SPRING SEASON  -- 1/23/16


 Spring season: As we muddle through a nasty winter that's spreading snow, ice, rain, twisters and frigid temps around the U.S., it's a good time to start thinking about spring.

For Hollywood, spring can't come soon enough since the early winter boxoffice hasn't exactly been sizzling. After two weekends that were down versus 2016, last weekend did take a turn for the better. Ticket sales were up about 29.2 percent from this time last year, per comScore – about $148 million vs. $114.6 million.

The year-to-date, also according to comScore, is now down about 4.0 percent from a year ago – $748 million vs. $778.7 million. That's a slight improvement over last week when 2017 was down about 4.2 percent from 2016.

Things could pick up in February thanks to some promising openings targeted to different moviegoing demos – including, Warner Bros., DC Entertainment and Lego System's PG rated 3D animated action adventure "The Batman Lego Movie" (Feb. 10), which should play best to families; Universal Pictures' R rated romantic drama "Fifty Shades Darker" (Feb. 10), which should play best to adult women; and Universal and Legendary Entertainment's PG-13 rated 3D fantasy action adventure "The Great Wall," which should play best to adult men.

Nonetheless, Hollywood should be very happy to see spring. After months of bad weather that's kept moviegoers in various parts of the country away from the multiplexes and after a string of mostly unexciting openings with limited playability, spring could spark a boxoffice turnaround to lead into a strong summer.

Hollywood's seasons don't actually match the calendar dates for the start of either spring or summer. March 20 is the official first day of spring, but Hollywood's spring starts a few weeks earlier. Summer's official start is June 21, but for years Hollywood has extended its summer season by kicking things off in a very big way the first weekend of May.

If we use Mar. 10 to begin Hollywood's spring, that gives us eight weeks until summer's unofficial start May 5. Here's a quick look at a few titles that could warm things up at the spring boxoffice:

         MAR. 10: Warner Bros. and Legendary Entertainment's PG-13 rated 3D fantasy action adventure "Kong: Skull Island" is directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts ("The Kings of Summer") and stars Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Jing Tian and Toby Kebbell. It should play best to adult men.

         The infamous King Kong's origins are the focus of this new film from the producers of Warner Bros. and Legendary's 2014 hit "Godzilla." After opening May 16, 2014 to $93.2 million, "Godzilla" went on to do $200.7 million domestically and another $328 million-plus internationally.

         The last "King Kong" opened Dec. 14, 2005 from Universal and WingNut Films to $50.1 million. It did $218.1 million domestically and another $332 million-plus internationally.

         A good indication that WB and Legendary have high hopes for both the "Kong" and "Godzilla" franchises is that they're producing  new episodes involving both monsters. "Godzilla 2" opens Mar. 22, 2019 and the mash-up "Godzilla vs. Kong" opens May 29, 2020.

         In "Skull," a team of explorers visits an uncharted Pacific island and unknowingly travels deep into Kong's territory.

         MAR. 17: Walt Disney Pictures and Mandeville Films' PG rated 3D live action/animated fantasy musical "Beauty and the Beast" is directed by Bill Condon ("The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn" parts one & two). Starring are: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline and the voices of Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson. It should play best to families.

         In this new live action version of the animated Disney classic, Prince Adam (Stevens), who's locked within the body of an ugly beast (also Stevens), can only be freed by finding true love. His best chance for freedom comes with Belle, the only human girl to visit the castle since it was enchanted.

         The animated "Beauty and the Beast" opened Nov. 15, 1991 to $162,146 at 2 theatres and went wide Nov. 22, 1991 with $9.6 million. It grossed $219 million domestically and did about $206 million internationally.

         "Beauty" received six Oscar noms, including Best Picture (there was no best animated feature category then) and won for original score (Alan Menken) and song ("Beauty and the Beast").

         MAR. 31: 20th Century Fox and DreamWorks Animation's PG rated 3D animated comedy "The Boss Baby" is directed by Hendel Butoy ("The Rescuers Down Under") & Tom McGrath ("Madagascar" and two sequels). It stars the voices of Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi and Lisa Kudrow. It should play best to families.

         Baldwin voices a bossy new baby whose sudden arrival turns family life upside down for his wildly imaginative seven year old brother.

         APR. 7: Columbia and Sony Pictures Animation's 3D animated comedy adventure "Smurfs: The Lost Village" is directed by Kelly Asbury ("Shrek 2") and stars the voices of Joe Manganiello, Rainn Wilson and Mandy Patinkin. It should play best to families.

         This is the franchise's third episode and follows "The Smurfs 2," which opened July 31, 2013 to $17.5 million. It did $71 million domestically and $276.5 million internationally.

         This time around, Smurfette (voiced by Demi Lovato) and her best friends embark on a race through the Forbidden Forest to find a mysterious lost village before the evil wizard Gargamel (voiced by Wilson) gets there.

         APR. 14: Universal and Original Film's action crime thriller "The Fate of the Furious" is directed by F. Gary Gray ("Straight Outta Compton") and stars Charlize Theron, Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel. It should play best to adult and young adult men.

         This is the franchise's eighth episode. The last one, "Furious 7," opened Apr. 3, 2015 to $147.2 million domestically and did $1.2 billion more internationally.

         In "Fate," the franchise's globetrotting team is enjoying some semblance of normal life, but when a mysterious woman (Theron) seduces Dom (Diesel) back into the world of crime and into betraying those closest to him, they face trials that will test them as never before.  

Bottom line: Vin Diesel was also part of last weekend's boxoffice action, but didn't open in first place with "xXx: The Return of Xander Cage" as he's likely to do with "Fate" this spring.

The top spot on the chart went to Universal and Blumhouse Productions' opening of their low budget PG-13 rated horror thriller "Split" to a much stronger than anticipated $40.2 million. It also opened in 20 international territories, grossing another $5.8 million, per comScore, for a worldwide cume of $46 million.

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan ("The Sixth Sense"), it stars James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy and Haley Lu Richardson.

Shyamalan self-financed production of "Split," reportedly for under $10 million.

Paramount and Revolution Studios' PG-13 rated 3D action adventure "xXx: The Return of Xander Cage" opened in second place to $20 million. Directed by D.J. Caruso ("Disturbia"), it stars Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone and Nina Dobrev.

It's the franchise's third episode. The last one, "xXx: State of the Union," which did not star Diesel, opened Apr. 29, 2005 to $12.7 million. It did $26.9 million domestically and about $44 million internationally. The series' original, "xXx," which starred Diesel, opened Aug. 9, 2002 to $44.5 million. It grossed $142.1 million domestically and over $135 million internationally.

There also was strong holdover business last weekend for 20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment's PG rated awards contender drama "Hidden Figures," which placed third with $16.3 million. Its domestic cume after five weeks is $84.2 million.

 Directed by Theodore Melfi ("St. Vincent"), "Hidden" stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe.

"Hidden" received a Producers Guild of America best producer nomination and a Screen Actors Guild best ensemble cast nom. Those categories are the guilds' equivalents of best picture noms. SAG also nominated Spencer for best female supporting actor.

The Weinstein Company's PG-13 rated biographical drama "The Founder" opened in ninth place to $3.8 million. Directed by John Lee Hancock ("The Blind Side"), it stars Michael Keaton and Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch.

Looking ahead, Oscar noms will be announced Tuesday (Jan. 24). The PGA awards will be handed out Saturday (Jan. 28). And SAG's awards ceremonies will be telecast Sunday (Jan. 29).