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!
will not appear weekly this summer.
But it will turn up at least once a month and more, as the news demands.)
Week's Box Office Chart
Office Chart: May 24
Office Chart: Preview
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