The story goes that on a sweltering summer day, Mel Torme arrived at his writing partner Bob Wells’ Toluca Lake home for a songwriting session and found a piece of paper with four lines of a verse that included the lines, “Jack Frost nipping at your nose.” When Torme asked about it, Wells replied that it was so hot he wanted to write something that might cool him off. Thus, “The Christmas Song” was born. It is in that spirit, with temperatures in the Midwest still in the 30s, that I’m writing something to perhaps warm us all up: Summer movies.
Summer is when Hollywood studios release their hottest movies with the hottest stars; hottest franchises; hottest explosions. And, hopefully, the hottest profits. The summer movie season is the industry’s biggest, and can account for at leat 40 percent of the year's box office revenue. Half of last year’s biggest box office hits were released during the summer movie season.
Theatre owners are currently getting a sneak peek at some of this year’s potential blockbusters at CinemaCon 2014 in Las Vegas. At this convention, the studios aim to generate buzz on their upcoming films, hoping to encourage theatre owners to place their bets on possible tent pole films—films that are so successful for a studio that the profits can carry other films that otherwise disappoint or outright flop at the box office.
'Twas not always thus. Next year marks the 40th anniversary of the first summer blockbuster, Jaws Incredibly, pre-1975, summer was not on the radar of Hollywood executives. Air conditioning in movie theatres was not the norm. Legendary New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael actually took the summer off from reviewing. But more, before Jaws, movies were not afforded a wide initial release or backed by massive television advertising, which was considered prohibitively expensive. Jaws was the game changer.
What is the talk of CinemaCon 2014? Angelina Jolie reportedly turned heads yesterday during her appearance to promote Unbroken, the inspirational true story of Louis Zamperini, who overcame brutal treatment as a World War II prisoner of war to become an Olympic long distance runner. But that’s not coming out until next December and we’ve had enough of winter. What about the summer?
Sony Pictures has a representative summer slate of sequels, superheroes and comedies, fronted by the hotly-anticipated Amazing Spider-Man 2. The comedies include 22 Jump Street, which re-teams Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, and Sex Tape, starring Cameron Diaz and Jason Segal as a married couple whose homemade sex tape is accidentally goes viral.
Here are other promising, if not intriguing, movies Hollywood is hoping will heat things up this summer:
Neighbors (May) It’s war between straight-laced married couple Seth Rogan and Rose Byrne and Zac Efron and his fraternity brothers who move in next door.
Godzilla (May) Long live the King of the Monsters, Gojira, in yet another franchise reboot
Maleficent (May) Angelina Jolie looks positively wicked in this revisionist look at the Disney villainess.
X-Men: Days of Future Past (May): Wolverine and company are back in this time-tripping sequel
The Good Dinosaur (May) The first original Pixar movie since Brave.
Jersey Boys (June) The Tony award-winning musical about the rise and fall of the Four Seasons. Directed by Clint Eastwood (just as long as he doesn’t sing, too)
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (June) Hiccup and his dragon Toothless are back.
Edge of Tomorrow (June) There’s no time like the present for another Tom Cruise futuristic sci-fi thriller.
Hercules (July) Dwayne Johnson attempts to follow in the sandals of Steve Reeves, Lou Ferrigno and Kevin Sorbo.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (July) Caesar and his simian army aren’t monkeying around in this sequel to the 2011 reboot.
Get On Up (August) the hardest-working bio-pic in show business with Chadwick Boseman (42) stars as James Brown
Guardians of the Galaxy (August) Another Marvel franchise is launched staring Chris Pratt (“Parks and Recreation”) as the leader of an intergalactic team of superheroes.
The Expendables 3 (August): Mel Gibson (as a villain), Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas and Wesley Snipes join the franchise.
When it comes to summer movies, Hollywood is just getting warmed up. In the weeks ahead, we’ll preview some of the cooler arthouse and indie fare offered as counter-programming.