Summer Box Office Forecast: From Harry Potter to Captain America
In the film industry, bigger doesn't necessarily mean better at the box office. But there's no question the summer of 2011 is the season of the blockbuster.
A record-setting number of marquee sequels and superhero flicks are competing for your hard-earned entertainment dollars.
"There is (an abundance) of big movies out there," says Variety box-office reporter Andrew Stewart. That's the good news for the industry. The bad? "All the major movie franchise titles will be released (in a short amount of time)."
So deciding on buying a ticket for Harry Potter's swan song or Michael Bay's third Transformers flick might be even more difficult than super-sizing your snack order. Going for both films might be like going for broke.
Still, Stewart says he's convinced that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 and Transformers: Dark of the Moon will be vying for top spot at the box office when all is screened and totalled.
"It could very well be Harry Potter," he says of the top earner. "It has the pedigree and it is the final instalment."
Who knows? 2011 might be able to zoom by the 2009 top summer total.
Either way, here's a preview of some potential winners:
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, opening July 15
The deal: Part 1 scooped up a global box office of $954 million US with its talkative setup to the climactic magic smackdown between Harry Potter and the evil Lord Voldemort. Part 2 is the action-packed payoff, sealed with a kiss between Ron and Hermione.
The verdict: With the fancy addition of 3-D, and the finale factor, figure on well over a billion bucks.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon, opening June 29
The deal: Even Michael Bay admits 2009's Transformers was a hectic mishmash of special effects. Still, the robots-in-disguise movie attracted more than $836.3 million US worth of business globally.
The verdict: More story and less confusion equals a box-office repeat performance.
Three for the road
Kung Fu Panda 2, opened May 26
The deal: Po the adorable Panda, voiced by Jack Black, has to prove himself all over again. A nasty peacock (Gary Oldman) has other plans, although Po has Tigress (Angelina Jolie) watching his back.
The verdict: Another animated chop-socky trip rewarded.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, opened May 20
The deal: Jack's back. That's Johnny Depp's pirate captain with an angle on everything. This time he's on a seabound journey to find the fountain of youth, whether Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and his daughter (Penelope Cruz) want him to or not.
The verdict: Fans have already spoken: Pirates enjoyed the bounty of the fourth-largest worldwide opening ever. And the broad reach will continue.
Cars 2, opening June 24
The deal: Disney/Pixar boss John Lasseter takes a break from the executive office to guide the animated sequel into theatres as race car Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) competes in the World Grand Prix circuit.
The verdict: Pixar's perfect winning streak continues.
Super-sized comic-book heroes
Captain America: The First Avenger, opening July 22
The deal: Chris Evans has already gone super-duper by playing the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four movies. Now, he's Captain America, the Second World War-era stars-and-stripes hero battling Nazi weapons expert Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), who's gone rogue in his quest to conquer the world.
The verdict: A tantalizing teaser to next summer's all-star superhero session The Avengers.
Green Lantern, opening June 17
The deal: It's not easy being green, especially if you are the wisecracking space-cop crime fighter Green Lantern (Ryan Reynolds). He's making the universe safe for everyone, including his girlfriend Carol Ferris (Blake Lively).
The verdict: James Bond director Martin Campbell keeps things moving while Reynolds keeps the superhero business light in this popcorn-ready adventure.
The bawdy bunch
The Hangover Part II, opened May 26
The deal: In 2009, The Hangover set the box-office bar very high for R-rated comedies with its record-setting $467 million US worldwide. Part II might come close by re-mixing the comedy agenda.
The verdict: The Hangover boys will do it again.
Bad Teacher, opening June 24
The deal: Justin Timberlake is in touch with his cool-nerd educator character as he plays opposite his former flame, Cameron Diaz. She's a dope-smoking, booze-drinking teacher who tries to get clean to impress the new guy (Timberlake) at the elementary school.
The verdict: Graduating with honours: Timberlake's on a roll, and there's something about Cameron when she gets all goofy.
Friends with Benefits, opening July 22
The deal: Mila Kunis portrays a corporate headhunter with sex-only designs on a new client (Timberlake). Then feelings get in the way, not to mention lots of naked cavorting between the sheets.
The verdict: Guilt-free voyeurism while Sexy/Back fans return for more than one viewing.
Cowboys & Aliens, opening July 29
The deal: Besides the alluring title based on the graphic novel, audiences should be enticed by the prospect of seeing James Bond's Daniel Craig and Indiana Jones' Harrison Ford donning ol' west cowboy hats in this sci-fi shoot-'em-up.
The verdict: Iron Man director Jon Favreau says there will be no spoofy winking, but expect some ham-on-wry moments suitable for multiple demographics.