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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Dean Israelite|
|Cinematography||Matthew J Lloyd|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$33.2 million|
Project Almanac is a 2015 American found footage science fiction thriller film directed by Dean Israelite at his directorial debut, and written by Jason Harry Pagan and Andrew Deutschman. The film stars Jonny Weston, Sofia Black-D'Elia, Sam Lerner, Allen Evangelista, Virginia Gardner and Amy Landecker. The film tells the story of a group of high school students that build a time machine.
Filmed in 2013 and originally planned for an early 2014 release, the release date was later moved to January 30, 2015. Upon release, Project Almanac received generally mixed reviews from critics and audiences, and grossed $33 million against a production budget of $12 million.
In 2014, 17-year-old high school senior and aspiring inventor David Raskin (Jonny Weston) is admitted into MIT, but is unable to afford its tuition fees. Upon learning his mother, Kathy Raskin (Amy Landecker), is planning to sell the house to help pay for his college, David enlists his sister Christina (Virginia Gardner) and his friends Adam Le (Allen Evangelista) and Quinn Goldberg (Sam Lerner) to sift through the belongings of his father Ben Raskin (Gary Weeks), an inventor who died in a car crash on David's seventh birthday, in the hope of finding something that David can use to get a scholarship instead. David finds an old camera with a video recording of his seventh birthday party, in which he briefly spots his 17-year-old self in a reflection. Noticing how he appears to be reaching for a basement light switch in the reflection, David and his friends go to the basement, which was forbidden by his father. Underneath a trapdoor activated by the basement switch, the group find the blueprints of a temporal relocation device that Ben was developing named "Project Almanac", and use the available resources to build a functional time machine. David, Christina, Adam, and Quinn later use the battery from the car of David's longtime crush, Jessie Pierce (Sofia Black-D'Elia), to charge up the machine, and successfully send a toy car back in time, but blow out the power for the entire neighborhood. They end up being caught by Jessie and recruit her to their experiment.
David, Jessie, Christina, Adam, and Quinn eventually travel back in time to the day before and break into Quinn's house, where he draws a smiley face on the back of the neck of his sleeping past self (which simultaneously appears on the back of the visiting Quinn's neck). However, he awakens and seeing his future self causes a feedback loop that nearly erases them both from the timeline. The five agree to use the machine for personal gain on the condition that they always use it together. Adam uses it to win the lottery, Christina gets back at her bullies, Quinn aces a chemistry test to secure his academic future, and the group eventually decides to travel back to Lollapalooza three months before. David hesitates to declare his feelings for Jessie during a particularly open and obvious moment in their conversation, and their relationship becomes awkward. David decides to travel back to Lollapalooza alone to change that, leading to a future in which they are a couple. When he returns, he finds that the blackout caused by them sending the toy car back resulted in their school's star basketball player getting hit by a car and breaking his leg; the team doesn't make it to the championships, and those that would have attended go elsewhere, including the player's father, a pilot who ends up crashing a commercial airliner, along with multiple other catastrophes around the world. David goes back alone once again and prevents the accident that would lead to the player's injury, and averts the plane crash. He returns to the future to learn that instead Adam is in critical condition in the hospital after being run over.
David continues to travel back in time to rectify the poor outcomes, but eventually is caught by Jessie during one of his trips, accidentally sending her back with him. Jessie confronts David, who is forced to admit to using the time machine to win her affection. As Jessie lambastes David for his deception, her past self runs up, causing another feedback loop, and Jessie is erased from the timeline. David decides to go back to prevent the machine from being created, but the machine is out of hydrogen. As David returns to the present, he is confronted by the police, who suspect him of being connected to Jessie's disappearance. Narrowly evading the manhunt after him, David is able to get to his school and obtains a hydrogen canister. He manages to activate the machine just as the police break into the supply room, and sends himself back to the day of his seventh birthday.
In the basement, David confronts his father Ben, who recognizes him and realizes that this means he will eventually complete the machine. David convinces Ben of the machine's danger and tells him that he should say goodbye to his son. Meanwhile, David destroys the blueprints and a vital component, causing him to be erased from the timeline. However, the camera he and his friends have been using all along is left behind and records the whole thing. Back in the future, David and Christina are once again going through their father's belongings, when they find their father's camera (as they did originally in the beginning) as well as the alternate David's camera, which still contains all the footage of David and the group from the original timeline, beginning with the original recording of him and Christina finding only one camera in the attic, and ending with David disappearing in the basement during his trip ten years in the past. Shocked to see this, they presumably go through all the footage and see their adventures traveling through time. Implicitly, they come to understand the mistakes they made. Later, at school, David approaches Jessie for the first time once again, displaying knowledge of the future, and confides in her that they are about to "change the world", implying they are going to make a second attempt at the time machine, and do things the right way this time.
- Jonny Weston as David Raskin
- Sofia Black-D'Elia as Jessie Pierce
- Sam Lerner as Quinn Goldberg
- Allen Evangelista as Adam Le
- Virginia Gardner as Christina Raskin
- Amy Landecker as Kathy Raskin
- Gary Weeks as Ben Raskin
- Michelle DeFraites as Sarah Nathan
- Patrick Johnson as Todd
- Gary Grubbs as Dr. Lu
- Katie Garfield as Liv
Production and release
Principal photography began in June 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. Shortly before the film's release, it was discovered that the footage turned in to Paramount featured 2 seconds of a real-life plane crash. Although sources differ on where the film clip was from, Paramount has said the footage is of a 2009 crash while the Air Force Times reported that footage was "nearly identical" to a 1994 incident that happened at Fairchild Air Force Base, and two of the 1994 crash victim's families claimed that it was indeed the same footage. Upon learning about this, producer Michael Bay publicly apologized stating that when he saw the footage he thought it was a special effect shot and asked Paramount to remove the footage from the film.
On February 5, 2014 Paramount Pictures postponed the release date from February 28, 2014, to an unknown date. Paramount partnered with MTV Films on the marketing of the film. On March 24, 2014, THR's Borys Kit tweeted that the film had been re-titled to "Project Almanac." The film was released on January 30, 2015.
Project Almanac grossed $22.3 million in North America and $10.9 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $33.2 million, against a budget of $12 million.
The film earned $3.1 million in its opening day (including previews) which was far below industry’s estimate. The film made a total of $3.9 million in its second day and $1.4 million for its third day, bringing in a weekend gross of $8.5 million from 2,893 theaters, with a per-theatre average of $2,938 and finishing third at the box office.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 36% based on 88 reviews with an average rating of 4.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Project Almanac isn't without wit or originality, but its thin story and irritating found-footage camerawork ultimately make it difficult to recommend." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 47 out of 100, based on 25 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore on opening day gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.
A. A. Dowd of The A.V. Club gave the film a C+ and said, "As found-footage thrillers go, Project Almanac is perfectly watchable, but it never taps into the adolescent joy of its premise, the way Chronicle did."
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