Martin Grove’s Hollywood Report 07-16-12

“The Dark Knight Rises,” – In theaters July 20th

“The Dark Knight Rises,” – In theaters July 20th

Stars of “The Dark Knight Rises,” Christian Bale and Anne Hathaway

Stars of “The Dark Knight Rises,” Christian Bale and Anne Hathaway

Director and writer of “The Dark Knight Rises,” Christopher Nolan

Director and writer of “The Dark Knight Rises,” Christopher Nolan

Batman blockbuster: It’s the best of times and the worst of times when a blockbuster movie franchise like Batman ends.

As Summit Entertainment found out with “Twilight Saga” and as Warner Bros. already knows from “Harry Potter,” moviegoers consider concluding or even Part One of multi-concluding episodes to be must-see movies. But after that boxoffice bonanza, it’s all over and the only thing a studio can do is come up with another blockbuster franchise, which – guess what? – isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do!

“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1” opened to $138.1 million in November 21011. That was more than twice the $64.8 million that the previous episode, “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” opened to in June 2010. The franchise’s final episode, “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part Two” is scheduled to hit theatres Nov. 16 via Lionsgate, which acquired Summit earlier this year, and is expected to do huge business.

In the case of “Harry Potter,” Warner Bros. enjoyed phenomenal business with both parts of the series’ finale. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1” opened in Nov. 2010 to $125 million. That was about 60 percent more than the $77.8 million that “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” opened to in July 2009. The final episode, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2” opened in July 2011 to $169.2 million. That was about 35 percent more than “Part 1’s” opening.

Clearly, there are great expectations now for Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures’ PG-13 rated “The Dark Knight Rises,” the concluding episode in director Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, opening July 20.

On hand once again are Christian Bale as Batman/Bruce Wayne, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman. But there’s also an all-star cast of series newcomers, including: Anne Hathaway as Catwoman/Selina Kyle, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard.

Warners is marketing “Rises” with the perfect tagline “The legend ends,” which tells moviegoers all they need to know to start booking their tickets. Expectations for “Rises” are huge given the film’s rising tracking scores. To give you a sense of just how big “huge” is, Fox and Blue Sky Studios’ PG rated 3D animated comedy adventure “Ice Age: Continental Drift,” was tracking as a first choice film in very high single digits when it opened last weekend to a terrific $46 million. “Rises,” however, is tracking four times bigger than “Drift” one week prior to hitting theatres.

While “Rises’” tracking scores are enviably high with all demos, its greatest strength is with men. Adult men are slightly more eager to see it than fanboys – but at this writing the point spread’s only about two percent between under-25 males and 25-plus males. Women are interested in seeing “Rises” about half as much as men, but those female scores are still significantly bigger than the female scores for anything else on the tracking horizon right now. Looking at ethnic demo scores, “Rises” is a giant across the board and is showing particular strength with Latinos.

Hollywood marketers never like to go out on a limb in predicting how they think their films will do at the boxoffice. In fact, the film industry standard is to try to keep expectations low. Nonetheless, what insiders have been buzzing about is whether “Rises” can open with the same strength that Disney and Marvel Studios’ “The Avengers” displayed when it arrived May 4 to $207.4 million. After 11 weeks in domestic theatres, “Avengers” has grossed nearly $614 million.

Nolan’s previous Batman trilogy episode, “The Dark Knight,” opened July 18, 2008 to $158.4 million and wound up doing $533.3 million domestically. His first Batman movie, “Batman Begins,” opened June 15, 2005 to $48.7 million and did $205.3 million domestically.

If “Rises” follows in “Avengers’” footsteps, Nolan’s Batman trilogy will end with a mega-blockbuster bang. But there still has to be life after Batman and Warners has been working hard on how to meet that challenge.

One of the best solutions is Warners and Legendary Pictures’ 3D reboot of the studio’s Superman franchise, “Man of Steel.” Opening next mid-June, it stars Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/ Superman, Russell Crowe as Jor-El and Amy Adams as Lois Lane. “Steel” is directed by Zack Snyder (“Watchmen”). The film’s producing team includes Christopher Nolan, who was also a producer of “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises.”

To get the Superman reboot buzz going early, Warners had Snyder and Cavill on hand last Saturday to sign autographs for fanboy geeks attending Comic-Con, the annual all-things-comic book convention in San Diego. The Comic-Con crowd got a preview look at some footage from “Man,” which is said to have played exceptionally well.

Snyder and Cavill both spoke to fans at a panel session held by Warners and Legendary that also included Legendary chief Thomas Tull. Snyder was asked about the status of the studio’s “Justice League” project that could hit theatres in 2015 and would team up Batman and Superman and other superheroes from Warners’ comic book subsidiary DC Entertainment. Snyder reportedly replied that for “Justice” to move forward, Superman first needed to “get his house in order.”

Snyder’s also been quoted as telling Comic-Con fans that with the new Superman, “It’s about making him work and making him cool.”

“Justice League” would be Warners and Legendary’s rough equivalent of Disney and Marvel’s superhero mash-up “Avengers.” If “Justice” equals or surpasses “Avengers’” at the global boxoffice, Warners and Legendary would be Hollywood superheroes.

“Avengers” has thus far grossed over $613 million domestically and over $844 million internationally for a global cume of approximately $1.5 billion.

“Avengers” is only the third film ever to reach the $600 million domestic boxoffice threshold. It ranks as the third biggest film ever globally and domestically and as the number four film of all time internationally.

Bottom line: Batman may be saying goodbye, but Superman’s going to fly again.