‘Super 8′: Will J.J. Abrams’ film add up to a ‘District 9’ success story?

June 09, 2011 | 6:17 a.m.
super 8 Super 8: Will J.J. Abrams film add up to a District 9 success story?

J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg on the set of "Super 8" (Francois Duhamel /Paramount Pictures)

A sci-fi movie with an elusive name — one word and one number — arrives in theaters during the summer with a relatively modest budget and special effects that, on the screen, look far bigger than their cost. There’s not a single movie star in it, though, because the project’s biggest name is its producer. The movie is called…”District 9.” Or perhaps “Super 8“?

Paramount Pictures  executives are certainly hoping that Friday’s release of “Super 8,” from director J.J. Abrams and producer Steven Spielberg, will start a success story not unlike 2009’s “District 9,” the nimble Peter Jackson-produced enterprise that posted an opening weekend of $37 million in domestic box office and went on to an Academy Award nomination for best picture. John Horn of the Los Angeles Times takes a look at the commercial aspirations and challenges of this new film; here’s an excerpt from his piece:

The new retro sci-fi film “Super 8” heads into the summer movie season with two of Hollywood’s biggest marquee names above its mysterious title: writer-director J.J. Abrams and producer Steven Spielberg. Yet in an era of sequels, spin-offs, book adaptations and television show remakes, the movie stands as an anomaly: It’s a wholly original project with no A-list actors in starring roles.

The nature of “Super 8” — and Abrams’ wish to preserve its mystique — has forced Paramount Pictures to handle the release with the kind of special care typically bestowed on an art-house endeavor. The studio announced via Twitter Wednesday morning that the film, which will open nationally on Friday, will premiere in about 325 sneak previews Thursday. The hope, executives say, is that word of mouth will help bolster interest in the story of a group of friends who find themselves in danger after witnessing a massive train derailment. “The strength of ‘Super 8,'” said Rob Moore, Paramount’s vice chairman, “is the movie’s heart.”

Heart isn’t typically what sells summer tent-pole projects, meaning that “Super 8” may offer the season’s best test of the promise — and peril — of word of mouth. Audience tracking surveys show that though older moviegoers, particularly men, are interested in seeing the picture, younger ticket buyers — historically, the drivers of summer smashes — have been slow so far to warm to the film. In other words, people who remember 1979 (and the Spielberg films that inform this new movie) are more likely to want to see “Super 8.”

You can read the rest of Horn’s piece right here.

— Geoff Boucher


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2 Responses to ‘Super 8′: Will J.J. Abrams’ film add up to a ‘District 9’ success story?

  1. Given the way the film has been written about and promoted, I wouldn't be surprised to see it have success like District 9 did. In fact, with Spielberg attached to the project, I wouldn't be surprised to see it outdo District 9. There seems to be a real palpable buzz about it. I suppose we'll find out soon enough!

    With Love and Gratitude,


  2. Adam says:


    The worst thing about the similarity of these two movies is this: While I enjoyed the production value(?) and characters in "Super 8" immensely, so much air, impact, "whoomp" was taken out of the last part of the film because the creature had the SAME mission to get back to his planet a la "District 9". The fact that "District 9" came out before "Super 8" is just bad luck for "Super 8" in my mind. I really enjoyed "District 9" though the mood throughout is obviously different, with an adult protagonist. Still, the bond between the protagonist and creature in both movies are relatable. With the genius of J.J. Adams, myself having been a fan of "Lost", when I became aware that the plot was basically the same as "District 9" (probably when the boys are in the middle school figuring it out), there was almost no point in staying towards the end. I stayed. But what a buzzkill.

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