Martin Grove’s Hollywood Report 02-13-12

Stars of “21 Jump Street” Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill

Stars of “21 Jump Street” Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill

“John Carter” – In Theaters March 9

“John Carter” – In Theaters March 9

Sam Worthington as Perseus in “Wrath of the Titans”

Sam Worthington as Perseus in “Wrath of the Titans”

March Madness: Now that the Super Bowl’s history, it’s time to start thinking about March Madness — but not the basketball games!

The March Madness I’ve got in mind is what we’ll be seeing at the multiplexes in just a few weeks. Looking at the movies in Hollywood’s March pipeline — like Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games,” which could spawn a youth appeal franchise to rival the “The Twilight Saga’s” success — suggests this year’s boxoffice momentum should continue nicely through the early spring, after which it’s on to the big guns of the pre-summer and summer.

Through last weekend, ticket sales for 2012 were approximately $1.2 billion, up about 19 percent from the prior year. Actually, last weekend was notable in that there were four films opening to over $20 million, something that’s only happened once before (and that was over the Christmas holiday weekend in 2008).

The extent to which last weekend’s four new films resonated with moviegoers is truly impressive. “The Vow,” which tracked through the roof with under-25 females and also did very well with females over 25, opened to nearly $42 million. “Safe House,” which tracked best with adult males, was a strong number two with about $39 million.

“Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,” which tracked best with under-25 males and over-25 females, was third with over $27 million. And the 3D reissue of “Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace” finished fourth with about $23 million, tracking best with adult males.

Overall, last weekend’s boxoffice was up about 29 percent over the comparable weekend last year. That resulted from all demos being able to find something new that was targeted to them.

These films will play through what’s left of February and take us to March, a key transition month that can propel Hollywood into the spring weeks of April and the pre-summer weeks of May. From there, it’s on to summer, Hollywood’s most important boxoffice season of the year.

Here’s a quick overview of what’s arriving in wide release in March and promises to deliver something for everyone:

March won’t come in as a lamb or a lion, but as a Lorax with Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment’s 3D animated family fantasy “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax,” opening Mar. 2.

Zac Efron, Taylor Swift and Danny DeVito star in this story about a 12 year old boy seeking the girl of his dreams who must first discover the charmingly grumpy creature known as the Lorax.

“Lorax” is from several of the creators of the 2010 hit family film “Despicable Me,” which grossed $251.5 million domestically. “Lorax” co-director Chris Renaud co-directed “Despicable” and “Lorax” producers Janet Healy and Christopher Meledandri produced “Despicable.”

Mar. 9 is opening day for Walt Disney Pictures’ 3D action adventure fantasy “John Carter.” It’s the first live action film directed by Andrew Stanton, director of such Pixar and Disney animated hits as “WALL-E” and “Finding Nemo.”

Taylor Kitsch plays Civil War veteran John Carter, who’s somehow transported to Mars, where he finds a lush planet with 12 foot tall green barbarians and a princess/Lynn Collins who must be saved. Typically, sci-fi films play best to adult men, which is the likely core audience here.

Paramount’s R rated comedy “Jeff Who Lives at Home,” opening Mar. 16, is targeted to the same young adult audience that made “The Hangover” a blockbuster franchise. Directed by Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass, who directed the 2010 R rated comedy “Cyrus,” it stars Jason Segel, Ed Helms and Judy Greer.

Jason Segel plays Jeff, who lives in his parents’ basement and goes on an errand for his mother that results in him spending an adventurous day with his brother who’s worried about his wife’s fidelity.

Also opening Mar. 16 via Sony is Columbia, MGM and Relativity Media’s action comedy “21 Jump Street,” co-directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who co-directed the 2009 animated hit “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.”

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as underachieving cops who go undercover at a high school to tackle a drug ring. In an uncredited cameo there’s Johnny Depp, whose career started with the 1980s TV show that the film’s based on.

Mar. 23 is a date to circle thanks to Lionsgate’s opening of the sci-fi action drama “The Hunger Games,” which is widely anticipated as the next hot teen appeal movie franchise following Summit Entertainment’s blockbuster success with “The Twilight Saga.” With Lionsgate and Summit having recently merged, that will put both the “Twilight” and “Games” franchises under the same corporate roof.

Based on the Suzanne Collins’ best-selling novel, “Games” is directed by Gary Ross (“Seabiscuit”) and stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth in a near-future tale of a world in which children from each of 12 districts are selected and forced to compete in an annual televised battle to the death. The one survivor’s reward is food for his or her district’s starving population.

20th Century Fox and Walden Media’s drama “Won’t Back Down,” opening Mar. 30, is directed by Daniel Barnz (“Beastly”) and stars Viola Davis, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Holly Hunter in a story about mothers helping to improve a local school.

“Down” is the kind of drama that typically plays well to adult females. It should benefit from Davis having just won the Screen Actors Guild’s best actress award and now being seen as the favorite to win the best actress Oscar for her performance in “The Help.” She faces strong competition in that race from Meryl Streep for playing former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in The Weinstein Company’s biographical drama “The Iron Lady.” If Davis wins the Oscar, that should boost interest in seeing her in “Down,” her next movie to be released.

March should go out like a lion with the Mar. 30 launch of Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures’ 3D fantasy action adventure “Wrath of the Titans.”

Directed by Jonathan Liebesman (“Battle Los Angeles”), it stars Sam Worthington as Perseus, who enlists the help of warrior Queen Andromeda, played by Rosamund Pike, and others for a treacherous quest into the underworld. Their goal is to rescue Zeus, overthrow the Titans and save mankind.

Bottom line: March is coming soon and so are a bunch of movies likely to keep the multiplexes busy!