Women take center stage at summer B.O.

'Sex' and 'Twilight' sequels expected to challenge fanboy favorites

Take a look at what’s to come this summer.

Femmes are pitting their box office muscle against fanboys this summer, as potent sequels “Sex and the City 2” and “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” take on the summer’s biggest holiday weekends.

Mounting anticipation from fans for these two pics, combined with 3D installments of two of the most lucrative animated franchises of all time, “Toy “Story” and “Shrek,” mean favorable conditions for another record-breaking summer at the B.O.

The high-profile openings for “SATC 2” over Memorial Day weekend and “Eclipse” over the July 4 weekend underline the feminine revolution at the B.O. It’s a change in Hollywood thinking that few predicted, with fanboys and kids thought to be the most important demos for summer tentpoles.

The first glimmer of femme power came in May 2008 when Warner Bros.’ “Sex and the City” opened to $57 million at the domestic B.O., an unheard of number for a chick pic. “SATC” went onto gross $415.3 million worldwide.

That November, Summit Entertainment’s “Twilight” opened to $69.6 million in North America, grossing $192.8 million domestically and $216 million overseas for a total $408.8 million. “New Moon,” the second film in the “Twilight” franchise, opened last November to a massive $142.8 million in the U.S. on its way to cuming $296 million. Internationally, the film grossed $413.1 million for a global haul of $709.7 million. That’s a 74% uptick over the first pic.

Warners and Summit have unleashed massive marketing pushes for the pair: Tickets for “SATC 2,” opening May 27, are selling out in numerous venues, and the merchandising push is huge, with products ranging from “Never Say Never” thongs designed by Cosabella to jewelry to limited-edition Skyy vodka.

This is female power at its best,” Warner Bros. prexy of domestic distribution Dan Fellman said. “Not only does it show a female-driven movie can open up the first major holiday of summer, but also pack every cocktail bar.” But teenaged girls, a growing part of the fanbase that has helped drive early ticket sales and push “Sex and the City 2” to more than a million and a half fans on Facebook, will have to stick with virgin Cosmos.

Of “New Moon’s” opening weekend audience at the domestic B.O., 80% was female. But Summit insists the male aud repped a significant component.

As ‘New Moon’ continued to play in theaters after its initial weekend of release, the audience attending the film adjusted its makeup to reflect male interest in the film. The stats rounded out to about 60% female and 40% male, thus demonstrating that ‘Twilight’ is not solely a female-driven property,” a spokesperson for Summit said.

“Eclipse,” unspooling June 30, will face tough competition for male eyeballs from Paramount’s event pic “The Last Airbender,” which opens July 2. Last week, Paramount upped the ante by announcing that it’s converting “Airbender” to 3D. Based on the popular Nickelodeon cartoon series, “Airbender” marks M. Night Shyamalan’s first try at a family tentpole, and also figures to attract fanboys.

SATC 2″ likewise opens against an action-adventure tentpole, Disney’s “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” adapted from the vidgame. Directed by Mike Newell, “Prince of Persia” packs some femme appeal with star Jake Gyllenhaal.

“Prince of Persia,” “Airbender” and Disney’s Nicolas Cage action-adventure “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” unspooling July 16, represent sizeable risk for their studios, which are hoping each could lead to franchises.

But Hollywood continues its heavy reliance on sequels and remakes.

Paramount and Marvel Entertainment’s “Iron Man 2” kicks off the summer season May 7, opening day and date around the globe. First film, released in May 2008, grossed $585.1 million worldwide.

“Iron Man 2” is the first release from Marvel since the company was bought by Disney, but the timing of the deal meant Par had distribution rights, an unusual situation for two studios. Tonight’s premiere of “Iron Man 2” is being held at Disney-owned El Capitan Theater in Hollywood.

Paramount and DreamWorks Animation unspool “Shrek Forever After” — the fourth and final title in the series — on May 21. First three movies grossed a collective $2.2 billion worldwide, with the last title grossing $322.7 million domestically and $476.2 internationally in summer 2007.

Disney and Pixar open “Toy Story 3” on June 18 after an 11-year hiatus for the franchise. First two films grossed $676.8 million worldwide, hefty numbers for the time.

Several summer tentpoles are looking to relaunch well-known brands, beginning with Ridley Scott’s Russell Crowe starrer “Robin Hood,” from Universal. Pic’s world preem opens the Cannes Film Festival on May 11 and then hits theaters on May 14.

Two more familiar titles are pitted against each other June 11: 20th Century Fox opens the bigscreen adaptation of 1980s TV series “The A-Team” against Sony’s Jackie Chan-Jaden Smith reboot “The Karate Kid.”

Though studios have gotten exceedingly cautious with original material, they’re hoping the likes of Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio and Angelina Jolie can drive traffic.

Cruise and Cameron Diaz star in Fox’s action comedy “Knight and Day,” directed by James Mangold and opening June 25; DiCaprio toplines Warner Bros.’ Christopher Nolan-directed “Inception,” unspooling July 16 (the same date that Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” opened), while Jolie stars in Sony’s thriller “Salt,” directed by Philip Noyce and opening July 23.

Everyone wants another laffer like “The Hangover,” after the Warner Bros. pic surprised Hollywood with $467 million worldwide last year.

The June 4 weekend sees a comedy faceoff, with Universal’s R-rated Jonah Hill-Russell Brand starrer “Get Him to the Greek” and Fox’s family comedy “Marmaduke,” based on the beloved comic strip.

Other comic contenders include Adam Sandler in Sony’s “Grown Ups” with Chris Rock and Kevin James, opening June 25, and Paramount and DreamWorks’s “Dinner for Schmucks,” starring Paul Rudd and Steve Carell, on July 23.

Aside from “Airbender,” there are no live-action 3D event pics this summer. Other 3D-animated pics include Universal’s “Despicable Me,” opening July 9, and Warner Bros.’ CGI-hybrid “Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore,” on July 30.

Two smaller 3D films open in August, Disney’s “Step Up 3” and the Weinstein Co.’s “Piranha 3D.”

Capping off the summer’s femme-friendly fare is Sony’s Julia Roberts starrer “Eat Pray Love,” opening Aug. 13. Meryl Streep starrer “Julie and Julia” opened the same weekend last year, ending up with $129 million worldwide and showing that even films which seem heavily weighted toward the female demo can go on to a tasty B.O. career.