It's been called the summer of sequels, but the next few months also is being viewed by industry insiders as a potentially record-breaking season of riches. Starting with Sony's "Spider-Man 3," set to open May 4, and ending with New Line's "Rush Hour 3," slated to open Aug. 10, the schedule is stacked with high-profile releases that are expected to fill theaters and get cash registers cranking.
"You could call it the year of the sequel, the year of the blockbuster -- whatever you want to call it," says one studio distribution president. "It'll probably have its own name after the summer is over. It's going to be big!" It's on that buoyant note that the exhibition industry convenes in Las Vegas for the annual ShoWest convention, running through Thursday at the city's Bally's and Paris hotels.
"May is very heavy with blockbusters," Carmike Cinemas vp film Larry Collins says. "You have 'Spider-Man,' and two weeks later comes (Paramount's 'Shrek the Third') then (Buena Vista's) 'Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.' And as great as ('Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest') did last year, it wasn't even released on a holiday weekend. This year it opens on Memorial Day weekend."
If the summer of 2007 lives up to expectations, it could turn out to be the biggest summer-boxoffice season in history, shattering the record held by the summer of 2004, when 557.4 million admissions generated roughly $3.5 billion in revenue during the 15 week period between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
The number of screens in operation has risen since 2004, and the expanded capacity will be a boon to the business this summer, as anyone who wants to find a seat at the theater should have an easier time.
A record summer season could lift not only boxoffice but admission numbers to new heights as well. The biggest year at the boxoffice also was 2004, with $9.5 billion collected at the turnstiles. But 2004 was helped along by slightly higher ticket prices. The admissions crown is held by 2002 at 1.6 billion -- the highest tally since 1957, when 1.7 billion admissions were reported.