There are certain kinds of movies that have summer written all over it. You know, the ones with A-list actors performing amazing feats of derring-do (usually courtesy of trained stuntmen and state-of-the-art special-effects wizards). The sorts of projects guaranteed to pull in dizzying sums at the boxoffice. That is, until they don't. While distributors are still trying to understand what went wrong in '05 to cause the Year of the Slump -- audience fragmentation, skyrocketing ticket prices, rude movie patrons, et al. -- they also are hoping that history will not be repeating itself in the coming weeks. Although no one is willing to state with absolute certainty that summer 2006 will be the Year of the Comeback, most insiders seem optimistic that the new crop of tentpole movies invading multiplexes May-August will deliver some impressive returns.
On paper, anyway, that optimism appears to be justified. Personal controversies aside, Tom Cruise remains one of those rarefied stars that can actually open a movie; this time around, he's tasked with opening the entire summer with Paramount's explosive "Mission: Impossible 3" kicking things off May 5. Two weeks later, that other Tom, Mr. Hanks, headlines Sony's cinematic adaptation of Dan Brown's uberbest-seller "The Da Vinci Code" (May 19). Also, the Man of Steel makes his long-awaited comeback in Warner Bros. Pictures'
"Superman Returns" (June 30), just a few days before the loony but lovable Capt. Jack Sparrow sails back into theaters in Buena Vista's "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" (July 7). Throw in the third installment in Fox's "X-Men" franchise, "X-Men: The Last Stand" (May 26); a new Pixar release, Buena Vista's "Cars" (June 9); and a new "bedtime story" from popcorn auteur M. Night Shyamalan, Warners' "Lady in the Water" (July 21), and surely you've got a lineup that not even the most-jaded moviegoer could resist.
Following is a month-by-month breakdown of wide releases from the major studios. Please note, all release dates are subject to change.