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July Movie Mania - July Boost Likely From “Dinosaurs,” “Harry Potter”

Although June ended with a big bang thanks to “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”, which grossed $200 million its first five days, it wasn’t a great month for Hollywood.

In fact, what I anticipated in my June Movie Mania column turned out, unfortunately, to be correct. My prediction: “June’s mostly original product stream could silence some of that sizzle…June doesn’t look like a month that’s going to set boxoffice records. Of the wide releases coming into the marketplace in June, the safest bet to deliver big grosses is DreamWorks and Paramount’s ’Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’”.

Indeed, June lacked the established franchises that had made May such a great month — including “X-Men”, “Star Trek”, “Angels & Demons”, “Terminator”, “Night at the Museum” and Disney/Pixar animation (“Up”). Moviegoers knew what all of these films were and turned out to see them.

June, on the other hand, brought disappointing originals. With the exception of Warner Bros.’ R rated comedy “The Hangover”, which had grossed $183 million by the end of the month and was being hailed as the summer’s sleeper, and Disney’s PG-13 rated romantic comedy “The Proposal”, which had over $69 million after two weekends in theaters, there was little to cheer about on the originals front. “Land of the Lost” was a big loser with $46.8 million after four weekends. “Year One” was down 69 percent in its second weekend with a cume of $32.5 million. “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3” had a slow $53.5 million cume after three weekends. And “Imagine That” fell 71 percent in its third weekend with its cume only at $14 million.

Naturally, the huge success of the sequel to the 2007 blockbuster “Transformers” put a happier face on things. Its $200 million five day launch was second only to the $203.8 million that last summer’s “The Dark Knight” grossed for its first five days. The original “Transformers” ended up with nearly $320 million domestically. Its sequel is on the way to $300 million domestically and had grossed an additional $204 million internationally by late June.

The first weekend in June showed key films — those grossing $500,000 or more — down about 6% from the prior year and the second weekend was down 24%. Weekend three was up 5%. The fourth weekend four was up 7%, a modest gain considering it included the $200 million launch of “Transformers 2”.

As June faded away, boxoffice revenues for the year were a healthy $5.1 billion vs. $4.6 billion for 2008, a 12 percent increase, according to Hollywood.Com Box-Office president Paul Dergarabedian. Attendance was up 9.4 percent. But at the end of May revenues had been up 13.7 percent and attendance had been up 11 percent. With all this June gloom, Hollywood lost some of the sizzle that had been helping to bolster its spirits earlier in this recession cursed year.

With Fox’s “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” kicking off the month July 1 and Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” anchoring mid-month with its July 15 launch, July promises to be a much stronger month than June.

The following synopses include details about July’s wide openings, but beware of occasional spoilers if you don’t want to know too much in advance. As always, be sure to check out our Zamm Cam movie previews to find out more about the films you most want to see.

Fox’s PG-13 rated animated 3-D family sequel “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” arrives Wed., July 1, the start of the July Fourth moviegoing weekend, and should generate considerable boxoffice fireworks. The previous episode in this franchise, “Ice Age: The Meltdown”, opened Mar. 31, 2006 to $68 million and wound up grossing $195.3 million domestically. With its summer playing time, “Dinosaurs’” potential is even greater.

“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” in theaters July 15.

“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” in theaters July 15.

Directed by Carlos Saldanha (“Ice Age: The Meltdown”), it features the voice talents of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Queen Latifah, Chris Wedge and Seann William Scott.

The story: Scrat, Manny, Ellie and Diego must rescue the hapless Sid, who gets into trouble when he creates his own makeshift family by hijacking some dinosaur eggs. The gang ventures into a mysterious underground world, where they have close encounters with dinosaurs, battle flora and fauna run amok, and meet a relentless, one-eyed, dino-hunting weasel named Buck.

Also arriving Wed., July 1 is Universal’s R rated gangster drama “Public Enemies”, which happily is targeted to an entirely different audience than “Dinosaurs”. It’s a period piece 1930’s-set story revolving around the infamous bank robber John Dillinger. Although “Enemies” stars Johnny Depp, it’s a much more realistic role than audiences are used to seeing Depp take on in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise and it’s anyone’s guess how the new film will perform.

Directed by Michael Mann (“Heat”, “Hancock”), it stars Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Billy Crudup, Stephen Dorff, Stephen Lang, Channing Tatum, Giovanni Ribisi, Jason Clarke, David Wenham, Stephen Graham, Shawn Hatosy, Emilie De Ravin, James Russo and LeeLee Sobieski.

The story: Set during the Depression-era’s great crime wave, it’s about the government’s attempt to stop legendary criminals like John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd. This operation transformed the FBI into the first federal police force from the powerless agency it once was.

July 10 will also see two wide openings, each targeted to very different core audiences. Universal’s R rated comedy “Bruno” is the controversial follow up by Sacha Baron Cohen to his blockbuster “Borat”, which opened Nov. 3, 2006 to $26.5 million and ended up with a domestic cume of $128.5 million. Whether “Bruno” can match or beat “Borat’s” success is nothing more than a guessing game at this point.

Directed by Larry Charles (“Borat”), it stars Sacha Baron Cohen as a gay, Austrian TV reporter who worms his way into some fashionista hot spots.

Also on tap for July 10 is Fox’s PG-13 comedy “I Love You, Beth Cooper”, which was made by Fox’s now shuttered Atomic Pictures youth label. The materials look very funny but you never know. If “Bruno” doesn’t dominate the marketplace, “Beth” could benefit from having a broader audience available to it.

Directed by Chris Columbus (“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”, “Mrs. Doubtfire”, “Home Alone 1 & 2”), it stars Hayden Panettiere, Paul Rust, Jack Carpenter, Lauren London, Shawn Roberts and Lauren Storm.

The story: The adventures of a geeky high school valedictorian who decides he has nothing to lose by making a play for Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere), a popular cheerleader, declaring his love during the graduation speech. Much to his surprise, Beth shows up at his door that very night and decides to show him the best night of his life.

Warner Bros. is launching its latest “Harry Potter” episode Wed., July 15 and faces no wide release competition over the weekend of July 17-19. It made no sense for anyone to go head to head with “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”, which could well be this summer’s biggest grossing film.

The last “Harry Potter” episode, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”, opened July 11, 2007 to $77.1 million and ultimately did $292 million domestically. This latest installment should be able to do even better. Its competition for the summer’s top grossing honors will come from “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”, which is also looking at $300 million or more domestically.

Directed by David Yates (“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”), it stars Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Jim Broadbent, Helena Bonham-Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Timothy Spall, David Thewlis, Julie Walters, David Bradley, Jessie Cave, Frank Dillane, Tom Felton, Matthew Lewis, Evanna Lynch, Helen McCrory, Natalia Tena, Hero Fiennes Tiffin and Bonnie Wright.

The story: In this latest “HP” fantasy adventure Lord Voldemort is tightening his grip on both the Muggle and wizarding worlds and Hogwarts is no longer the safe haven it once was. Harry suspects that dangers may even lie within the castle, but Dumbledore is more intent upon preparing him for the final battle that he knows is fast approaching. Together they work to find the key to unlock Voldemort’s defenses and, to this end, Dumbledore recruits his old friend and colleague, the well-connected and unsuspecting bon vivant Professor Horace Slughorn, whom he believes holds crucial information.

Meanwhile, the students are under attack from a very different adversary as teenage hormones rage across the ramparts. Harry finds himself more and more drawn to Ginny, but so is Dean Thomas. And Lavender Brown has decided that Ron is the one for her, only she hadn’t counted on Romilda Vane’s chocolates! And then there’s Hermione, simmering with jealously but determined not to show her feelings. As romance blossoms, one student remains aloof. He is determined to make his mark, albeit a dark one. Love is in the air, but tragedy lies ahead and Hogwarts may never be the same again.

The weekend of July 24-26 will see competition heat up as three wide releases go into theaters. The likely winner will be Disney’s PG rated “G-Force,” an animated-live action family film from producer Jerry Bruckheimer, producer of the blockbuster “Pirates of the Caribbean” series.

Directed by Hoyt Yeatman (“Asteroid Adventure”), it stars Bill Nighy, Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Mini Anden, Gabriel Casseus, Jack Conley, Kelli Garner and Loudon Wainwright III. It also features the voice talents of Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell, Jon Favreau, Penelope Cruz, Steve Buscemi, Tracy Morgan, Niecy Nash, Tyler Patrick Jones, Piper Harris and Justin Mentell.

The story: A group of intelligent animal commandoes work for a government agency trying to prevent an evil billionaire from taking over the world.

Warner Bros. and Dark Castle Entertainment will also be competing for moviegoers’ time and money the same weekend with their R rated horror thriller “Orphan”. Horror thrillers have been doing well in recent months. “Obsessed” cost $20 million and grossed over $68 million. “Drag Me to Hell” cost $30 million and grossed about $41 million domestically plus about $17 million internationally. Both of those films were rated PG-13 and could be seen by the broader audience of under-17 moviegoers. With its R rating, “Orphan” has to score big with the 17-and-older crowd.

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (“House of Wax”), it stars Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman, CCH Pounder, Lorry Ayers and David Leonard.

The story: The tragic loss of their unborn child has devastated Kate and John, taking a toll on both their marriage and Kate’s fragile psyche as she is plagued by nightmares and haunted by demons from her past. Struggling to regain some semblance of normalcy in their lives, the couple decides to adopt another child.

At the local orphanage, both John and Kate find themselves strangely drawn to a young girl named Esther. Almost as soon as they welcome Esther into their home, however, an alarming series of events begins to unfold, leading Kate to believe that there’s something wrong with Esther and that this seemingly angelic little girl is not what she appears to be. Concerned for the safety of her family, Kate tries to get John and others to see past Esther’s sweet facade. But her warnings go unheeded until it may be too late…for everyone.

Rounding out the same weekend is Sony’s R rated romantic comedy “The Ugly Truth”. This will be a good test of Katherine Heigl’s star power, particularly at a time when stars don’t seem to be counting for much at the boxoffice. Among this year’s falling stars are Eddie Murphy with “Imagine That”, John Travolta and Denzel Washington with “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3”, Jack Black with “Year One”, Will Ferrell with “Land of the Lost”, Russell Crowe with “State of Play” and Julia Roberts with “Duplicity”.

“The Ugly Truth” in theaters July 24.

“The Ugly Truth” in theaters July 24.

Directed by Robert Luketic (“Legally Blonde”), it stars Katherine Heigl, Gerard Butler, Eric Winter, John Michael Higgins, Nick Searcy, Kevin Connolly, Cheryl Hines, Bree Turner and Bonnie Somerville.

The story: A romantically challenged woman (Heigl as a TV morning show producer) gets advice on romance from an expert (Butler as a male chauvinist TV reporter) with some unexpected results.

July should end on a relatively quiet note with two comedies competing for older and younger moviegoers the weekend of July 31 - Aug. 2. Fox’s “Aliens in the Attic” will be looking for teens while Universal’s “Funny People” is targeted to adults.

“Aliens in the Attic” is a silly summer comedy that could play nicely to younger teens. Directed by John Schultz (“Like Mike”), it stars Ashley Tisdale, Robert Hoffman, Carter Jenkins, Austin Butler, Ashley Boettcher, Henri Young, Regan Young, Tim Meadows, Gillian Vigman, Kevin Nealon and Doris Roberts.

The story: Half a dozen kids defend their vacation home in Maine from aliens who have invaded via the upstairs.

Facing off against “Aliens” is the R rated “Funny People”, which has star power both in front of the camera (Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen) and behind the camera (writer-director Judd Apatow). Also starring are Leslie Mann, Eric Bana, Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman, The RZA, Maude Apatow, Iris Apatow and Aziz Ansari. What “Funny” has to overcome is the fact that it’s not a traditional Adam Sandler comedy, but a more serious piece in which Sandler plays a dying comedian.

The story: George Simmons (Adam Sandler) is a very successful stand up comedian who learns that he has an untreatable blood disorder and is given less than a year to live. Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) is a struggling up-and-coming stand- up comedian who works at a deli and has yet to figure out his onstage persona. One night, they both perform at the same club and George takes notice of Ira. George hires Ira to be his semi-personal assistant — as well as to be his friend.