Long Distance Box Office: 21 Jump Street

Our second installment of what we hope to be a weekly thing is our look at Sony’s (presumably) R-rated comedy 21 Jump Street, which released both a Red Band and Green Band trailer last week.

Opening on March 16, not the best time to release a comedy, it’s directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the duo behind Sony’s animated hit Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and it brings together two actors who have a strong following among the under-25 crowd, Jonah Hill among guys and Channing Tatum among women.

Even more than the starpower, one thing that should definitely work in the movie’s favor is the fact it’s based on a once-popular FOX television show, which proved to be the breakthrough for a young actor named Johnny Depp (who is rumored to make a cameo in the reinvention). Women over a certain age, say 30, will probably be intrigued by the idea of revisiting the show, and anyone under that age may not have heard of the show but will have the two leads as a draw.

Hill is coming off the hit baseball drama Moneyball, which proves he can do dramatic work. We have no idea how his next movie, the R-rated comedy The Sitter might fare, but we’re definitely fans of director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express), and its early December release should get it more attention than it may have gotten in the spring.

Just last week, we looked at Tatum’s career in our Career Analyst and we gotta say that seeing him star in an action-comedy alongside a comedy fave like Jonah Hill is a good way for him to show he’s capable of doing a lot more than just being a pretty face and abs. The movie also stars Ice Cube, Rob Riggle and “Parks and Recreation’s” Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) as well as other comics that can help increase the laugh factor.

Police action-comedies have done pretty well in recent years with Sony having a hit with Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg’s The Other Guys in the summer of 2010. It grossed $110 million, which isn’t huge, but it shows that the police action-comedy is still a genre of interest. This one is produced by Neal Moritz’s Original Film, who have done pretty well in the last year with their relationship with Sony, which led to Seth Rogen in The Green Hornet and Battle: Los Angeles being moderate hits. They didn’t do well when paired with Universal for the R-rated comedy The Change-Up, though.

Even though Hill’s audience generally prefers him doing R-rated stuff, going for the higher rating might hurt the movie’s chances because the premise (and Tatum) makes it something that could appeal to younger teens who generally won’t be able to get in, and more than anything, we think that might hold the movie back. (Hill’s pal Seth Rogen was able to go PG-13 with The Green Hornet which allowed him to bring in a wider audience.)

While we don’t think this will open as big as Superbad or The Other Guys ($33 and $35 million opening, respectively), we do think it will open decently in the mid-to-high 20s range and could do strong word-of-mouth business in the weeks that follow as it becomes a must-see spring break movie. We project that a gross between $75 to 80 million will be a given, maybe better if it delivers on its early trailers.

Next week, we’ll be getting away from Sony and looking at Warner Bros’ upcoming sequel Wrath of the Titans!

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