Movie Projector: 'Super 8' faces off against 'X-Men'; both will destroy 'Judy Moody'
In a summer filled with big-budget prequels, sequels and reboots, Paramount Pictures is hoping a film with an original concept starring mostly unknown actors will be more than just a well-kept secret at the box office.
This weekend, the studio will release "Super 8," a movie directed by J.J. Abrams and produced by Steven Spielberg about a group of young friends who witness a mysterious train crash in 1979. Paramount is estimating the film will take in around $30 million upon its debut, which means it could be in a tight race for the top spot with last weekend's No. 1 film, "X-Men: First Class."
The previous installment in the "X-Men" franchise, 2009's "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," saw its ticket sales fall 69% on its second weekend in release. If "First Class" has a more modest drop of around 50%, it could have a shot at beating "Super 8."
In any event, both movies will gross far more than the weekend's other new wide release, "Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer." The kids' movie, being distributed by Relativity Media, is expected to collect only around $6 million, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys.
Heading into the weekend, tracking on "Super 8" has been good but not great. Part of the explanation for that, according to Paramount, is that Abrams and the studio opted to keep much of the film's plot a secret in its marketing campaign.
Instead of showcasing a monster that ravages the Ohio town in the movie, ad spots for "Super 8" have focused on the friendship among the movie's young protagonists who have an affinity for filmmaking.
To create additional buzz before the movie's opening, Paramount announced on Twitter this week that it would hold screenings of "Super 8" in about 250 theaters nationwide Thursday. The studio is encouraging those who attend the previews to tweet about the movie.
If projections are correct, the film will still be off to a good start this weekend because Paramount spent around $50 million to produce the movie. "Super 8" has earned positive critical reviews — but its ultimate success will depend upon how strong its word-of-mouth is after its opening weekend.
While the movie features a young ensemble cast, Paramount is hopeful that it will also appeal to those in their 30s and 40s who see a similarity between "Super 8" and such classic '80s films as "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial," "The Goonies" and "Stand By Me."
Based on author Megan McDonald's book series of the same name, "Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer," about a third-grader on a quest to have the best summer ever, should attract young girls — but not in large numbers.
Fortunately for Relativity, the company does not have much to lose on the movie, because it said it did not invest any money in the film's production or marketing.
Rather, Relativity received a fee from the movie's sole financier Smokewood Entertainment Group to market and distribute the movie in the U.S. Smokewood, the production company behind 2009's "Precious," paid close to $20 million to make "Judy Moody." [Correction, 3:52 p.m.: An earlier version of this post mistakenly referred to Smokewood Entertainment Group as Smokehouse Entertainment Group.]
— Amy Kaufman
Top photo: Kyle Chandler, left, Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning and Ron Eldard star in "Super 8."
Bottom photo: Heather Graham, left, and Jordana Beatty star in "Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer."