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June Originals Could Silence Boxoffice Sizzle

Hollywood’s been on a boxoffice roll all year as people turn to moviegoing to escape the pressures of the recession, but June’s mostly original product stream could silence some of that sizzle.

May was heavy with new episodes in established franchises like “X-Men”, “Star Trek”, “The Da Vinci Code”, “Terminator”, “Night at the Museum” and Disney/Pixar animation. Moviegoers knew what these films were and they spent big money to see them right away.

Fox’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” opened May 1 to $85.1 million and had taken in about $171 million by month’s end. Paramount’s reinvented “Star Trek” blasted off May 8 to $79.2 million and by the end of May had grossed nearly $210 million, making it the year’s biggest hit to date. Sony’s “Angels and Demons”, the “Da Vinci” prequel, arrived to $46.2 million May 15 and had grossed about $105 million by late May. Fox’s “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” kicked off to $70.1 million May 22 and had over $105 million in hand by month’s end. “Terminator Salvation” opened May 21 to $65.3 million and by late May had grossed about $91 million.

Disney and Pixar’s 3-D animated adventure “Up” took off to about $68 million May 29 and looks like it’s heading to $250 million or more domestically. It was the third biggest opening ever for a Pixar film — following “The Incredibles”, which opened Nov. 5, 2004 to $70.5 million and did $261.4 million domestically, and “Finding Nemo”, which opened May 30, 2003 to $70.3 million and wound up with $339.7 million domestically.

Driven by those successes — and also by earlier 2009 hits like DreamWorks Animation and Paramount’s “Monsters vs. Aliens” (over $194 million), Universal’s “Fast & Furious” (about $154 million) and Sony’s “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” (over $146 million) — boxoffice revenues for the year were approximately $4.1 billion through late May, according to Media By Numbers president Paul Dergarabedian. That’s a huge 13.7 percent jump over last year. Moreover, ticket sales were nearly 559 million, up an impressive 11 percent. The average ticket price nationally, by the way, is now $7.35. Yes, of course, it’s a lot more in New York and L.A., but we’re talking national average here. Last year the national average movie ticket price was $7.18 — so it’s only gone up about 2.4 percent.

June’s originals should keep the ball rolling for the studios, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to pack the same sort of punch that May did with all those franchise episodes. It helps that in June schools are closed for the summer and every night, as Hollywood likes to say, “is Saturday night.” In any case, 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”. It’s the sequel to the 2007 franchise original that grossed nearly $320 million domestically. Since it doesn’t open until June 24 its real boxoffice impact will be felt as it plays on in July.

June’s other wide releases are mostly original comedies targeted to teens and young adults. There also are a few dramas in the pipeline, including a remake of the 1974 crime thriller “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three”. These may work, but expectations are typically less for originals than for blockbuster franchise episodes.

The following synopses include details about June’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.

June 5 will see the arrival of Universal’s Will Ferrell comedy “Land of the Lost”, a PG-13 rated sci-fi fantasy targeted to teens and young adults. Ferrell had a hit and a miss at the boxoffice in 2008. He starred in Sony’s “Step Brothers”, which opened July 25 to $30.9 million and wound up doing $100.5 million domestically. He also starred in New Line’s “Semi-Pro”, which opened Feb. 29 to $15.1 million and only got to $33.5 million. His film before that, “Blades of Glory”, opened Mar. 30, 2007 to $33 million and ended up with $118.6 million. Clearly, there’s an audience out there that likes Will Ferrell in the right material.

Directed by Brad Silberling (“Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events”), “Lost” stars Will Ferrell, Danny R. McBride, Anna Friel and Jorma Taccone.

The story: Will Ferrell stars as has-been scientist Dr. Rick Marshall, who’s sucked into a space-time vortex along with his research assistant (Anna Friel) and sent back through time — way, way back. Marshall has no weapons, few skills and questionable smarts to survive in an alternate universe full of marauding dinosaurs and fantastic creatures from beyond our world. It’s a place of spectacular sights and super-scaled comedy known as — you guessed it — the “Land of the Lost”.

“Lost” faces very strong competition from Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures’ R rated comedy “The Hangover”, which is being talked about as this summer’s sleeper hit even though it doesn’t boast any big stars. “Hangover” is targeted to an older audience than “Lost” since with its R rating no one under 17 can see it without a parent or other adult accompanying them. Generally speaking, a PG-13 rated movie has greater grossing potential than an R-rated one because it can play to a broader audience, but there are exceptions to this and given the great advance buzz for “Hangover” this could be one of them. The film’s red-band restricted trailer is an important element in WB’s marketing campaign and should be very effective in attracting young adult moviegoers who enjoy onscreen sex, nudity and very graphic language.

Directed by Todd Phillips (“Old School”), it stars Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Heather Graham, Justin Bartha, Jeffrey Tambor, Sasha Barrese, Bryan Callen, Rachael Harris, Ken Jeong and Mike Tyson.

The story: “Hangover” is a comedy about a bachelor party gone horribly wrong.Two days before his wedding, Doug (Justin Bartha) and his three buddies drive to Las Vegas for a blow-out night they’ll never forget. But when the three groomsmen wake up the next morning with pounding headaches, they can’t remember a thing. Their posh hotel suite is beyond trashed and the groom is nowhere to be found. With no clue of what happened and little time to spare, the trio must attempt to retrace their bad decisions from the night before in order to figure out where things went wrong and hopefully get Doug back to L.A. in time for his wedding. However, the more they begin to uncover, the more they realize just how much trouble they’re really in.

Also arriving June 5 is Fox Searchlight’s PG-13 rated romantic comedy “My Life in Ruins”, starring Nia Vardalos, which is targeted to adult female moviegoers who could care less about Will Ferrell or the “Hangover” guys. Vardalos is best known for starring in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, the surprise hit of 2002 which grossed $241.4 million domestically plus more than $127 million internationally.

The quirky independent romantic comedy catapulted Vardalos to stardom. Her next picture, the 2004 crime comedy “Connie and Carla”, in which she starred opposite Toni Collette and David Duchovny, was a boxoffice disaster. The picture reportedly cost $27 million to produce and only grossed $8.1 million domestically. “Ruins” could put Vardalos back on the success track or it could, well, ruin her career.

Directed by Donald Petrie (“Miss Congeniality”, “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”), “Ruins” stars Nia Vardalos, Richard Dreyfuss, Maria Adanez, Sheila Bernette, Maria Botto, Rachel Dratch, Alexis Georgoulis, Ralph Nossek, Bernice Stegers, Harland Williams, Jareb Dauplaise, Simon Gleeson, Caroline Goodall, Alistair McGowan, Natalie O’Donnell, Ian Ogilvy, Brian Palermo, Sophie Stuckey and Rita Wilson.

The story: Nia Vardolos plays Georgia, who’s lost her kefi. That’s Greek for mojo. Discouraged by her lack of direction in life, she works as a travel guide, leading a rag-tag group of tourists as she tries to show them the beauty of her native Greece. While opening their eyes to an exotic foreign land, she too begins to see things in new ways, finding her long lost kefi in the process.

The weekend of June 12-14 will deliver two wide releases targeted to very different audiences. Paramount and Nickelodeon Movies will be going after the family crowd with their PG rated comedy “Imagine That”, starring Eddie Murphy. Murphy’s last film, “Meet Dave”, was a disaster — opening July 11, 2008 to just $5.3 million and grossing only $11.8 million domestically. But he’s had a long string of boxoffice blockbusters — including “Norbit” ($95.7 million in 2007), “Dreamgirls” ($103.4 million in 2006) and “Daddy Day Care” ($104.3 million in 2003).

Eddie Murphy and Yara Shahidi in Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies’ family comedy “Imagine That”.

Eddie Murphy and Yara Shahidi in Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies’ family comedy “Imagine That”.

This has been a great year for family films — including “Hotel For Dogs” ($73 million), “Coraline” (over $75 million), “Race to Witch Mountain” (over $65 million), “Monsters vs. Aliens” (over $194 million), “Night at the Museum” (opened May 22 to $70.1 million) and “Up” (opened May 29 to about $68 million) — and “Imagine” stands to tap into that great core audience.

Directed by Karey Kirkpatrick, who co-directed the animated blockbuster “Over the Hedge” (over $330 million worldwide), “Imagine” stars Eddie Murphy, Thomas Haden Church, Nicole Ari Parker, Ronny Cox, Martin Sheen, DeRay Davis, Bruce McGill, Stephen Rannazzisi, Yara Shahidi, Timm Sharp and Vanessa Williams.

The story: Eddie Murphy plays financial executive Evan Danielson, who has more time for his Blackberry than for his seven year old daughter Olivia (Yara Shahidi). When Evan has a crisis of confidence and his career’s going downhill, he suddenly finds the solution to all his problems in his daughter’s imaginary world.

Also arriving the same weekend is Sony “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3”, a remake of the 1974 hit whose title was then spelled “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three”. The R rated suspense thriller should do best with adult male moviegoers and, therefore, is the perfect film to share the weekend with “Imagine”. But “Imagine” with its PG rating and family appeal seems the safer bet to lead the weekend boxoffice.

Directed by Tony Scott (“Man on Fire”), it stars Denzel Washington, John Travolta, John Turturro, Luis Guzman, Michael Rispoli, James Gandolfini, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Brian Haley, Jason Butler Harner and Ramon Rodriguez.

The story: Four ruthless hijackers take over a New York City subway train and hold the passengers for ransom. They threaten to shoot one each minute until a ransom is fully paid.

The weekend of June 19-21 will also see two new wide releases competing for very different movie audiences. Teens and young adults will be the target for Sony’s PG-13 rated comedy “Year One”, starring Jack Black. Like “Land of the Lost”, it’s set way back in time, which may not help it any coming into the marketplace only two weeks after “Lost”. On the other hand, Jack Black’s a funny guy with a solid following among teens and young adult moviegoers. His last film, “Tropic Thunder”, opened Aug. 13, 2008 to $25.8 million and went on to gross $110.5 million domestically. His biggest hit, “King Kong”, grossed $218.1 million in 2005.

Directed by Harold Ramis (“Analyze This”, “Analyze That”), “Year” stars Jack Black, Michael Cera, Oliver Platt, David Cross, Hank Azaria, Olivia Wilde, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Vinnie Jones, Juno Temple, June Raphael, Gabriel Sunday and Gia Carides.

The story: When a couple of lazy hunter-gatherers are banished from their primitive village, they set off on an epic journey through the ancient world.

Opening head to head with “Year” is Disney/Touchstone’s PG-13 rated romantic comedy “The Proposal”, starring Sandra Bullock. It’s been a long while since Bullock’s had a big grossing film. In 2002 she starred in “Two Weeks Notice” which grossed $93.4 million domestically, and in 2000 she had a hit with “Miss Congeniality”, which grossed $106.8 million domestically. Her last film, Premonition”, opened Mar. 16, 2007 to $17.6 million and went on to gross only $47.9 million domestically. “Proposal’s” main appeal should be to adult females. They’re likely to be outnumbered at the boxoffice by the younger males eager to see “Year”.

Directed by Anne Fletcher (“Step Up”, “27 Dresses”), “Proposal” stars Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Denis O’Hare, Oscar Nunez, Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson, Betty White, Malin Akerman, Aasif Mandvi and Mini Anden.

The story: Sandra Bullock plays a book editor who’s forced to marry her male assistant (Ryan Reynolds) in order to avoid being deported from the U.S. to her native Canada. It doesn’t help that she’s been making his life a living hell for years. When they travel to Alaska to meet his family, the new couple has to fake their way through a surprise wedding thrown by his parents.

June should end on a strong note with DreamWorks and Paramount’s Wed., June 24 launch of “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”. It’s the month’s only blockbuster franchise episode and with the 2007 original having grossed $319.2 million domestically (plus another $389 million internationally) it’s a pretty safe bet to be the biggest hit June’s likely to deliver — although opening as late in the month as it is means it will do a great deal of its domestic business in July.

Directed by Michael Bay, who directed the original, “Revenge” stars Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, John Turturro and Rainn Wilson.

From DreamWorks and Paramount Pictures’ sequel “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”.

From DreamWorks and Paramount Pictures’ sequel “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”.

The story: For centuries, two races of robotic aliens - the Autobots and the Decepticons - have waged a war, with the fate of the universe at stake. When the battle comes to Earth, all that stands between the evil Decepticons and ultimate power is a clue held by young Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf). Sam, an average teenager, is consumed with everyday worries about schools, friends, cars and girls. Unaware that he alone is mankind’s last chance for survival, Sam and his friend Mikaela (Megan Fox) find themselves in a tug of war between the Autobots and the Decepticons. With the world hanging in the balance, Sam comes to realize the true meaning behind the Witwicky family motto - “No sacrifice, no victory!”

Two days after “Revenge” goes into theaters, Warner Bros. will open New Line Cinema’s PG-13 drama “My Sister’s Keeper”, starring Cameron Diaz. It’s a small film that probably got made because Diaz wanted to stretch her acting chops and agreed to do it. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s certainly not going to pose any real competition for “Revenge”

Directed by Nick Cassavetes (“The Notebook”), it stars Cameron Diaz, Abigail Breslin, Alec Baldwin, Joan Cusack, Thomas Dekker, Jason Patric and Sofia Vassilieva.

The story: Sara and Brian (Cameron Diaz and Jason Patric) are living an idyllic life with their young son and daughter, Jesse and Kate, when they receive heartbreaking news that leads them to make an unorthodox choice in order to save Kate’s life. Their decision eventually raises both ethical and moral questions, ultimately setting off a court case that reveals surprising truths and challenges everyone’s perceptions of love and loyalty, giving new meaning to the definition of healing.