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How Do You Get To Zootopia? Go Right Past Cloverfield Lane.

Box Office Brasserie: Movie News For Movie Lovers

Records are made to be broken…and Disney is breaking them all lately.

The Mouse House’s latest, “Zootopia,” rattled cages this past weekend, debuting with a massive $75M—the 4th best March opening of all time—and continues to showcase the originality and box office prowess of Disney Animation, whose string of hits include “Tangled,” “Wreck-It Ralph,” “Frozen,” and “Big Hero 6.”

With Pixar firmly stuck in sequel mode these days—not that audiences will mind dipping back into the waters of “Finding Dory” this summer—the fact remains that Disney Animation is continually performing toe-to-toe with Pixar. That’s quite a change from 20 years ago, when John Lasseter’s outfit out-Disney’d Disney.

Lasseter is pulling all the strings at Disney as the chief creative officer now, and he’s creating a symphony of masterworks. The only real competition Pixar has right now is Disney Animation…which is likely more constructively supportive than truly competitive.

DreamWorks Animation is firmly behind in terms of consistent original content, but Sony Pictures Animation and Universal’s Illumination Entertainment are both up-and-coming animation outfits that keep reaching for, and snagging, a larger portion of the animated box office pie—a monstrous pie that audiences are gorging on these days.

Speaking of all things monstrous, remember eight years ago when J.J. Abrams and Bad Robot dropped “Cloverfield” on unsuspecting audiences to the tune of $40M?!? Nobody knew what it was, which was—and still is—a rarity in this day and age of multi-media mass consumption.

“10 Cloverfield Lane” offers up something familiar, yet strangely distant. The tagline says it all: Monsters Come in All Forms. Call this film “Clover-room,” because odds are, John Goodman is likely the only monster in this film.  Bad Robot. Very bad indeed.

What’s good though, are the reviews; Rotten Tomatoes meter is currently at 90% fresh, which is pretty remarkable for a thriller of this nature.

The only mystery here is why Paramount put “Cloverfield” in the title—wouldn’t it have been better to call it something completely different (the film’s codename was “Valencia” while filming) and then surprise moviegoers with the fact that it’s set in the same realm? That would have been pretty cool.

This is certainly a spin-off, not a true sequel, but, fact is, the lure of sequel money is too great for Paramount to pass up, which is probably why this film started as a movie titled “The Cellar,” and later, during incubation, became a offshoot of the “Cloverfield” mythology.

Directed by newcomer Dan Trachtenberg (he rose to fame in 2011 with the PORTAL: NO ESCAPE short) the $15M, PG-13 flick should easily dig up $20M+ as it opens the widest of the new releases in 3,000+ theaters. That should be good enough for second place as “Zootopia” will rule the box office school once again with ease.

Sacha Baron Cohen returns…to gross you out to the max. No, he hasn’t stooped to “Borat 2: Back in Kazak” just yet.  However, “The Brothers Grimsby” may be the vehicle that pushes him there.

With each film, Cohen has jumped studios—“Borat” (Fox), “Bruno” (Universal,) and “The Dictator” (Paramount)—and with “Grimsby,” he lands at Sony. That fact isn’t necessarily a bad thing; however, the safety net of a long-term deal with a studio usually means an extended output.

And while his budgets have risen, his grosses have never matched the $261M worldwide that “Borat” achieved. Still, he’s consistently one of the most cutting edge comedians, even if his rapid-fire mix of low-brow and high-brow often confuses people. That’s his game and you’re either along for the ride or you aren’t.

Domestically, with each Cohen film, box office receipts have shrunk. “The Dictator” hit $59M, something “Grimsby” will be lucky to do, especially considering it opens in just 2,000+ theaters—600 fewer than any previous Cohen effort.

Cohen’s projects don’t necessarily arrive fast and furious like Adam Sandler films, as “The Dictator” launched back in 2012, and “Borat” is actually a decade old now.  Expect less than $10M for his latest, with a quick fade to black, as reviews have been middling, at best.

With Easter looming, Focus Features’ “The Young Messiah” will illuminate 1,600+ theaters this weekend, and likely conjure up around $7M. Would probably attract more followers if Sony’s “Risen” wasn’t still in theaters; their faith-based film has performed solidly, grossing $28M in three weeks.

It’s only March and Lionsgate has already had a year to forget with bombs like “Gods of Egypt,” “Norm of the North,” and “The Choice.”

Their latest, “The Perfect Match,” won’t exactly change those fortunes, as it opens in just 850+ venues. However, the R-rated romantic comedy should play well with black audiences and perform decently. Expect around $4M.

In exclusive release, Bleecker Street drops “Eye in the Sky,” starring Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, and Aaron Paul, and directed by Gavin Hood (“Ender’s Game,” “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”), who finally returns to something with a little more meat on its bones. Reviews have been extremely solid (90%) which should bode well for its wide expansion planned for April 1st.

Drones come in many shapes and sizes, folks. Watch yourself out there.

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WEEKEND ESTIMATES

  1. ZOOTOPIA – $45M
  2. 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE – $22M
  3. LONDON HAS FALLEN – $11M
  4. DEADPOOL – $10M
  5. THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY – $9M

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CHOICE CUT OF THE WEEK : HBO’s “Game of Thrones – Season 6” (April 24, 2016)

Finally.

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CHOICE (RE)CUT OF THE WEEK : Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” (May 7, 2016)

Spider-sense…tingling. No surprise Spider-Man has finally joined the ranks…but why does he sound like Justin Bieber?!?

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CLIFFHANGER CLIP OF THE MILLENNIUM: Dos Equis’ “The Most Interesting Man in the World…on Mars” 

This is real, folks. A final send off for actor Jonathan Goldsmith–“the most interesting man in the world.” Dos Equis will regret this…and trust me, they know what what regret is. Adios, amigo…I almost put down my Pacifico for you. Salute.

Check out NPR’s article here.

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“Zootopia” Image Courtesy of Disney Animation; Poster Design by Legion Creative Group

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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.