2010 movie preview

Commentary: First half of the year looks promising

The only downside to Hollywood cracking $10 billion at the domestic boxoffice is that if it doesn't gross more in 2010 the doomsayers will start dusting off their soapboxes.

Can the New Year live up to what was a rotten old year for everybody but the movie business? Well, there are never any guarantees that films will perform. Moreover, movies usually look best sight unseen.

On the other hand, the first half of '10 does include some franchise installments that should be safe boxoffice bets -- like "Iron Man 2," "Shrek Forever After," "Sex and the City 2" and "Wall Street 2."

Plus, there are some high profile originals on deck that are targeted to a wide range of moviegoers and having something for everybody was '09's winning formula. Can Hollywood do it again? Consider the possibilities:

January: The four-day Martin Luther King holiday weekend (Jan. 15-18) is the New Year's first shot at beefy boxoffice business. Warner Bros. and Alcon Entertainment hope to score with "The Book of Eli." Directed by Albert and Allen Hughes ("Menace II Society"), it's a post-apocalyptic action-adventure starring Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman. However: Will audiences want another post-apocalyptic vision?

WB's thriller "Edge of Darkness" (Jan. 29) could end January with a boxoffice blast as Mel Gibson returns to action with Martin Campbell ("Casino Royale") directing. Gibson's a Boston homicide detective whose daughter's been murdered. However: How bright is Gibson's post-DUI star power?

February: Fox's fantasy adventure "Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief" arrives Feb. 12. Directed by Chris Columbus ("Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"), its ensemble cast is led by Pierce Brosnan and Uma Thurman. Percy (Logan Lerman) is Poseidon's son and on a quest to return Zeus's stolen lightning bolt. However: The "Percy" books were written for juveniles. Can the movie pull in older teens?

New Line has the perfectly titled romantic comedy for Valentine's Day in "Valentine's Day," directed by Garry Marshall ("Pretty Woman") with an ensemble cast including Jessicas Alba and Biehl. Its intertwining tales of L.A. romance should be a magnet for women dragging their husbands and dates. However: It's tough to engage audiences with multiple storylines.

Moviegoers can set sail Feb. 19 for Paramount's "Shutter Island." Directed by Martin Scorsese ("The Departed"), the thriller stars Leonardo Di Caprio. "Shutter" has the weekend to itself, a good sign that competing studios expect it to do well. However: Will it play too adult?

March: March should come in like a lion with Disney's 3D "Alice in Wonderland" (March 5). Directed by Tim Burton ("Edward Scissorhands"), it stars Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. Mia Wasikowska plays 19-year-old Alice falling down the rabbit hole once again. However: Will audiences warm to Burton's idiosyncratic vision?

March should go out like a two-headed lion. Family audiences will head March 26 to DreamWorks and Paramount's 3D animated "How to Train Your Dragon" with the voices of Gerard Butler and America Ferrera. However: It's an original and family audiences gravitate to the familiar.

The male action crowd will check out Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures' fantasy adventure "Clash of the Titans." Sam Worthington plays Perseus, who's trying to save his family from Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and wants to seize power from Zeus (Liam Neeson). However: Will audiences want more mythology after "Percy?"

April: Fox could make big money with "Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps" (April 23). Directed by Oliver Stone ("Wall Street"), it stars Michael Douglas and Shia LaBeouf. However: It's 23 years since the original opened and they may have had enough of real-life Wall Street shenanigans!

The month should end on a lively note April 30 with New Line's "A Nightmare on Elm Street," starring Jackie Earle Haley as Freddie Krueger. However: How many visits to Elm Street do moviegoers want to make?

May: The pre-summer boxoffice should start sizzling May 7 with Paramount and Marvel Entertainment's "Iron Man 2," directed by Jon Favreau ("Iron Man"). Robert Downey Jr. returns as Tony Stark/Iron Man and Gwyneth Paltrow is back as Pepper Potts. The original grossed $318 million domestically after opening May 2, 2008 to $99 million. However: Nothing to worry about here.

Universal has a brand-name action-adventure in "Robin Hood" (May 14). Directed by Ridley Scott ("Gladiator"), it stars Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett and may wind up in 3D. However: Do you still believe in Russell Crowe and in tights, no less?

DreamWorks and Paramount have May 21 all to themselves with the 3D animated family franchise "Shrek Forever After." Its all-star voices include Cameron Diaz, Mike Myers, Julie Andrews, Antonio Banderas, Eddie Murphy and Jon Hamm. However: Is there still a compelling story to tell?

Memorial Day weekend kicks off May 28 with Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer's male fantasy action-Is there adventure "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time." Directed by Mike Newell ("Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"), it stars Jake Gyllenhaal. However: It's an original, which is never easy, but its roots are in a video game, which means it could pull in the fanboys.

It also will be girls night out thanks to New Line's "Sex and the City 2." Director Michael Patrick King reteams with Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon and Chris Noth. This time they're on the road to Morocco. However: Did the original provide all the closure that fans of the series needed?

June: The summer boxoffice heats up June 18 with Disney and Pixar's 3D animated family franchise "Toy Story 3." Tom Hanks and Tim Allen return to voice Woody and Buzz Lightyear. However: Is there still life in this story?

Teen and tween girls will turn out June 30 for Summit's "Twilight Saga: The Eclipse," starring Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Bryce Dallas Howard. The franchise's last episode "New Moon" grossed $280 million so it's a safe bet that as July 4 approaches exhibitors will be seeing the kind of boxoffice fireworks they most enjoy. If only we all had points in this one.