July Movie Predictor

Weekend of July 4

Hancock
On a personal note, this has been my most anticipated film of the summer for some time. It represents something I rather like: an attempt to establish a superhero outside of a comics continuity and consciousness. For other examples, see The Incredibles and the TV series Heroes.

What’s important with these is that they tap into the core strength of the superhero genre without relying on the extensive, and often muddy and conflicting, backstory. The success of these tends to support the fact that well-done superhero stories don’t need either the public consciousness nor the print media to succeed. While the former is helpful (invariably, the more well-known the hero is the better the movie is going to perform, regardless of quality), the latter might actually be a detriment. Arguably the success of Spider-Man, X-Men, and Iron Man is due to the filmmakers stripping out as much of the excess and detritus to have the films focus on the core aspects of the characters.

The Incredibles showcased how well this works. We don’t need to know the full history of the supers. It’s hinted at and shown, but a lexicon isn’t necessary. Thus, the story can instead focus on the plot and character development rather than the minutia.

Hancock is another such attempt, so I’m excited. Plus, it stars Will Smith, who’s just about the most consistent actor working today. He’s had an interesting movie career which can be broken into a few different sections, but in almost all of them, he’s been a rousing success. What’s really interesting is that Hancock seems to be a meshing of the formula of his early success (big budget July 4th event films) with his recent success (intelligent films with broad appeal). While he might not ever get back to the heights that Independence Day reached in 1996, he is coming off the second biggest unadjusted film of his career in I Am Legend. Considering that the film was basically him and nothing else, that’s quite an achievement.

Hancock’s got a neat premise, cushy release date, and the biggest star in Hollywood.

Opening: $70m, Final: $230m

Weekend of July 11

Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Another interesting superhero film. The first Hellboy is one of the top film adaptations of a comic book. Guillermo del Toro is an excellent director who manages to get across the core strengths of the characters as well as an ability to deliver strong spectacle on a budget. Blade II is easily the best film of that trilogy, and there’s a reason he’s been tapped to do the Hobbit films.

Of course, while Hellboy is excellent, it’s not a big film. Made for $66m, it didn’t even gross $100m worldwide, which would normally forego any chances of a sequel. But it’s probably apparent that it’s lack of success wasn’t due to quality but rather that nobody fucking knows who Hellboy is. I’ve been reading comics for over 20 years, and I didn’t actually read a Hellboy book until late last year. Public consciousness drives some of the success for these figures, and there isn’t any here.

Of course, the quality of the first film, along with a fairly effective (if a bit pedestrian) trailer should help Hellboy II do better. I don’t think we’re in for a spectacular ride, but it should be yet another solid outing from del Toro.

Opening: $30m, Final: $75m

Meet Dave
Eddie Murphy’s career has been a roller coaster. In the 80s, he had a series of successful films that put him among the most successful actors of the decade. The early 90s saw him made a number of poor choices and it seemed like his career was all but over.

Then came The Nutty Professor in 1996 and for a couple years he was hot like the 80s, although his target audience had dropped a good decade or two in age.

He followed that up with a cold spell for two years, and then a small but huge resurgence in 2000 and 2001, centered on the release of Shrek. Not content to rest on his successful laurels, he had three outright bombs in 2002.

For any other actor, three sustained poor periods would probably be a deathknell, but in 2003, Murphy started another strong period with Daddy Day Care, which hasn’t really ended.

The quality of most of his films isn’t there, with offerings like Daddy Day Care and Norbit being derided by almost everyone. Even the Shrek sequels have been denigrated. But Murphy’s shown that he’s a consistent draw, if a bit juvenile, and he did manage to squeeze in a critically acclaimed performance in Dreamgirls.

So where does this leave Meet Dave. From the trailer, it looks like the typical fare that Murphy’s delivered over the past five years. Pedestrian, juvenile, and funny in a lowest-common-denominator way. Whether or not it succeeds will probably depend on whether it’s forgettably funny or offensive to the viewer.

I’m inclined to think that he might be headed for another career downturn, but he’s got plenty of staying power and could be back in short order.

Opening: $25m, Final: $70m

Journey to the Center of the Earth
Walden Media is a troublesome company. While there’s the obvious high point (The Chronicles of Narnia), and a string of other moderately successful book adaptations (Because of Winn-Dixie, The Waterhorse, Nim’s Island), most of the company’s output has been in the range of disappointing (Charlotte’s Web) or an absolute bomb (Hoot, How to Eat Fried Worms, The Seeker, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium).

In fact, besides Narnia, there’s really only two standout successes: Holes in 2003, and Bridge to Terabithia in 2007. Were it not for CS Lewis, I’d honestly be surprised if we’d even see anything from the company right now.

This time around, I think we’re looking at another bomb. See, Journey to the Center of the Earth bears a lot of similarity to the worst mark on Walden’s record: Around the World in 80 Days. Like that it’s an effects driven film based on a Jules Verne novel that is squarely focused on the family-friendly bracket.

It also doesn’t look very good. This can probably look at slightly better business than Around the World, but certainly nothing to be proud of.

Opening, $15m, Final: $40m

Weekend of July 18

The Dark Knight
Like Hellboy, this is the sequel to a well-done comic book film, helmed by a director noted for the quality of his craft and ability to evoke depth in the characters and keeping the narrative gripping. Unlike Hellboy, this has name recognition to spur it to greater heights.

Batman Begins was a phenomenal film. Lifting the Batman franchise back to new heights, it also established itself as a new bar to measure the introductory film for a superhero. However, it was somewhat crippled by the WB marketing engine, lack of recognizable enemies, and the fact that the sour taste of Joel Schumacher hadn’t quite left the public consciousness.

Three years later, Batman’s probably going to stand on his own. Plus, he’s got his most recognizable villain in the Joker to face off against, looking especially psychotic and absolutely gripping as portrayed by the late Heath Ledger. Gone is the 60s-esque tomfoolery of Jack Nicholson, this is a Joker that rides on fear, not laughs.

Early concerns about the script have been washed away by the advertising, which is uncharacteristically strong for a WB film. The first trailer made it look like an enticing continuation of the previous, but the new one in front of Iron Man catapults it beyond. Like Spiderman and the X-men, it seems as if the second Batman film is going to be in a league of its own, quality-wise.

Opening: $85m, Final: $270m

Mamma Mia!
Thanks largely to the modest success of Moulin Rouge! in 2001, musicals have had a bit of a comeback this decade. Chicago in 2002 can be pointed as the ideal goal: excellent business and critical acclaim.

Of course, the success hasn’t always been coming. The Phantom of the Opera, Rent, and The Producers were, like Chicago, adaptations of Broadway musicals with similarly high aspirations. However, they didn’t garner either the box office success of the movie predecessors or their own live performance counterparts.

Even Dreamgirls (an original production, but the clearest spiritual successor to Chicago) failed to live up to hype and expectations. It seemed like the genre was taking its steps towards obscurity again.

Then Hairspray hit. Possibly the biggest surprise success of last summer, it managed to ride that often-ignored demographic-the teenage girl-to astounding success. Even the frankly weird and a bit offputting John Travolta in drag couldn’t hamper it.

Mamma Mia! seems like it’s well situated to take up the baton and run with it. It’s got a bunch of catchy tunes (from ABBA, possibly the greatest producers of pop of all time), easy to grasp and upbeat plot, and practically the same release date. If nothing else, it’s a brilliantly placed bit of counter-programming against Batman.

But wait. It lacks one thing that Hairspray had: teenagers. The plot centers around a wedding and a bride-to-be with three possible fathers, which skews a bit older than Hairspray’s crowd. Even so, I think it’ll see a fair bit of success, even if not quite at those heights.

Opening: $25m, Final: $80m

Space Chimps
In the realm of computer animated films, there are two groups: the high budget, high performance options from Dreamworks, Pixar, and Blue Sky Studios and just about everything else.

Space Chimps falls into the second group. It might be good, or at least enjoyable, but it’s not going to be big. Patrick Warburton likely has yet another fun role to add to his resume, but it’s not a breakout.

Opening: $10m, Final: $35m

Weekend of July 25

Step Brothers
Since 2003, Will Ferrell has been struggling under the auspice of being the next huge comedy star as the true successor of Jim Carrey. In that year, he stole the show in Old School and then followed it up with the monster hit Elf, both of which established him as a go-to guy to play idiot man-children.

Since then he’s mostly failed to capitalize. Anchorman in 2004 was well received, but Steve Carell upstaged him in a big way. 2005 brought Kicking and Screaming and Bewitched, neither of which satisfied or delivered. In 2006, he provided his voice to the underperforming Curious George, but also headlined Talledega Nights, which finally made it seem like he was delivering on his potential. He seemed like he was on a roll with Blades of Glory last March, but just this year he crashed hard with Semi-Pro.

And now we’re at Step Brothers. The initial signs seem good for the film. It bears some similarity to Talledega Nights. Like that film, Ferrell co-wrote the script with director Adam McKay. Also, he has costar John C. Reilly and a similar release date.

The initial trailer showcases Ferrell’s strength, with both him and Reilly playing immature middle-aged men. And despite both of them skeweing heavily idiotic (they both live with their parents, who get married, hence the step brother scenario), the roles don’t feel annoying and excessive, which may have been the damning point for Semi Pro.

Opening: $35, Final: $115.

The X-Files: I Want to Believe
Ten years after the first theatrical film, and six years since the end of the TV series, Agents Mulder and Scully return for another adventure. Unlike the previous movie, this one stands alone from the mythos of the series, instead following the monster-of-the-week formula used in some episodes. In effect, it’s an extra long episode, six years after the fact.

The first film did quite well, opening to $30m and finishing with $84m. It did even better overseas, earning $105m. And this isn’t an attempt to just cash in on the name. Stars Duchovny and Anderson are back, as is series creator Chris Carter, this time in the director’s chair. If nothing else, it should be a faithful extension of the original series, likely to please the fans and with potential to drag in some new ones.

However, I wonder about the timing. Fans of the series certainly still exist, but in the intervening time, they’ve likely moved onto other things. Lost, for example. And it hasn’t been so long that nostalgia for the series has set in.

On the other hand, it could be well primed to take that genre fansbase and expand it. I doubt anyone involved expects huge things, but if the film has quality and manages to deliver some positive response, it could re-establish the series for the big screen.

Or it could be another Serenity.

Opening: $25m, Final: $65m.

American Teen
So, take your prototypical high school movie, focusing on senior year. Showcase a slice from all the cliques as these students struggle with the end of their school lives and look forward to moving on and up in the world.

Fairly typical fare, right?

Except this time it’s a Sundance Award winning documentary.

I really have no idea what to expect from this film, but it’s getting a wide release, which is usually reserved for Michael Moore… and penguins.

Opening: $3m, Final: $10m, but it could take off, too.

Overall
While the two huge films should dominate over the month, it’s there’s a number of potentially solid releases. Certainly unlike May, studios are more willing to cram films into the theaters, even against hefty competition like Batman.

August predictions will likely have to wait another month or so. It’s getting to be difficult to find any trailers. I predict The Mummy 3 will have its first in front of Indiana Jones.

June Movie Predictor

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

The Happening
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

Get Smart
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

Wall-E
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

Wanted
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

Overall
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.

May Movie Predictor

It’s summer, so yet again, I dust off my predictor hat and make a guess for what the big films are going to do, business-wise. Last year, I made a long list of bold predictions here. Some of them are fairly close to reality (Knocked Up’s opening, for instance), some are laughably off course (Transformers, anyone?) I didn’t make such a post in 2006, but I did predict that Hulk never would have a sequel here, which I suppose is both true and false at the same time. This year, I’m hoping I’ll guess a bit better, but I don’t hold out hope.

Regardless, for your enjoyment and mine, my movie previews. I’m going to break it up into months. It’s a bit much to try and write the whole summer in one go.

Weekend of May 2

Iron Man
I’m conflicted about Marvel’s latest cinematic foray. Sure, it looks good. Robert Downey Jr. seems to have Tony Stark down perfectly. The visuals look awesome. And they seem like they’ve got the story down.

But, really, can the actual film be better than this trailer? Just look at it, you’ve got the story, the humor, the character… And then at the end, the pitch-perfect use of Black Sabbath. It’s just five chords, but it totally sells the film, and encapsulates a little 2 minute masterpiece of advertising.

That basically sells the film, though. It’s also got one of the prime weekends of the year and the still strong Marvel branding.

Still, I’ve got some reservations. The follow-up ads haven’t been nearly as strong. And Iron Man isn’t nearly the top-tier character that Spider-Man and the X-Men are. Hell, he’s not even as recognizable as the Hulk. Plus, while the trailers look good, it makes the film look really dense, like they’re trying to cram too much story into it. We don’t want another Spider-Man 3, after all.

Plus, the Iron Man in the film is all but a different entity than the Iron Man in the comics, where Tony Stark has become a neo-conservative fascist overlord. And in a non-ironic way: he’s being pitched as the top tier hero in Marvel’s line-up.

Granted, that will really only be a problem if someone wants to read the books after the film. For the opening, at least, it doesn’t make a difference.

Opening: $80m. Final: $220m.

Made of Honor
A fairly good looking romantic comedy that’s being served up as counter-programming for anyone seeking a little less testosterone. It looks funny, but isn’t likely to make any headlines.

Opening: $15m. Final: $50m.

Weekend of May 9

Speed Racer
This might be the most visually astonishing film of the summer. It’s like a high dynamic range photograph come to life in full Vegas splendor. And then there’s the action. A number of my friends mentioned how Mario Kart-like it was from the time they saw the first trailer.

If nothing else, the Wachowski Brothers are know for their spectacle. Despite the wooden delivery of Keanu Reeves, The Matrix was a breakout blockbuster, and still the biggest film ever that opened in April (aka, Hollywood’s litter box). And even if the sequels disappointed from just about every other standpoint, they mostly looked really good.

Speed Racer looks even better. It’s also got a bit of retro-nostalgia, although that might be about 5-10 years too late. Even so, it’s a recognized brand, possibly with in even greater public knowledge than Iron Man.

On the downside, it’s a bit weird, when you think about it. The cartoon is 40 years old. It’s also the first time an anime has been chosen for the big screen treatment in the US (despite fits and starts on a number of other projects over the past 15-20 years). There are a lot of questions as to whether there’s any crossover appeal in store.

Plus, while it looks visually spectacular, some of the lines uttered in the trailer make Keanu look like Alec Baldwin. Racer X looks especially bad, so we might be in store for another effects driven action-fest with laughably bad acting.

Even so, while it’s not as high profile as the other May releases, it should do fairly well.

Opening: $50m, Final: $140m.

What Happens in Vegas
The big question here is… does Ashton Kutcher have a fanbase? Since he’s taken the turn away from being a TV doofus to focus on movies, he’s done fairly well for himself. The Butterfly Effect, Guess Who, Open Season, and The Guardian all opened between $15m and $25m and had final tallies between $50m and $90m. Of course, he hasn’t headlined a film since the last two were released in September of ’06, over 18 months ago.

Cameron Diaz has had a fairly successful movie career, but that’s less due to her pull and more that she’s been involved in some fairly high-profile releases.

On the whole it doesn’t look bad, but it doesn’t look great, either. Plus, two rom-coms in successive weeks as counterprogramming seems a bit excessive.

Opening: $12, Final: $45.

Weekend of May 16

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
2005 was a weird year at the box office. It made news in mid-summer when someone noted how long it had been down compared to 2004. Even with the stellar performance of Revenge of the Sith, it wasn’t until the release of Fantastic Four that there was a year to year increase on the weekend for the summer.

While overall the year was a downer, there were some bright spots: Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Batman Begins, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Wedding Crashers all provided some bright lift in June and July.

During the Holidays, while King Kong floundered a bit, especially to expectations, there were two huge films: Harry Potter 4 was the biggest since the Sorcerers Stone, and Narnia broke out in a huge way in December.

Despite some very uneven special effects, it managed to force its nearly to the $300m mark by remaining mostly fun and enjoyable throughout. It was certainly more entertaining than reading the book.

Prince Caspian looks like they’ve dispensed with the problems and amped up the action to really make it feel like a fantasy epic on par with Lord of the Rings. It should bring in the people just wanting a huge experience with ease. And it’s got the other big factor in its favor: Christianity.

As Passion of the Christ showed, the Christian market can be huge. If given the right incentive, it will mobilize to drive a film to astonishing heights. The Narnia films have that in spades. Combining that with the enjoyable experience of the first probably means it’s going to be even bigger.

Opening: $100, Final: $310.

Weekend of May 23

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
While I expect Narnia to be the biggest film of the summer, this is by far the most anticipated. The first three Indy films stand as one of the great adventure trilogies and, at least in quality, stand up very well to the original Star Wars films.

While the road it’s taken getting to the screen, 19 years since The Last Crusade, has been long and fitful, it almost seems as if George Lucas’ extremely picky nature regarding the film has paid off. The trailer looks great, combining the self-depricating heroism with the pulp adventure perfectly.

And, really, who the hell can resist that musical theme?

The downside is the weekend. While it’s always huge, Memorial Day still strikes me as a poor weekend to release a film given the extreme drop that any film, regardless of quality, experiences afterwards.

However, expect it to open huge.

Opening: $90m (three day, $150m five day), Final: $280m.

Postal
Uwe Boll has made a career of constructing adaptations of video games that are terrible. He’s well denigrated by movie aficionados and gamers alike. It’d be sad, except I’m pretty sure he’s just doing it as a tax break for German companies. I honestly doubt any of his films have lost any money.

He’s taking a bit of a turn here. Instead of the typical so-bad-it’s-no-longer-even-funny fare he’s churned out, he seems to have gone with hey-let’s-make-it-bad-and-funny.

I have to acknowledge that it does look bad. But it also looks funny. It could be worth a watch once it’s been sitting on the DVD shelves for a few months and you can find it for a couple bucks.

Not that it matters. Boll’s name alone ruins the box office potential. The fact it’s going up against Indy is suicide.

Opening: $2m, Final $5m.

Weekend of May 30

Sex and the City
It’s taking the spot of last year’s phenomenal performer Knocked Up, and it’s got a strong brand, but I don’t predict a rosy future for Sarah Jessica Parker and friends. For one, there’s no Judd Apatow behind the scenes, which would help the crossover appeal for a rom-com tremendously.

The TV series is really successful, but that’s never meant a big response in the theaters. Still, there’s two blank weekends for this market beforehand, and it’s possible that neither Made of Honor nor What Happens in Vegas will really drag in the audiences. Between that and possible event overload, crowds may really want to go for something different after Memorial Day.

Opening: $20m, Final: $70m.

The Strangers
Bleh. Torture Porn. Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman are not draws, either.

Opening: $8m, Final: $20m.

Overall
It’s going to be a disappointing May. Not really, but last year was so huge that even with all the threequels not performing up to hype or expectation, it drove the box office to spectacular heights. The films this May are strong, but none are on the level with last year, business-wise.