..Gary Dretzka
Noah Forrest
..Leonard Klady
..David Poland
..Douglas Pratt
..Ray Pride
..Kim Voynar
..Michael Wilmington

Week Five 2007
Summer II: The Sequel - Return Of The Relative Sanity

The Big Three have shot their loads.  Sony is acting likely a whiny infant ("We don't like their German numbers ... wah wah!") because their ego about the biggest worldwide opening is tweaked.  There is no other excuse for the outburst, as there is not a single dime of revenue to be derived for Spidey 3 by Pirates 3's worldwide opening being diminished ... just ego. 

(For a blow by blow of Sony's trying to find a way to appear bigger than Pirates, even before Pirates opened, read the studio's mouthpiece, C. Nikki Finke.  It's quite amusing to read the attack on the budget - which is, amazingly, a little understated - then the repetition of how Pirates couldn't beat Spider-Man, then the utterly misleading claims of misconduct about the P3 Thursday night screenings reporting, then the "irregularities" - note to Sony: never use the same word you had your gossip columnist use when you do a press release - and so on.  Full Disclosure: Nikki belongs reporting on Sony just as much as her self-acknowledged "best friend" Bernie Weinraub did after he started his relationship with Sony co-topper Amy Pascal.  And unlike some of us who find ourselves insinuated about, Nikki's bias is undeniably shown in her work every week.) 

But the Dumb Ego Movie Of The Year award goes to DreamWorks Animation for sticking in between the other two mammoths as well as two weeks behind Sony's animation and a month before Ratatouille, now making it possible that Shrek The Third won't even hit $300 million domestic in spite of a massive opening and the last film doing over $400 million.

But I digress ...

The point of this column is not to shovel dirt on the past, but to look to the quite immediate future.  There is an entire summer ahead of us that looks a lot like one of the strongest summers ever without The Big Three being any more than The Big One. 

Last summer, it was Pirates 2 followed by Cars in #2 slot with $244 million domestic.  In 2005, it was Star Wars 6/III followed by $234 million domestic for War of the Worlds.  In 2004, it was Shrek 2 and Spider-Man 2 in the ether and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban with  $250 million domestic in third. 

The closest thing to this summer was 2002, with Finding Nemo and The Matrix Reloaded huge in May and Pirates of the Caribbean huge in July with Bruce Almighty at $243 million for #4 and X2 with $215 million domestic at #5.  But that was so very different also.  Nemo opened to "just" $70 million and did almost 5 times that opening.  Bruce Almighty was a surprise with a $68 million opening and about 3.5 times that total domestic.  

So here we are, the big wave grabbing almost/about $1 billion domestic, and the next wave begins ... Transformers, Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix, and Ratatouille are all capable of cracking $250 million.  Evan Almighty, Rush Hour 3, The Bourne Ultimatum, Ocean's 13, I Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, and maybe even The Simpsons (though I doubt it) are all capable of cracking $150 million.  No one really knows what the possibilities are for Hairspray, Live Free or Die Hard, Underdog, or the terribly retitled Mostly Martha remake, No Reservations ... but they are all potential sleepers. Then you have a load of movies that will be Smash Hits if they come anywhere near $100 million - Knocked Up, Superbad, Sicko, Hot Rod, and Mr. Brooks - and will be considered pleasant surprises (except for the media-overhyped Knocked Up) if they crack $50 million.

But this group, with just one mega-hit leading the way, would be a pretty strong summer, more the norm than not.  It seems to me that there may be a little ticket buying fatigue for some of the June releases.  Whatever chance Fantastic Four 2 had of expanding the audience by adding the cerebral Silver Surfer to the stupid (start with the blonde haired, blue eyed Hispanic starlet) FF mix will likely be headed off by the oversized audiences for Spidey 3 and Pirates 3 more likely to wait on Transformers to go back to the boom-boom movies.  Fox also has put their new Die Hard sequel in harms way, though there wasn't really anywhere else to go for them ... they wait until then end of June, but then get hit by Transformers.  At the end of July, they would have been hit by The Bourne Ultimatum.  That is the density of this summer. 

So who will be the losers in this high stake second wave?  Shrek The Third may end up being seen as the first victim of the summer.  $300 million for anything else would have been seen as a hit.  If ST3 doesn't get there, it will be seen as a major miss.  Tough standard - and this film will be profitable at that gross, albeit less than DWA hoped - but such is reality.  The second victim may be Surf's Up, which will get kids, but may actually be a penguin too many.  (As I always say, the next great penguin film or any other talking animal film will still be a hit.  Surf's Up's up biggest challenge is getting a big sampling on its date and may end up being found by kids on DVD.)  Can Warner's launch what should be a new franchise and new starlet named Roberts with Nancy Drew on June 15?  It will be hard to get attention from Pitt & Clooney and the children's draw of Fantastic Four Deuce. 

At least one studio exec (at, of course, a rival studio) thinks that Rush Hour 3 is going to have a hard time getting traction in August.  And how serious can Paramount be about Stardust if they are throwing it in Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker's way?  (Ironic that the once - Matthew Vaughn - and future - Brett Ratner - directors of X3 end up going head-to-head the next summer.) 

Can Paramount Vantage do better-than-An-Inconvenient-Truth numbers with the Michael Winterbottom-directed A Mighty Heart?  And speaking of last year's big dog doc, what do people think is realistic for Michael Moore's Sicko?  It will surely eat the media through June, but even at $25 million it would be the third highest domestic grossing doc of all time, behind F/911 and Los Penguins.  I expect it will do better than that.  But will the media understand that a $40 million gross for a movie about health care is a sensational success?  Let's hope so.

And the highlights to come?

Well, Sicko will be one of them.  Anyone who loves animation has to be excited for the return of Brad Bird with Ratatouille.  Paul Greengrass is a serious filmmaker (action or not) with a great producing and second unit team behind him, so The Bourne Ultimatum (aka Jason Goes To New York) should be great.   Hairspray is imperfect, but it's pretty infectious fun with a performance by John Travolta that critics will hate and audiences (well, at least female audiences) are likely to love.  Superbad, which, in its way, is a prequel to The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, could be The New Porky's which, embarrassing as it might have been, was a key classic for the early Gen Xers along with The Goonies and the John Hughes films.  Matthew Vaughn's Stardust has a lot of us hoping.  And what of Hot Rod, the first Andy Samberg film of longer than 3 minutes?  Will it be his Happy Gilmore or his Stuart Saves His Family?

Summer Two starts tomorrow ... it's a whole new ballgame!

(This column will not appear weekly this summer.
But it will turn up at least once a month and more, as the news demands.

This Week's Box Office Chart
Box Office Chart: May 24
Box Office Chart: Preview

- Email David Poland



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