With Hollywood looking to start the summer movie season earlier and earlier this has to be one of the most impressive May schedules I’ve ever seen. Here’s a look at the schedules, release dates and my box-office predictions.
X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE- May 1- While Fox has kept a lid on this X-Men spin-off film (They have a 48 hour pre-opening embargo on U.S reviews before its Friday release), I have no doubt it will open big. If Universal can get a $73 million dollar opening out of Fast and Furious in April there’s no reason to think Wolverine can’t do even better. The big question is – will it have legs? My gut feeling is no but considering this is the first big popcorn film out of the gate in Hollywood’s summer season, and pent up demand for these big budget films is high, I’ll predict a $77 million opening. After that it’s a big week to week falloff in ticket sales with the film ultimately pulling in $154 million domestically. As long as there is some decent entertainment value to be found (reviews popping up on Rotten tomatoes are very split with more negative than positive), I believe the studio will keep the Wolverine franchise going and greenlight a sequel – unless of course the film bombs.
STAR TREK- May 8 – With advance reviews though the roof, this JJ Abrams re-boot is starting to generate gotta see it buzz. While the core Trekkie fan base has kept the franchise at bay at the box-office over the last decade, this JJ Abrams reinvention should stir up sizable interest from a vast majority of moviegoers. At least that’s what Paramount is hoping. I’ll predict an $80 million dollar opening weekend and a total domestic gross of $190 million. Under JJ Abrams direction this franchise should live long and prosper for a new generation.
ANGELS AND DEMONS- May 15 – Ron Howard’s sequel to The DiVinci Code brings back Tom Hanks as religious expert Robert Langdon, finding himself involved in another conspiracy involving the Catholic Church. While Catholic league President William Donahue is trying to stir up controversy, the official position of the Vatican in terms of PR is to have none, which is probably a good move. There’s no reason to think this one won’t do very solid business, so I’ll predict an opening weekend gross of $64 million with a final domestic take of $168 million. The Da Vinci Code opened to $77,073,388 in 2006.
TERMINATOR: SALVATION- May 21 - This fourth entry in the popular Sci-fi franchise is generating excellent buzz online with anticipation high. The one thing this film might be missing for some is no Arnold Schwarzenegger as its star. While the effects look top notch, the story has a Mad Max feel (it takes place in 2018 after Judgment Day) and looks so much different than the first three entries in the franchise. While this will not be a problem for the series core fans, it might be for the average summer moviegoer. Still, Christian Bale (The Dark Knight) is the star (John Conner) so I expect it to do very well. I’ll predict a $72 million dollar opening weekend and a $167 million overall domestic take. This is the first entry in the series to be rated PG-13 and not R.
NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN- May 22 – Critic proof family entertainment which promises to up the anti on special effects the second time around. The first film (which was OK but nothing great) pulled in a very impressive $250,863,268 domestically so this one has a very large built in audience of family moviegoers. Amazingly, Night of the Museum had a so-so $30,433,781 opening weekend, but boy did it have legs at the box-office. I’ll predict an opening weekend of $80 million and a final domestic haul of $205 million. It must be nice to have Ben Stiller’s bank account.
PIXAR’S UP- May 29 - With a storyline much more linear than last year’s critical favorite, Wall-E, expect Up to go up, up and away at the box-office and have solid legs for weeks on end. I’ll predict a $65 million opening weekend and a final overall gross of $190 million.
DRAG ME TO HELL- May 29 – Sam Raimi (Spiderman, Evil Dead) returns to his horror roots in this story about a bank loan officer (Alison Lohman) who has an ancient curse put on her by an old woman that she gave an eviction notice to. While I’m not a fan of the PG-13 rating, it should help it increase the box-office. I’ll predict a $22 million dollar opening and a $55 million overall domestic take.
Wall Street 2: According to Entertainment Weekly, production on the long awaited follow-up to 1987’s Wall Street is moving closer. The movies plot will center on Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas who will reprise his role) as he gets out of prison during our current economic climate. Shai LaBeauf (Transformers) is in talks to play a young trader in the film which will once again be directed by Oliver Stone. Personally I hope Stone is really up to the challenge as there is some much to explore here. This needs to be a hard hitting, take no prisoners, fully researched effort that packs a major wallop.
Douglas was great in his Oscar winning role as Gekko in the 1987 film, but this story needs to be much bigger than him. While Stone’s original movie made the “greed is good” tagline part of America’s pop culture, nobody is saying that these days – not even the greedy CEO’s of whom many should be rotting in prison cells. Hopefully Stone will hit a home run. He certainly has an amazing amount of material to explore; from Sub prime loans to government deregulation. And then, of course, there’s the stunningly incompetent cheerleading of CNBC, continuing to embarrass itself with the likes of Jim Cramer and Larry (Mr. Goldilocks) Kudlow as they carry on with their lies to the American public every day. My advice to Oliver Stone – Hold nothing back and expose Wall Street for what it is; the destroyers of real and fair capitalism. Because of the magnitude of Wall Street shenanigans over the last few years, I’m not quite sure how you cram all that into a two hour movie. It might play better as a three part miniseries, but I look forward to seeing what Stone can deliver.
In an interview with MTV News, Steve Niles, co-writer on the 30 Days of Night comic series, said there is a sequel in the works to the David Slade directed vampire film 30 Days of Night but, most likely, it will go straight to DVD. While profitable, the film version of the intense and bloody tale wasn’t considered a huge success because it failed to cross the $100 million mark at the box-office. This appears to have banished the sequel to a DVD entry instead of a theatrical release.
30 Days of Night took in $39,568,000 domestically and $35,526,091 overseas for a combined gross of $75,095,087 on a production budget of $40,000,000. I’ve already gone on record as saying I think 30 Days of Night is one of the very best vampire films ever made. Its unique setting in Alaska, scary vampires and terrific atmosphere really set it apart from many films in this genre – especially in the last ten years. It really reminded me of John Carpenters “The Thing”. High praise indeed but I believe it’s warranted. This sequel will be based on Dark Days, the follow-up story, and center in on the character of Stella Olemaun (Melissa George in the first film), who heads to Los Angeles after surviving the vampire attack in Barrow, Alaska. She intentionally attracts the attention of the local vampire population in order to avenge the death of her husband, Eben (Josh Harnett in the film), during the Barrow incident. While I’m glad a sequel is in the works it’s hard to get overly excited about one going straight to DVD. Lost Boys: The Tribe is proof of the mediocre quality these efforts usually produce.
With 20th Century Fox announcing a July 7, 2010, release date for the just announced re-boot of its Predator franchise, titled Predators, one has to wonder if it’s a good idea. Believe it or not, in 1987 Predator was actually pretty original. A very well made picture directed by one of the best action directors in the business, John McTiernan (Die Hard), the film featured Arnold Schwarzenegger (Dutch) who was emerging as the premiere action star in the world. The concept of pitting him against an invincible extraterrestrial hunter with advanced high tech weapons in a Central American jungle was a fantastic concept and its execution was both involving and very exciting. Beside Arnold, the film featured one of the coolest supporting casts ever assembled for an action picture; Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura, Bill Duke and Sonny Landham. Entertainment Weekly listed it as the 22nd best action film ever made and there’s no doubt it still has a strong following today.
After Arnold decided to not come back for a second go-round in the franchise Danny Glover was cast as the lead in 1990’s Predator 2 which took place in the city of Los Angeles during a massive heat wave. While I remember having a mixed response when I initially saw the film on opening weekend, the movie has grown on me a lot over the years and I now consider it a really fun action film. Glover replacing Arnold as the lead reminded me of when James Franciscus took over for Charlton Heston in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Glover was quite good as Los Angeles detective Lt. Frank Harrigan and never looked in better physical shape. Predator 2 was directed by Stephen Hopkins who would go on to helm many of the first season episodes of Fox’s hit TV series 24 including the pilot. The film’s last 30 minutes are extremely exciting and the door was clearly left wide open for another entry. While not a huge box-office winner that film has built a strong following since its release.
While many had expected Fox to eventually produce a Predator 3, they instead made the choice to do Alien VS Predator in 2004. With a marginal budget and cast of mostly unknowns, the film turned a profit for the studio even though fan reaction was fairly ho-hum. While watchable the experience overall was nothing to get excited about. It was more about effects than characters. In 2007 Fox again played it safe producing Alien VS Predator: Requiem, another marginally budgeted film mixing two of their popular franchises – again with a cast of B actors. While many critics and fans weren’t kind, I must admit I enjoyed it strictly on a B movie level. I actually liked the film’s two leads, Reiko Aylesworth (24) and Steven Pasquale (Rescue Me) and liked the small town Colorado setting. I thought it was fun. Overall the film pulled in $128,884,494 worldwide on a budget of $40,000,000. Not a monster hit but still very profitable. Still the two Alien VS Predator films were a far cry from big budget studio filmmaking and both the budgets and creative talent involved weren’t what fans of these franchises wanted.
The good thing about this announced new Predator film is that it will be produced by Robert Rodriguez (From Dusk till Dawn, GrindHouse). Rodriguez wrote a treatment for a third installment over a decade ago which takes place in the Predator’s home world and brings back the Dutch character. Even though it was never produced we know he has a fondness for the franchise. Whether he can make this material fresh is anyone’s guess but I’m certainly willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Personally I don’t think it will be an easy task.
Dimension films have released the first trailer to Rob Zombie’s own follow-up to his remake of John Carpenter’s 1978 horror classic, Halloween. While the trailer has a few positives (I really like the stuff in the hospital) the one big negative here is the footage of Zombie’s real life wife Sheri Moon. Despite being killed off in the first film, she’s back as Michael Myers dead mother who seems to be haunting him as a ghost. I must admit I just hate this type of thing. It’s both unnecessary and stupid. While I’ve gone on record as not being a fan of what Zombie did with the material the first time around, I’ll still be there to watch his second chance and see what he brings to the table. Hopefully he will develop the Laurie Strode character much better than last time but let’s be honest, Scout Taylor-Compton is no Jamie Lee Curtis. Bottom line-My expectations will be low. Look for H2 to slash its way into theater’s August 28.2009. View the Trailer
It appears that Paramount is mighty proud of its upcoming re-boot of Star Trek, putting the film out for critics to see weeks before its May 8 release. Since the reviews are coming in as complete raves, it appears that the film will be a dominant force at the box-office as anticipation is building on a daily basis. It’s usually evident a studio knows it has a winner on its hands when they are happy for the major trades to post reviews weeks before the movie comes out. This has not been the case for Fox’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine which I’ll get to in a minute. Star Trek reviews have been published in both Variety and the Hollywood Reporter this week with both calling the film an outstanding achievement and a sure fire box-office winner.
Warner Bros applied this same strategy with last summer’s The Dark Knight with glowing reviews being published almost a month before it hit theaters. When summer moviegoers start reading through the roof raves weeks in advance on highly anticipated movies the studio is almost always rewarded with huge box-office numbers. In the case of Chris Nolan’s second Batman film, test screenings had solidified the fact that audiences loved what they saw. The Dark Knight became a sure thing so the studio couldn’t wait to show it off. Paramount obviously has the same confidence in Star Trek, but that was pretty much a given when they held a surprise screening last month at the Alamo theater in Austin, Texas, arranged by Aint it Cool’s Harry Knowles. When immediate reaction was euphoric the positive buzz marketing machine was in full force.
So what about Fox’s Wolverine? Well, advance screenings are scheduled over the next few days but the studio has an embargo on publishing reviews until 48 hours before the film is released. Is this a sign of confidence on the studio’s behalf? Of course not. While I’m not saying Wolverine is a bad film, it’s quite clear that the studio has researched audience reaction in preview test screenings and know that response is split at best. Since they don’t want those on the negative side out too soon, they put an embargo on early advance reviews to squash a swell of negative buzz. The illegal stolen online version hasn’t helped but I don’t really know to that effect it has hurt either with the publicity it garnered. It looks to me like it’s far from a great movie and studio confidence is shaky at best. With May almost here, let’s see how this all plays out but, at this point, it’s clear which film has the upper hand.
Summit Entertainment has announced that is has secured the services of director David Slade to helm the third installment of their Twilight franchise which is titled The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. It’s amazing how fast Summit is moving setting up the third entry in this franchise even though the second installment, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, has just begun filming under the direction of Chris Weitz (American Pie).
It’s become quite apparent that Summit is looking to broaden there overall fan base for the series by hiring a director known for two R-rated films. I think the Slade hiring is a good move as he’s certainly an interesting talent. Besides helming the very involving adult oriented psychological thriller Hard Candy which starred Ellen Page, Slade went on to direct 30 Days of Night, a film that I think is one of the very best vampire films made in the last ten years. Going by that movie there’s no doubt the guy can create terrific atmosphere and deliver a scary brand of vampire. My only question would be: why hire another director for the third installment before you see what Weitz does with the second installment. What if he turns out a great movie? Wouldn’t you want him back! I’ve never seen anything like this. Since the success of Twilight put Summit Entertainment on the map, I would guess they’re being as aggressive as possible to keep interest high while looking to maximize the overall products box-office potential. New Moon is scheduled to hit theaters Nov 20, 2009 and Eclipse June 30, 2010.