April will not be a good look for domestic box office. We know it can’t possibly compete with 2023, which saw “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” take the month to $900 million, but even a shortfall of 25 percent would be great news.

Two days after AMC Theatre head Adam Aron wished his X followers a happy Easter with the promise that the box office would also rise, his stock price hit a new annual low. Aron’s upbeat messaging aside, the apparent vote of no confidence stemmed from AMC’s announcement that it may sell yet more stock to raise cash.

With the box office, any given month doesn’t prove a lot — “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” last July were anomaly, not the new normal. And while it was a good March with four strong sequels (led by “Dune: Part Two”), the first-quarter shortfall remained at six percent.

March saw four films, all franchises, open to over $45 million or more — “Kung Fu Panda 4” (Universal), “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” (Sony), and “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” (Warner Bros.). Also notable is all but $90 million of the month’s gross came from March releases, an exceptionally high percentage.

These films, led by the new “Godzilla,” also will help April — perhaps contributing 40 percent or more of its gross. “Godzilla” will likely to be the month’s top-performing film; combined, holdovers will bring around $250 million.

Of course, last April was massive thanks to $490 million from “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” as well as a calendar that saw Easter and most spring vacations fall during the month. This April, eight new wide studio releases are projected to gross half as much as “Mario” did alone. All but one (Disney’s “The First Omen,” opening this week) are non-franchise entries.

Where March resurrected franchises from the endangered species, April offers the chance for one or more original titles to break out. That may sound unduly optimistic, but “Godzilla” exceeded tracking by better than 50 percent. Could that suggest real audience momentum? Has, as Adam Aron hopes, the tide really turned?

CIVIL WAR, Kirsten Dunst, 2024. © A24 / Courtesy Everett Collection
‘Civil War’ Courtesy Everett Collection

The month’s most-anticipated releases — “Civil War” (A24) April 12 and “Abigail” (Universal) April 19 — each should contribute about $50 million to April. Alex Garland’s national breakup film has high awareness, the benefit of the A24 brand, and the inherent appeal of any war-themed film. “Abigail” is a non-Blumhouse Universal horror film that’s part of the studio’s classic monster revivals.

“The First Omen” and Dev Patel’s “Monkey Man” (Universal), both of which open this week, represent fresh product that could surprise. Ditto Guy Ritchie‘s “The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” (Lionsgate) and Sony’s manga “Spy x Family Code: White,” both of which open wide April 19; and Luca Guadagnino’s delayed “Challengers” with Zendaya and Josh O’Connor and the faith-based “Unsung Hero” (Lionsgate), both on April 26.

There’s lots of opportunity for these lower-budget releases. With the reduced competition, there’s a chance that a couple could break out and April might exceed $600 million. That would represent a 1/3 drop from last year and bring year-to-date drop to 17 percent.

With May, the summer-movie season opens with “The Fall Guy” (Universal) with Ryan Gosling, followed by three more films with huge potential: Disney’s “The Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” (May 10), Paramount’s “IF” (May 17), and Warners’ “Furiosa” (May 24). Then, we should see the best month of the year so far.

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