Hollywood Puts Tentpole Stake in Summer (Cannes)


After a lackluster first quarter, the studios are more than ready for blockbuster season to begin.

The opening in Cannes’ main competition section of Summit’s The Tree of Life, director’s Terrence Malick’s long anticipated period film co-starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, will precede its foreign commercial rollout on May 25 in France. A win at Cannes would be huge for this picture.

Warner Bros. is throwing a comedy into the May mix internationally on May 26 with the opening of the sequel to 2009’s The Hangover, which grossed about $190 million outside the U.S. and Canada. Directed by Todd Phillips, Hangover 2 costars Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms.

Bowing at the same time is the sequel 2008’s Kung Fu Panda, which grossed $416 million overseas, nearly doubling its domestic gross. A DreamWorks Animation-Paramount release, Kung Fu Panda 2 is voiced principally by Jack Black, Angelina Jolie and Jackie Chan.  [A France opening is set for June 15.]

June shapes up as an exceptionally busy month as at least nine titles are primed for overseas playtimes.

Fox has four films in the hopper, notably the fifth sequel in the profitable X-Men franchise, X-Men: First Class, directed by Matthew Vaughn and co-starring James McAvoy and Michael Fassbinder, which opens June 1. Eight days later Paramount weighs in with Super 8, a sci-fi thriller co-produced by Steven Spielberg set in the 1970’s about a group of friends in Ohio witnessing a suspicious train crash. [Super 8 arrives in France on Aug. 3.]

In Mid-June, Fox will open overseas the latest Jim Carrey comedy, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, which Fox’s Hanneman describes as a “broad comedy with not only big laughs, but also real heart and a great message.” It’s about the change in a businessman’s life when he inherits six penguins. June 16 will see the release in Australia of Universal’s wedding-themed comedy starring Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids.

Due June 24 is Bad Teacher, an R-rated comedy from Sony co-starring Cameron Diaz [as a foul-mouthed junior high school teacher] and Justin Timberlake.  Opening June 29 is Paramount’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon, directed by Michael Bay, with Shia LaBeouf [minus Megan Fox] and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley co-starring in the third edition of the highly remunerative sci-fi robot franchise begun in 2007.

Talk about counter-programming. To provide comic relief from all the noisy action of the latest Transformers, Pixar/Disney is releasing overseas Cars 2, the sequel to the 2006 smash animation comedy. Directed and co-scripted by John Lassiter, the fast car adventure will feature the voices of Owen Wilson and Michael Caine, among others.

July will probably belong to Warner’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, the eighth and purportedly the final title based on J.K. Rowling’s novels, the bases of the most successful movie franchise in history.

This one will be in 3D as well as in conventional 2D, and will co-star Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter and Rupert Grint under David Yates’ direction. The Harry Potter series is far stronger draw overseas than in the U.S. and Canada, and has taken in $4.36 billion offshore over seven titles so far. July 15 is the big kickoff.

The month’s other big title is Paramount’s Captain America: The First Avenger, directed by Joe Johnston and co-starring Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving and Hayley Atwell. The saga of a military service rejectee turned superhero is based on the Marvel comic book. Foreign openings begin July 27, with a France opening set for Aug. 17.

The distribution pace picks up a bit in August with a half dozen titles in the hopper, notably Fox’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, due Aug. 3. Fox considers this one a “smart summer blockbuster,” updating the Apes sci-fi series that was started by Fox 43 years ago

From Paramount comes Cowboys and Aliens, director Jon Favreau’s sci-fi-western about threatening spaceships arriving in Arizona in 1873. Co-starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, Cowboys will be released offshore on Aug. 9 with a France opening set for Aug. 24.

To counter all this action, Sony will release The Smurfs in France on Aug. 3, and in other markets two days later. This is a Sony Animation co-production, a comedy in 3D about blue smurf creatures descending on New York City. The foreign run will continue through mid-September.

The final words go to Paramount’s Cripps: “What we need to top all this off is a cool, rainy summer in Europe.”

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