The course of the summer movie season tends to follow a fairly standard pattern. Or at least, that’s what the movie studios attempt to do. May is the place to showcase a few huge films, possibly with a smaller number of counter-programming options. After Memorial Day, things will tend to lighten up, so that early June is relatively light. Over the subsequent weeks, the films will build, culminating around early July. A few weeks later, things will begin to tail off again until you get to late August, when it’s hardly the same season.
The May films followed the typical pattern. There’s a couple huge sequels, another couple large budget endeavors (that hopefully spawn sequels) and a few counter-programming options.
June (and the last weekend in may) starts of comparatively light, but the end of the month could go toe-to-toe with any of the big May films.
Weekend of June 6
Kung Fu Panda
Dreamworks has built itself to be the solid animation alternative. Sure, none of their films compare to Pixar’s in quality, but they do make money, especially Shrek. But it’s not all the green ogre, as Madegascar, Shark Tale, and Over the Hedge all cruised past $150m.
Kung Fu Panda could get into that range. Jack Black’s not exactly a huge draw, but despite Dreamworks’ efforts, the actors behind the roles really do not matter. The advertising is fairly cute, even if the use of “Kung Fu Fighting” is extremely tired.
We’re not seeing much of the plot, but given DW’s track record, it’s probably enjoyable, but not spectacular, opting instead for a number of pop-cultural references and sight gags rather than a developing plot and humor from the character development.
We’re probably not going to see stellar numbers, but it should do well enough.
Opening: $40m, Final: $135m
You Don’t Mess with the Zohan
Adam Sandler’s become one of the most consistent stars in Hollywood. Over the past ten years, he’s seen eight films cross the century mark, and this one should make it nine.
Whether or not the films are good doesn’t really matter. He provides a consistent product that the audiences enjoy, his characters are a bit bumbling, a bit loony, and possibly just shy of psychotic, while still being somewhat relatable.
This time around, he’s teamed up with Judd Apatow (who’s also got a bit of a golden touch for comedy of late) to deliver the tale of a Mossad agent who’s tired of allt he counter-terrorism and moves to New York to be a hairdresser. Hilarity ensues.
It’s really a bit of a toss-up between this film and Panda for which will be bigger, I’m inclined to think that this will actually be better, but the kids will drive the other a bit further.
Opening: $35, Final: $125
Weekend of June 13
The Incredible Hulk
The first Hulk film delivered the biggest (at the time) June opening in history. Unfortunately, it delivered little else, leaving critics and audiences alike somewhat bewildered and detached. As such, it fell spectacularly and barely earned again what it had in those first three days.
Even so, it didn’t lose money, and Universal decided to give it another go. Rather than a sequel, they’re trying to jump-start a series again. We’ll find out if you do get a second chance for first impressions. The film sports an all new cast, an all new director, and an all new approach to portraying the big green.
The most recent trailer, which aired in front of Iron Man, looks spectacular. It’s miles ahead of the earlier trailer, which made the oft-repeated mistake of showing us the entire film. This new one is an improvement, but it’s fighting a lot of negative baggage. If the film is going to over come that, it’ll have to be good. Perhaps not Iron Man good, but certainly at least as accessible as the first X-Men film.
Opening: $40, Final: $115
Speaking of damaged goods, we’ve also got the latest offering from M. Night Shyamalan. Like his previous films, we’re probably in for a fair amount of creepy atmosphere and a twist ending that’s likely to be divisive.
The real question here is whether M. Night can bounce back from Lady in the Water and The Village. The quality of his direction isn’t in doubt. But his writing has become a big question mark. If The Happening can recover his bleeding fanbase, it speaks well for his career. If not, well, he may not have many chances.
In The Happening’s favor, it’s cheap (just $57m to make), and it looks pretty good. On the downside, the title is really, really dumb.
Opening: $25, Final: $70
Weekend of June 20
The reason why Hollywood keeps remaking old TV shows as movies is obvious. Nostalgia is a powerful market force. Anyone who’s grown up with a show is likely to wish for one more adventure. Obviously, over time it becomes impossible to recapture the sense of the original show exactly, so there is a greater or lesser degree of revision involved.
The downside is that most of these adaptations suck. A few (Mission Impossible, The Fugitive, Maverick) stand out as enjoyable and well-made on their own. The majority are terrible and audiences quite justifiably stay away.
In its favor, Steve Carell is the perfect casting choice. He’s not a huge draw, but has soem quiet consistency. The 40 Year Old Virgin did considerably better than expectation and he stood out among the whole cast in Anchorman. He’s provided his voice to two animated features (Horton Hears a Who! and Over the Hedge). And he’s shown some indie dramady cred with Little Miss Sunshine and Dan in Real Life.
The downside? Evan Almighty was one of the bigger disappointments last sumer, and it hit on the same weekend. Sure, it barely crossed $100m, but it’s not likely to be a resume highlight for Carell or anyone involved.
Where Get Smart ends up will likely depend on its quality. I’d like to say that the cast (besides Carell there’s the talented Anne Hathaway and the always enjoyable Rock) would help it, but I’m hesitant to call anyone here a huge draw.
Opening: $30, Final: $80 (with the opportunity to be surprised if it breaks out)
The Love Guru
In 1999, there was an alleged bet between Adam Sandler and Mike Myers over whose film would be bigger. Sandler had just seen his breakout year in 1998, with The Wedding Singer doing surprisingly strong business in the early months and The Waterboy cleaning up in the holidays. Myers hadn’t had a big hit since Wayne’s World in 1992, but Austin Powers did better than expected in 1997.
So the question was would Big Daddy (opening June 25) be bigger than Austin Powers 2 (opening June 11). At the time, Sandler probaby figured he had a good chance of winning and he would go to see the biggest film of his career. But thanks largely to a brilliant trailer before The Phantom Menace, Austin Powers 2 won by an easy $40 million.
I wonder if they’d make the same bet again this year. While arguably Myers has been the bigger star since then, he’s only been in six films. Three of them are the Shrek films, huge and ‘starring’ him, but not really sold by him. One was the third Austin Powers film, even bigger than the second but also six years old. One was the low-performing ensemble comedy View from the Top. An the final was the atrocious Cat in the Hat film, back in 2003.
Myers hasn’t starred in a live action film in over 4 years. I’m not sure he’s much of a draw at all. From the trailer, it looks like entirely typical Myers fare: he’s got an odd accent and plays a smarmy idiot.
Plus, it’s opening against another comedy, which has actors people still recognize, looks better, and actually has trailers that people can see.
If Sandler is looking to bet again, Myers would be wise to stay clear.
Opening: $30m, Final: $70m
Weekend of June 27
Is Pixar losing its touch?
Now, it’s seen six straight films gross over $200m. But since it’s high point of Finding Nemo in 2003, it’s seen steadily dropping grosses. Two years ago, Cars didn’t get the typically ecstatic critical response (settling for merely very good as opposed to outstanding) and felt like the weakest link in the studio’s oeuvre. Last year’s Ratatoille barely crossed the $200m threshold despite arguably being the company’s best film
So what about Wall-E. Will it continue the company’s rather steller direction? Will it see a further drop-off from Ratatoille? Or will it be a return to form?
I’m inclined to be bullish on Wall-E. While Ratatoille was spectacular, it suffered from a few problems: First, it’s about rats, not really a strong audience draw. Second, it was set in France, which tends to be denigrated by Americans at the best of times, and has been somewhat despised over the past several years. Third, the scope of the story was quite a bit smaller than previous Pixar films; there wasn’t nearly as much wow factor for it.
Wall-E managed to step around all three of those quite nicely. It’s about a robot who doesn’t have any nationality and he goes on an adventure in space. Plus, it looks brilliantly funny. Director Andrew Stanton delivered a home-run with Finding Nemo, so Wall-E is in good hands.
Opening: $75m, Final: $290m
Truth be told, I wasn’t looking forward to this film until about a month ago. I’d tried to read Mark Millar’s series, but it was very typically Millar: full of unlikable protagonists with fascist ideologies. In The Authority it was interesting, in The Ultimates it was funny. Now it’s just a massive amount of treading over the same territory.
But then I found out about a name that means a lot more to me than Millar’s: Timur Bekmambetov. The director delivered one of the most enjoyable action films I’ve seen this decade in Night Watch.
And then I saw the trailer, which makes Wanted look like a slick and fun, if shallow, ride. Bekmambetov’s flair for action is playing well, and it should be quite a ride even if it’s ridiculous.
For the cast, the only real draw is Angelina Jolie, who’s had an uneven career. While she’s had some shining action films like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Mr. & Mrs. Smith, she’s also done poorly with Sky Captain and Beowulf. More often than not, she’s not so much the draw herself as along for the ride.
Regardless, the expectations for the film should be fairly modest. It’s a comic book property, but it’s definitely lower tier than anything from Marvel or DC. It’s closer to V for Vendetta, Sin City, or Constantine than Batman or the X-Men. Of course, it does have a fairly comfortable summer slot, while those previous films were more likely to show up in the winter months.
Opening: $35, Final: $90
Last June was a bit of an odd month, with the expected strong performers (Ratatoille, Evan Almighty) not quite hitting par and some under the radar films (Knocked Up, 1408) doing quite well for themselves. Even the films that hit it about right (Ocean’s Thirteen, FF: Silver Surfer), did well in their openings, but lost ground rapidly.
I think this year is an overall stronger crop. There’s top tier films look a little stronger than last years, so the bulk of the lifting isn’t going to fall to the lower-tier products.