So say UK exhibitors that I’ve talked to, handicapping this summer’s blockbusters. “We haven’t had a line-up this good since 2002 when Spider-Man, Star Wars II & l, and were released,” one UK exhibitor drools. “Even so, there will be a lot of catch-up to do in July and August because of this month’s World Cup.” This gels with an Odeon cinema chain poll that says 28% of cinemagoers are most excited about seeing Toy Story 3 3D, compared to 22% for Shrek Forever After, and 15% for The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. Odeon surveyed over 5,000 UK film fans.
This summer’s UK movie season starts in earnest on July 12, the day after the World Cup final. Some of June’s releases seem more about triggering that lucrative BSkyB pay-TV deal. Toy Story 3 is expected to romp home for Disney, grossing up to £50 million ($73 million) in the UK alone after its July 21 opening. Shrek Forever After, Paramount’s fourth 3D instalment of the franchise, opens on July 2. UK Exhibitors expect it to gross about £40 million. One week later Twilight: Eclipse opens for E1 Entertainment. Twilight: New Moon grossed £27 million compared with the original’s £14 million. . The UK multiplexes expect Eclipse to exceed the £30 million mark.
The UK dark horse is Christopher Nolan’s Inception, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, which Warner Bros releases on July 16. Hyped as “007 meets The Matrix”, cinema bookers predict it could gross anything between £15 million and £30 million over here. After that there’s a crowd of releases bunched together, any of which could gross up to £20 million each: The A-Team reboot (Fox, July 28); Knight and Day, starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz (Fox, August 6); Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore (Warner, August 4), and the Angelina Jolie action thriller Salt (Sony, August 20).
Exhibitors are cagey as to which of this summer’s releases will be an also-ran. Every one’s a winner, as carnival barkers used to say. But they don’t sound enthusiastic about M Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender (Paramount, August 13). “It’s been ever-diminishing returns for us since The Sixth Sense and Signs,” one grumbled. Surely The Happening must be an example of how not to make a horror movie. Somebody should have told Shyamalan that inanimate trees just aren’t that scary, with or without spooky wind.