On June 4, four new nationwide releases enter the fray, and Marmaduke leads the way based on how popular live-action, talking-animal family movies have been lately, including G-Force, Beverly Hills Chihuahua and most notably the Alvin and the Chipmunks movies. While the Marmaduke comic strip is nowhere near as popular as the Chipmunks, the movie appears to be a larger dog variation on Beverly Hills Chihuahua in its marketing, and that picture opened to $29.3 million in 2008.
Also opening June 4 is romantic action comedy Killers, starring Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher. Thus far, promotions make it seem like a lower-budget version of Mr. & Mrs. Smith or even Knight & Day, due later in the month. The Bounty Hunter also mined similar territory earlier this year. Will audiences hold out for the slicker Knight & Day, or will Killers steal Knight & Day's thunder? Stay tuned.
The other wild card for the June 4th weekend is horror movie Splice, which was independently produced and later picked up by Warner Bros. for distribution. To this point, reviews have been generally enthusiastic, and it's been over two years since the last theatrical entry in the often-lucrative "Creature Feature" sub-genre.
The Karate Kid
Both nationwide releases scheduled for June 11 are 1980s throwbacks. The Karate Kid remakes the popular 80s movie series, while The A-Team gets the big-screen treatment. The Karate Kid features Jaden Smith (Will Smith's son) as the titular kid and Jackie Chan as his teacher. Back in 1984, the original Karate Kid made $90.8 million (or around $200 million adjusted for ticket price inflation). The Karate Kid Part II was even more successful, but the franchise stalled with The Karate Kid Part III and The Next Karate Kid. The remake features numerous changes including location (China instead of Los Angeles) and martial arts style (Kung Fu instead of Karate), but its marketing attempts some of the universal themes that made the first one a hit (fish-out-of-water, underdog story, etc.), albeit geared for a younger crowd.
If the plan comes together for The A-Team, it's box office returns will be more in line with successful TV adaptations Mission: Impossible and Charlie's Angels than major disappointments I Spy and The Mod Squad. It has the advantage of an impressive cast, including Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Jessica Biel, Patrick Wilson and District 9's Sharlto Copley. The trailers and commercials, though, have been heavy on outrageous action (parachuting tank battling fighter jets) and light on plot and character, while the posters feature nondescript headshots accompanied by character names not really familiar to most moviegoers under 30 years old. Based on this strategy alone, The A-Team may struggle to stand out.
While the first two weekends in June are unlikely to produce a mega-hit, June 18 features the highly-anticipated Toy Story 3. In the decade since Toy Story 2 made $245.8 million (around $380 million adjusted), the Toy Story brand has remained popular, with Disney going so far as to re-release the movies as a 3D double feature last fall. Not only that, Pixar Animation is the industry's most reliable brand, releasing ten straight commercial and critical smashes in a row. Like Up last summer, Toy Story 3 will be in Disney Digital 3D. 3D ticket price premiums may have been a deterrent with Shrek Forever After, but Toy Story 3 seems like an event that people are willing to pay a 3D premium for, possibly propelling it past Finding Nemo ($339.7 million) to become Pixar's highest-grossing movie ever.
Comic book Western Jonah Hex counter-programs Toy Story 3 on June 18. Starring Josh Brolin, Megan Fox and John Malkovich, the movie has been plagued by bad buzz for months, and a trailer that recalls the much-reviled Wild Wild West hasn't done much to quell these rumblings. Wild Wild West, though, was the last Western-themed movie to gross over $100 million, and the once-mighty genre is generally a novelty nowadays.
Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz in Knight & Day
On June 25, Tom Cruise aims to reaffirm his status as a box office force with Knight & Day, which faces ensemble comedy Grown Ups. This is Mr. Cruise's first action-comedy, and it's his first lead role in a summer release since Mission: Impossible III underperformed in 2006. If Cruise's popularity has waned, Knight & Day has a number of other factors working in its favor, including likeable co-star Cameron Diaz (Charlie's Angels) and how past similar movies like Mr. and Mrs. Smith and True Lies have been huge hits. While it may be tough for Knight & Day to become a massive blockbuster, the movie could join Cruise's roster of $100 million hits.
Adam Sandler comedies consistently reach $100 million, and, to keep that consistency going, Grown Ups enlists Sandler's frequent collaborators Rob Schneider, David Spade, Chris Rock and Kevin James all in one movie. It's also James' first feature since the break-out success of Paul Blart: Mall Cop. While Grown Ups deals with a reunion after the death of a mentor and the challenges of getting older, its previews are all about pratfalls and potty humor, which should appeal to Sandler's base.
Note: While The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is scheduled to open on June 30, it is not being included in the June preview, because its first weekend lands in July.