up below $50 million.

March 14th has a handful of noteworthy limited releases as well. Jason Bateman's directorial debut, Bad Words, starts rolling out to theaters ahead of a planned nationwide expansion on March 28th. The movie has a decent premise, though it's going to be tough to convince general audiences to see a sepia-toned comedy that needs redband trailers to really sell its appeal.

reteams director Denis Villeneuve with his Prisoners star Jake Gyllenhaal. While reviews are good, the movie is getting a day-and-date VOD release, which typically keeps theatrical receipts below $10 million. The same goes for the Veronica Mars movie, which is also receiving a day-and-date VOD release on March 14th.

See Part 2 for a look at 'Divergent,' 'Muppets Most Wanted,' 'Noah' & More >>

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March 2014 Release Schedule
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WEEKEND: Weekend Estimates, 'Maleficent 2' #1
DAILY: Friday Estimates, 'Maleficent 2' #1
WEEKLY: 'Joker' Tops the Week with $80.29m
DAILY: Thursday 10/17, (46 tracked)
DAILY: Wednesday, 10/16 (33 tracked)
DAILY: Tuesday, 10/15 (31 tracked)
DAILY: Monday, 10/14 (28 tracked)
New MPAA Ratings Added