Summer movie profits have been held down by tepid sequels and remakes so far. 'Toy Story 3' represents one of a few chances for Hollywood to turn around its traditional blockbuster season.
North Hollywood, Calif.
In Hollywood, summer begins in the tender days of May, which means that by the middle of June the most important four months on the industry's fiscal calendar are well under way. Some 40 percent of the Hollywood annual box-office revenues come from summer movies.
But this year there are signs of trouble in Tinseltown, ranging from a lousy first act to a muddled menu that may be confusing moviegoers as much as it is supposed to entice them. Big-ticket movies like "Toy Story 3" are scarce.
"This is a transitional summer," says Paul Dergarabedian, Hollywood.com's box office president, who explains that while the summer of 2011 and beyond promise the return of megafilm franchises such as "Harry Potter," "Pirates of the Caribbean," and "Spider-Man," this summer sports only a few tent-pole films.
"There is plenty of room for an indie breakout or a cult film success – some film that makes you think or is more serious," he says, adding, "after all, man does not live by candy bars alone."
Here are five basic questions and answers about the state of the industry:
How has the first month or so of Hollywood's summer gone?
The season has launched with more of a whimper than a bang. The all-important Memorial Day weekend was calamitous, with attendance at its lowest since 1993. The remake of the 1984 "The Karate Kid" gave studio executives something to smile about when its three-day debut took in $55.7 million. Critics, analysts, and fans alike expect "Toy Story 3," the latest in the popular Pixar franchise, to help out all summer long – its $110.3 million weekend debut was the third-highest of 2010.
Are there any major blockbusters ahead?
Only a few, and most movie watchers say even those are not a sure thing. Beyond the surefire family appeal of the Pixar film, the other big titles are on shakier footing, with more targeted appeal. The third installment of the teen vampire saga, "Twilight: Eclipse," is sure to bring out the young girls.
The potential "brainy blockbuster" (à la "The Matrix"), Christopher Nolan's "Inception," has a marketing campaign that has been cleverly impenetrable, says Yahoo! Movies executive producer Sean Phillips, piquing interest from fans of his earlier indie-infused work, "Memento." The deliberately ambiguous riddlelike catchphrases, such as "the architecture of the mind," are like catnip to critics, he points out, adding that this film is top on his list for the summer. Lower-profile star vehicles such as "Salt," Angelina Jolie's bid to launch a female "James Bond" franchise, and "Dinner for Schmucks," a comedy from Steve Carrell, may find respectable audiences as well.