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Summer movie season begins with studios looking to maintain cushion

Take half the summer off.

Bryan Cranston stars in the remake of "Godzilla."
Used with permission of Warner Bros.

That’s the attitude that’s emanating from the movie studios as they prepare to unleash another summer of box office behemoths on the nation.

Strange fact is that the release schedule, like last year, is front loaded with the most desirable stuff. Audiences have already seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier in that scorching month known as April and today (May 2) comes a release from his Marvel Comics compadre, Spider-Man, with The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which stars Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.

That film won’t get a lot of time to dominate the box office because in two weeks Warner Bros. will release its remake of Godzilla. (Ohhhhhh, no. There goes Tokyo!). And the blockbusters keep coming through the month – all before teens, usually Hollywood’s most reliable demographic (actually, it’s 12-24) for such fare, flee from school.

Maybe there’s a reason for it. According to a Motion Picture Association of America report issued at Cinemacon this year, frequent attendance by movie-goers in the 18-24 demographic dropped 21 percent in 2013. Release the films now, they’ll come back at a later date and see them again.

Plenty can explain that decline, but more than likely technology plays a key role in that number. Streaming is growing at a faster rate than expected, according to an eMarketer report.

And much of that is due to the proliferation of smartphones and tablets. However, the key to fixing that problem lays in what it’s always been when numbers do not land the way the movie industry like – make better movies.
There’s evidence to suggest that may be the case in 2014 thus far. Box office revenues currently track 9.4 percent better than last year, a hefty number. Can that continue? Hollywood sure hopes so and by the end of the summer, box office junkies will find out. In the meantime, here’s a list of what’s coming to theaters up until Labor Day Weekend:

May 2

The Amazing Spider-Man (Columbia): Peter Parker’s (Andrew Garfield) better in the second in this Spidey series that adds depth to the comic book mythos which opens almost 12 years exactly after the very first Spider-Man that starred Tobey Maguire. Director Marc Webb, ups the ante with this one with respect to F/X and emotion.

Walk of Shame (Focus Features): A television reporter finds her career in jeopardy when she’s in danger of missing an important interview the morning after a one-night stand. She finds herself stranded in downtown L.A. without a phone, car or identification.

May 9
Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return (Clarius): After getting the chance to make her bed in Kansas and drink a cup of coffee, Dorothy (Lea Michele) finds herself jetting back to Oz to help her old friends, the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion in this animated film.

Neighbors (Universal): A married couple with a baby (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) move in next door to a college frat house that gives Animal House a run for its money in this comedy. Nicholas Stoller (The Muppets) directs. Big question: can Rogen actually portray an adult? Don’t place bets.

Only Lovers Left Alive (Sony Classics): Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton star as centuries old lovers in this drama. One of them is forced to make a decision regarding their relationship. An official selection for the Cannes Film Festival, the cast alone makes it worth the price of admission. It’s been getting raves in other cities.

May 16
Godzilla (Warner Bros.): Looking at the trailers and commercials for Godzilla, curiosity envelopes, primarily because the last attempt at bringing the Japanese cinematic icon to the screen failed miserably – well except for a P-Diddy-Jimmy Page collaboration on the soundtrack. This time around? I think the filmmakers may actually have this suckered nailed for the first time since the jolly green lizard appeared on film – in black and white.

Locke (A24): To call Locke abstract might be an understatement. Tom Hardy, a British actor who still hasn’t gotten his due, stars as a man who has to deal with life altering stuff in a drive to London. He is the only character to appear on screen apparently.

Million Dollar Arm (Disney): This is the type of flick Disney normally does well. Check out Remember the Titans and Glory Road. It’s difficult to understand why they have an affinity of quirky sports flicks – in this case the story of a struggling sports agent who heads to India to find pitching talent among cricket players – but they do. John Hamm (Mad Men) stars.

May 23
Belle (Fox Searchlight): In this British import, a biracial young woman and illegitimate daughter of a navy admiral is raised by her great uncle and ignored by her father. During the course of her life, she will change society.

Blended (Warner Bros.): The best thing to say about this Adam Sandler comedy is that he reunites with Drew Barrymore for another go around after 50 First Dates and The Wedding Singer. Given his recent track record, that’s a relief. He’s always been better with Barrymore.

The Hornet’s Nest (Freestyle Releasing): The film uses actual footage to follow a group of elite soldiers as they operate in Afghanistan.

X-Men: Days of Future Past (Fox): High on the list of every comic book fan, Bryan Singer bases the film on the graphic novel by Chris Claremont and John Byrne. Wolverine travels to the past to rescue Prof. Xavier (Patrick Stewart/James McAvoy). Will audiences flock or stay away? That’s the question that has to weigh on 20th Century Fox’s execs. Singer is currently being sued for child molestation. No one wants to be lurid, but it will be interesting to see what that does to the box office given the anticipation for this movie.

May 30
Maleficent (Disney): Reasonably wholesome faces off with what will likely be the lurid as Maleficent, the story of the witch from Sleeping Beauty, will be just edgy enough to attract the older crowd and safe enough for the family.

A Million Ways to Die in the West (Universal): On the other hand, Seth MacFarlane’s Million Ways? Push the envelope? Hell, he may just light it afire in this comedy set in the Old West.

June 6th
Edge of Tomorrow (Warner Bros.): Another Tom Cruise sci-fi opus? So soon after Oblivion? Best way to summarize it? Groundhog Day in the near future with war, aliens and blowing stuff up. Emily Blunt co-stars in the film directed by Doug Liman, he of two Bourne films. Yes, it’s got potential. Big time potential.

The Fault in Our Stars (Fox): Fresh off of success in Divergent, Shailene Woodley stars as one of two star-crossed lovers who find happiness amid terminal illness.

Obvious Child (A24): A comedian (Donna Stern) endures the worst Valentine’s Day of her life in this comedy.
How to Train Dragon 2 (Fox/DreamwWorks): A boy and his dragon return in the sequel to the animated hit created by DreamWorks Animation.

Words and Pictures (Roadside Attactions): Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche are rival teachers who challenge their students to give their all in a school competition.

June 13th
22 Jump Street (Columbia): Yeah, remember at the end of the original flick when Ice Cube as Capt. Dickson told Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) that their next assignment was going off to college? Guess what happens in this sequel?

June 20
Jersey Boys (Warner Bros.): I don’t know what made Warner Bros. believe that summer audiences would flock to a film about the formation of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Well, actually, I do. It’s based on the super successful Broadway play of the same name. Whether Clint Eastwood can pull off a musical, however, remains to be seen. One of his most noted films, Bird, received its share of good reviews, but audiences stayed away.

The Signal (Focus Features): A computer hacker lures a group of college students to the desert. Yeah, dunno what’s gonna happen in this one, but I’m getting a weird slasher kind of vibe. Just sayin’.

Think Like a Man Too (Screen Gems): The gang is all back in this sequel to the original Think Like a Man which was based on a Steve Harvey book. Yes, even Kevin Hart, who’s been everywhere this year except the back of a milk carton returns in this film about the war between the sexes.

June 27
Transformers: Age of Extinction (Paramount): Were anyone to believe the trailer for the fourth Transformers movie, there’s plenty more heart in this one which stars Mark Wahlberg. Don’t worry. Michael Bay still gets to blow stuff up.

July 2
Deliver Us From Evil (Screen Gems): The mere presence of Eric Bana suggests that this horror film dealing with a city facing a series of demonic possessions just might be a cut above standard horror fare.

Earth to Echo (Disney): A group of teens receives some strange text messages after a construction project begins in their neighborhood.

Tammy (Warner Bros.): Melissa McCarthy is a down-on-her-luck woman whose life is in upheaval. Best way to deal with it? Road trip. Road trip with grandma (Susan Sarandon). No one ever expected Susan Sarandon to be playing anyone’s grandmother. Never. Really. Seriously. Never.

July 11th
And So It Goes (Clarius): A man (Michael Douglas) becomes a grandfather unexpectedly – like when his son drops off his daughter at his house.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Fox): The audience will get to see whether ape kills ape in the second film in the redone Planet of the Apes series. That’s highly doubtful when the film takes place nearly a decade after a virus has killed 80 percent of people on the planet and ape, led by Caesar (Andy Serkis), has opened up a can of whoop ass on humans.

July 18
Begin Again (The Weinstein Co.): A musician (Keira Knightley), abandoned by her boyfriend (Maroon 5’s Adam Levine), strikes up a friendship with a music executive who appreciates her talent.

Jupiter Ascending (Warner Bros.): The Wachowski siblings – Lana and Andy – make another play with a sci-fi epic about a woman (Mila Kunis) who doesn’t know she’s a princess from another world, but toils on Earth cleaning other people’s bathrooms.

Planes: Fire & Rescue (Disney): No one asked for a sequel to Cars and no one asked for one for its cousin either.
The Purge: Anarchy (Universal): A sequel to a film about a futuristic America where one day a year the criminals are around to go wild without repercussions.

July 25
Hercules (Paramount): Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) stars as the legendary demi-god.

A Man Most Wanted (Roadside Attractions): A Sundance Film Festival selection, it stars Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his final roles. He portrays a German spy tracking terrorists.

Sex Tape (Columbia): Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel star as a couple who loses their homemade sex tape in this comedy. If you saw the chemistry between the two in Bad Teacher, there’s something to look forward.
Step Up: All In (Summit): Another Step Up flick? Yawn.

Aug. 1
Get on Up (Universal): Chadwick Boseman (42) took on the role of Jackie Robinson with no problem. Can he handle the Godfather of Soul, James Brown? We shall see.

Guardians of the Galaxy (Disney): More Marvel fun as four misfits band together to save the universe or some such thing. Marvel keeps building in its universe. They’re the Minecraft of comic book movies.

Aug. 8
The Hundred Foot Journey (Disney): Conflict arises when an Indian restaurant opens across the street from an eatery known for its fine French cuisine. Helen Mirren stars. Works in this corner.

Into the Storm (Warner Bros.): A group of teens works to document the effects of a super storm that hits their town.

Lucy (Universal): Scarlett Johannson stars as a woman who develops into a super warrior in this Luc Besson directed movie. Didn’t she like do that in assorted Marvel flicks?

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Paramount): Those heroes on the half shell return for a reimagined adventure that includes some changes to the mythology, according to reports.

Aug. 15
As Above, So Below (Universal): Two archaeologists search for a treasure beneath Paris, France.
The Expendables 3 (Lionsgate): Yes, Stallone will grind this franchise into the ground just as he did with the Rocky movies.

The Giver (The Weinstein Co.): Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges star. Need anyone know anything else? Thought not.

What If (CBS Films): So what if your best friend turned out to be the love of your life? Daniel Radcliffe’s character asks the same question.

Aug. 22
If I Stay (Warner Bros.): A snowy day changes the life of a teen-ager (Chloe Grace Moretz) and she spends a day contemplating life and tragedy in this drama based on Gayle Forman’s popular young adult novel.

When the Game Stands Tall (Screen Gems): Jim Caviezel, best known for the TV series Person of Interest, finds an inspirational story (he often speaks of his faith) that he can revel in this story of a coach who rescues a high school football team and leads them on a remarkable win streak.

Aug. 27
November Man (Relativity): A former CIA operative (Pierce Brosnan) must take on his former protégé in this thriller based on novel by Bill Granger and directed by Roger Donaldson (Thirteen Days).

Underdogs (The Weinstein Co.): A football team in a small Ohio town stands up to their cross-town rival in this drama.

Aug. 29
Jessabelle (Lionsgate): Looking to recuperate from an accident, a woman returns to her home in small-town Louisiana and has to deal with a restless spirit.

Life of Crime (Roadside Attractions): John Hawkes and Mos Def star as prisoners who develop a friendship while locked up and eventually hatch a plan to make one huge score.

The Loft (Universal): Five friends who share a loft for extramarital affairs face a huge problem when a young woman turns up dead in the place.

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