Martin Grove’s Hollywood Report 06-13-11

“Green Lantern” – In Theaters June 17th

“Green Lantern” – In Theaters June 17th

“Mr. Popper’s Penguins” – In Theaters June 17th

“Mr. Popper’s Penguins” – In Theaters June 17th

Heather Graham and Jordana Beatty in “Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer”

Heather Graham and Jordana Beatty in “Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer”

Summer superhero: Summer is the ideal season for superhero movies so it’s great news that a new one’s flying into multiplexes.

Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment’s “Green Lantern,” opening Friday, is tracking as a first choice in low double digits, which should put it solidly in first place next weekend.

With a few more days to go, “Green’s” tracking may come up a bit more, but right now it’s where Fox’s reboot of its “X-Men: First Class” franchise was when it opened June 3 to $55.1 million. “X,” which is closing in now on $100 million domestically, still has lots of valuable summer playing time ahead of it.

Like “X,” “Green’s” tracking best with 25+ males and only slightly less well with under-25 males and that’s the right crowd to kick-start a superhero movie. If they like what they see and start tweeting about it, Warners should see plenty of “Green” boxoffice gold.

But don’t forget — although “Green” has a franchise size budget of around $150 million, it’s not an established franchise — at least not yet. Its roots are in a comic book that goes back to 1941, long before the movie’s target audience or even their parents were born. So there’s a learning curve here for young moviegoers.

As superheroes go, the Green Lantern’s profile over the years hasn’t been up there with household names like DC’s Superman and Batman or Marvel’s Spider-Man. Warners’ marketing team has some heavy lifting to do, but from the looks of the tracking they’re getting there. If they can launch “Green” as well as Fox did with “X,” word of mouth should drive it well in the coming weeks. “X” opened at 3,641 theatres and “Green’s” going into 3,600-plus, so X-pectations for similar business make sense.

By the way, this is the same kind of challenge Paramount’s marketing team faced — and successfully met — back in May 2008 with “Iron Man,” a Marvel comic book with a much lower profile over the years than “Spider-Man.” Nonetheless, Paramount opened “Iron Man” to $98.6 million the weekend of May 2-4, 2008, achieving franchise status instantly. It went on to gross $585 million worldwide. The franchise’s second episode, “Iron Man 2,” opened May 7-9, 2010 to $128.1 million and wound up doing $622 million worldwide.

“Green’s” only new wide competition will be Fox’s PG rated Jim Carrey family comedy “Mr. Popper’s Penguins,” opening at about 3,200 theatres. But “Penguins” just hasn’t popped in the tracking. Its first choice score is about one-third of “Green’s.” “Penguins’” strongest demos are females under and over 25, which like it equally well, but not nearly enough. Of course, that probably includes a lot of moms with kids, which is a good group to have on your side.

Family films frequently track low but perform better because parents decide they’ve got to take their little kids to see something — and what else is there to see that’s suitable that they haven’t already sat through? At the moment, the strongest magnet for little kids is DreamWorks Animation and Paramount’s “Kung Fu Panda 2,” but that’s already been playing for three weeks and it’s grossed over $127 million.

The other title out there targeted to little kids is Relativity Media’s “Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer.” After opening softly to about $6 million last weekend, it’s not going to pose much of a threat to “Penguins.”

So that leaves “Penguins” as next weekend’s best bet if you’ve got to drag your little kids to a movie. And if there’s rainy weather around the U.S. Saturday or Sunday afternoon, lots of parents could find themselves in exactly that situation.

“Green” will be arriving as momentum grows for Paramount and Amblin Entertainment’s sci-fi sleeper “Super 8,” which got off to a truly super $37 million start last weekend thanks to Paramount marketing’s last minute pull-out-all-the-stops Twitter campaign. The studio’s Twitter screenings pulled in about $1 million last Thursday and got word of mouth buzzing but good.

That helped drive “Super” through weekend one and set it up to grow as people start learning about it from the core audience that got there first. With a budget of only around $50 million, “Super” should be nicely profitable.

Bottom line: Thanks to hits like “X,” “The Hangover, Part II” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” the boxoffice slump vs. 2010 is now about half of what it was. It should continue shrinking as some very commercial movies kick in from now through Labor Day.

For a quick 60-second look at 10 must-see movies playing in theatres this summer check out this ZAMM Cam Preview.