ZAMM.COM: Summer Snapshot

By Martin Grove,

Summer Snapshot: Spring is here--and that means we'll start seeing summer movies in about six weeks.

Big spring opening grosses like last weekend's $56 million for Divergent are dwarfed by the really big guns of summer, which is why summer is Hollywood's favorite season. For many years, Memorial Day weekend officially started the summer movie season, but that changed when Hollywood realized that by early May, moviegoers were eager to see big event films after so many months of small awards contender dramas. That moved the start of summer to the first weekend in May--and this year that's May 2 when The Amazing Spider-Man 2 hits multiplexes.

The new Spidey episode looms as a lively launch for the Summer of '14 with a string of other familiar titles and genres set to follow. Here's a snapshot of some early high profile early summer releases--all of which will be playing in 3D--to watch for from May through late June.

The 3D fantasy action adventure The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is from Marc Webb, who directed the 2012 franchise reboot The Amazing Spider-Man, which saw Andrew Garfield take over the Peter Parker/Spider-Man role that Tobey McGuire played in the original blockbuster franchise directed by Sam Raimi. Webb's reboot opened July 3, 2012 to $62 million and went on to gross $262 million domestically.

The first episode had the advantage of opening during the real summer--schools are out for kids and adults are taking vacations--when Hollywood says every night is Saturday night in terms of ticket sales. Competition's hot and heavy during July, but slightly less so in May when most schools are still in session.

By opening the new Spidey episode in the somewhat quieter month of May, Columbia and Marvel hope to benefit from being a very big fish in a slightly smaller pond.

The story revolves around Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield), who has always had an internal struggle between Peter Parker's ordinary obligations and Spidey's extraordinary responsibilities. Now he faces greater conflict since only he can protect New Yorkers from the city's formidable new villains--like Electro (Jamie Foxx).

Just two weekends later, Spidey will face monster competition from the May 16 opening of the 3D sci-fi action adventure Godzilla, from Monsters director Gareth Edwards. The film stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche and Sally Hawkins.

This epic rebirth of the iconic Godzilla pits the world's most famous monster against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity's scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence.

A week later (May 23), comes the latest episode in the 3D comic book driven blockbuster franchise, X-Men: Days of Future Past. Directed by Bryan Singer, it stars Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen and Hugh Jackman.

The franchise's last episode, X-Men: First Class, opened June 3, 2011 to $55.1 million and wound up doing $146.4 million domestically. Fox and Marvel are also setting sail in the somewhat less crowded waters of May. Their release date kicks off the long Memorial Day weekend when moviegoing typically expands significantly.

In the film, the ultimate X-Men ensemble fights a war for the survival of the species across two time periods. The characters from the original X-Men trilogy join forces with their younger selves from X-Men: First Class in an epic battle that must change the past in order to save the future.

One week later, May 30 will end the month on a big note with the PG-rated 3D action adventure drama Maleficient from first time feature director Robert Stromberg, whose production design credits include Avatar and Alice in Wonderland. The film stars Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning and Sharito Copley.

Maleficient, the untold story of Disney’s most iconic villain from the classic Sleeping Beauty, reveals what hardened Maleficent’s heart and drove her to curse baby Aurora, later realizing she may hold the key to peace in the land.

While Maleficient is an original film, which increasingly is the exception in summer schedules driven by well established brands, it does enter the marketplace with two advantages--the Disney brand for great family entertainment and superstar Angelina Jolie.

June will have an original start, as well, with the June 6 blast off of the 3D sci-fi action thriller Edge of Tomorrow. Directed by Doug Liman, it stars Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt and Bill Paxton.

Here, too, we're looking at a non-franchise film, but with two strong brands attached --3D sci-fi and Tom Cruise. Also, by early June we're starting to see schools closing for summer vacations and more will close as Tomorrow continues playing in the coming weeks.

In the film, set in the near future, an alien race hits Earth in an unrelenting assault that's unbeatable by any military unit in the world.

Major William Cage (Cruise), who's never seen a day of combat, is sent on what amounts to a suicide mission. Killed within minutes, Cage now finds himself inexplicably thrown into a time loop in which he must live out the same brutal combat over and over, fighting and dying again and again. With each battle, however, Cage becomes able to engage his adversaries with increasing skill, fighting alongside Special Forces warrior Rita Vrataski (Blunt). As Cage and Rita fight the aliens, each repeated encounter gets them one step closer to victory.

June will end with a blockbuster franchise bang with June 27's opening of the 3D sci-fi action adventure Transformers: Age of Extinction, from Michael Bay, who directed the series' first three episodes. The film stars Mark Whalberg, Nicola Peltz and Jack Reynor.

The franchise's last episode, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, opened June 29, 2011 to $97.9 million and went on to gross $352.4 million domestically.

In Age of Extinction, a group of powerbrokers and scientists trying to learn from past Transformer incursions push the boundaries of technology beyond what they can control. Meanwhile, an ancient, powerful Transformer menace sets his sights on Earth.

Bottom line: Hollywood's hoping for a long hot summer at the box office and May and June should deliver the goods. I'll focus on some high profile mid-summer (July) and late summer (August) releases in upcoming columns.

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