ZAMM.COM: April Action

By Martin Grove,

April action: With March going out like a lion thanks to Divergent and Noah, April can't help but get off to a breezy box office start.

Noah's $44 million launch last weekend and Divergent's two week cume of $95.3 million are both strong signs that moviegoers are embracing mainstream movies again after the annual Oscar slowdown.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier
It's a safe bet the first beneficiary of this new appetite for big films in the crowded month of April will be Marvel PG-13-rated 3D sci-fi action adventure Captain America: The Winter Soldier, opening Apr. 4 at about 3,900 theaters. It's already tracking through the roof as a double-digit overall first choice and it's really sizzling hot with men under and over 25.

Directed by Anthony Russo & Joe Russo, it stars Chris Evans, Frank Grillo and Sebastien Stan.

Evans returns as Steve Rogers and Captain America, joining forces with the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) to fight a formidable new enemy--The Winter Soldier (Stan). The franchise's first episode, Captain America: The First Avenger, opened July 22, 2011 to $65.1 million. It went on to gross $176.7 million in domestic theaters. Opening the series' second episode in April is another instance of Hollywood exploring whether it's better to be a really big fish in a smaller spring pond than one of many big fish in a larger summer pond. With less competition in April than in July, Soldier could march off with more ticket sales.

While Soldier looms as the month's first big hit, April will be jam-packed with new wide releases competing for moviegoers time and attention.

Here's a quick look at what to watch for:

Island of Lemurs: Madagascar
Soldier's only wide competition Apr. 4 will be the G-rated 3D documentary Island of Lemurs: Madagascar, opening in theaters and IMAX. Directed by David Douglas, it's narrated by Morgan Freeman.

The incredible true story of lemurs, nature's greatest explorers, as captured with IMAX 3D cameras. Moviegoers take a spectacular journey to the remote and wondrous world of Madagascar where Lemurs arrived as castaways millions of years ago. They've since evolved into hundreds of diverse species, but are now highly endangered.

The film follows trailblazing scientist Patricia Wright on her lifelong mission to help these strange and adorable creatures survive in the modern world.

April 11 will be a crowded date with four new wide releases opening.

Rio 2
The 3D animated G-rated adventure comedy Rio 2 is from the creators of Ice Age. Directed by Carlos Saldanha, it stars the voices of Rodrigo Santoro, Anne Hathaway and Leslie Mann.

It's a jungle out there for Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) Jewel (Hathaway) and their kids after they're hurtled into the wilds of the Amazon. Blu, trying to fit in, goes beak-to-beak with the vengeful Nigel and meets his most fearsome adversary--his father-in-law! The franchise's first episode, Rio, opened Apr. 15, 2011 to $39.2 million. It went on to gross $143.6 million domestically.

Rio 2's tracking best and about equally well with women under and over 25, which means it's likely to attract the moms-with-kids audience any 3D animated comedy needs.

The R-rated horror thriller Oculus, meanwhile, is going after a very different audience. Directed by Mike Flanagan, it stars Brenton Thwaites, Karen Gillan and Katee Sackhoff. It's tracking best with women under 25.

A woman who's brother's been convicted of murder tries to free him by proving a supernatural phenomenon was responsible for committing the crime. 

Draft Day
The PG-13 sports drama Draft Day is directed by Ivan Reitman and stars Jennifer Garner, Kevin Costner and Chadwick Boseman. It's tracking best with men under 25.

The film revolves aournd the Cleveland Browns' General Manager, who is out to acquire the number one draft pick for his team.

Apr. 18 will also be wall-to-wall movies with four more wide releases entering the marketplace. The PG-13 original sci-fi action drama Transcendence, directed by Dark Knight cinematographer Wally Pfister, stars Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall and Morgan Freeman.

In the film, a terminally ill scientist develops new powers that make him truly unstoppable after he downloads his brain into a computer.

Disneynature's G-rated Bears is directed by Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey and is narrated by John C. Reilly.

The true life adventure documentary showcases a year in the life of a bear family as two impressionable young cubs learn life's most important lessons. Set against a majestic Alaskan backdrop teeming with life, their journey begins as winter ends and the bears emerge from hibernation to face the bitter cold in a world that's exciting, but risky with the looming threat of avalanches.

A Haunted House 2
The R-rated horror comedy A Haunted House 2directed by Michael Tiddes, stars Marlon Wayans, Jaime Pressly and Cedric the Entertainer.

In the movie, Malcolm (Wayans) loses his beloved Kisha (Essence Atkins) in a car crash and starts over by remarrying Megan, a mother of two. When things return to their paranormal ways they get more complicated than ever when the unexpectedly back-to-life Kisha moves into the neighborhood.

Heaven is for Real 
The PG-rated drama Heaven is for Realdirected by Randall Wallace, stars Greg Kinnear, Kelly Reilly and Connor Corum.

Based on the No. 1 New York Times best-selling book of the same name, the film is the true story of a small-town father (Kinnear) who must find the courage and conviction to share his son's extraordinary, life-changing experience with the world. The son (Corum) claims to have visited Heaven during a near death experience. He recounts the details of his amazing journey with childlike innocence and speaks matter-of-factly about things that happened before his birth that he couldn't possibly know.

Three new wide arrivals will end the month with Apr. 25 openings.

The R-rated comedy The Other Womandirected by Nick Cassavetes, stars Cameron Diaz, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Kate Upton. In the movie, Diaz's character realizes she's not her boyfriend's (Coster-Waldau) primary lover and teams up with his wife (Leslie Mann) and his other mistress (Upton) to plot some very serious revenge.

Then there's the PG-13 horror thriller The Quiet Onesdirected by John Pogue, stars Jared Harris, Sam Claftin and Olivia Cooks. It's about a college physics professor who puts together a team whose goal is to create a poltergeist.

The PG-13 action crime drama Brick Mansionsfrom first time feature director Camille Delamarre, stars Paul Walker, David Belle and RZA. In the film, an undercover cop infiltrates a gang run by a ruthless crime lord with access to a neutron bomb.

Bottom line: April's looking good and Hollywood's got nothing to worry about in May since the month kicks off with The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

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