Every year seems like a weird year for cinema, but I’d be lying if the rise of 3-D doesn’t make it feel like we are at the beginning and ending of something. And this looks to be a fairly miserable summer. The problem, as it were, is that a film like Iron Man 2 gets the soft pass, and it feels like fans and audiences will be okay with what amounts to a not very good movie, but a not very good movie that will make $400 Million dollars. This is nothing new, but with the economy in flux, etc. things feel like they are folding in on themselves as 3-D tries to take over. I’ve come to a place where I am not going to pay to see any movie in 3-D. I’m not going to pay for that privilege because I feel like its junk they’re using to sell bad movies to make them cost more (or animated films). But then also, I realize that the more things change, the more they stay the same. It’s weird were we’re in a culture in which Tron 2 could be a juggernaut at the cinemas.

We’re at a point where there’s no way to spank a studio if they’ve got their opening weekend. Of course the numbers of films that can open like that are limited. Basically, franchises and well-known properties, which is why if you look at the summer schedule, that’s virtually all you see that isn’t for kids or women (but even there you’ve got Sex and the City 2 and Marmaduke). But- from my perspective – with Alice in Wonderland making over $300 Million domestically, a film no one likes more than “eh” I feel like the system is broken, which may be a help to some bad movies, but also is going to cause a pushback like Montezuma’s Revenge. But we haven’t seen this happen yet. And maybe we won’t. Maybe the paradigm has shifted. I’ve said that 1983’s The Right Stuff was the last film made in the 70’s, and there’s a certain truth to that. Cinema is not ruled by decades, but artistic movements and the artists within them rarely react to things in such neat fashions as to stop and start with something as arbitrary as dates. You could argue we’re still in the midst of the George W. Bush-era cinema, or something equally banal (iPhone cinema, etc.). It feels like the way the system is moving it’s in ways that something will be irreparably lost. Then again, Pauline Kael spent much of the 60’s rallying against bullshit films like The Sound of Music, and Doctor Zhivago. If you let the distaste settle in you wouldn’t think the studio system was capable of making Bonnie and Clyde a couple of years later.

I always say that money is not the arbiter of quality, and so me writing about box office is vaguely Sisyphean, and so the most absurd thing I could conceivably do is pick which ten films I think will make the most money over the summer. In this case I’ve only seen a couple of the summer flicks (mostly Iron Man 2), but here’s what I see, and it doesn’t look pretty.



SUMMER FUN LOVIN’ (predictions)

1. Toy Story 3 (6/18): $500 Million – Look, people can talk about quadrants all they want, but the four squares of the Pixar on this one are: Franchise, Quality, Kids, 3-D. You add that up, you have the biggest film of the year regardless of quality, which is mostly assured on this one. VARIABLE – $100 either way

2. Iron Man 2 (5/7): $400 Million – People like the start of the summer, this one kicks it off exactly the way people want it to. Currently, I’ve begun waiting for the Star! or the Doctor Doolittle that starts killing off this superhero craze. But with a $150 opening weekend, four seems the minimum because people will like this more than Spider-Man 3 (which opened to $151 Million), even though I would argue Spider-Man 3 is a more interesting film. VARIABLE – $100 under, $50 over

3. Shrek Forever After (5/21): $350 Million – It’s a juggernaut on a downward spin, but it’s still got four weeks until Toy Story 3, and the marketing on this should be enough to get people in. The reason I put it up over the third film is the 3-D bump. VARIABLE – $100 under, $50 over. 

4. Twilight: Eclipse (6/30): $275 Million – Though there’s a possibility this franchise peaked with the second movie, which did nearly $300 domestically, I think that a $200 total is a without question, and I think the fanbase is going to ride this to a near $300 number. VARIABLE – $50 either way

5. Inception (7/16): $200 Million – recently we’ve seen some on the net get crazy-excited for J.J. Abrams super secret project that has a trailer on Iron Man 2. J.J. doesn’t have a great track record with me when it comes to surprises (see: Cloverfield). I don’t know if audiences feel the same way, but watching a city collapsing on itself + Leonardo DiCaprio + the director of The Dark Knight means I think that Inception could be huge. The question is how much will the audience know about the film before release, and will that get them into the film? Cloverfield got them in, but the theatrical audience showed up mostly in the first weekend, which suggests they didn’t go for it. The X factor on this one is so strong that it just as easily do $100 Million and no one could care, but I like to think Nolan might have pulled off something amazing here, and I don’t want to know what it is until I see it. VARIABLE – $100 either way

6. Grown Ups (6/25): $155 Million – Kevin James + Sandler and the old SNL crew guarantees that this one does over $100 Million, but Since the slate of summer comedies is weak, I think this has legs, and plays similar to Paul Blart with a Sandler-y opening. This is the middle-aged film that should appeal to all their bases. VARIABLE – $40 either way

7. The Karate Kid (6/11): $150 Million – The word on the streets is this plays and I think nostalgia + kids gets this high, especially if it’s seen as a good movie in backlash of the un-kid friendly May pictures. Toy Story 3 may snake a lot of its audience, but tweeners may fall in love as audiences did some twenty six years ago. And, I think this sort of formula picture will likely feel fresh to an audience who hasn’t seen it, and parents might enjoy it as much as their children. VARIABLE – $100 either way

8. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (7/16): $150 Million – There’s an X factor with this sort of stupid spectacle, but the trailers on this make it look like it works, and it feels like something Disney can market the shit out of. I think Prince of Persia looks like nothing, but this seems like a decent enough Harry Potter knock off. VARIABLE – $50 either way

9. Sex and the City 2 (5/28 ) : $150 Million – The first made 155, I think this is a flat line for the franchise, and also I think for some women it becomes a talking point more than a film. You just go. Maybe the hunger isn’t there like it was for the last film, but I’m not going to discount this. VARIABLE – $20 either way

10. The Last Airbender (7/2): $145 Million – I think this will be the film that turns the public against 3-D. Maybe I just hope that. Paramount and co. know they have a dud so they went 3-D with this bitch. I think there’s a lot of goodwill for the franchise on this one, and that+ the holiday gets it open, but I don’t think people are going to be happy with it. Still.  VARIABLE – $55 either way

CONSPICUOUSLY ABSENT:
Robin Hood (5/14), Prince of Persia (5/28) and Get Him to the Greek (6/4): Between audience interest and the end results, I don’t think these would-be’s crack the top ten, though if they were better or caught the zeitgeist, they might have.

SNEAKY BASTERDS (Could do $150 plus, could die on the vine):
The A-Team
(6/11) is working against itself as much as it’s working for itself. The scale of the action impresses, so there’s that. Knight and Day (6/25) could easily be the “we forgive you, crazy Tom Cruise” picture. Despicable Me (7/9) could be a crossover hit, it depends if audiences connect and want it. I feel we’re not there yet. Beastly (7/27) could easily cross over and do big business, but I don’t trust the distributor (CBS films) to sell it well enough.

Hundred plus possible:
Predators
(7/9) has a shot at being at the right place and right time. The R may get in the way, but if it delivers the visceral thrills, we may see more of these. The Other Guys (8/6) could have some residual Ferrell/Apatow backlash, but the trailer is funny, and Adam McKay’s track record is 3/3. With Step Up 3-D (8/6) it should be said the second film has a cult following (that I’m a part of), and this looks like the perfect movie to see in 3-D. And Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (8/13) is one of those films that – like Beastly – either clicks or doesn’t, but if it hits its audience, it’s going to hit them hard (if Edgar Wright nails it).

Now, I’m gonna be wrong and we could see some of the kid fare, like the Beverly Cleary movie, or The Killers, or Eat, Pray, Love or The Expendables hit the zeitgiest right. Anything is possible.

I AM IRON MAN, NA NA NA, NA NA NA NA IRON MAN (predictions):

And summer kicks off in style

1. Iron Man 2 - $152 Million
2. A Nightmare on Elm Street - $9.8 Million
3. How to Train Your Dragon - $8 Million
4. Date Night - $6 Million
5. The Back-Up Plan - $5 Million

Iron Man 2 may be poised to break The Dark Knight’s $158 Million dollar weekend, but if it does so it’s strange. I don’t think people are going to be as enthusiastic about it once they see it, and I don’t know if people are going to see it multiple times in a weekend, but those sorts of anecdotal stories about The Dark Knight are likely to stand out on message boards and maybe don’t happen so much in real life. I think it’s going to be close, for sure.  But my read on Iron Man is that it was good, and if this ends up doing $160 or more, that’s got everything to do with a right place right time sort of thing. We’ll know for sure Sunday.