Hollywood is on edge ahead of summer movie season

Fri Apr 25, 2008 9:56am EDT
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By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - With the summer movie season set to begin with next week's release of comic book movie "Iron Man," Hollywood is holding its breath, hoping for a big start to the lucrative moviegoing period.

Matching last summer's record $4.1 billion box office haul won't be easy, experts said, in large part because of comparisons with the likes of "Shrek the Third, "Spider-Man 3" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End."

Still, Hollywood is launching a 2008 salvo that includes "Speed Racer," "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" and "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," with Harrison Ford reprising his role as the daring adventurer, "Indy" Jones.

Yes, the pressure is on for a blockbuster summer season, which runs from May through August and can account for nearly 40 percent of the annual box office. But at least one man is reveling in all the hype: "Iron Man" director Jon Favreau.

"I think it's great. You know, my last movie got sucked into obscurity because there was so much else going around it," Favreau said, speaking of his 2005 special effects-filled "Zathura: A Space Adventure." The movie earned good reviews but failed to catch fire early in a crowded holiday movie season.

By contrast, "Iron Man" makes its debut on May 2 as summer's first major release, and there is little competition in its way.

Based on the Marvel Comics series, the movie stars Robert Downey Jr. as a wealthy chief executive and high-tech weapons maker who invents a powerful suit armed with secret technology. His goal: use the armor to kill bad guys and achieve good in the world.

Paul Dergarabedian of Media by Numbers, a Los Angeles-based box office watcher, said expectations for the movie's ticket sales are "all over the map," but he believed it had a good chance to do well. That would be good news for Hollywood.   Continued...

<p>Robert Downey Jr. plays billionaire industrialist Tony Stark in &ldquo;Iron Man" in this undated publicity handout photo. REUTERS/Paramount Pictures/Handout</p>