Miércoles 11 de Julio de 2007, Ip nº 198

Hollywood's hope for record summer fades
Por Bob Tourtellotte

April's rosy forecast that Hollywood would reap a record $4 billion at the box office this summer has been replaced by hopes of merely keeping pace with 2006 as Friday's midpoint of the season nears.

Blame it on the old guys of "Ocean's Thirteen," God in "Evan Almighty" or simply the widely hyped sequels like "Spider-Man 3" that opened to huge ticket sales but failed to keep audiences returning the way their predecessors did.

"It's time to rein in the expectations or, at least, make them more modest," said Paul Dergarabedian of box office tracker Media By Numbers.

Hollywood's summer, which runs from early May to the end of August, is critical for the major movie studios because they can generate up to 40 percent of annual ticket sales.

But box office watchers are now trimming seasonal estimates in the United States and Canada after this past weekend's stumble by Christian comedy "Evan Almighty," whose debut weekend tally of $31 million was less than half the $68 million opening of its predecessor, "Bruce Almighty."

"Ocean's Thirteen" starring Brad Pitt, 43, and George Clooney, 46, also failed to catch fire with many of the younger moviegoers who typically turn out in the summer.

"Spider-Man 3," "Shrek the Third" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" all debuted strongly, but faded faster than expected. Most box office watchers now believe all three will top the $300 million mark, but likely fail to match the final tallies of their series' second movies.

JULY TRANSFORMATION?

Heading into Friday's kids movie "Ratatouille" and action flick "Live Free or Die Hard" with Bruce Willis," U.S. and Canadian domestic ticket sales stand at $1.6 billion, up 3.68 percent from 2006, but attendance at 244.6 million is roughly equal to 2006, according to Media by Numbers.

Ticket sales for summer 2006 totaled $3.85 billion.

Boxofficemojo.com President Brandon Gray reckons that to get to $4 billion by end of August, summer ticket sales would have to reach nearly $2 billion by the end of this week.

"It looks like we're headed to about $1.82 billion," Gray said. He gave the notion of besting 2004's $3.95 billion record summer only a "slim chance."

Still, box office watchers see rays of hope in summer's second half due to several widely hyped movies starting with the July 4's action flick "Transformers" and followed by July 11's "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix."

"Transformers," the movie about aliens who transform into cars and battle their rivals on Earth, enjoys a loyal fan base among young men who also make up the core moviegoing audience.

Likewise, the "Harry Potter" movies have proven to be huge crowd pleasers in past years. Overall, the four previous films in the series have raked in more than $3.5 billion worldwide.

Other top titles in July include musical "Hairspray" based on the Broadway production about an overweight teen-ager who dances her way to local TV stardom, and "The Simpsons Movie," which is derived from the long-running hit TV cartoon.

Big stars are on the way, too, with Adam Sandler in comedy "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry" and Lindsay Lohan in thriller "I Know Who Killed Me."

Finally, more than in previous years the traditionally slow month of August is loaded with movies that could be break-out hits, such as action-adventure "The Bourne Ultimatum," comedy "Rush Hour 3" and fantasy "Stardust."


  26/06/2007. Yahoo News.