By David Poland email@example.com
20 Weeks: Summer Preview
16 weeks… 36 films.
(For the purposes of this exercise, I am including only titles that I think can realistically hit $20m or more domestically.)
There are only 8 direct sequels (Batman, MiB, Ice Age, Madagascar, Wimpy Kid, Expendables, Piranha, Madea). But there are another 8 films that are either reboots (Spidey, Total Recall, ) re-casts (Bourne, GI: Joe), or reconsiderations of well-worn material (Avengers, Prometheus, Snow White, Dark Shadows).
Warner Bros has the most unexpected line-up. Nolan’s Batman swan song is the 800 pound gorilla, but after that, it’s five odd titles. One is a Burton/Depp kitsch combo, but while Burton’s 2 biggest hits were kitschy and Depp-y, they were family films with long histories (Alice & Charlie). The less specific films, while often brilliant, linger on the bottom half of Burton’s career gross chart.
The rest of the titles all seem to be at the wrong studio. Rock of Ages could be this summer’s Mamma Mia!… but not at Universal. Hmmm. WB will try to turn the Paramount Insurge trick with Chernobyl Diaries. The Campaign is a Will Ferrell/Zach Galifianakis comedy from Jay Roach. Hard to tell what’s coming, but it is Ferrell’s first film at WB, aside from a supporting role in Starsky & Hutch. And Soderbergh’s Magic Mike sounds like another indie-style piece, like The Informant!, which the studio just couldn’t figure out. It just screams New Line or as still-operating studios go, Sony… maybe Paramount. But WB? Hmmm…
So it could be a massively successful summer all around. Ferrell & ZcG could kill it. Male strippers could be ready for their big movie moment. Tom Cruise could be the King of Summer Fun, as he was the King of Christmas fun with M:I4 last December. And Oren Peli could birth another major geek event. Moreover, with Burton, Soderbergh, Roach, and Nolan, Warner Bros status as a director’s studio is through the roof.
But still… an odd list of films for big star WB.
Sony is the Back To The Future studio of the summer, with the Spider-Man relaunch, the return of Men in Black, Total Recall through the eyes of their Underworld creator, a remake of Sparkle, and even the Sandler movie sounds like an old Bob Hope film, That’s My Boy. David Frankel lands at Sony after a run at Fox, but Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones as a couple trying to make it work, with laughs, feels very Sony familiar.
Universal is either going to rock the box office or get everyone fired. Battleship and Bourne are the big machine movies, with huge expectations attached. Snow White & The Huntsman looks like it will be the easy winner of the 7 dwarfs sweepstake this year, but what will the box office make of back-to-back Charlize weeks? And their other two films, Ted and Savages could well be the surprise hit and the (not so much of a) surprise flop of the summer. Of course, Universal has had a few Teds before… really good films… that The Kids just didn’t get interested in. The trailer for Ted is great… but so were some of the others. Still, bottom line, as Battleship and Bourne go, so goes Universal’s summer.
Disney gets Marvel, has Pixar… and some other stuff. Things are still shaking over there, but once July arrives, there will be plenty of time to rethink as much as they like. But the two big films should be BIG.
It’s a big change of season for Paramount, who had five big ass movies to open last summer… and have just 3 this entire summer. Madagascar 3 could be very strong, but not a huge challenge anymore. Like Ice Age 4, either they are going to come or not. The GI: Joe reboot with The Rock and Bruce Willis is more like launching something brand new. And The Dictator, whose Oscar red carpet stunt turned out to be part of the movie’s production, not promotion, could well be the unstoppable shrinkage of the Sasha Baron Cohen gag.
And Fox could have a summer that will really piss of the media that likes to kick the studio. Prometheus looks like the unexpected monster hit of the summer, though if it is, media will shrug it off as though it was expected. Ice Age: Continental Drift may slow domestically, but if it’s anything like the last one internationally, it’s a monster. Wimpy Kid is a modest programmer that works. Abe Lincoln Meets The Twilight Kids could be $80m huge or a complete miss. Just impossible to tell what the mood of that moment will be like. It’s going to be hard for the film to keep screens against a lot of big films and it feels like a movie that will take time. And I guess Tom Rothman finally got Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn to work for a price he liked and Neighborhood Watch feels like it could be a nice “surprise” like Dodgeball was.
The record for $200m domestic grossers in a summer is six. We should see that matched, if not surpassed, this summer. We could certainly see the first year ever with two $400m domestic grossers. And it looks like you’ll be able to count the real bombs – not considering cost – on one hand.
On the other hand, I count seven films with production budgets at or over $200 million, which is a sharp contrast from last year’s more modestly budgeted summer. Foreign is not going to be icing on the cake. It is now expected.
The real definition of this summer will not come from the blockbusters, but from the middle-r movies… the Snow Whites and the Total Recalls and the GI Joes and the Neighborhood Watches and the Teds and the Dark Shadows. Those are the films where the $20m losses or the $75m wins will add up. Even a movie like Prometheus… if it does $500m worldwide, it will be the biggest grosser in Ridley Scott’s illustrious career.
So don’t get distracted by the monsters. There could be a couple billion dollar worldwiders in there. But the story lurks in the folds.
Just to make sure there is something to be held over my head for years to come, I will be doing my annual chart again… soon…