Martin Grove’s Hollywood Report 04-23-12

“The Avengers” – In Theaters May 4th.

“The Avengers” – In Theaters May 4th.

JOHNNY DEPP as Barnabus Collins and MICHELLE PFEIFFER as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard in Warner Bros. Pictures and Village Roadshow Pictures DARK SHADOWS, a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

JOHNNY DEPP as Barnabus Collins and MICHELLE PFEIFFER as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard in Warner Bros. Pictures and Village Roadshow Pictures DARK SHADOWS, a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Scene from “Men in Black III” featuring Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith

Scene from “Men in Black III” featuring Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith

“The Dictator” – In theaters May 16th

“The Dictator” – In theaters May 16th

May movies: They call it the merry month of May and for Hollywood this one could turn out to be really merry!

Looking ahead, the films opening during the pre-summer weeks of May are packing enough firepower to keep Hollywood’s boxoffice momentum going as we approach summer and the year’s hottest movie tickets. Ticket sales through last weekend are already up nearly 17 percent for the year and it’s likely they'll get a boost from May’s movies.

Here’s a quick overview of the wide releases that hope to keep Hollywood humming throughout May:

The month will get off on the right foot thanks to Disney and Marvel Enterprises’ 3D sci-fi action adventure “The Avengers” kicking things off May 4. The fact that no other wide releases are opening opposite “Avengers” tells you Hollywood expects boxoffice lightning to strike across the country.

With about two weeks still left before it opens, “Avengers” is already tracking through the roof. It’s doing best with men both younger and older than 25, a double-demo that typically translates into a blockbuster launch.

Directed by Joss Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), “Avengers’” cast includes some of Marvel’s biggest comic book movie stars — like Robert Downey, Jr. (“Iron Man”); Chris Evans (“Captain America”), Chris Hemsworth (“Thor”) and Mark Ruffalo (“The Hulk”) plus Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts) and Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye).

Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury heads the international peacekeeping agency S.H.I.E.L.D. and assembles the Super Hero team of a lifetime to combat a surprise threat to Earth from the villainous Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

“Avengers” won’t face any wide competition opening weekend, but that won’t be the case in its second weekend. May 11 will see the arrival of Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow’s PG-13 suspense comedy thriller “Dark Shadows,” directed by Tim Burton (“Alice in Wonderland”) and starring Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham-Carter and Eva Green.

Johnny Depp plays Barnabas Collins, a vampire imprisoned for two centuries before emerging into the very changed world of 1972.

Barnabas’s troubles began when he broke the heart of a beautiful witch, Angelique (Eva Green), and she turned him into a vampire and buried him alive for good measure. When he’s inadvertently freed 200 years later, Barnabas returns to his family’s estate in Maine, finding it in ruins along with the dysfunctional remnants of the Collins family and its matriarch, Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer).

An indication of “Shadows’” likely boxoffice strength is that as with “Avengers” there are no other wide releases going head to head with it opening weekend.

That pattern will change the following week when Paramount”s comedy “The Dictator” invades theatres Wed., May 16 and Universal and Hasbro”s “Battleship” and Lionsgate”s “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” open on its heels May 18.

“Dictator” is directed by Larry Charles (“Borat”) and stars Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris, Ben Kingsley and John C. Reilly. Cohen plays a dictator who risks his life to ensure that democracy never comes to the country he”s so lovingly oppressed.

Cohen and Charles enjoyed great success with “Borat,” which opened via 20th Century Fox Nov. 3, 2006 to $26.5 million and went on to gross $128.5 million in domestic theatres and another $133 million in international theatres.

“Battleship” sails into theatres just two days after “Dictator” arrives. Directed by Peter Berg (“The Kingdom”), it stars Alexander Skarsgard, Taylor Kitsch, Liam Neeson and Brooklyn Decker. The PG-13 sci-fi action thriller reportedly cost between $200 million and $250 million to produce. An encouraging sign of its domestic theatrical potential is that it’s already grossed about $125 million in its first 12 days of international release.

Based on a Hasbro naval combat board game, “Battleship” is about a U.S. fleet that’s unexpectedly forced to battle an alien armada bent on destroying Earth.

Also arriving May 18 is the PG-13 romantic comedy “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” Directed by Kirk Jones (“Nanny McPhee”), its ensemble cast includes Cameron Diaz, Matthew Morrison, Dennis Quaid — and “Battleship’s” Brooklyn Decker, who the movie gods have put in the unusual position of being in two movies opening the same day.

Based on Heidi Murkoff's best-selling book, “Expecting” is in the tradition of “Love Actually” and “Valentine’s Day.” It’s a contemporary look at love as seen through five interconnected couples, all of whom are having a baby.

Mon., May 28 is Memorial Day, traditionally the kickoff day for the summer movie season. In recent years, however, big movies have started opening earlier in May to take advantage of moviegoers’ appetite for high profile pictures after the quieter months of March and April.

Hollywood loves Memorial Day and all four-day holiday weekends because these days moviegoers make seeing a film part of their plans for long weekends. The Memorial Day boxoffice can get a big boost from the weatherman if it rains or is cold and damp on the East Coast. That kind of weather rules out a start-the-summer visit to the beach so more people are available to see movies. After all, taking the kids to a multiplex is a great way to keep them busy!

The answer, for many moviegoers this Memorial Day weekend is likely to be Columbia Pictures and Amblin Entertainment’s PG-13 3D sci-fi action comedy “Men in Black III.” Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld (“Men in Black,” “Men in Black II”), it stars Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin.

It’s a reboot of the hit franchise last seen in theatres in 2002. The original “Men in Black” opened July 2, 1997 to $51.1 million and wound up grossing $250.1 million in domestic theatres and another $338.7 million in international theatres. “Men in Black II” opened July 3, 2002 to $52.1 million and did $190.4 million domestically and another $251.4 million internationally.

In the latest episode, Agent J (Will Smith) travels back in time to 1969 where he teams up with a younger version (Josh Brolin) of Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) to stop an evil alien from killing the young K and altering history’s course.

“Men” is likely to play to young kids despite its PG-13 rating because they’ll want to see what their parents and teen siblings are seeing. Needless to say, parents will have fond memories of seeing the franchise’s first two episodes in their own younger days.

If all goes well, Columbia could see something resembling Fox’s success last summer with “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” its reboot of the “Apes&Rdquo; franchise. The last episode in that franchise to hit theatres was “Planet of the Apes,” which opened July 27, 2001 to $68.5 million and ended up with $180 million domestically and $182.2 million internationally. The rebooted “Rise” arrived Aug. 5, 2011 to $54.8 million and went on to gross $176.7 million domestically and $305 million internationally.

Moviegoers seeking something edgier than “Men” over Memorial Day weekend can turn to Warner Bros. and Alcon Entertainment’s R rated horror thriller “Chernobyl Diaries.” Directed by visual effects expert (“Willard”) turned director Brad Parker, it was produced by Oren Peli, who wrote and directed the original “Paranormal Activity,” and Brian Witten, producer of “Mother’s Day.” Starring are Jesse McCartney, Jonathan Sadowski and Olivia Dudley.

Set in a deserted Russian city that once housed Chernobyl nuclear reactor workers, the film revolves around a group of vacationing friends who get stranded in this now abandoned location only to discover they’re really not alone.

Bottom line: Hollywood should spring into summer on the heels of a very busy May in the multiplexes.