ZAMM.COM: Summer Sizzle

By Martin Grove,

Summer sizzle: July is when summer really sizzles. Schools are out. Vacations are on. And for Hollywood, every night is Saturday night.

Hollywood's been fielding summer-like hits since early spring. April 4 saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier march into theatres with $95 million, the year's biggest opening until Transformers: Age of Extinction checked in June 30 with $100 million. The Winter Soldier's cume after 14 weeks is now $257.8 million. It's still 2014's top grossing release, but this should change as we move deeper into the summer.

May kicked off with pre-summer strength from The Amazing Spider-Man 2's May 2 opening to $91.6 million and reaching $200.4 million. Neighbors followed on Spidey's heels with a May 9 kick-off to $49 million and a nine-week cume of $148 million. Godzilla launched May 16 to $93.2 million. After eight weeks, its cume is $197.9 million.

May wrapped up with a one-two box office punch. X-Men: Days of Future Past arrived May 23 with $90.8 million. Its cume after seven weeks is $227.1 million. And Maleficent appeared May 30 with $69.4 million. After six weeks, its cume is $213.9 million.

June signaled summer's real start. The sleeper hit The Fault in Our Stars opened June 6 to $48 million. Its cume after five weeks is $115.9 million. June 13 was a double-header with 22 Jump Street launching to $57 million ($158.9 million after four weeks) and How to Train Your Dragon 2 arriving to $49.5 million ($140 million after four weeks).

June ended with a box office bang as Transformers: Age of Extinction delivered $100 million, making it the year's new Biggest Opening Weekend title holder. Last weekend, it led the July Fourth fireworks with $36.4 million and a two week cume of $174.7 million.

While T4 will certainly be helping to fill mutiplexes in the weeks ahead, July should bring some powerhouse product of its own to keep the summer sizzle going. Topping that list is the 3D sci-fi action thriller Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, opening Friday at about 3,800 theatres. Directed by Matt Reeves, it stars Gary Oldman, Keri Russell and Andy Serkis.

In the blockbuster franchise's new episode, the nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar (Serkis) is threatened by human survivors of a killer virus unleashed 10 years earlier. After a short-lived peace, both sides are on the brink of a war to become Earth's dominant species. Dawn is tracking strongly in double digits as an overall first choice for moviegoers. It's tracking best with 25-plus males and next best with under-25 males.

The last episode, the series' reboot Rise of the Planet of the Apes, opened Aug. 5, 2011 to $54.8 million and went on to gross $176.8 million in domestic theatres.

Family films are among summer's biggest attractions because they're a great way for parents to keep kids occupied, especially if rain rules out outdoors activities like the beach. Of course, that's exactly what did happen July Fourth along the East Coast thanks to then-hurricane Arthur. One of the movie beneficiaries of the storm was the family friendly How to Train Your Dragon 2, which picked up another $8.8 million in its fourth week and rounded out the weekend's Top 5.

July's only new PG-rated 3D animated family film is the adventure comedy Planes: Fire & Rescue, which arrives July 18 and should benefit from being the only new kid-friendly movie in theatres. Directed by Roberts Gannaway, its voice talents include Mae Whitman, Lucy Hale and Timothy Dalton.

In Planes, world-famous air racer Dusty (voiced by Dane Cook) learns his engine's damaged, ending his racing career. He then turns to aerial firefighting, joining forces with veteran fire and rescue helicopter Blade Ranger (Ed Harris) and his Smokejumpers team of all-terrain vehicles. Together, they battle a massive wildfire and Dusty learns what it takes to become a true hero.

Planes is tracking best with 25-plus women, typically the moms-with-kids audience that family films need to attract. It's tracking nearly as well with over-25 males, so dads should be turning up, too.

Of course, there's more to summer moviegoing than family friendly fare. July 18 will also bring two very different films competing for adult moviegoers' time and money. The R-rated comedy Sex Tape is directed by Jake Kasdan and stars Jason Segel, Cameron Diaz and Rob Corddry.

The jumping off point is that when Jay (Segel) and Annie (Diaz) first got together, their romantic connection was intense. But 10 years and two kids later, they now need to kick things up a notch--so they make a three hour video trying out every position in The Joy of Sex. When they wake up the next morning and find their most private video is no longer private, but readily available for viewing through the Cloud, their race to reclaim it leads to a night they'll never forget.

Sex is tracking best with 25-plus females and nearly as well with under-25 women. The weekend's other R-rated arrival is the horror thriller The Purge: Anarchy, from The Purge writer-director James DeMonaco. Among its producers are Michael Bay and Jason Blum.

In this sequel to the 2013 hit, dutiful citizens prepare for the country's annual 12 hours of anarchy, during which all crimes are legal and all emergency services are suspended.

Anarchy's tracking best with under-25 females, the audience that typically turns out to see horror thrillers. It's tracking equally well with under-25 males, so the ladies shouldn't have much trouble dragging husbands and boyfriends along.

Three new wide releases will be competing in the multiplexes to close out July.

The 3D epic action adventure Hercules is directed by Brett Ratner and stars Dwayne Johnson, John Hurt and Ian McShane. Its screenplay by Ryan Condal & Evan Spiliotopoulos is based on Radical Comics' Hercules by Steve Moore.

Hercules should play best to an adult male action audience with story about the ancient demigod Hercules (Johnson), the son of Zeus. After his legendary 12 Labors and losing his family, Hercules turned his back on the gods and found solace in battle. Now his sword-for-hire life is tested when the King of Thrace and his daughter seek Hercules' help to defeat a tyrannical warlord.

Hercules' box office battle will be against the R-rated action thriller Lucy, directed by Luc Besson and starring Scarlett Johansson, Analeigh Tipton and Morgan Freeman.

The film's story centers on Lucy (Johansson), who after being accidentally caught in a dark deal manages to turn the tables on her brutal captors. Lucy then transforms into a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic.

Like other female empowerment films, Lucy should play best to under-25 females, the audience that's attracted to horror thrillers where young female victims ultimately prevail over male villains.

The PG-13 stand up comedy concert film The Fluffy Movie is from first-time feature directors Manny Rodriguez & Jay Lavender and stars fast rising comic Gabriel Iglesias in performance.

Iglesias starred in the 2007 TV movie Gabriel Iglesias: Hot and Fluffy, which Rodriguez directed for Comedy Central. The film presented the cable network's Comic of the Year doing a sold out concert performance in Bakersfield, Calif.

Bottom line: Looking ahead, the early August box office should heat up with the Aug. 1 launch of Guardians of the Galaxy. There's already a great early buzz for the 3D sci-fi action adventure directed by James Gunn and starring Chris Pratt, Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper.

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