Summer of sequels as Hollywood hopes for box office gold
(WALT DISNEY PICTURES) - Robert Downey Jr. is donning his Iron Man suit one more time, Captain Kirk is back on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, and the "Hangover" crew are headed for another bout of mayhem and bad decisions.
A summer of familiar faces will be on offer at the Hollywood box office, with an astounding 17 sequels between May 1 and the U.S. Labor Day weekend on Sept. 2.
With the four-month summer movie season generating some 40 percent of the annual North American box office, and a 5 percent slump in summer ticket sales in 2012, the pressure is on to churn out hits.
Seven of the top 10 grossing films for the whole of 2012 were sequels. In 2011, it was nine. With 17 in contention this summer alone, Hollywood studios are relying on a proven fan base to help the slew of high-profile franchises hit their mark.
If all goes well, 2013 might be the biggest domestic summer box office on record, topping $4.5 billion, Bock said. Last year's summer take was just $4.29 billion, down from the record $4.4 billion for 2011.
The month of May alone will see four sequels - "Iron Man 3," "Star Trek Into Darkness," "The Hangover 3" and "Fast & Furious 6."
Elsewhere, films based on superheroes such as "Man of Steel" and "The Wolverine," and franchise continuations of action films like "Red 2" and Universal's "Kick-Ass 2," all look sound - on paper.
But even superheroes sometimes mess up. Although 2006's "Superman Returns" grossed $200 million domestically, it was largely seen as a flop for Warner Bros.
June's Superman offering "Man of Steel" has a whole new cast including Henry Cavill in the title role and filmmaker Christopher Nolan, who successfully rebooted the "Batman" franchise, as a producer.
With all the sequels and reboots, original action films hoping to kick-start a new franchise face a disadvantage.
Among the risk-takers are filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan and actor Will Smith with the apocalyptic "After Earth," Guillermo Del Toro with his robot-versus-aliens action film "Pacific Rim," and cult filmmaker Neill Blomkamp with his futuristic "Elysium," in August.
Family films are also big, with 20th Century Fox's "Epic" in which singer Beyoncetakes a voice part, Pixar's "Monsters University," "Despicable Me 2," "Turbo" withRyan Reynolds as a racing snail, and "Smurfs 2," among others.
Comedies featuring big stars are also making a splash. Adam Sandler is back for "Grown Ups 2," Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn reteam on the Google-set comedy "The Internship," and Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy appear in "The Heat."
But it remains to be seen if Brad Pitt can lure audiences to Paramount's apocalyptic film "World War Z," a movie that Entertainment Weekly proclaimed as the most expensive zombie film, made at $170 million.
Disney hopes that the "Pirates of the Caribbean" trifecta of Johnny Depp, filmmaker Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer can recreate that same magic when the team reassembles for Western "The Lone Ranger" - despite a budget that ballooned to a reported $250 million.
One film that does not appear to fit into any category is Baz Luhrmann's adaption for Warner Bros. of the "The Great Gatsby" starring Leonardo DiCaprio, which was moved from December 2012 to May.