Anticipation Is High For ‘Transformers' And ‘Potter' Release

If Hollywood were a poker game, this summer's question would be: Can a pair beat one of a kind?

The pair are this year's surefire blockbusters "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," opening Wednesday, and "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," coming in mid-July.

The one of a kind was last year's "The Dark Knight," the biggest box-office behemoth in more than a decade.

If history holds true, the combination of "Transformers" and "Harry Potter" should more than match the whopping $533.3 million haul of "The Dark Knight" and keep the movie business on track to beat last year's summer record revenue of $4.2 billion.

While ticket sales have been brisk this season, Hollywood fell into a bit of a slump this month, when receipts three weekends in a row fell short of business over the same periods last year.

Nearing the halfway mark of the season, revenues are at $1.7 billion, a fraction ahead of summer 2008's, according to Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for

But at this point a year ago, the debut of "The Dark Knight" was still a month away. The film was a phenomenon, giving Hollywood a stellar second wind at a point in summer when the box office often starts to trickle off.

Things trailed off this month, significantly eroding the record box-office pace studios have been maintaining for the entire year.

"June gloom definitely hit the box office, but I think things are going to turn around," Dergarabedian said. "We've got that one-two punch of 'Transformers' and 'Harry Potter.'"

The first "Transformers" did $319 million domestically in summer 2007, while the "Harry Potter" tales typically come in near $300 million. If the latest installments match that, they will combine for a $600 million infusion into this summer's totals.

The first "Transformers" had a $70.5 million opening weekend, a big start for a tale based on children's toys and starring two relative unknowns at the time, Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox.

The sequel is expected to do far more business as an established franchise with hot stars.

"Shia and Megan have both become much bigger stars and personalities since the first movie," said Rob Moore, vice chairman for Paramount, which is releasing the DreamWorks production.

Anticipation for Paramount's "Transformers" is so high that it could lift that sequel into the $400 million realm, while Warner Bros. is opening "Half-Blood Prince" the same weekend it debuted "The Dark Knight," hoping lightning strikes again. "Harry Potter" fever is growing, with "Half-Blood Prince" the lead-in to the two-part big-screen adaptation of the final book in J.K. Rowling's fantasy series.

"I think summer is just starting in a big way this coming week," said Rory Bruer, head of distribution at Sony, which released "Angels&Demons" and has Katherine Heigl's romance "The Ugly Truth" and the Julia Childs tale "Julie and Julia" with Meryl Streep still to come.

Sandra Bullock's romantic comedy "The Proposal" did better business than expected this past weekend, giving the industry a lift on the eve of "Transformers."

"There's quite a number of big movies yet to come," said Mark Zoradi, president of the motion-picture group at Disney, which released "The Proposal" and scored a $200 million smash with the animated adventure "Up." ''I was convinced beforehand that this summer was going to be bigger than the last, and I remained convinced that it's going to be."

Fourth of July weekend brings the animated sequel "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" and the gangster saga "Public Enemies," starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale.

The string of potential hits continues with "Bruno," ''Borat" creator Sacha Baron Cohen's new mock documentary; "G-Force," a family action comedy from blockbuster producer Jerry Bruckheimer; "Funny People," teaming Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen with comedy maestro Judd Apatow; "G.I. Joe," an action thriller based on the military toys; and "Inglourious Basterds," Quentin Tarantino's World War II epic starring Brad Pitt.

Before summer, Hollywood had been on a box-office tear, filling the typically slow winter and spring months with hits such as "Paul Blart: Mall Cop," ''Taken" and "Fast&Furious."

Revenues for the year had been up as much as 17.4 percent, according to box-office figures compiled by But for all the big summer hits of May, studios began losing ground to a stronger slate from a year ago.

For the year, revenues now are at $4.8 billion, up 10.4 percent from last year's.

While other studios did not want to tread too closely to the release date of "Transformers," Hollywood may have stuffed too many action flicks into May, when "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," ''Star Trek" and "Terminator Salvation" all opened within a few weeks. Meantime, June swooned, loaded with comedies and light on action until "Transformers."

"Star Trek," the year's biggest hit so far with $239.4 million domestically, landed in theaters just a week after "Wolverine," the two movies likely gobbling up some of each other's business.

"Those two movies went after the same audience. It sort of became gluttony at the buffet table," said Chris Aronson, head of distribution at 20th Century Fox, which released "Wolverine." ''You can only eat so much."

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