This weekend's buzz may be all about who's going to win Oscars, but come Monday morning, Hollywood's focus will once again shift from art to business and suddenly we'll be predicting summer blockbusters.
With the pre-summer weeks of May only two months away, the big question is will ticket sales be up from last year or are we heading back to the boxoffice dumps? Dangerous as it is to make sight unseen predictions, the product on deck for May and June looks quite encouraging and seems significantly stronger compared to last summer's titles.
May, as I wrote here recently, includes four films that should kickstart the summer movie season in style -- Paramount's franchise episode "Mission: Impossible III," directed by J.J. Abrams and starring Tom Cruise and Philip Seymour Hoffman (who's probably taking home a best actor Oscar for "Capote" Sunday night), opening May 5; Warner Bros.' action adventure "Poseidon," directed by Wolfgang Petersen, opening May 12, and inspired by Irwin Allen's classic 1972 cruise ship disaster epic "The Poseidon Adventure"; Sony's drama "The Da Vinci Code," directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou, opening May 19, based on the best-seller by Dan Brown; and 20th Century Fox's franchise episode "X-Men: The Last Stand," directed by Brett Ratner, opening May 26 for Memorial Day weekend.
Not only should those titles make for a strong May, they're also likely to translate into strong hold-over business throughout June. Adding to the summer's good prospects are at least eight other June releases, all of which are established brand names. The list includes:
1. Universal's comedy "The Break Up" opens June 2. Directed by Peyton Reed, it stars Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston, whose daily lives are lived in the harsh glare of the global media spotlight. Will moviegoers pay to see celebrities on the big screen that they see on tabloid TV shows for nothing all the time? This is the film that will answer that question once and for all. If the answer is yes, the summer will be off and running in the right direction.
2. Fox's "Omen 666" opens Tues., June 6. A remake of the 1976 horror classic, it stars Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles. Brand-name horror genre product and summer playing time are a potentially volatile combination at the boxoffice.
3. Disney-owned Pixar's computer animated "Cars," directed by John Lasseter (director of "Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2") opens June 9. Its voice ensemble includes Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt and Owen Wilson. The only question is how big will big be? In other words, is it another "Finding Nemo" ($339.7 million domestically) or is it another "The Incredibles" ($261.4 million domestically)?