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March Movie Mania — Wonderful “Wonderland”

March should be a wonderful month at the boxoffice — coming in as a lion with Disney’s 3D “Alice in Wonderland” and also going out like a lion with DreamWorks and Paramount’s 3D “How to Train Your Dragon”, writes Martin Grove.

There also are high hopes for Universal’s war action adventure “Green Zone”, which reteams “Bourne” franchise star Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass, who directed “The Bourne Ultimatum” and “The Bourne Supremacy”. And on the comedy side of the boxoffice fence the month could see two solid hits — DreamWorks and Paramount’s youth comedy “She’s Out of My League”, starring Jay Baruchel and Alice Eve, and Columbia’s romantic comedy “The Bounty Hunter”, starring Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler.

When “Alice in Wonderland” arrives Mar. 5 it will force “Avatar” out of many of the 3D theaters that have helped drive that mega-blockbuster past the $700 million mark domestically. Until enough theaters are equipped for 3D projection to satisfy moviegoers’ huge appetite for 3D, studios will find themselves competing to book 3D screens and fighting hard to hold them as new 3D releases come along.

Thanks mostly to the boxoffice bonanza that “Avatar” has been for Fox and for exhibitors, as well as some early 2010 hits like “Shutter Island” and “Valentine’s Day”, the boxoffice is about 1.4% ahead of last year, according to Hollywood.com Box-Office analyst Paul Dergarabedian. Through the end of February the gross for 2010 was $1.803 billion vs. $1.778 billion a year earlier. Attendance, too, which had been up for the year, however, turned down as February ended — 237 million, off 0.59 vs. 238.4 million the prior year.

The following synopses include details about March’s wide openings, but beware of possible spoilers if you don’t want to know too much in advance. As always, be sure to check out our Zamm Cam movie previews to find out more about the films you most want to see.

The first weekend in March (Mar. 5-7) will be dominated by Disney’s PG rated “Alice in Wonderland”, which as I’m writing this column has been showing such overwhelming tracking strength that there’s no question it’s going to do mega-blockbuster business. It’s tracking equally well with women under and over 25 and almost as well with younger and older males.

Directed by Tim Burton, the 3D fantasy adventure stars Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham-Carter, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas and Mia Wasikowska. It also features the voices of Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen and Timothy Spall.

The story: Alice (Mia Wasikowska), who’s 19 years old in this version of the tale, falls down a rabbit-hole into a fantasy realm populated by talking playing cards and anthropomorphic creatures. Reuniting with her old friends (like Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter) from a previous visit, Alice discovers her true destiny is to end the Red Queen’s (Helena Bonham-Carter) reign of terror.

Also arriving this weekend is Overture’s R rated suspense thriller “Brooklyn’s Finest”, which has been tracking quietly. It’s strongest first choice percentage is from males over 25, which is typically not a great moviegoing audience.

Directed by Antoine Fuqua, it stars Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, Ethan Hawke, Wesley Snipes, Will Patton, Lili Taylor, Brian F. O’Byrne, Shannon Kane, Ellen Barkin, Vincent D’Onofrio and Jesse Williams.

The story: Three intertwining stories about policemen in Brooklyn, all of whom wind up at the same deadly location.

Four films will slug it out at the boxoffice the following weekend (Mar. 12-14). Of these, the strongest in the tracking as of this writing is Universal’s R rated war drama “Green Zone”. Its strongest appeal is to males over 25 and its next biggest support group is 25-plus females. It’s clearly the weekend’s film for grown-ups, many of whom recall star Matt Damon in the hit “Bourne” franchise episodes.

“Alice in Wonderland” — in theaters March 5

“Alice in Wonderland” — in theaters March 5

Directed by Paul Greengrass, who directed the last two “Bourne” episodes, it stars Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson, Amy Ryan, Khalid Abdalla, Jason Isaacs and Antoni Corone.

The story: The film revolves around chaotic attempts by the U.S. to set up a provisional government in the area around Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s palace. Matt Damon plays a U.S. Army officer who goes rogue while searching for weapons of mass destruction in the highly unstable region.

Also on deck for Mar. 12 is DreamWorks and Paramount’s R rated youth comedy “She’s Out of My League”, which isn’t tracking strongly at this writing, but could come up in the tracking as its opening approaches and its very busy young adult audience starts realizing it’s funny. It’s doing best with under-25 females, which is the perfect audience for a film like this.

Directed by Jim Field Smith (“Where Have I Been All Your Life?”), it stars Jay Baruchel, Alice Eve, T.J. Miller, Mike Vogel, Nate Torrence, Krysten Ritter, Geoff Stults, Lindsay Sloane, Andrew Daly and Hayes MacArthur.

The story: An airport security man (Jay Baruchel) meets a girl (Alice Eve) described as a perfect 10. However, his own lack of confidence and the suspicions of his friends and family begin to sabotage the relationship.

Fox Searchlight Pictures will compete this weekend with its PG-13 rated urban romantic comedy “Our Family Wedding”, which is tracking best with females over 25. At this point, it’s a strong choice for this demo, which is a good one for this type of film, but not for anyone.

Directed by Rick Famuyiwa (“Brown Sugar”), it stars Forest Whitaker, America Ferrera, Carlos Mencia, Regina King, Lance Gross, Anjelah Johnson, Jacqueline Mazarella, Charlie Murphy, Lupe Ontiveros, Diana Maria Riva and Vivek Shah.

“She’s Out of My League” — in theaters March 12

“She’s Out of My League” — in theaters March 12

The story: Chaos ensues when a young, African-American medical resident proposes marriage to his Latina girlfriend, who happens to be pregnant with his child and both families start arguing over the wedding plans.

Rounding out this crowded weekend will be Summit Entertainment’s romantic drama “Remember Me”, which stars "Twilight" franchise’s Robert Pattinson. It’s tracking best with under-25 females, which is the right audience for the movie.

Directed by Allen Coulter (“Hollywoodland”), it stars Robert Pattinson, Emilie De Ravin, Chris Cooper, Lena Olin, Tate Ellington and Pierce Brosnan.

The story: The unforgettable love story of two young people who learn how important it is to love passionately and live loudly every day of one’s life.

There’s almost as much wide release competition the following weekend (Mar. 19-21) when three films will be arriving. Since they’re targeted to different audiences that should work to the benefit of them all.

Columbia’s PG-13 rated romantic action comedy “The Bounty Hunter” stars Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler and is tracking best with under-25 females. It’s doing nearly as well with 25-plus females and decently with over-25 males. Younger males are least likely to want to see it.

Directed by Andy Tennant (“Sweet Home Alabama”), it stars Jennifer Aniston, Gerard Butler, Christine Baranski, Jason Sudeikis, Dorian Missick, Adam Rose and Joel Marsh Garland.

The story: A bounty hunter (Gerard Butler) is hired to retrieve his ex-wife (Jennifer Aniston), a reporter working on a murder cover-up story, who has skipped bail.

It’s also opening weekend for Fox’s PG rated “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”, whose best tracking is with females 25-plus. That’s moms-with-kids, in other words, which should be good news for “Kid”.

Directed by Thor Freudenthal (“Hotel for Dogs”), it stars Zachary Gordon, Chloe Moretz, Rachael Harris, Steve Zahn, Grayson Russell and Devon Bostick.

The story: Based on the illustrated novel by Jeff Kinney, the film follows the travails of wise-cracking junior high school student Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) over the course of an academic year.

The weekend’s third wide arrival is Universal’s R rated sci-fi thriller “Repo Men”, which is tracking quietly at this writing and only showing signs of life with over-25 males.

Directed by Miguel Sapochnik (“The Dreamer”), it stars Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Liev Schreiber, Alice Braga, Carice Van Houten and Liza Lapira.

March should go out like a dragon the weekend of Mar. 26-28 thanks to DreamWorks and Paramount’s PG rated animated 3D family film “How to Train Your Dragon”. The combination of 3D, animation and family appeal should have “Dragon” breathing fire at the boxoffice.

“The Bounty Hunter” — in theaters March 19

“The Bounty Hunter” — in theaters March 19

Directed by Christopher Sanders and Dean DeBlois, it stars the voices of Gerard Butler, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel and Christopher Mintz-Plasse.

The story: Set in the world of Vikings and dragons, the film centers on an awkward teen who befriends an injured dragon.

MGM, which hasn’t been heard from for ages, is releasing its fantasy comedy “Hot Tub Time Machine” Mar. 26. At this writing, we don’t have any tracking details, so it’s anyone guess how it will do.

Directed by Steve Pink (“Accepted”), it stars John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, Chevy Chase, Crispin Glover, Lizzy Caplan, Sebastian Stan, Kellee Stewart, Charlie McDermott, Lyndsy Fonseca, Collette Wolfe and Kate Walsh.

The story: A group of guys who were real rascals in their heyday, travel back in time courtesy of a hot tub to rediscover their mojo.

Disney’s PG rated family film The “Last Song” arrives Wed., Mar. 31 to close out the month. With Miley Cyrus starring and with a Nicholas Sparks (“The Notebook”) book behind it — actually, Sparks wrote the screenplay first and then novelized it — “Song” could pack a powerful punch at the boxoffice.

Directed by Julie Anne Robinson (“Grey’s Anatomy” and other episodic TV), it stars Miley Cyrus, Liam Hemsworth, Greg Kinnear, Kelly Preston, Carly Chaikin and Kate Vernon.

The story: A rebellious teenager (Miley Cyrus) is sent to spend the summer with her estranged father (Greg Kinnear) in a Georgia island beach town. Their shared love of music helps them reconnect.