Hollywood injects originality into 2013 film slate

The biz takes some risks this year amid a sea of prequels, sequels and franchises

Originality? In Hollywood? Sure, why not?

The 2012 film scene saw record-breaking domestic B.O. of $10.8 billion, fueled by an abundance of franchises and blockbuster comicbook properties. And while 2013 won’t be lacking for pre-branded tentpoles, the year ahead does offer an armful of intriguing risks and original properties, especially in the sci-fi and comedy realms, that the biz will be watching closely.

Here’s a look at of some of the key studio bets for 2013:

Pedigreed originals

The next 12 months will see the release of five original sci-fi movies — each budgeted at more than $120 million — that will look to battle the tide of familiarity. The pics come with fairly high pricetags, but the associated risk may be offset by the pedigree of talent involved.

Warner Bros. will count on Guillermo del Toro’s loyal fanbase to launch monster movie “Pacific Rim” as a potential franchise, while Oscar winners Sandra Bullock and George Clooney pair for the first time in Alfonso Cuaron’s ambitious “Gravity,” which remains undated.

Despite heavy fanboy cred, Del Toro has only had two movies pass $100 million worldwide, the largest being “Hellboy II” ($160 million) in 2008. Cuaron’s “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” was a worldwide smash at $796 million in 2004, but his next-biggest global cume was $70 million for the 2006 thriller “Children of Men.”

After capturing lightning in a bottle with “District 9” in 2009, Sony is banking on Neill Blomkamp’s followup film, the Matt Damon starrer “Elysium,” to capture auds’ imaginations. Blomkamp made his bones with the $30 million “District 9” becoming a $115 million domestic hit — and that was without Damon’s star power.

Continuing the studio’s lucrative association with Will Smith, Sony also delivers “After Earth,” which boasts Smith and his budding movie-star son, Jaden. (Interestingly, the film’s initial trailer doesn’t tout director M. Night Shyamalan, who made his name with original fare for Disney but has been critically maligned of late.) “After Earth” will have its work cut out opening against magician heist pic “Now You See Me” and Shawn Levy’s comedy “The Internship.”

Universal, meanwhile, is throwing its hat in the sci-fi originals ring with Joseph Kosinski’s “Oblivion,” starring Tom Cruise in his first U pic since 1992’s “Far and Away.” Kosinski is coming off a successful debut with “Tron: Legacy” for Disney, on which he was partnered with electronica royalty Daft Punk to create the soundtrack; Kosinski is going back to that well, snaring Spanish electronic sensation M83 to score his latest vision of the future.

Stars and yuks chase bucks

Yes, there’s a third pic in the “Hangover” series and a sequel to 2004’s “Anchorman,” bowing May 24 and Dec. 20, respectively. But 2013 is shaping up to be a strong year for original comedies, particularly those with starry lineups.

New Line’s magician comedy “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” pairs Steve Carell with Jim Carrey, while Fox’s “The Internship” reunites “Wedding Crashers” stars Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, who also toplines DreamWorks’ “The Delivery Man,” a remake of French-Canadian hit “Starbuck.”

Talk of a Mayan apocalpyse dogged 2012, but the end of the world makes for a popular backdrop for comedy in 2013, as “Superbad” scribes Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg make their directorial debut with the apocalyptic laffer “This Is the End,” while across the pond U’s “The World’s End” reunites helmer Edgar Wright with stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Former pic stars Rogen and his real-life chums James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Bruchel and Danny McBride as themselves. This assembly of comedy talent will go head to head with superhero heavyweight Superman, who flies into theaters the same day with “Man of Steel.”

2013 will be a true test for the drawing power of Melissa McCarthy, who has a hit TV show but was relegated to what were labeled supporting roles in “Bridesmaids” and “This Is 40.” In addition to a minor role in “The Hangover Part III,” thesp stars in U’s “Identity Thief” and Paul Feig’s “The Heat,” for Fox. She’s well-positioned to succeed with B.O. and comedic support of the pics’ respective co-stars, Jason Bateman and Sandra Bullock.

While the latest adaptation of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” has had a long road to the bigscreen, with stars ranging from Jim Carrey to Sacha Baron Cohen once flirting with the project, the film has at last come together for a Christmas Day bow, where star-helmer Ben Stiller found previous holiday success with “Night at the Museum” and “Little Fockers.”

Studios will also chase the college crowd with “21 and Over,” the directorial debut of “The Hangover” scribes Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, plus “The To-Do List” and “Get a Job,” both of which hail from CBS Films. Mature auds’ laugh lines won’t go unserviced thanks to “Last Vegas” and “The Big Wedding,” both of which co-star Robert De Niro.

Risk and reinvention — sort of

Breaking the mold brings financial risk, and U’s $200 million samurai pic “47 Ronin,” starring Keanu Reeves, is gambling on a fresh take on the genre. With a first-time helmer in Carl Erik Rinsch and reports swirling of major reshoots and a struggle for control in the edit bay, the film has been freighted with some baggage in a media landscape that is always keen to lay blame for such pricy gambles as “John Carter” and “Battleship.”

The pic isn’t the only risky bet in 2013, though.

Chris Pine takes over a 23-year-old franchise as “Jack Ryan,” hoping to reignite the Tom Clancy military thriller series with a new film on Christmas Day, while Disney’s “The Lone Ranger” — the only chance to see Johnny Depp on the bigscreen in 2013 — looks to sell a familiar property with a fresh take over the high-traffic Independence Day weekend. The quirky oater reinvention will have a nine-day ride in theaters before “Pacific Rim” lands.

Studios also will be looking to court teenage girls by filling the gap left by the conclusion of the “Twilight” saga. Hollywood hopes young love will never die, delivering adaptations of Stephenie Meyer’s “The Host,” Cassandra Clare’s “Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” and Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s “Beautiful Creatures,” in addition to the further adventures of Katniss, Peeta and Gale in the “Hunger Games” sequel.

In addition to “Pacific Rim,” Warners and Legendary Pictures are also gambling on big-budget fantasy films “The Seventh Son” and “Jack the Giant Slayer,” as well as Jackie Robinson tale “42.” Latter is one of three period pics Warners is backing in 2013, alongside Ruben Fleischer’s star-studded “Gangster Squad” and Baz Luhrmann’s 3D take on “The Great Gatsby,” with Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role.

DiCaprio will have his name on theater screens throughout the year, as he also toplines Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” and produces Scott Cooper’s crime drama “Out of the Furnace” and the Ben Affleck-Justin Timberlake gambling thriller “Runner Runner.”

Horror rises from the grave

Let’s face it, 2012 was a lackluster year for horror movies, with no “Saw” entry and a franchise-low $29 million opening weekend for “Paranormal Activity 4.” But the genre is poised for a bounceback in 2013, led by three original chillers, three reboots and a pair of zombie pics.

Sony is backing the year’s two most prominent horror movies — “Evil Dead” and “Carrie.” The latter finds Chloe Moretz and Julianne Moore revisiting the Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie roles in a fresh adaptation of Stephen King teen chiller. As for “Evil Dead,” original helmer Sam Raimi and star Bruce Campbell serve as producers, knowing full well auds wouldn’t support a reboot without their blessing.

Another reboot, “Texas Chainsaw 3D,” picks up where Tobe Hooper’s 1974 original left off, which will surely be its main selling point.

As far as originals go, there are three promising entries: James Wan’s “The Conjuring” (which has been testing off the charts), Adam Wingard’s long-delayed “You’re Next” and Andres M
uschetti’s “Mama,” starring Jessica Chastain.

Industrywatchers will be keeping a close eye on Par’s Brad Pitt starrer “World War Z,” which underwent a much reported-on third-act rewrite. Also in the undead realm: zom-romcom “Warm Bodies.”

Action — old and new (times 2)

There hasn’t been a straight action movie since the November duo of “Skyfall” and “Red Dawn,” but the first two months of 2013 may look like the Planet Hollywood days all over again, as a trio of stars from “The Expendables” flex their box office muscles.

Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger looks to reclaim his status as a leading man in “The Last Stand,” which marks the English-language debut of Jee-woon Kim (“I Saw the Devil”). Pic bows Jan. 18, far from the summer stomping grounds of Ah-nold’s heyday, but the trailers suggest Schwarzenegger and the filmmakers are having fun riffing on the star’s comeback effort.

Sylvester Stallone teams with a pair of fellow ’80s action vets, director Walter Hill and producer Joel Silver, for a “Bullet to the Head,” bowing Feb. 1. Pairing Sly with Korean American thesp Sung Kang (“Fast Five”), Silver may be looking to re-create some of the buddy magic that characterized his hit “Lethal Weapon” franchise.

Bruce Willis tries to save Russia in “A Good Day to Die Hard,” the fifth film in the “Die Hard” series, which introduces John McClane’s son (Jai Courtney) as the franchise marks its 25th anniversary. Bowing Feb. 14, pic will serve as counterprogramming to traditional Valentine’s Day fare such as Relativity’s Nicholas Sparks adaptation “Safe Haven.”

And, since the action reteaming worked for “The Expendables,” Stallone and Schwarzenegger are also doubling up again, as co-stars of “The Tomb,” bowing Sept. 27.

Lastly, while 2012 saw dueling Snow White films — “Mirror Mirror” and “Snow White and the Huntsman” — open less than five months apart, 2013 will feature a similar showdown in the action realm, with two thrillers set at the White House.

First up, on March 22, Gerard Butler has to save the president when his residence comes under attack in Antoine Fuqua’s “Olympus Has Fallen.” Then Channing Tatum has the same mission (impossible, you say!) in Roland Emmerich’s “White House Down,” bowing June 28.

Hollywood statisticians will note that the second similarly themed film to be released typically performs better: “Armageddon” outgrossed “Deep Impact” and “Huntsman” outgrossed “Mirror Mirror.”

More, more and, um, more

Back in 2005, who knew that Universal’s “Fast and Furious” franchise, which was practically running on fumes after its third installment “Tokyo Drift” posted the series’ lowest grosses, would still be cruising along eight years later? Not many, but lo and behold, “Fast & Furious 6” will be looking to follow in “Fast Five’s” boffo treadmarks, though it will be the first in the franchise to start racing in May.

Meanwhile, Vin Diesel’s first bigscreen franchise continues, offering a third installment, “Riddick,” on Sept. 6.

“G.I. Joe: Retaliation” seeks to combat mixed pre-release buzz due to its much-discussed delay regarding the fate of Channing Tatum’s character. It bows March 29.

Batman and Spider-Man may be taking the year off but there will still be plenty of superhero sequels to tide over fanboys in 2013, including “Iron Man 3,” “The Wolverine,” “Thor: The Dark World” and “Kick-Ass 2: Balls to the Wall.”

In terms of animated fare, familiar faces abound there as well: Pixar’s first prequel, “Monsters University,” will battle the minions of “Despicable Me 2,” “The Smurfs 2” and “Cloudy 2: Revenge of the Leftovers” for family box office supremacy.

Other notable moments for 2013:

•The year will also see the bow of the last feature film from retiring helmer Steven Soderbergh: “Side Effects” (Feb. 8)

•A trio of Oscar-winning directors have fresh films: Ron Howard (“Rush”), Danny Boyle (“Trance”) and Woody Allen (as-yet-untitled)

•There’s a pair of Tom Hanks pics based on real people: “Captain Phillips” (Richard Phillips, captain of a ship hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009) and “Saving Mr. Banks” (Walt Disney).

•There will be not one, not two, but three Tyler Perry movies: “Tyler Perry’s Tempation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor,” “Tyler Perry Presents We the Peeples” and “Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas”

•Challenging Perry for the title of hardest-working man in showbiz is Mark Wahlberg, who toplines three slated films: Michael Bay’s low-budget (for him) laffer “Pain and Gain,” Albert Hughes’ thriller “Broken City” and Baltasar Kormakur’s comicbook-based “2 Guns.” A fourth, Peter Berg’s “Lone Survivor,” is expected to be released this year as well.

•The Coen brothers’ new pic, “Inside Llewyn Davis,” is the first movie they’ve directed without having distribution in place prior to starting production. The folk music tale starring Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake and Garrett Hedlund should be one of the top acquisitions titles this year.

•Lastly, following on the heels of performance pics from Michael Jackson, Justin Bieber and Katy Perry, popular boy band One Direction debuts its own concert pic, directed by Morgan Spurlock.