Summer Preview: May Openings
Indiana Jones 4 poster
By Philip Friedman     Published May 1, 2008
Here's my initial take on the major US release slated for May 2008. As the summer progresses, I'll add and refine my analysis.

Iron Man posterIron Man
May is by far the most promising month for really spectacular movies. Last summer had the biggest open of all-time with Spider-Man 3 grossing $151.1 million. At first glance, $100 million doesnít seem that tough. Iron Man has strong reviews and tracking shows that audiences have reacted positively to the marketing campaign.

On the other hand, perhaps are expectations are far too high because of last yearís amazing summer for big opens. Iron Man doesnít have as strong of a built in fan base of X-Men or Spider-Man and it doesnít seem as kid friendly as Spider-Man.
Read full preview Comparisons

Made of Honor posterMade of Honor
The classic counter-programming for big summer action movies. Expectations appear to be in the low teens, but looking at 2005ís Monster in Law ($23.1 million open, $82.9 million total), I can envision a decent open and good legs for Made of Honor. The movie seems to be filling a big demographic void that remains open until the end of the month. Although it is wedged in between Baby Mama and What Happens in Vegas which seem to share audiences, Made appear to have distinct niche. Comparisons

Speed Racer posterSpeed Racer
Watching this trailer makes me sad and embarrassed like a father watching a child stink it up at a piano recital. Despite the fundamental flaws of the Matrix sequels, the Wachowskis appear to be capable of doing much better than this. Speed Racer looks like a very expensive version of Mario Kart and a lot less fun. The concept sounded like a bad idea, but the trailer looks even worse than I could have imagined. Way too early, but I wouldnít be surprised if this drops 60-70% in its second weekend even with a weak first weekend. Speed Racer Comparisons

What Happens in Vegas posterWhat Happens in VegasÖ
I think thereís a better argument to see this movie than Speed Racer. At least you wonít be stuck in a racing video game for two hours. This doesnít seem like a typical summer movie, but perhaps Fox sees an opening as the anti-romantic low-brow comedic version of Made of Honor. Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz donít provide surefire box office hits, but their track record is superior to Patrick Dempsey or Michelle Monaghan and Iíd expect a bigger open, but weaker legs. What Happens in Vegas comparisons

Prince Caspian posterThe Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Iíve seen very little advertising for this follow up to Narnia, but Iím going to assume itíll follow in the footsteps on Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and almost automatically retain its viewership through the progress of the franchise and require only marginal advertising to build upon that base.

Added May 16 It feels strange to be apathetic towards a movie that is projected to gross over $300 million domestically. I know the Narnia series is a rich, distinct and popular story, but the trailer falls flat with me. It seems like a mix of Harry Potter and LOTR. However, I'm going to disregard those sentiments and look at the calendar and previous box office.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe came out December 9, 2005 with a weekend of $65.6 million. Adjusted for 2008 ticket prices, that would be $73.0 million. In addition, December is known more for its great legs rather than great opens ($291.7 million total, 4.4x open/total multiplier). With Prince Caspian opening in May and being a sequel, expect much more of the total box office to be concentrated in the opening weekend. Opening on the same weekend last year, family-friendly Shrek 3 could only manage a total box office 2.6 times its opening weekend (granted, it grossed an incredible $121.6 million in one weekend). Even if Price Caspian underperforms Wardrobe in total tickets sold through its entire run, it should easily surpass $65.6 million based on some inflation and a lot of frontloading. Next weekend's Memorial Day long weekend will help longevity (Indiana Jones will of course hurt), but if Caspian wants to top $300 million, I think it's going to need around $90 million (although Two Towers did open with just $62.0 million and went on to gross $341.7 million, but in December).

added May 21 Whoops, turns out my initial gut reaction would have yielded a better prediction than my analysis of the data. The theories I've heard about why Narnia 2 disappointed struck me as mostly spin. Blaming dark material or any aspect of the movie for the poor box office ignores the fact reviews were decent and the movie has disappointing sales starting Friday. I don't think reviews had more than a marginal effect on Narnia and no way they account for the $20-$25 million shortfall versus tracking. I don't know the whole story, but it looks like a marketing failure to me. Disney relied too much on devoted Narnia fans to show up and didn't give the rest of us a reason to show up.
Price Caspian comparisons

May 23

Indiana Jones 4 posterIndiana Jones
Iron Man might end up with the higher open, but May is going to belong to Indiana Jones. My subjective instinct tells me that interest and desire to see this movie runs far deeper and much stronger than any other summer movie other than The Dark Knight. $300 million almost seems a given. Based on the trailer and poster, the plot seems to revolve around aliens in New Mexico. Thatís not as compelling as the Lost Ark, but Iíll reserve judgment until I see the movie.

added May 21 I still agree with what I wrote on May 1. However, I'm a bit more optimistic about Indy vs. Iron Man. Even with the midnights and Thursday open, Indy still has a chance to beat Iron Man's 3-day open. Read Lee's Indiana Jones Outlook

May 30

Sex and the City posterSex and the City
I assume this will trounce Made and Vegas and that the viewing experience will differ greatly based on location. If one were to look at crowd reports only from Manhattan, you might think Spider-Man 3ís record was in jeopardy. The key to its success will be how it place outside big metropolises and if the movie can attract viewers beyond its core HBO fan base.

May 28 update A tons of sellouts already. I don't remember seeing this many sellouts for Iron Man or Indiana Jones two days before opening. Obviously, I don't think it'll match either open, but Lee thinks there's a chance Sex and the City could do more than half of Indy's 3-day. Sounds crazy. I don't know if the excitement in LA and NYC are reliable indicators overall as these two cities will likely make up an especially large portion of the box office, but perhaps it really will be the "Star Wars for women."

The Strangers posterThe Strangers
Itís somewhat strange that Liv Tyler would compete with herself in the span of only two weeks (she stars in Hulk coming out June 13). On the other hand, it doesnít look like The Strangers will open very strongly and might not be much of a factor by mid June. Perhaps it would have made more sense to save this for a September or October release where it might have had a chance at number one on a weak weekend.

May 28 update Strangers has actually done a really consistent job with advertising -- at least on me. I've seen a steady stream of commercials all throughout the month. I don't know what the tracking numbers are on awareness, but it seems like they should be decent. However, the movie will facing long odds just to finish the weekend in 4th place.
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'Indiana Jones 4' Articles
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