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Thu, Dec. 12

Summer blockbusters: Sequels dominate summer movie season

Courtesy photo<br>Johnny Depp returns as Capt. Jack Sparrow in the fourth installment of the “Pirates” franchise.

Courtesy photo<br>Johnny Depp returns as Capt. Jack Sparrow in the fourth installment of the “Pirates” franchise.

The summer of big-budget sequels is about to arrive at movie theaters across the country.

"Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," "Kung Fu Panda 2," "Cars 2," "The Hangover Part II," the prequel "X-Men: First Class," "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2" are all set to hit theaters, starting with Johnny Depp returning as Capt. Jack Sparrow today.

Perhaps that's part of the reason why Bryan Laurel is eagerly anticipating this summer's crop of major studio movies. The director of marketing for Scottsdale-based theater chain Harkins Theaters, said those films will bring in big bucks.

"We have a lot of franchises with sequels that have devoted fans and they're all blockbusters," he said. "This is what makes our job fun. All of the studios put a lot of money into the films, they put a lot of money into the marketing of these films, and we're real fortunate that we have a lot of strong entries."

Laurel said the sour economy really hasn't hurt Harkins as much as other businesses as people are more mindful of their money.

"They're finding in their budget by not spending the money on those (big ticket) items, that they have extra money to go see a matinee show for just a few dollars," he said.

But box office revenue is down.

Year-to-date revenue is at its lowest mark in five years and it's down nearly 22 percent from 2010, according to the Hollywood Reporter, which also pointed out in a mid-March story that none of the 2011 releases has hit the $100 million level domestically at the time of its publication.

But the sequels all carry a big earnings stick with their previous success, and Laurel said this summer's movies target a wide viewing audience.

Family film options range from "Kung Fu Panda 2," "Cars 2" and "Winnie The Pooh". Teens and adults can take in "Transformers", "Captain America" and "Cowboys and Aliens."

It's that mix that appeals to moviegoers like Daniel and Kourntey Hedges, who took in some flicks at the Prescott Valley Harkins this past week. Daniel said he's looking forward to "Captain America" and "Cars 2."

"I like the hero movies," he said.

His wife, Kourtney, said she wants to see the "X-Men" and "Hangover 2" flicks, as they said they try to go to the movies two to three times a month.

"Something original or something really, really funny," she said. "I'm definitely all about the comedy."

If the summer blockbusters don't seem interesting, consider checking out a late summer movie series coming to Prescott.

Helen Stephenson, executive director of the Prescott Film Festival, said the Arizona Centennial Film Festival runs Sept. 16-18 at Hendrix Auditorium at Mile High Middle School in Prescott.

The three-day event will showcase a mix of about a dozen movies shot in the Grand Canyon State.

The Arizona State Centennial Commission is sanctioning the event, according to Stephenson, who said 1949's "Lust for Gold," with Ida Lupino and Glenn Ford will play Friday and "3:10 To Yuma" will take the screen on Saturday.

"We think it's going to be a lot of fun. Just finding the old movies has been quite a blast," she said. "It's just fun to see places as they were a long time ago."

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