Martin Grove’s Hollywood Report 04-04-11

“Hop” &ndash In theaters April 1st

“Hop” &ndash In theaters April 1st

Star of “Zookeeper,” Kevin James

Star of “Zookeeper,” Kevin James

“PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES” Captain Jack Sparrow (JOHNNY DEPP) attempts a quick getaway from yet another precarious situation in the Caribbean. Ph: Peter Mountain ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

“PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES” Captain Jack Sparrow (JOHNNY DEPP) attempts a quick getaway from yet another precarious situation in the Caribbean. Ph: Peter Mountain ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Weekend worries: The boxoffice continued to sag last weekend, despite Universal and Relativity Media’s animated “Hop” scoring the year’s best opening with over $38 million.

While “Hop” exceeded expectations, it wasn’t enough to cure the boxoffice blues that have been dampening Hollywood’s spirits all year.

Ticket sales were down nearly 30 percent last weekend thanks mostly to last year’s $61 million-plus launch the same weekend for “Clash of the Titans.” That Warner Bros. epic adventure was much criticized at the time for being a poorly done quickie 3D conversion — but, nonetheless, it checked in as the biggest Easter opening ever!

That sort of boxoffice muscle is what’s been missing this year and until it returns neither exhibitors nor distributors are going to be smiling. By most accounts, nobody was very happy at the just concluded CinemaCon convention in Las Vegas with all the underlying divisive issues about the growth of digital streaming and the studios wanting to create new premium video on demand windows for their films.

Moreover, the major studios showed more restraint than in the past when it came to wooing exhibitors. Over the years (when the event was known as ShoWest) distributors did their utmost to impress the assembled exhibitors with the boxoffice power their upcoming releases were going to generate by screening their high profile films and spending lavishly on parties.

“Either (the studios) don’t have the product or else they don’t really feel the outlay of expenses to show a film or clips to exhibitors is worth their while,” one CinemaCon attendee grumbled to me very much off the record.

“The whole thing was scaled down. The only people that were really trying to impress were a studio like Lionsgate, hoping to give themselves (attention as) a mini-major or a major. So they kind of poured it on, but the rest of the studios were not really very ambitious in what they were doing.”

On the other hand, Lionsgate did itself some good at CinemaCon. My source had good things to say about Lionsgate’s screening of its action drama “Warrior,” directed by Gavin O’Connor (“Pride and Glory”) and starring Nick Nolte and Tom Hardy, opening Sept. 9.

“Tom Hardy is terrific,” he said. “It’s well made.”

The other full length screening, he noted, was the family comedy “Zookeeper” from Columbia, MGM and Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions, opening July 8. Directed by Frank Coraci (“The Wedding Singer”), it stars Kevin James and such voices as Adam Sandler, Nick Nolte and Sylvester Stallone.

“Sony might have a sleeper there,” he pointed out. “It will probably be a big movie.”

While that was it for full length feature screenings, he added, “We saw 10 or 15 minutes of ‘Pirates.’ ‘Pirates’ is going to be fabulous. Johnny Depp is absolutely (great). In the material they showed us, he was sensational. His comic timing and delivery is inimitable. Nobody else could do it. So that was good — and so was (a peak at) ‘Harry Potter.’ And there’s the Steve Carell adult comedy ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’ that I thought looked quite good. That’s very, very good.”

Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” directed by Rob Marshall and starring Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane and Geoffrey Rush, opens May 20 in 3D.

Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2,” directed by David Yates and starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter and Robbie Coltrane, opens July 15 in 3D.

Warner Bros.’ comedy “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa and starring Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore and Emma Stone, opens July 29.

There could, indeed, be a boxoffice turnaround this summer if all of the above titles perform huge and the films I focused on here in my March 28 column also connect with moviegoers.

Bottom line: A hot summer of ticket sales could melt the boxoffice ice we’ve seen this winter and spring.