Martin Grove’s Hollywood Report 12-31-12

Still from “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters”

Still from “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters”

Matt Damon as Max in “Elysium”

Matt Damon as Max in “Elysium”

“G.I. Joe: Retaliation” – In theaters 03.29.2013

“G.I. Joe: Retaliation” – In theaters 03.29.2013

Happy New Year: After setting a $10.8 million boxoffice record for 2012, Hollywood’s starting the New Year with high hopes.

As great as 2012 was, looking ahead to 2013 there’s good cause for optimism that ticket sales could be even higher because there’s even more high profile product in Hollywood’s pipeline. With so many new blockbuster franchise episodes on tap, the multiplexes could be sizzling throughout the year.

Here’s a quick month-by-month overview of some upcoming films that seem likely to draw crowds. As always, there will be surprise hits and disappointments and some release dates are bound to change. But as we say goodbye to 2012 and greet the New Year, there’s a lot on the horizon to look forward to seeing, including a few films that were supposed to open last year but were moved ahead to 2013 — like Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures’ romantic drama “The Great Gatsby” and Paramount, MGM and Hasbro’s action adventure “G.I. Joe: Retaliation.”

JANUARY: January’s boxoffice always benefits when there are holdover hits from the holiday season. This time around several such films will help to heat up January. To begin with there’s Warner Bros.’ release of MGM and New Line Cinema’s PG-13 fantasy adventure “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” It placed first last weekend with nearly $33 million and has already grossed nearly $223 million. That’s catapulted “Hobbit” into eighth place on 2012’s Top Ten boxoffice chart.

Not only will “Hobbit” be selling tickets in January, but so will two new hits that arrived in theatres Christmas Day. Universal and Working Title Films’ PG-13 romantic musical drama “Les Miserables” has already grossed over $67 million. Directed by Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”), it stars Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried and is a major contender for Oscar consideration, including for best picture and best directing.

The Weinstein Company and Columbia Pictures’ R rated western drama “Django Unchained” already has about $64 million under its boxoffice belt. Directed by Quentin Tarantino (“Pulp Fiction”), it stars Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington and Samuel L. Jackson. “Django,” too, is generating lots of Oscar buzz, including for best picture and best directing.

When Oscar nominations are announced at 5:30 a.m., Pacific Time Jan. 10 both “Les Mis” and “Django” are expected to receive numerous nods, which should help drive their ticket sales in coming weeks.

January will also bring some new releases that are a good bet to attract moviegoers’ attention. Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures’ R rated action crime thriller “Gangster Squad” opens Jan. 11. Directed by Ruben Fleischer (“Zombieland”), it stars Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Nick Nolte, Emma Stone and Sean Penn as Mickey Cohen in a story about the LAPD’s fight to keep East Coast mobsters out of Los Angeles in the 1940s and '50s. It’s tracking best with under-25 males.

Jan. 18 is opening day for Lionsgate and Di Bonaventura Pictures’ R rated action crime thriller “The Last Stand.” Directed by Jee-woon Kim (“I Saw the Devil”), it stars Arnold Schwarzenegger in his return to the screen after spending years in politics as governor of California. Schwarzenegger’s last major starring role was in Warner Bros.’ 2003 R rated sci-fi action thriller “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,” which grossed $150.4 million domestically.

In “Stand” Schwarzenegger plays Sheriff Ray Owens, who’s left his LAPD narcotics post after a bungled operation and started a new life fighting what little crime there is in a sleepy border town. Everything changes when a notorious drug king (Eduardo Noriego) turns up and must be stopped before slipping across the border.

Paramount Pictures and MGM’s 3D action horror thriller “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” opens Jan. 25. Directed by Tommy Wirkola (“Dead Snow”), it stars Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton as siblings Hansel and Gretel. After getting a taste for blood as children, they’ve become the ultimate vigilantes. But now they’re being hunted, themselves, and face an evil far greater than witches — their own past.

FEBRUARY: Valentine’s Day will bring heart-pounding action to the multiplexes with 20th Century Fox and Dune Entertainment’s action thriller “A Good Day to Die Hard.” Directed by John Moore (“Max Payne”), it stars Bruce Willis in this latest “Die Hard” franchise episode. Willis starred in the series’ first four episodes, which together took in about $435 million in domestic theatres. The last episode, “Live Free or Die Hard,” opened June 27, 2007 to $33.4 million and went on to do $134.5 million domestically.

MARCH: Paramount, MGM and Hasbro’s action adventure “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” was originally set to open last summer, but was bumped ahead to this Mar. 29. Paramount was smart not to go into last summer’s over crowded marketplace with so many competing popcorn pictures. In late March there aren’t as many choices for action fans and “Retaliation” should benefit from that.

Directed by Jon M. Chu (“Justin Bieber: Never Say Never”), it stars Channing Tatum, Dwayne Johnson and Ray Park. Tatum and Park starred in the 2009 original “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.” Johnson is new to the sequel as is Bruce Willis.

“Cobra” opened Aug. 7, 2009 to $54.7 million and ended up grossing $150.2 million domestically.

APRIL: Universal and Chernin Entertainment’s sci-fi action adventure “Oblivion” opens in limited release Apr. 12 and goes wide Apr. 19. Directed by Joseph Kosinski (“TRON: Legacy”), it stars Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman and Andrea Riseborough.

“Oblivion’s” futuristic story revolves around Jack Harper (Cruise), a drone repairman working on the Earth’s surface 60 years after the planet’s been scarred horribly by an invasion in 2017 by an alien force called the Scavs. While Earth won the war, the planet was devastated and humanity’s been driven underground. Finding a crashed spacecraft puts Harper’s beliefs about the war into question and could put mankind’s fate in his hands. The film’s intriguing tagline tells us, “Earth is a memory worth fighting for.”

An indication of how big a movie Universal is hoping it has on its hands is that it’s already taken the unusual step of releasing an impressive 12 and a half minute trailer for “Oblivion” featuring a commentary soundtrack with Kosinski discussing it as directors do in DVD commentaries.

MAY: May launches the pre-summer season and typically brings moviegoers some big high profile films that are a great prelude to the summer.

This year’s pre-summer kicks off May 3 with Paramount and Marvel Studios’ sci-fi action adventure “Iron Man 3.” Directed by Shayne Black (“Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”), it stars Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Guy Pearce and Gwyneth Paltrow. Downey and Paltrow starred in the original “Iron Man” (2008) and its sequel “Iron Man 2” (2010). The franchise’s first two episodes grossed nearly $631 million in domestic theatres and expectations are that the latest episode will maintain the series’ boxoffice strength.

Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures’ romantic drama “The Great Gatsby,” directed by Baz Luhrmann (“Moulin Rouge”) and starring Leonardo Di Caprio, Carey Mulligan and Joel Edgerton, is based on the classic novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

“Gatsby” was to have opened last Christmas Day, but was moved ahead to May 10. That took it out of a holiday season filled with other strong adult appeal product like “Les Mis” and “Django Unchained” and put it into the pre-summer where it will have adult audiences to itself.

Over the years, Fitzgerald’s 1924 novel has been turned into movies numerous times. The first was made in 1926 by Famous Players-Lasky and released by Paramount. It starred Warner Baxster as Jay Gatsby and Lois Wilson as Daisy Buchanan. In 1949 Paramount remade “Gatsby” with Alan Ladd and Betty Field starring. A television production of “Gatsby” was done in 2000 by A&E Television, the BBC and Granada Entertainment, starring Toby Stephens and Mira Sorvino.

Paramount produced a high profile remake of “Gatsby” in 1974, starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. Jack Clayton (“Room at the Top”) directed from a screenplay adaptation by Frances Ford Coppola (“The Godfather” trilogy).

Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures will have a likely boxoffice hit in “The Hangover Part III,” opening May 24. Directed by Todd Phillips (“The Hangover” and “The Hangover Part II”), it stars Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms, who starred in the series’ first two blockbuster episodes.

Those episodes grossed nearly $532 million domestically and expectations are that with a built-in audience waiting for more of the same the new film should keep the momentum going.

JUNE: Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures will launch their “Superman” franchise reboot “Man of Steel” June 14. Directed by Zack Snyder (“Watchmen”), the 3D action adventure stars Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Superman, Amy Adams as Lois Lane and Russell Crowe as Jor-El.

The franchise’s first five titles, released from 1978 through 2006, grossed over $518 million in domestic theatres. Warners will be hoping for the same re-booting success with “Superman” that Columbia and Marvel Studios enjoyed last summer with “The Amazing Spider-Man,” in which Andrew Garfield replaced Tobey Maguire as Spidey/Peter Parker and Marc Webb (“(500) Days of Summer”) replaced Sam Raimi as director. “Amazing” grossed $262 million domestically and placed sixth on 2012’s list of biggest boxoffice hits.

JULY: Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer Films will be hoping to ignite boxoffice fireworks this July Fourth weekend with their July 3 launch of the action adventure western “The Lone Ranger,” based on the classic 1930s radio series and 1950s TV series. Directed by Gore Verbinski (“Rango”), it stars Johnny Depp as Tonto and Armie Hammer as John Reid/The Lone Ranger in this account of how the legendary masked crime fighter came to be.

Published estimates put the new “Ranger’s” cost at around $250 million. The picture survived a rocky road to the screen, having originally been scheduled to open Dec. 21, 2012. That plan evaporated after a crisis over its supersized budget temporarily scuttled production. “Ranger” got back on the track after Disney and Bruckheimer Films compromised on cutting its budget from $250 million to $215 million. But reports last summer claimed the film’s budget had escalated during production and was back at the $250 million level. Disney said at the time that those reports were inaccurate.

When “Ranger” rides into theatres July 3 it will have high awareness going for it plus Depp’s star power as well as one of the year’s top grossing holiday weekends to attract moviegoers.

AUGUST: Sci-fi action will be back in the multiplexes with Columbia and Media Rights Capital’s Aug. 3 launch of “Elysium.” Directed by Neil Blomkamp (“District 9”), it stars Matt Damon and Jodie Foster.

“Elysium” is set in 2159 when there are two classes of people —the very wealthy, who live on a pristine man-made space station called Elysium, and the rest, who live on an overpopulated, ruined Earth.

Foster plays Secretary Rhodes, a government official, who will stop at nothing to enforce anti-immigration laws and preserve Elysium’s luxurious lifestyle. But that doesn’t stop the people of Earth from trying to get in by any means possible. Damon plays Max, who takes on a challenging mission that could save his life and could also bring equality to the two polarized worlds.

SEPTEMBER: Columbia and Sony Pictures Animation will be looking for moviegoing families with their Sept. 27 opening of the 3D animated comedy “Cloudy 2: Revenge of the Leftovers.” It’s the second episode in the franchise that began with 2009’s “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.”

Directed by Cody Cameron (“Open Season 3”) and first time feature director Kris Pearn, the new episode stars the voices of Bill Hader, Anna Farris and Will Forte. The original “Cloudy” opened Sept. 18, 2009 to $30.3 million and ended up grossing $124.9 million domestically.

OCTOBER: Paramount’s low budget R rated blockbuster horror thriller franchise “Paranormal Activity” will be back in action just in time for Halloween with the Oct. 25 launch of “Paranormal Activity 5.”

The first four “Paranormal” episodes, released from 2009 through 2012, grossed over $350 million domestically. Having been made on shoestring budgets, they were enormously profitable for Paramount. Even without any details available this early about the fifth franchise episode, it seems a safe bet that “Paranormal” fans will turn up to be scared once again.

NOVEMBER: Disney and Marvel Studios should have a big boxoffice contender in their Nov. 8 launch of the 3D fantasy action adventure “Thor: The Dark World.”

Directed by Alan Taylor (“Game of Thrones”), it stars Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman and Christopher Eccleston. In this sequel to the 2011 blockbuster “Thor,” in which Hemsworth and Portman starred, Hemsworth as Thor battles an ancient race of Dark Elves led by the vengeful Malekith (Eccleston), who threatens to plunge the universe back into darkness after the events of “The Avengers.”

The original “Thor” opened May 6, 2011 to $65.7 million and went on to gross $181 million domestically. “Avengers” opened May 4, 2012 to $207.4 million and ended up with $623.4 million domestically, making it 2012’s top grossing film.

Also on tap for November is Lionsgate’s next episode in “The Hunger Games” franchise, which was last year’s third biggest grossing film with $408 million. The new episode, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” opening Nov. 22, is directed by Francis Lawrence (“Water for Elephants”) and stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth, who starred in the first film. The “Hunger” films are based on the trilogy of best selling novels by Suzanne Collins.

DECEMBER: Dec. 13 will see the arrival via Warner Bros. of the second episode in ”The Hobbit” 3D fantasy adventure trilogy from MGM and New Line Cinema.

Directed by Peter Jackson (“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, the “Hobbit” trilogy), “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” once again stars Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug/The Necromancer and Andy Serkis as Gollum.

The first “Hobbit” episode opened Dec. 14 to $84.6 million and has already taken in nearly $223 million in domestic theatres, making it 2012’s eighth biggest grossing film.

Bottom line: With so much strong product opening in 2013 and with the next “Hobbit” likely to provide a year-end boxoffice jolt, Hollywood could have another great year to celebrate when it rings in 2014.

Meanwhile, a very Happy and Healthy 2013 to all!