Spider-Man 3 kicks off hot Hollywood summer
By Bob Tourtellotte
LOS ANGELES, (Reuters) - This may be one hot summer movie season.
When "Spider-Man 3" debuted on Friday, it kicked off four months of Hollywood movies with at least 14 that promise blockbuster status and more than 100 others vying to be the surprise hit at summer box offices.
In May, "Spidey 3" is joined by "Shrek the Third" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End." The following three months feature even more sequels such as "Ocean's Thirteen," "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" and "The Bourne Ultimatum."
And the summer's movie stars read like a Who's Who of global pop celebrity: Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Lopez, George Clooney and even an animated Bart Simpson.
Lindsay Lohan has two movies to please her fans.
So, how does one film break through the clutter of sequels like the ones above? "Transformers" producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura thinks he has the answer: giant autobots."Our movie is fresh, so it has an ability to surprise audiences in ways sequels can't ... It is fun, has a lot of heart, and we have 32-foot beings," di Bonaventura said of the film, in which cars transform into massive, robot-like machines that battle aliens.
Major movie studios pump hundreds of millions into making and promoting summer movies because the period from May through August can account for up to 40 percent of annual ticket sales in the United States and nearly as much in other countries..
Last year, the season generated nearly $3.9 billion of the roughly $9.5 billion domestic -- U.S. and Canada -- box office haul, according to box office tracker Media by Numbers.
Spurred by smash hit "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," 2006 ranked No. 3 among top summer seasons. At No. 1 is 2004, when "Shrek 2" and "Spider-Man 2" rocked theaters.
Whether the new versions of those three movies generate excitement and expand ticket sales in May or, as some fear, cannibalize each other's box office remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure, excitement in Hollywood is running high.
"I can't think of a more appropriate film than 'Spider-Man 3' to kick off what could be a record summer," said Media by Numbers president Paul Dergarabedian.
So hold onto your popcorn, Summer 2007 is about to start.
The backers of both "Spider-Man 3" and the third "Pirates" promise to complete their trilogies on high, exciting notes. "Spider-Man" alter ego Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) learns how to handle the dark side of superhero fame, and in the final week of May pirate Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is plucked from depths of the deep blue sea.
But in between those movies come a host of flicks ranging from big-budget animated fairy tale "Shrek the Third" with the voices of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy, to more modest ones like low-budget "The Waitress," starring Keri Russell as a woman working in a diner and dealing with troubled relationships. Lindsay Lohan plays a troubled teenager -- which should not be a stretch for the young actress who has battled her party girl image -- in "Georgia Rule," which comes out in May. (In July, she's back starring as a woman escaping a serial killer in "I Know Who Killed Me.")
June brings the boys of big-budget "Ocean's Thirteen" -- Pitt, Clooney, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, and the rest -- back to Las Vegas to try to pull off another casino caper.
After a long absence from theaters, Bruce Willis reprises his role as justice-seeking tough guy John McClane in "Live Free or Die Hard," and on the comedy front, funnyman Steve Carrell plays a TV news anchorman turned into a version of the Bible's animal-saving Noah in "Evan Almighty."
Also in June, Angelina Jolie portrays the wife of slain journalist Daniel Pearl in drama "A Mighty Heart," and, a bit like Peter Parker in "Spider-Man," actor Kevin Costner plumbs his dark side playing a serial killer in "Mr. Brooks."
If audiences tire of sequels such as fantasy "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," then by late July Oscar-winning writer, director and producer James L. Brooks and "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening bring "The Simpsons Movie" to theaters.
It features the politically incorrect, nuclear family that TV audiences have loved for years. Brooks is not saying much about the plot except that father Homer is "screwing up worse than he ever did."
"The summer never seems to stop this year," Brooks told Reuters. "There's never been a summer like it."