Martin Grove’s Hollywood Report 06-04-12

“The Avengers” – (L-R) Haweye, Captain America, and Black Widow

“The Avengers” – (L-R) Haweye, Captain America, and Black Widow

Jennifer Lawrence as Katnis Everdeen in “The Hunger Games”

Jennifer Lawrence as Katnis Everdeen in “The Hunger Games”

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

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

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

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

Halftime hopes: June doesn’t just signal the start of summer, it means it’s halftime on the Hollywood gridiron.

With the year half over, it's the perfect time to take stock of how things are going at the boxoffice.

Of course, every year has its ups and downs and it's never over 'till it's over. Nonetheless, with five months already behind us and June underway, there's no question Hollywood's having a better year than last year. Through last weekend, 2012's domestic theatrical boxoffice was approximately $4.5 billion, up nearly 10 percent from this time last year.

While there's been some erosion in that growth since earlier this year, it's still an encouraging gain. Mostly, it reflects three blockbusters that proved, once again, that moviegoing is a 52 weeks a year business.

At this point, the year's three biggest hits are Disney and Marvel Entertainment's “The Avengers,” which opened May 4 and has grossed $552.7 million domestically (and with $1.4 billion worldwide is now the third highest grossing film of all time globally as well as domestically); Lionsgate's “The Hunger Games,” which arrived Mar. 23 and has grossed $398.3 million; and Universal and Illumination Entertainment's “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax,” which hit theatres Mar. 2 and has grossed $211.5 million.

Together these three films represent approximately $1.2 billion in domestic ticket sales -- or about 26 percent of the year to date's $4.5 billion. They also reflect three of Hollywood's widest appeal genres – superhero comic book driven franchises, youth appeal book driven franchises and 3D animated family films driven by familiar characters or brand name books and authors.

What's encouraging is that as we move into the second half of the year we'll continue to see the same kind of heavy Hollywood artillery rolling into the multiplexes – including two comic book driven franchises likely to dominate the July boxoffice with new episodes engineered for maximum playability.

Columbia Pictures and Marvel Entertainment's “The Amazing Spider-Man” is a franchise reboot starring Andrew Garfield (in place of Tobey Maguire) as Spidey/Peter Parker, Emma Stone and Rhys Ifans. Directed by Marc (“500 Days of Summer”) Webb (in place of Sam Raimi), it opens Tue., July 3 to make the most of the extended July Fourth holiday period.

Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures' “The Dark Knight Rises,” opening July 20, is the concluding episode in the blockbuster franchise. It reteams director Christopher Nolan with Christian Bale as Batman/Bruce Wayne. Its ensemble cast also boasts: Michael Caine, Gary Oldman. Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Morgan Freeman.

"Knight's" arrival July 20 is carefully timed so that a few weeks pass after Spidey springs back into boxoffice action July 3. Wherever possible and especially where mega-bucks superhero franchises are concerned, Hollywood makes it a point not to go head to head for the same opening weekend audience.

Of course, the grosses for "Spider-Man" and "Knight" will help boost this year's second half. The remaining weeks of June, however, are likely to bring some good first half action of their own – starting with this weekend's two wide titles.

The R rated sci-fi horror thriller “Prometheus” from Fox and Scott Free Productions, starring Noomi Rapace and Charlize Theron, is directed by Ridley Scott, who made the sci-fi classics “Alien” (1979) and “Blade Runner” (1982). Scott's return to his sci-fi horror roots with "Prometheus" is a big draw for its strongest tracking audience of 25-plus males, who were probably teens when "Alien" opened. It's also tracking well with under-25 males, who have likely seen and enjoyed Scott's earlier films on TV or DVD.

DreamWorks Animation and Paramount's PG rated 3D animated adventure “Madagascar 3” is the perfect film to open opposite the R rated "Prometheus" as it's targeted to families.

Directed by Eric Darnell (“Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa”), Tom McGrath (“Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa”) and Conrad Vernon (“Monsters vs. Aliens”), it features such voice talents as Ben Stiller and Chris Rock. This is the third episode in a franchise that's already grossed $376.6 million in domestic theatres. The last episode, “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa,” opened Nov. 7, 2008 to $63.1 million and wound up doing $180 million domestically.

"Madagascar 3" is tracking best with 25-plus women, which translates into moms with kids and is exactly the crowd this film needs to attract.

Two weeks later, June can count on another shot in the arm with family audiences when Disney and Pixar Studios' PG rated 3D animated action adventure “Brave” rolls into multiplexes June 22.

Directed by first time feature director Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman (“The Prince of Egypt”), it's co-directed by "Brave" co-screenwriter Steve Purcell. "Brave's" voice talents include Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson.

Bottom line: Things are looking up for Hollywood so far this year and there's some proven product on tap for June and July.