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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