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Martin Grove’s Hollywood Report 04-25-11


 
RIO-078 Blu (left) and Jewel are unsure about Rafael the toucan's plans to travel hrough Rio. Photo: Courtesy of Blue Sky Studios <strong>TM & © 2011 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved. Not for sale or duplication.</strong>

RIO-078 Blu (left) and Jewel are unsure about Rafael the toucan's plans to travel hrough Rio. Photo: Courtesy of Blue Sky Studios TM & © 2011 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved. Not for sale or duplication.

Idris Elba as Heimdall in “Thor”

Idris Elba as Heimdall in “Thor”

Stars of “The Hangover Part II,” Justin Bartha, Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms

Stars of “The Hangover Part II,” Justin Bartha, Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms

Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake in “Friends with Benefits”

Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake in “Friends with Benefits”

Easter excitement: Things are rarely as they seem in Hollywood and that certainly was true at the Easter boxoffice.

On the one hand, it was the kind of weekend Hollywood’s been hoping for all year because ticket sales were up about 40 percent from the same weekend a year earlier.

The only problem is that Easter fell much earlier last April — the weekend of Apr. 2–4, 2010 — so comparing this Easter Weekend’s grosses to an ordinary weekend a year ago really isn’t the best comparison. That’s because a holiday weekend’s moviegoing will always have a big advantage over a non-holiday weekend since going to the movies while celebrating a holiday weekend has become part of American culture. As a result, distributors have for years made a point of opening their biggest films on holiday weekends when moviegoing expands.

Unfortunately, when you compare this Easter to the 2010 Easter Weekend what you find is that ticket sales were actually down about 23 percent.

This Easter’s top grossing title was Fox’s 3D animated adventure “Rio” with nearly $27 million in its second weekend. While that’s a lot more than the $15.4 million that DreamWorks Animation and Paramount’s 3D animated adventure “How to Train Your Dragon” did the same weekend last year, it doesn’t even come close to the $61.2 million that Warner Bros.’ much criticized 3D conversion epic “Clash of the Titans” grossed over Easter Weekend 2010.

All told, Easter Weekend 2010’s key films — those grossing $500,000 or more — took in $172.2 million. This time around the Easter bouquet of key films should do about $134 million.

So despite all the media excitement over the Easter boxoffice, it’s really not the upturn Hollywood’s been looking for. That’s still on the horizon as we move into the pre-summer month of May.

Here’s a look at some of May’s high profile titles that could generate a turnaround — with comparisons to the same weekends last year that they’ll have to deal with.

  • May 6: Paramount and Marvel Studios’ 3D fantasy adventure “Thor,” directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman. It’s already tracking in the mid-double digits and is doing best with males under and over 25. Last year’s comparable weekend (May 7–9, 2010) saw Paramount and Marvel’s “Iron Man 2” kick off to $128.1 million. While that was a sequel and “Thor’s” an original, the media will still be looking for higher grosses and it won’t be easy to get to, say, $130 million. On the other hand, “Thor” has the marketplace pretty much to itself in terms of big competition and Paramount’s marketing campaign for “Thor” looks like a winner!
  • May 20: Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer Films’ 3D fantasy adventure “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” directed by Rob Marshall and starring Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz. The first three “Pirates” episodes grossed just over $1 billion domestically, averaging about $346 million. The last episode, “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” which opened May 25, 2007, under-performed at $309 million. This one’s got more emphasis on comedy with Johnny Depp and seems a safe bet to weigh in closer to $400 million. It’s virtually certain to do better than the $70.8 million that DreamWorks Animation and Paramount’s 3D animated sequel “Shrek Forever After” opened to this time last year (May 21–23, 2010).
  • May 26: DreamWorks Animation and Paramount’s 3D animated franchise episode “Kung Fu Panda: The Kaboom of Doom,” directed by Jennifer Yuh and starring the voices of Jack Black, Angelina Jolie and Jackie Chan. The first “Kung Fu Panda” opened June 6, 2008 and wound up doing $215.4 million domestically. This one will be battling the new “Pirates” episode, which sails into theatres a week earlier, but will have the benefit of the marketplace expanding for Memorial Day Weekend (May 27–30). Last year this holiday weekend (May 28–31, 2010) saw “Shrek Forever After” hold on to the top spot with $76 million, a number “Panda” should be able to beat.
  • May 26: Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures’ comedy “The Hangover, Part II,” directed by Todd Phillips and starring Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms. The first “Hangover” arrived June 5, 2009 and ended up doing $277.3 million domestically. This one could do even more, benefiting from being a pre-sold title opening for a four day holiday weekend. It’s an R rated movie targeted to young adults and should be their first choice. Its principal competition is the family appeal “Panda’s” opening weekend and the second weekend of “Pirates,” which plays broader than families but will already have been seen by many young adults.

Bottom line: The pre-summer weeks of May could give Hollywood the boxoffice lift it badly needs and help catapult the studios into a summer with an interesting mix of franchise episodes (“Cars 2,” “X-Men: First Class,” “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” and “Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part II”) and originals (“Super 8,” “Bad Teacher,” “Green Lantern,” “Captain America: The First Avenger,” “Larry Crowne,” “Friends With Benefits,” “Cowboys & Aliens” and “Crazy, Stupid, Love.”)