Summer is the season for blockbusters at the box office, and this year Hollywood is going all in.
Midway through a year of declining attendance and ticket sales, the major studios are betting heavily on big-budget spectacles that can fatten the bottom line if they succeed — or lead to write-offs and management shake-ups if they don't.
Of the 45 films being released from this weekend to
"Hollywood seems to be recognizing what works and serving it up: superheroes, computer-animated movies for kids and sequels," said Barton Crockett, a senior analyst with Lazard Capital Markets.
The summer rollout comes as the movie business is slumping from four straight months of bad box office, with revenue down roughly 12% compared with the same period last year, according to Hollywood.com.
For help, the studios are banking on comic book characters, 3-D cartoons and the crew of the USS Enterprise.
This weekend, the summer kicks off with
The superhero spectacular will have lots of company — and competition. Every weekend from May to August is crowded with high-cost, high-risk sequels, prequels and franchises, including the Superman reboot
Also in the cards are animated family films such as
"We always wait for summer — but this year, especially, we're holding our breath," said Phil Zacheretti, chief executive of Phoenix Big Cinemas
Summer is traditionally the high season for the film industry. Last year, about 40% of overall revenue was generated during the four-month-long period. But last summer produced
Not even "The Avengers" and a host of other hits could save the 2012 summer box office, which was down 3% from the previous year. Despite that, Hollywood ended up reversing more than a decade of falling revenue and attendance last year thanks to a strong showing of fall and Christmas movies aimed at more sophisticated audiences, including
The shadow of "The Avengers" hangs heavily over summer 2013, said Shane Black, the director and co-writer of "Iron Man 3," which like "The Avengers" stars
"'The Avengers' set this ridiculously high benchmark, which is daunting," Black said. "But at the same time, it's very helpful, because whoever saw 'The Avengers' is going to want to come out and see our movie."
They won't come see all of them. For every runaway hit, there are big disappointments, such as last year's
The $225-million film, based on a story that began as a series of radio plays, stars
Recent western-themed pictures have found mixed results at the box office:
One Disney executive said that shouldn't keep people away.
"I think the buzz about that is dying down naturally," said Asad Ayaz, Disney's senior vice president of global marketing. "Our international teams that have seen the footage know its a big, Jerry Bruckheimer-produced blockbuster, and in the same way that 'Pirates of the Caribbean' defied that genre, this really transcends the western genre."
Theater owners who gathered at the industry's CinemaCon annual convention last month said that a lack of diversity in the marketplace was partly responsible for the poor box-office numbers this year.
But if exhibitors remain uneasy about "The Lone Ranger," a handful say they spot breakout hits in raunchy, lower-cost R-rated comedies
Sony Pictures' "This Is the End," meanwhile, stars James Franco, Seth Rogen and
"We've done a lot of preview screenings, and I think it plays better than any movie I've ever done because the audience is so shocked at what we have some of these celebrities doing," said Rogen, who wrote and directed the picture with his longtime collaborator, Evan Goldberg. "Being in a theater with 300 people laughing their asses off is something exciting for people to head to the theater for. People want to laugh as well as see skyscrapers getting torn up."