Producers Rush Start Of Summer Movie Season

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The summer movie season used to start when schools let out in June. Then it moved to Memorial Day. Now it's the beginning of May. And there are reasons to expect calendar-creep to continue.


For decades, the summer movie season has started at the end of May, usually Memorial Day weekend. But recently, producers have been rushing the calendar a little, trying to get a few blockbusters out ahead of the summer competition.

And this year, there's an extra reason to do that, as Bob Mondello explains.

BOB MONDELLO: It was during the first weekend of May, 2008, that a jet-propelled "Iron Man" rocketed onto movie screens, scooping up just under $100 million at the box office. So it makes sense that producers would same the same weekend this year for the blastoff of "Iron Man 2."

(Soundbite of film, "Iron Man 2")

Mr. ROBERT DOWNEY JR. (Actor): (As Tony Stark) Oh, it's good to be back.

(Soundbite of applause)

MONDELLO: Everyone expects "Iron Man 2" to do better than the original, partly because sequels almost always open bigger and partly because it will have two weeks without much competition.

Normally, it would have three weeks to itself, but the big red guy is going to have to make room a little early for a big green guy.

(Soundbite of film, "Shrek Forever After")

Mr. EDDIE MURPHY (Actor): (As Donkey) I've never seen you before in my life.

Mr. MIKE MYERS (Actor): (As Shrek) It's me, your best friend.

Mr. MURPHY: (As Donkey) Help, I've been kidnapped by a deranged ogre.

MONDELLO: Yup, Shrek is back for a fourth and allegedly final chapter that is also expected to do better than its record-setting predecessors, but for a different reason.

Nearly half the screens playing "Shrek Forever After" will be playing it in 3-D and charging a premium of several dollars per seat.

(Soundbite of film, "Shrek Forever After")

Mr. MYERS: (As Shrek) I didn't know we could do that.

MONDELLO: In an industry where ticket prices have recently been rising about 15 to 20 cents per year, finding a way to charge an extra buck or two on average, especially on children's tickets, makes a big difference. It helped "Alice in Wonderland" set the all-time money mark for March.

(Soundbite of film, "Alice in Wonderland")

Mr. JOHNNY DEPP (Actor): (as Mad Hatter) I'm investigating things that begin with the letter M.

MONDELLO: It allowed "Clash of the Titans" to overcome terrible reviews.

(Soundbite of film, "Clash of the Titans")

Ms. POLLY WALKER (Actor): (As Cassiopeia) We are the gods now.

MONDELLO: It's helped "How To Train Your Dragon" spend a month near the top of the top 10.

(Soundbite of film, "How to Train Your Dragon")

MONDELLO: In fact, a 3-D movie has topped the box office charts for seven of the last eight weeks, all of which would be fine if there were loads of 3-D screens, but there aren't.

So virtually all of them will likely be showing "Shrek Forever After" on May 21st. And just four weeks later, unlike the three months that "Avatar" had to itself, most of those screens will be clamoring to switch to "Toy Story 3-D," and "Toy Story" will only have two weeks before "The Last Airbender," which will only have one week before "Despicable Me."

In other words, the summer is so crowded with 3-D pictures that the only way to get much playing time is to open up early. That's why movie producers are starting to see May as the new June and March as the new May. And why it's a good thing there are potential May blockbusters that don't make sense in 3-D, like "Sex and the City 2."

(Soundbite of film, "Sex and the City 2")

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. KIM CATTRALL (Actor): (As Samantha Jones) One week in Abu Dhabi all expenses paid for all four of us.

Ms. SARAH JESSICA PARKER (Actor): (As Samantha Jones) Get out of town.

Ms. CATTRALL: (As Samantha Jones) My point exactly.

MONDELLO: And others that seem perfect for 3-D, like the video-game-based "Prince of Persia"...

(Soundbite of film, "Prince of Persia")

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. GEMMA ARTERTON (Actor): (As Tamina) The high temple is guarded by some sort of demon.

MONDELLO: ...except that it was shot conventionally, and there was no time to retrofit it. Ridley Scott's "Robin Hood" isn't in 3-D either, which should please theater owners who have some 35,000 non-3-D screens to fill. It should also please any cost-conscious customers who see charging 3-D premiums as robbing from the poor to give to the rich.

I'm Bob Mondello.

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: ALL THINGS CONSIDERED continues right after this.

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