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Box Office Brasserie:
Movie News for Movie Lovers

It’s the first full weekend of March, and thus, officially spring in Hollywood. We all know that means: the first bonafide blockbusters of the year. Well, “Lego Movie” sort of crashed that party already, but with the WB’s super-sequel “300: Rise of an Empire” and DreamWorks Animation’s “Mr. Peabody & Sherman”  the box office is set to be in full bloom starting Friday.

“300: Rise of an Empire” arrives seven years after the original brought audiences to their knees with the first highly-stylized sword-and-sandal epic for the MTV generation. Zack Snyder’s R-rated, blood-soaked actioner debuted with a towering $70M and went on to conquer the world with over $450M.

When you consider the budget of the original was just $65M, the only thing you wonder is what in the name of Sparta took so long?

While the sequel/prequel–events occur prior, simultaneously and after the original–doesn’t bring Gerard Butler back from the dead (c’mon, you had 7 years to see it!), it does bring back a handful of supporting characters and has Snyder along as a producer and writer. And, if you didn’t know any better, it  would seem he directed it, too. FYI: he didn’t.

Still, while many have been saying all along “300: Rise of an Empire” won’t succeed as action war extravaganzas have ” been played out,” remember, the only epic remotely similar film, Relativity’s “Immortals,” cashed in with a $32M debut and $226M globally back in 2011.

Sure, the TV-series “Spartacus” has given us more blood and gratuitous nudity than we know what to do with, but the fact is, “300” is a brand of entertainment now, one that teen audiences crave. It’s not often a film that looks more like a video game actually works, but when it does, expect big things.

Rolling out in 3,470 theaters (the original staked out just 3,100) expect “300: Rise of an Empire” to lead the box office charge with around $45M this weekend.

Close behind, and with an outside chance to take down the mighty sequel, is Fox’s “Mr. Peabody & Sherman,” a spin-off of the 1960s animated “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.

Directed by Rob Minkoff (“The Lion King,” “Stuart Little”) the PG film has received stellar reviews which should help it with long-term playability. Although it probably won’t compare to last year’s DreamWorks hit, “The Croods,” which debuted with $43M and rolled on to an outstanding $587M worldwide.

“Mr. Peabody & Sherman” launches in nearly 4,000 theaters and should see returns upwards of $40M this weekend.  While those aren’t “Shrek” numbers, it’s nothing to lift a leg on; remember DWA’s last effort, “Turbo,” stalled with just $21M out of the gate and a sluggish (sorry) $83M in North America.

Probably the most anticipated film of the weekend arrives from auteur extraordinaire, Wes Anderson, as his “The Grand Budapest Hotel” checks into 4 venues in New York and Los Angeles.

Two years ago, his first PG-13 film, “Moonrise Kingdom,” debuted with a massive $522,996 in 4 theaters and went on to play throughout the summer, grossing $45M. Going back to his traditional R-rated brand of humor, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” should still see some impressive numbers, possibly approaching $400k.

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WEEKEND ESTIMATES

1. 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE – $46M
2. MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN – $39M
3. NON-STOP – $16.5M
4. SON OF GOD – $13MM
5. THE LEGO MOVIE – $12M

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“MATRIX” MAY BE REBOOTING

I wonder if Keanu will know taekwondo this time?

Nothing gets cyberspace more hyped up than Luke Skywalker and Neo. There have been rumors swirling around the internets this week about another “Matrix” trilogy. Funny, I’m pretty sure the first three films had only one redeeming installment. Yup. Confirmed. Take the blue pill and you will forget all about this Warner Bros. (then you can concentrate on expanding the DC Universe instead), or take the red pill and you’ll end up with a serious tummy ache.

Truth is, the Wachowskis haven’t had an original hit since the first “Matrix” back in 1999, although that hasn’t stopped Warner Bros. from investing in the Wachowski Starship as they released “Speed Racer,” “Cloud Atlas,” and have their upcoming “Jupiter Ascending” this summer, starring Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis.

Fact check: “Speed Racer” was a massive flop, while “Cloud Atlas” was shunned in the US, however it did perform decently overseas, but certainly cannot be considered a hit. And , from the looks of things, “Jupiter Ascending” may just be this summer’s answer to “After Earth.” In other words: it may burn up upon entry.

Hey, it’s not that the Wachowskis aren’t supremely talented. They are. I actually really liked “Cloud Atlas” and will probably enjoy “Jupiter Ascending” too. Problem is I’m a sci-fi junkie, and their latter films have been just a little too “out there” to attract the multiplex masses.

Still, considering the massive following the “Matrix” has (oh, and the $1.6B at the box office), it might be in Warner’s best interest to at least see what the Wachowskis cook up…I mean, if they’re going to continue to invest in the duo regardless. A reimagining could work, or, more appropriately, an exploration of the universe with primarily new characters.

Anything but a prequel…and no more interstellar raves. Please, I beg of you. Did we learn nothing from “Star Wars” and Lucas’ prequel follies? If it is a prequel, I guarantee I will learn kung-fu, if only to boot the Wachowskis in the head.

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“PURGE” SEQUEL GETS NEW TITLE, NEW DATE

Disney’s “Planes” and Universal’s “The Purge” both became surprise hits last summer, and both have sequels dropping just a year later. “The Purge: Anarchy” was supposed to wreak havoc June 20th, alongside “Jersey Boys” and “Think Like a Man Too,” however now it’s slated for July 18th instead.

The  fact that it would have been sandwiched, opening between both “22 Jump Street” and “How to Train Your Dragon 2” (two highly anticipated sequels) and then seven days later, “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” was likely a concern.  But still, it would have been the first horror film of the summer, a circumstance that likely helped its predecessor quite a bit.

By debuting July 18th, “The Purge: Anarchy” will now follow Sony’s chill pill, “Deliver Us From Evil,” which drops over the 4th of July weekend, and will now debut with “Planes: Fire & Rescue” and Wachowski’s “Jupiter Ascending.”

Remember, “The Purge” was an unlikely #1 when it opened, topping weaker competition like “The Internship” and the second weekend of “After Earth.” One thing’s for certain: Universal’s brass must not be too concerned with the Wachowski’s latest.

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CHOICE CUT OF THE WEEK: “TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION–Trailer #2” (6.27.14)

Here’s all you need to know about “Transformers 4:” Less LaBeouf, More Marky Mark. Other than that, it looks like same-old, same-old…which should translate to, oh, $1 billion or so worldwide.  For better or worse, no one spends $250+ million like Michael Bay can. His brand of blockbuster epic-ness is pretty damn epic.

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CHOICE RE-CUT OF THE WEEK: “BOXTROLLS–Trailer #3” (9.26.14)

Laika’s latest just keeps looking better and better and, yes, you guessed it…better. Cee Lo Green provides the vocal stylings this go-round with “(You’re So Square) Baby, I Don’t Care”–a song Elvis and Buddy Holly previously covered. Pretty much perfect.

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CULT CUT OF THE WEEK: “FRANK MILLER’S SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR” (8.22.14)

It’s been nearly a decade since Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez trolled around these parts, but from the looks of it, seems they never left.  Curio or franchise? Will be interesting to see if audiences still respond to the hyper-violent noir film. The original debuted with $29M and scored $158M worldwide. Not bad, kid, especially considering it holstered a tidy $40M budget.

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HOME SLICE OF THE WEEK: “BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR”

If you missed this sexy French import in theaters, well, you don’t have to be so coy about watching it anymore as the NC-17 film is now available in your home on Netflix, DVD and download.

Sure, 2013’s Palme d’Or winner is a bit long at 3 hours, but you won’t see better acting or a more realistic interpretation of first love…and, oh yeah, graphic sex.  This should be required viewing for any filmmaker attempting to authentically portray teenagers/college kids today.

A cinematic stunner. Makes you really appreciate European cinema and poignantly reinforces the fact that all love stories don’t need punch lines or to be labeled romantic comedies. Sometimes Hollywood needs a good ol’ slap in the face. This is it. Extremely refreshing and very moving.

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Jeff Bock, NewsWhistle’s movie editor, is the senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations in Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at Jeff@NewsWhistle.com.

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“300: Rise of an Empire” Poster Courtesy of Warner Bros.; Poster Design: The Refinery
“Mr. Peabody & Sherman” Poster Courtesy of DreamWorks Animation; Poster Design: MIDNIGHT OIL