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The Movies of Summer

2 May, 2002 By: Jessica Wolf

This year's summer video slate is bookended by the two biggest releases of the year: Warner Home Video's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone May 28 and New Line Home Entertainment's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Aug. 6.

But with only a handful of box office hits scheduled for release between them, it's going to be up to smaller theatrical films with high-profile stars to drive the bulk of the video business.

The good news is, most of the sleepier titles in this year's summer video lineup had only limited theatrical releases, accounting for smaller box office takes, which means video is the first opportunity for many viewers to see movies like Monster's Ball, The Shipping News, Gosford Park and The Affair of the Necklace.

Meanwhile, this year's theatrical lineup is shaping up to be one of the best of the past few years.

That's not necessarily bad for rentals, retailers say, because it gets people in a movie-watching mode in general, which is a boon to video stores.

“A good theatrical slate can be a boost because it gets people thinking and talking about movies and makes them want to go back and see something else that ties in to what's in the box office, like a movie with the same stars, or other installments in a series,” said Stephen Bissette of First Run Video in Brattleboro, Vt.

“We've got to work with [theatrical schedules] whatever happens, and we try to piggyback [video promotions] with theatrical releases when we can, and when we can't, we try to offer strong alternatives,” he said.

Rich Swope, buyer for Mike's Music and Video in State College, Pa., said, “Traditionally, a lot of the Oscar winners or nominees come out around this time of year, and they have a lot of recognition.” He cited Monster's Ball, Gosford Park and Orange County as sure bets.

A Marvel-ous May
May is a box office doozey, with Spider-Man, which launched May 3; Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, due May 16; and the animated Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, May 24.

Warner's Ocean's Eleven kicks off May's video slate. Neil Wick, of the three-store Toronto-based Video Image, noted, “There's been a certain amount of demand for the original version, so you can tell it's going to do well.” Box office moneymakers Vanilla Sky and Snow Dogs enter May 21. And Harry Potter begins his reign May 28.

Bissette said he expects to do well with Harry Potter, like everyone else, but predicted strength for some smaller titles, such as June's A Rumor of Angels, because of star Vanessa Redgrave's fan base in the area, and The Shipping News, thanks to its strong cast and the fact that it's from the same director as Cider House Rules, which was filmed in the area.

June's box office reveals the Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, starring Ashley Judd, Sandra Bullock and Maggie Smith; Disney's animated Lilo & Stitch; and Tom Cruise's futuristic actioner Minority Report.

Video gets some high-profile entries from this year's Oscar crop in June with Columbia TriStar's Black Hawk Down, Lions Gate's Monster's Ball, and A Beautiful Mind and Gosford Park, both from Universal. Gosford Park makes a nice theatrical tie-in with best supporting actress nominee Maggie Smith also appearing theatrically in Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Retailers agree A Beautiful Mind is the big video draw in June.

Bissette cited June comedies like Paramount's Orange County and Buena Vista's Kate & Leopold as titles with great summer rental appeal. “Anything with Jack Black does well for us, and with Orange County coming out after Shallow Hal, it should be even better,” Bissette said.

July Brings More Fireworks
Men in Black II invades theaters fourth of July weekend, and TV's “The Powerpuff Girls” appear in their first feature. The Road to Perdition, starring Tom Hanks, opens July 12; Stuart Little 2 arrives the next week; and Austin Powers in Goldmember ends the month with a bang July 26.

Like June, July's video slate is held up by Oscar hits: Paramount's Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Buena Vista's The Royal Tenenbaums and Am?lie, and New Line's I Am Sam. Another biggie for the month features Oscar-winner Denzel Washington in New Line's John Q.

Bissette said his store expects big rentals from Tenenbaums and Am?lie, thanks to a clientele that appreciates foreign and eclectic fare. Bissette also predicts a strong showing from MGM's Hart's War, with up-and-comer Colin Farrell, who also appears in Black Hawk Down and the theatrical Minority Report.

August's theatrical highlights include Signs, from director M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense) and starring Mel Gibson, and a new Vin Diesel vehicle XXX Aug. 2. Spy Kids 2 comes out the next week.

Of course, The Lord of the Rings should cast a huge shadow over video in August and could conceivably take a bite out of the box office as well. Wick said he thinks Rings will become more of a rental staple than Harry Potter.

Other titles that could be on the August video slate include Fox's animated hit Ice Age and Warner's Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle Collateral Damage.Collateral Damage had kind of a disastrous theatrical run,” Wick said. “That one will rent, just because it's got Schwarzenegger.”

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