Today is April 1, which means, well, summer is about to start! Thanks to Marvel shifting Avengers: Endgame from May 3 to April 26 (as they did, relatively speaking, with Avengers: Infinity War), summer essentially starts in late April.
To be fair, you can make the case that summer 2011 began in late April thanks to Fast Five opening a week before (and vastly outgrossing) Thor back in the day. Anyway, unlike the last couple of Aprils, this one isn’t operating as a glorified dead zone between the first April biggie and the first summer biggie. So here is what amounts to an April box office preview, specifically highlighting the five most significant movies of the month that are not Avengers: Endgame.
Shazam (April 5)
Shazam is terrific, and I’ve already seen it twice. Whether or not it parlays its robustly positive notices (93% fresh and 7.63/10 from 85 reviews over at Rotten Tomatoes) and strong buzz into an opening weekend noticeably higher than the initial over/under $45 million projections, this is a massive win for Warner Bros.’ DC Films. Simply put, it’s their third straight rock-solid solo superhero movie in a row and a clear sign that they can dabble in different genres and varying budgets. Speaking of which, since we’re only talking about a $90 million-budgeted kid-friendly adventure starring a comparatively B-level character, it doesn’t have to break records to break even. Anyway, this David F. Sandberg-directed romp is a blast and a half, and I’m hopeful it’ll hold up at least until Detective Pikachu opens in just over a month.
Pet Semetary (April 5)
Since the press screening is inexplicably past my bedtime (9:00 pm), I’ll be waiting until Thursday to sample the latest Stephen King adaptation. Reviews have been strong out of the film’s SXSW premiere, and this is the same weekend where Paramount/Viacom scored with A Quiet Place last year. This is the second feature film adaptation of from one of King’s most famous/iconic/primal novels, and the Mary Lambert-directed version was, 30 years ago, the biggest-grossing slasher movie of all time ($59 million in 1989/$130 million adjusted-for-inflation). To be fair, this is a super-dark R-rated movie about dead animals and dead children so I wouldn’t expect A Quiet Place or Us-level business over the next month. Still, arriving 19 months after It (and just five months before It: Chapter Two) will only make this Jason Clarke/ Amy Seimetz/John Lithgow chiller more enticing.
Hellboy (April 12)
This one is a wild card. It’s a reboot of a comic book property that already had two well-liked but financially unsuccessful ($99 million worldwide on a $66 million budget in 2004 and $160 million worldwide on an $85 million budget in 2008) movies. This Neil Marshall-directed Lionsgate release is a cheaper and R-rated variation which is allegedly closer to a horror film than Guillermo del Toro’s mythological take on the Mike Minghella-penned comic book. David Harbor will be playing the title character this time out, and I imagine Milla Jovovich as the baddie may help the film just a little bit overseas (the last Resident Evil earned $165 million in China alone). Since the previous two movies opened before overseas box office really exploded, Millennium and friends are banking on this being the first Hellboy movie seen in theaters for much of the world.
Little (April 12)
Directed by Tina Gordon Chism, whose Peeples is an underrated riff on Meet the Parents (or the 1992 cheapie which was the basis for the Ben Stiller/Robert De Niro mega-hit), this high-concept comedy is yet another likely Will Packer hit. It’s also another of what is essentially a sub-genre that can be classified as “Yes, but with black people this time.” This time out, it stars Regina Hall as a ruthless businesswoman who (through arbitrary magic) wakes up in the form of her 11-year-old self (star and executive producer Marsai Martin, who at the age of 14 has already accomplished more than you ever will). The previews look amusing, and I like the folks involved, we can hope that we can all be “surprised” when this opens big in two weeks. Still, this is a $20 million-budgeted Will Packer comedy so Universal and friends will be popping champagne if this opens anywhere near $20 million.
The Curse Of La Llorona (April 19):
This James Wan-produced chiller, set in 1970s Los Angeles and based upon classic Mexican folklore, is not officially a chapter in the Conjuring Universe, even though it takes place in the same universe and contains a few glorified Easter Eggs. Nonetheless, the Linda Cardellini/Raymond Cruz/Patricia Velásquez flick comes courtesy of first-time director Michael Chaves, whose next directorial gig is the third Conjuring film. Reviews were muted coming out of SXSW, which may be partially why (speculation alert) WB is hesitant to officially declare it a Conjuring movie. That’s a shame either way, as this movie and Annabelle Comes Home (opening June 28) would’ve likely be enough combined to push the franchise over the $2 billion mark. Still, if New Line sticks to their guns, next year’s third Conjuring can do the trick. Come what may, this one should coast along until Brightburn over Memorial Day weekend.
Also in April:
I’d like to think that The Missing Link (April 12) will break out, but Laika has struggled even with Focus Features (owned by Comcast) as the distributor, let alone a comparatively smaller/less prominent distributor like United Artists. Fingers crossed… STX will attempt to continue their streak (after Second Act and The Upside) with the Taraji P. Henson/Sam Rockwell racial drama The Best of Enemies (about a civil rights leader and a KKK leader becoming friends while co-chairing a school desegregation committee). It’s the kind of film that will earn all the think pieces, but we’ll see if adults show up to what could play as early summer counterprogramming.
Aviron will release After, an adaptation of Anna Todd’s novel which was essentially fan-fiction about dating One Director singer Harry Styles, on April 12. Disneynature’s Penguins will also open on April 12, and rumor has it that the nature documentary takes place in the same universe as African Cats, Bears and Born in China. Finally, Fox’s first new movie as a Walt Disney entity will be (ironically?) the faith-based drama Breakthrough, which is about a young man who returns to life after 45 minutes sans pulse following an accident in an icy lake. Sadly, this small-budgeted character drama will be one of Fox 2000’s final films as Disney has announced plans to shutter the division.
Oh, and Walt Disney will release Avengers: Endgame on April 26, but I’m guessing you knew that.