August 6, 2008 / 11:50 PM / 9 years ago

Hollywood looks for Wednesday heat at box office

4 Min Read

<p>Blake Lively and America Ferrera (R), stars of the film "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2", pose during a portrait session in New York in this July 27, 2008 file photo.Keith Bedford/Files</p>

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Wednesday's child may be full of woe, but for Hollywood's summer movie season, a Wednesday launch date is seen as potentially full of cash.

A flurry of films arriving in North American theaters between now and September are opening on a Wednesday -- long considered a moviegoing dead zone -- as studios seek to build early buzz for movies ahead of the traditional Friday dash to the multiplex.

Two of the latest examples of this trend are "Pineapple Express," a marijuana-stoked comedy starring Seth Rogen from Sony Pictures Entertainment, and "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2," a female-bonding drama from Warner Bros.

Both opened Wednesday bolstered by mostly positive reviews and, according to executives of the two distributors, good feedback from audiences at test screenings.

"We look at these first two days, today and tomorrow, as being almost like sneak previews for the weekend," said Jeff Goldstein, executive vice president of domestic distribution for Warner Bros. "In the middle of summertime, when all the kids are out of school and everybody's available, it's just a way of expanding the weekend a little bit."

In the case of "The Sisterhood" sequel, Warner was inspired in part by the success of two other young female-oriented films that opened on a Wednesday -- Walt Disney Co.'s "The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement" in 2004 and "Freaky Friday" in 2003, Goldstein said.

Studios also have been emboldened by the steady strength of the "The Dark Knight." While topping the box office chart three weekends in a row, the Batman sequel also has drawn ample movie audiences on days other than Friday through Sunday.

"The mid-week business this summer has been tremendous," said Jeff Blake, vice chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Head Start

The big caveat for a mid-week opening is that "you never would do it if you didn't have a picture that you had a lot of confidence would get good word of mouth," Blake added. "The last thing anyone wants in the instant information age is to put out a picture that doesn't live up to its marketing."

Box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian agreed that getting a jump on the weekend can amplify the positive hype surrounding a movie, as long as the film strikes a chord with audiences.

"There's no better marketing tool than a satisfied moviegoer," he said, adding that studios nonetheless risk "burning off" some of their weekend audience with a strong Wednesday opening.

The word-of-mouth publicity is especially key for edgy, R-rated (under 17 not admitted without parents or guardian) films like "Pineapple Express" and the upcoming Ben Stiller action comedy "Tropic Thunder," which opens next Wednesday.

Marketing such films in TV ads has its limitations given restrictions on broadcasting raunchy or otherwise provocative sight gags that can prove to be their biggest drawing card.

Getting a head start on the end-of-summer Labor Day holiday weekend was likewise a factor in slating the Don Cheadle espionage drama "Traitor" for Wednesday, August 27, Overture Films executive Chris McGurk told The Los Angeles Times.

But studio executives said another consideration in this week's Wednesday openings was avoiding a collision with the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympics in Beijing, which is likely to siphon off some of Friday's usual movie audience. (Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Jackie Frank)

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