Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Paramount plays down box office expectations for "Super 8"

Wed Jun 8, 2011 8:03am EDT
''Super 8'' director JJ Abrams (L), stars Elle Fanning and Joel Courtney, and producer Steven Spielberg introduce a clip from the film at the 2011 MTV Movie Awards in Los Angeles, June 5, 2011. REUTERS/Mario AnzuoniLOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Trying to debunk buzz in Hollywood that pre-release tracking is soft for J.J. Abrams' movie "Super 8", Paramount Pictures says the $50 million-budgeted movie doesn't need a big opening weekend because it cost far less than a big studio blockbuster.
Paramount has its job cut out for it in managing expectations.
"Super 8", opening in theaters Friday, is one of the summer's more high-profile projects because of Abrams and Steven Spielberg, who produced the sci-fi alien picture, set in the late 1970s in a small Ohio town.
However, the studio has refrained from showing the creature at the center of the film in trailers or its ad campaign, hoping to build interest in the film among those curious to see its secret revealed.
A similar strategy worked well with the Abrams-produced "Cloverfield" in 2008, but some are questioning whether more should have been shown with "Super 8".
Studios typically call reporters late in the week to do box office setup, but Paramount responded to questions from The Hollywood Reporter early this week because of industry chatter that the film would not open on par with recent summer releases like "X-Men: First Class" or "Thor" and that it is tracking behind Warner Bros.' "Green Lantern", which doesn't open until June 17.
The chatter is correct: Paramount estimates that "Super 8" should gross $25 million to $30 million in its domestic debut. However, Paramount argues that other summer films cost three or four times more to make than "Super 8"; hence, "Super 8" doesn't need to gross as much to be in the clear financially.
And it's a misconception to think that "Super 8" will play to young moviegoers, at least initially, according to Paramount.
"Super 8" -- Abrams' homage to the films of his childhood, a la Spielberg -- is tracking best among moviegoers over age 30, the age group that remembers such films as Spielberg's "E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial" or "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."
As strange as it might seem, the two comparison figures Paramount is using to gauge the film's success are "True Grit" and Universal studios comedy "Bridesmaids".
After adults, teen girls are the most interested in Super 8, according to tracking. On Sunday night, Abrams, Spielberg and "Super 8" stars Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning plugged the movie during the MTV Movie Awards.
Paramount's "True Grit", which was a hit first among older adults, and then broadened out, opened to $24.8 million in December.
More recently, "Bridesmaids", which also skewed older in its debut, grossed $26.2 million in its domestic launch (it's gone on to be a sleeper hit, grossing $107.2 million through Sunday). The R-rated female comedy cost $32 million to produce.
(Editing by Jill Serjeant)

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