Martin Grove’s Hollywood Report 05-07-12

“The Dark Knight Rises” – In Theaters July 20th.

“The Dark Knight Rises” – In Theaters July 20th

“The Amazing Spider-Man” – In Theaters July 3rd.

“The Amazing Spider-Man” – In Theaters July 3rd

Scene from “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” with Adrianne Palicki

Scene from “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” with Adrianne Palicki

Strong summer: Summer’s only just begun, but with “The Avengers” off to a spectacular record-setting start it’s hard to picture this summer as being anything but strong.

Hollywood marketers are always cheered by great boxoffice success even if it’s not for one of their own films because they know that hit movies help generate more of the same. When people see and enjoy a movie it typically makes them more likely to go see another one.

It’s not just because something clicks in their brains to remind them how much fun movies can be and how affordable moviegoing still is compared to other forms of entertainment like concerts, plays and sports events, but also because sitting in a movie theatre they see trailers and pre-show features about upcoming releases. They wind up discovering films that look interesting and that weren’t already on their radar.

It’s different from seeing trailers online, by the way, because what makes theatre viewing work is the shared reaction of other moviegoers in the dark. People watching a trailer as others around them react to it absorb that response and are influenced by it.

A case in point is Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow’s PG-13 comedy thriller “Dark Shadows,” opening May 11, which will benefit from “Avengers” audiences seeing its trailer.

With about $200.3 million in “Avengers” tickets sold last weekend — the biggest opening weekend ever — at an average national ticket price of $7.83 that works out to 25.6 million people. We don’t know exactly how many of them saw “Shadows’” trailer, but in all likelihood enough of them did to add to its opening weekend bottom line.

“Shadows” has been tracking nicely as a double digits overall first choice. It’s tracking best with 25-plus females, next best with under-25 females and almost equally well with under-25 males. With so many people having already seen “Avengers” and with nothing else opening wide against “Shadows” this weekend, Warner Bros. should do well.

Directed by Tim Burton (“Alice in Wonderland”), “Shadows” stars Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham-Carter and Eva Green.

Depp is vampire Barnabas Collins, who’s been imprisoned for 200 years and suddenly re-surfaces in the very different world of 1972. His big mistake was crossing a beautiful witch (Eva Green), who turned him into a vampire and buried him alive. After being inadvertently freed, Barnabas finds his family estate in Maine in ruins along with his dysfunctional descendants and their matriarch (Michelle Pfeiffer).

Looking ahead to June, July and August, there are enough familiar high profile films in the pipeline to suggest that this summer’s strong start won’t evaporate as the weather heats up. Every summer typically brings sleeper hits, but what we’re looking at now are upcoming titles that are so well known they’re safe bets to keep the multiplexes humming.

JUNE: DreamWorks Animation and Paramount will launch June with the 3D animated adventure “Madagascar 3,” the latest episode in the family franchise whose first two episodes did $376.6 million domestically.

“Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” grossed $180 million in domestic theatres after opening Nov. 7, 2008 to $63.1 million. The new episode should benefit from arriving in early summer, a stronger moviegoing season than early November. With many schools already closed or close to closing for the summer, the film’s core audience of youngsters will be largely available.

Paramount has another well established June franchise episode (with Hasbro and MGM) in “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” opening June 29. It’s the follow-up to “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” which grossed $150.2 million domestically after opening Aug. 7, 2009 to $54.7 million. After proving itself three years ago in the dog days of summer, “Joe” now gets to invade theatres in prime summer playing time. It should also benefit from having new star power on board with Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson and Bruce Willis.

Fox and Scott Free Productions’ sci-fi horror thriller “Prometheus” isn’t a franchise episode, but it’s a safe bet to have strong moviegoer interest because of Ridley Scott, who directed the 1979 sci-fi horror classic “Alien.” Some early buzz reports suggest that “Prometheus” may be a prequel story to “Alien,” but whether it is or isn’t, its “Alien” filmmaker heritage will generate interest from fanboys whose parents were kids when “Alien” opened.

Driven by Scott’s return to his sci-fi horror roots, “Prometheus” should start the month on the right boxoffice foot when it blasts off June 8.

JULY: July, which is prime time at the summer boxoffice, will see the return of two of Hollywood’s biggest superheroes.

Columbia Pictures will kick things off July 3 with “The Amazing Spider-Man,” rebooting its “Spider-Man” franchise with Andrew Garfield taking over from Tobey Maguire as Spidey/Peter Parker. The first three “Spider-Man” episodes directed by Sam Raimi (“Drag Me to Hell”) grossed $1.1 billion in domestic theatres.

The last episode to open, “Spider-Man 3,” grossed $336.5 million domestically after opening May 4, 2007 to $151.1 million. The reboot will have the advantage of arriving for July Fourth Weekend, one of the year’s top grossing holiday weekends. It also should benefit from people wanting to compare Garfield’s take on Spidey to Maguire’s and director Marc Webb’s (“500 Days of Summer”) storytelling approach to Raimi’s.

Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures will launch “The Dark Knight Rises,” the concluding episode in director Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, July 20 with Christian Bale returning as Batman/Bruce Wayne. Also returning are: Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman. The all-star cast’s newcomers include: Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard.

“The Dark Knight” grossed $533.3 million in domestic theatres after opening July 18, 2008 to $158.4 million. As we’ve already seen with the “Twilight Saga” and “Harry Potter” franchises, concluding episodes are today’s must-see movies. Warners’ marketing of this final chapter in Nolan’s Batman trilogy with the tagline “the legend ends” is meant to make the most of this must-see factor.

AUGUST: Years ago August was the summer’s junkyard, a dumping ground for films the studios didn’t believe in enough to release during the prime months of June and July. That’s no longer the case because Hollywood now knows that with the right marketing August can generate its own big ticket sales.

Last Aug. 5, for instance, Fox opened “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” to $54.8 million and saw it rise to $176.7 million domestically. Disney launched “The Help” last Aug. 12 to $26 million and cleaned up with $169.7 million domestically.

Universal could see late summer boxoffice lightning strike Aug. 3 when it opens “The Bourne Legacy,” its new take on the blockbuster “Bourne” franchise. Jeremy Renner (“Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol”) stars and Tony Gilroy (“Michael Clayton”) directs.

This time around there’s no Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), but we’re still in the perilous CIA-driven world of Robert Ludlum’s novels that sparked the franchise. Universal’s marketing makes it clear that we’re also still in the world of non-stop edge-of-your-seat action and that’s exactly what summer moviegoers crave.

“The Bourne Ultimatum,” the original franchise’s last episode, exploded in theatres Aug. 3, 2007 with $69.3 million and ultimately did $227.5 million domestically. The franchise’s three episodes grossed $525.4 million in domestic theatres.

Aug. 3 will also see the arrival of Columbia Pictures’ high profile sci-fi action adventure “Total Recall.” Directed by Len Wiseman (“Live Free or Die Hard”), it stars Colin Farrell in the role Arnold Schwarzenegger created in the 1990 sci-fi classic directed by Paul Verhoeven (“Basic Instinct”).

The original “Total Recall” opened June 1,1990 to $25.5 million and did $119.4 million in domestic theatres, which was a hefty gross back in 1990 and reflected how hot Arnold was at the time. The remake’s state-of-the-art digital wizardry should help generate fanboy interest in a legendary sci-fi film their dads recall enjoying 22 years ago.

Bottom line: “Avengers” looms as a big action movie — both on screen and at the boxoffice.

Meanwhile, thanks to “Avengers” and Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games,” which has grossed nearly $381 million domestically, the 2012 boxoffice is running about 16 percent ahead of last year. At the same time, digital downloads, DVD rentals and Blu-ray sales are trending upwards so for the first time in years Hollywood’s overall home entertainment picture is brighter. A strong summer in theatres will boost those downstream revenues nicely later this year.