Looking for this summer’s “The Help”? Be prepared for slim pickings for grownups at the multiplex.
Despite the box office success of the adult-skewing Civil Rights-era drama, which took in $207 million worldwide after its Aug. 10 bow last year, this summer appears to be largely geared for kids. Only three wide-release dramas will unspool during the frame: Disney’s “People Like Us,” Lionsgate’s latest Tyler Perry outing, “The Marriage Counselor,” and Sony’s remake of “Sparkle,” which marks Whitney Houston’s final bigscreen performance.
Though execs privately admit that mature moviegoers fueled many of last summer’s biggest hits, from “Bridesmaids” to even the teen-aimed “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” and “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” studios are still largely ignoring the over-35 demo when it comes to hot-weather fare.
“The movies are a lot like baseball,” says one top exec. “The customer is older, and maybe we just need to concede that as an industry and make movies for older people. And that’s OK, at least for a couple of decades. But no one wants to concede that.”
In fact, a look at the upcoming slates around town indicates that the studio-financed mid-range drama is nearing extinction. Those that still begin their Hollywood life at a major — such as “The Fighter,” originally at Paramount, and the more recent “Being Flynn” (aka “Another Bullshit Night in Suck City”), first optioned by Sony — are typically jettisoned to smaller labels like Relativity and Focus, respectively, before making it to the bigscreen.
Despite summer 2011’s appeal with adults, with such grownup-ready box office breakouts as “Midnight in Paris,” which brought in $149 million worldwide after opening May 20 (comparable biz to the kid-friendly Kevin James starrer “Zookeeper”), studios continue to make movies for a teen demo that has largely left the building.
This summer, adult options are limited and typically of the comedic variety. Among the limited-release potential sleeper hits are Fox Searchlight’s “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” which opens May 4. The Brit dramedy — which stars Tom Wilkinson, Judi Dench, Dev Patel and “Downton Abbey” scene-stealer Maggie Smith, has already amassed $44 million overseas. And Sony Pictures Classics hopes that lightning strikes twice for Woody Allen, whose ensemble comedy “To Rome With Love” will bow June 22. The specialty label also released “Midnight in Paris.”
Other limited-release sleeper contenders include Millennium’s romancer “A Little Bit of Heaven,” starring Kate Hudson, Gael Garcia Bernal and Peter Dinklage, which opens May 4; Wes Anderson’s latest cerebral drama, “Moonrise Kingdom,” which Focus Features unspools May 25; and the Weinstein Co.’s buzzed-about French import “The Intouchables,” also on May 25.
June finds a trio of pics vying for mature auds. First up, Magnolia brings “Bel Ami” to the bigscreen (June 8). Though the film stars tween heartthrob Robert Pattinson, there’s little chance that his underage fandom will embrace the period drama. Also on June 8, Searchlight unspools the Greta Gerwig-toplined comedy “Lola Versus.” And on June 29, Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen take a stab at monogamy in the Sarah Polley-helmed drama “Take This Waltz” (Magnolia).
Late July brings forth a pair of pics that should garner interest among the over-35 crowd. Directing duo Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris make their long-awaited follow-up to “Little Miss Sunshine” (six years in the making) with “Ruby Sparks” on July 25. The Searchlight romantic comedy, featuring Zoe Kazan script, stars Antonio Banderas, Annette Bening and Paul Dano. And two days later, the Weinstein Co. looks to cash in on the heat surrounding “Safe House” helmer Daniel Espinosa with his 2010 Swedish-language pic “Easy Money.” Originally titled “Snabba Cash,” the noir film has already earned $8 million overseas.
And on Aug. 3, Magnolia bows the Fernando Meirelles drama “360,” with a cast that includes Jude Law, Rachel Weisz and Anthony Hopkins.
Like last summer, there will likely be plenty of mature moviegoers driving the box office haul for pics not squarely aimed at older auds, including Ridley Scott’s return to the sci-fi genre “Prometheus” in 3D for Fox (June 8) and Seth MacFarlane’s R-rated comedy “Ted” for Universal about a grown man (Mark Wahlberg) and his teddy bear (July 13).
As for other wide releases with grown-up appeal, look for “People Like Us” to find traction thanks to first-time director Alex Kurtzman’s track record as a writer of such big earners as “Transformers” and “Star Trek.” The Disney ensemble drama about a man tasked with delivering $150,000 of his dead father’s fortune to the sister he has never met bows June 29. Also promising is the ever-reliable Perry’s “Marriage Counselor” for Lionsgate on July 27 and Sony’s “Sparkle,” which opens Aug. 17. The modestly budgeted musical drama is likely to draw both devotees of the genre and fans of the late pop star Houston — most of whom are well into middle age.
That trio of dramas will join a handful of wide-release older-skewing entrants, including the Steve Carell-Keira Knightley dramedy “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” from Focus (June 22); Jay Roach’s political satire “The Campaign,” starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, from Warner Bros. (Aug. 10); and the Sony dramedy “Hope Springs,” toplined by Carell, Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep (Aug. 10). Closing out the summer on Labor Day weekend, the Weinstein Co. will unspool the crime thriller “Lawless,” with a cast that includes Shia LaBeouf and Jessica Chastain.
8:45-10:10 a.m.: Seminars (Palace Ballrooms)
10:30 a.m.-noon.: Fox presentation (Colosseum)
2:30-4:30 p.m.: Universal presentation (Colosseum)
7:30-9 p.m.: Awards presentation (Colosseum)
9 p.m.: Party and reception (Pool of the Gods)
• CinemaCon honorees