Summer Preview: July

Wide releases skedded as of March 10

LAST YEAR: July 2
Top titles (weeks in release; 4-day figures)
1. Spider-Man 2 (1) $116 million
2. Fahrenheit 9/11 (2) $22 million
3. White Chicks (2) $12 million
Weekend total: $223 million

July 1

The War of the Worlds (Paramount/DreamWorks): Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise update the H.G. Wells tale of a Martian invasion of Earth. Pic opens Wednesday, June 29.

Roll Bounce (Fox Searchlight) “Undercover Brother” helmer Malcolm D. Lee delivers a 1970s tale about boys competing in roller-rink showdowns.

Just as Warner Bros.’ “Million Dollar Baby” appeared almost out of nowhere a few months before the 2004 holiday movie season, “The War of the Worlds” wasn’t on the anyone’s radar until the fall, when the project was announced, but it now looks like one of the summer’s biggest titles.

With Spielberg producing the pic at breakneck pace, Paramount said it would have the film ready for the lucrative July 4 frame, despite the fact that Fox had already planned to release its “Fantastic Four” superhero pic over the holiday frame.

Indeed, the “Four” on the Fourth message has long been integral to the latter pic’s early marketing materials.

Par plunged ahead, and unleashed an online teaser trailer in the winter. It also aired an impressive Super Bowl spot for “War of the Worlds.” Fox ultimately blinked, pushing “Fantastic Four” to July 8.

“War of the Worlds” now has the way clear for a six-day window starting Wednesday, June 29, and running through July 4, which falls on a Monday this year.

The extra day during the holiday frame (more like a holiday week) could allow “War” to amass a cume in its first six days that rivals “Spider-Man 2’s” five-day total of $180 million last summer.

LAST YEAR: July 9
Top titles (weeks in release)
1. Spider-Man 2 (2) $45 million
2. Anchorman (1) $28 million
3. King Arthur (1) $15 million
Weekend total: $148 million

July 8

Fantastic Four (Fox) Comicbook about the astronauts with superpowers finds its way to the bigscreen, with Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis, Ioan Gruffudd and Chris Evans.

Just as the week before July 4 is dicey for skedding, because a huge movie is around the bend, the week after the holiday can be problematic because those Independence Day hits will still be attracting huge chunks of the audience.

Last summer, “Spider-Man 2” led the frame with $45.2 million, far outpacing the openings of “Anchorman” ($28.4 million) and “King Arthur” ($23.6 million over five days). Similarly in 2002, the second week of “Men in Black 2” held off three newcomers (“The Road to Perdition,” “Reign of Fire” and “Halloween: Resurrection”) with its $24.4 million gross.

The big exception to this pattern, of course, was in 2003, when “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” made its impressive and unexpected $46.6 million bow over the frame, despite the presence of newcomer “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” and holiday holdovers “Terminator 3” and “Legally Blonde 2.”

LAST YEAR: July 16
Top titles (weeks in release)
1. I, Robot (1) $52 million
2. Spider-Man 2 (3) $25 million
3. Anchorman (2) $14 million
Weekend total: $153 million

July 15

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Warner Bros.) Johnny Depp tackles the role of Willy Wonka so memorably played by Gene Wilder in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Tim Burton helms the adaptation of the Roald Dahl novel.

The Wedding Crashers (New Line) Romantic comedy starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson as guys who look to pick up women at nuptials they aren’t invited to.

Into the Blue (MGM) Heist pic starring Paul Walker and Jessica Alba as scuba divers who come across an underwater plane crash with kilos of drugs inside.

Of the 20 biggest July openings, just three came on the third frame of the month: 2004’s “I, Robot,” $52.2 million; 2001’s “Jurassic Park III,” $50.8 million; and 2003’s “Bad Boys II,” $46.5 million. That’s because most studios have largely fired their heaviest artillery earlier in the summer.

But in 2005, crowding early in the season has pushed more and more films into late July.

Thus, even though it’s already July 15, there are still three wide-releases going out per week.

In this frame, “Charlie” will look to expand beyond its core kidpic aud, marketing Depp and visuals of Burton, while “Wedding Crashers” and “Into the Blue” will target young adults.

LAST YEAR: July 23
Top titles (weeks in release)
1. The Bourne Supremacy (1) $53 million
2. I, Robot (2) $22 million
3. Catwoman (1) $17 million
Weekend total: $153 million

July 22

The Island (DreamWorks): Michael Bay tries out sci-fi in this futuristic cloning tale starring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson.

Rebound (Fox): Martin Lawrence stars as a washed-up college basketball coach who is forced to lead a junior high team. Steve Carr (“Daddy Day Care”) directs.

The Perfect Man (Universal): Hilary Duff stars in a story about a daughter who invents a man for her single mom.

Again, if you look at the biggest July openers, the fourth weekend of July has been a reasonably consistent launching pad for tentpoles, frequently supporting openings well past $50 million.

Of the 20 biggest openings in the month, five of them came in this frame, including 2002’s “Austin Powers in Goldmember” with $73.1 million (which is actually the second-biggest three-day bow in July); 2001’s “Planet of the Apes” with $68.5 million, No. 3 on the list; and summer 2004’s “The Bourne Supremacy” with $52.5 million.

The most recent exception — in terms of gross dollars, not success to its studio — came in 2003 when “Spy Kids 3D” was the top film for the frame with $33.4 million.

LAST YEAR: July 30
Top titles (weeks in release)
1. The Village (1) $51 million
2. The Bourne Supremacy (2) $24 million
3. Manchurian Candidate (1) $20 million
Weekend total: $157 million

July 29

Stealth (Sony): Rob Cohen (“The Fast and the Furious,” “XXX”) helms this near-future yarn about high-tech fighter planes starring Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel and, in his first post-Oscar onscreen appearance, Jamie Foxx.

The Brothers Grimm (Dimension/MGM): Terry Gilliam pic starring Matt Damon and Heath Ledger reimagines the fairy-tale penning duo as con men who promise to rid villages of mischievous creatures.

Sky High (Walt Disney) Kidpic starring Kurt Russell about a high school for superhero progeny. Opens Wednesday, July 27.

When July has a fifth weekend, Hollywood takes advantage. Last year, “The Village” launched from the frame and opened to $50.7 million, though other new pics, including “The Manchurian Candidate” and “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle” fared less well. The previous time July had an extra weekend was 1999, and “Runaway Bride” bowed with $35.1 million while indie blockbuster “The Blair Witch Project” performed its national breakout and earned $29.2 million.

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