The summer box office is about to overheat with so many movies racing into theaters, so the studios understandably have a bad case of pre-release flopsweat. Warner’s Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix (July 11th) just came onto tracking “huge” which isn’t surprising since the next book comes out around the same time. Harry is no longer a cute little tween. He’s now an edgy rebellious teen. (This tracking mitigates the talk I’ve been hearing: that the film had trade screenings in Kansas City, Memphis and New Orleans and reportedly “was considered boring and lacking in magic by teens, who felt that it didn’t advance the story or characters. They said it was shorter but felt longer,” a source at a rival studio told me.) My sentiment is don’t bet against the Harry Potter movies, ever. They’re a cut above.
I’m told DreamWorks’ Transformers (July 3rd), which was tracking “gigantic” last week, is still “as big as Harry” now. (But not in the Spidey or Pirates stratosphere — yet.) And its merchandise crap is the hottest in Hollywood. (So maybe Spielberg was right to keep the robots under wraps as long as humanly possible.) My box office gurus keep trying to get their arms around an opening number, but it’s next to impossible what with the Paramount pic’s debut on a Tuesday. Its roll-out over the Fourth Of July week is also going to wreak havoc with the 3-day number from Friday to Sunday used to compare box office. But from the tracking, this robot pic isn’t going to need to break records for PR spin.
Disney’s Ratatouille (June 29th) is “usual Pixar big.” My analysts forsee a $60 million opening weekend, which would put it on a par with Cars. But here’s the difference between these toons: Cars was a merchandising bonanza while Ratatouille won’t be. (What parents want to see their kid embrace a plush toy Remy?) I still think that sophisticated film critics are enjoying this movie better than parents and children will. It’s got an unpronounceable title, it’s set in Paris (people hate the French), and it’s about gourmet cooking (not accessible to America’s heartland unless the Food Network has changed that).
Fox’s Live Free Or Die Hard (June 27th) continues to track “good but not great.” I find this a surprise considering the incredibly well-done ad campaign with special effects that seem to defy gravity. But it’s been eons since the last sequel. Expect an opening in the $30+ millions.
After Dark’s torture porn Captivity (July 13th) is tracking a big zero even with its Friday The 13th opening which is traditionally favored by horror pics. Hopefully, it’ll meet an even worse fate than Lionsgate’s torture porn Hostel II.