Summer Movie Forecast 2011

The summer movie season kicks off earlier than usual this year with this weekend's release of Fast Five, the fifth entry in the remarkably long-lived Fast and the Furious franchise.  I don't know about you, but I live for summer movies.  Sure, many of them disappoint, but it's still fun to get excited about them and anticipate the best.  My most anticipated flick?  No surprise there - the JJ Abrams/Spielberg collaboration, Super 8.  But there's plenty more, including the final chapter of the most financially successful film series of all time.
As I did last year, I'm going out on a limb and using this preview post to spotlight my picks for the 10 highest grossing movies of the summer, complete with box office predictions.  Mind you, this doesn't necessarily mean that these will be the best movies of the summer (almost guaranteed that some of them won't be), but I'm betting that these will prove the most popular.  The wild card is always actual quality, reviews, word-of-mouth, etc.  As usual, the smart money is on sequels, prequels, and superheroes given the built-in audience awareness. Will this summer's crop blow up at the box office?  If all my predictions hold true, Hollywood should be very happy.
Don't hold your breath though.  Last year, I correctly predicted that Toy Story 3 and Iron Man 2 would be the two biggest movies of the summer.  But I sorely undervalued Inception's potential, didn't even factor The Karate Kid into the equation, and idiotically thought that Nic Cage in a bad wig would somehow lift The Sorcerer's Apprentice to $280 million (it barely made $60 million). So, in other words, I know about as much as everyone else in Hollywood: nothing.

The Best of the Rest...these other movies could challenge the Big 10 and prove successful.  I'm expecting some surprise $100-150 million hits from this bunch, but that won't be enough to beat the big guys.  Still, don't count out:

Fast Five (April 29) - 2009's Fast & Furious surprised many by opening strong in early April.  This franchise just won't die.  With Vin Diesel and Paul Walker back again, and Dwayne Johnson added to the mix - expect another solid outing.  Predicted B.O.: $130 million.
Thor (May 6) - The previews haven't been promising, and love interest Natalie Portman's presence on screen has been oversaturated of late.  Thor seems the least likely of this summer's superheroes to connect with audiences.  Advance reviews have been promising though.  Predicted B.O.: $115 million.
Bridesmaids (May 13) - With Kristen Wiig scripting and starring, and Judd Apatow producing, this female-centric film has ample comedy credibility.  Women are a lock, but will guys want to see it?  Crude, R-rated female films like The Sweetest Thing don't have the greatest track record, but I think this one will score.  Predicted B.O.: $90 million.
Green Lantern (June 17) - The first preview looked horrible.  The WonderCon footage looked a little better.  The tone of this one looks all over the place, and I'm still not convinced by the CGI costumes.  Ryan Reynolds is a natural superhero though.  Predicted B.O.: $145 million.
Mr. Popper's Penguins (June 17) - Jim Carrey kind of pulls an Eddie Murphy-in-Dr. Doolittle stunt in this family-friendly comedy.  Carrey's star power is starting to wane, but audiences sure do love penguins.  Remember when March of the Penguins made all that money back in '05?  Predicted B.O.: $55 million.
Bad Teacher (June 24) - I don't know about you, but I'm so over Cameron Diaz.  If they had cast anyone else in this movie, I'd be all for it.  I'm still intrigued though by the participation of Justin Timberlake and Jason Segel, and the preview admittedly looks pretty funny.  Predicted B.O.: $75 million.
Larry Crowne (July 1) - Tom Hanks directs for the first time since 1996's That Thing You Do!  The previews don't do much for me.  This one depends entirely on the reviews.  One hopes Julia Roberts and Hanks have more success here than they did on Charlie Wilson's War.  Predicted B.O.: $70 million.
Horrible Bosses (July 8) - This one has a lot going for it.  A lot of up-and-coming comedy superstars (Jason Bateman, Always Sunny's Charlie Day) go up against their "horrible bosses" played with evil relish by Jennifer Anison (stretching as an actress!), Kevin Spacy, and Colin Farrell.  Jamie Foxx plays a homeless man named Motherf**ker Jones.  In.  Predicted B.O.: $40 million.
Friends with Benefits (July 22) - Its biggest hurdle is to distinguish itself from January's No Strings Attached.  The two look like the same movie.  This time the That '70s Show alum is Mila Kunis and she's paired with Justin Timberlake.  I'm guessing it does what No Strings did.  Predicted B.O.: $50 million.
Crazy, Stupid, Love (July 29) - This has the potential to be the grown-up, surprise hit of the summer, in the same vein as The Devil Wears Prada.  Either that or it'll be a middling dramedy like Steve Carrell's Dan in Real Life.  I'm going to split the difference.  Predicted B.O.: $80 million.
The Smurfs (July 29) - America can be stupid.  They propelled Alvin & the Chipmunks to $200 million.  Yogi Bear to $100 million.  And Scooby-Doo to $150 million.  How much pull do the Smurfs really have?  The Smurfs looks like crap, even with the involvement of Neil Patrick Harris.  Profitable crap.  Predicted B.O.: $110 million.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (August 5) - My pick for biggest bomb of the summer.  I don't know anybody who liked Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes remake.  I don't want to know anyone who did.  Who really asked for a prequel anyway?  James Franco's star is a bit tarnished, and I don't care if the Avatar effects gurus did the monkeys here.  The Apes franchise has no business on screen anymore.  Predicted B.O.: $35 million.
The Change-Up (August 5) - Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds will have already been seen on screen plenty before this comes out.  But August is the perfect time to release this body-switch comedy, and Bateman and Reynolds are comic gold, especially playing each other.  Predicted B.O.: $65 million.
The Help (August 12) - Based on the bestseller, The Help will give ladies an excuse to go to the theaters in August, after all the blockbuster behemoths have come and gone.  Big book sales do not necessarily translate into big movie grosses though.  Quality and reviews are again a factor.  Predicted B.O. $75 million.

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