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Friday, April 07, 2006

`Hollywood's Popcorn Recipe' - Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal reports on Hollywood's strategy for timing its 2006 summer releases... the gist is, just like Christmas decorations go up the day after Thanksgiving, and marshmallow peeps start showing up in February, your `Pirates of the Caribbean' sequels will always open in July. From the article:

    Every summer, Hollywood serves up formula movies. But in recent years, the entire popcorn season has become a formula, too -- from the number of movies with budgets of more than $120 million (about five), to the number of major-studio comedies (a dozen), to the release dates for movies with a particular director. Ready for the latest spoof from the Wayans brothers? Check your local theaters in early July. That's when the rotating roster of comedic siblings released their hits "Scary Movie" and "Scary Movie 2" and it's also when you'll see this summer's "Little Man," in which Shawn Wayans mistakes an unusually short criminal for his adopted son.


    It's a tough time for studios and theaters. Facing decreasing attendance and increasing competition from TV, they saw annual domestic box-office revenues slump by 6.2% last year, and the summer falloff was even steeper -- down 8.5% to $3.62 billion. In part, Hollywood's summer-by-the-numbers approach is an attempt to focus on what has worked in the past, including time-tested plot devices and rollout strategies. For example, after Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" scored the best July opening of 2003, the studio did the logical thing: It scheduled this summer's sequel in the same weekend. "There is a little bit of superstition in all of us," says Disney's president of movie distribution, Chuck Viane. "You always gravitate back to where you've done well."


But will moviegoers respond to that kind of predictable `shelving' of new movies? We'll see in the next few months.