Next Summer, Studios Get Back to Playing Box-Office Chicken

Photo: Jag Gundu/Getty Images, Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Total Recall’s Colin Farrell and The Bourne Legacy’s Jeremy Renner will duke it out. Photo: Jag Gundu/Getty Images, Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

One of the reasons we haven’t yet had any dud openings at the box office this summer is that the studios have been careful to avoid standoff weekends that pit two blockbusters battling for the same demos against each other: For example, Super 8 and X-Men: First Class had no competition on their premiere weekends, while this past weekend, Cars and Bad Teacher went for entirely different audiences on their shared date and both did fine. Everybody’s friends; everybody wins! But looking ahead to summer 2012, however, it seems like the studios are back to playing movie-release chicken.

On June 1, teen girls will face a dark night of the soul when they are forced to choose between Snow White and the Huntsman, with Kristen Stewart and Thor hunk Chris Hemsworth, and Lasse Hallström’s not-yet-cast adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’s novel Safe Haven. A Twilight alum, or the man who brought them Dear John and The Notebook? Why, God, why?

As for movies targeting the explosion-loving young male demo, the reboot of Spider-Man (July 4) and Chris Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises (July 20) have given one another a wide berth. But on August 3, Sony’s remake of Total Recall starring Colin Farrell slams directly into a reboot of the Jason Bourne movies, The Bourne Legacy, starring Jeremy Renner. This posits a fascinating Zen koan: When these two crash into each other, whose case of amnesia will be worse?

Now, obviously, for all their flag-planting bluster, studios do shift these release dates. Perhaps a teen-girl drama and action blockbuster might decide to relocate to June 29. Yes, the behemoth that is Star Trek 2 is currently squatting there, but based on evidence both logical and J.J. Abrams–hinted, there’s little chance it will be done by then. First of all, not only hasn’t production started yet (which would be the norm for a blockbuster due in a year), but Abrams hasn’t even officially confirmed that he’ll be directing. (And if he isn’t, there doesn’t seem to be anyone else in the running.)

And also, based on his public comments during his Super 8 press tour, he doesn’t seem to be rushing to get things moving. A brief sampler: “Honestly, I care much more that Star Trek 2 be good than be ready by the already announced release date, and we’re still working on the script right now” (Dread Central); “We’re probably six months behind [but] we’re working on it” (“The Howard Stern Show”), and “I would say it’s not an impossibility to do it, but … no one wants to make something that makes its date, but isn’t worth your time” (MTV News). Doesn’t exactly say, “Reserve seats now!” does it?

Correction: This post originally also included mention of a June 1 face-off between Judd Apatow’s new comedy This Is Forty and the paean to ‘80s hair metal Rock of Ages. However, last month, This is Forty was moved back to December, taking Huntsman’s original spot; that was moved up to June to beat Relativity’s Snow White movie.

Next Summer, Studios Get Back to Playing Box-Office Chicken