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Last Updated: Friday, 7 May, 2004, 09:06 GMT 10:06 UK
Blockbusters square up for summer
Caroline Briggs
BBC News Online Entertainment

Van Helsing
Van Helsing stars Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale
The greatest warrior of all time will battle it out with a spider and the powers of a schoolboy wizard for box office supremacy this summer.

Monster-fest Van Helsing, starring Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale, kicks off the season with its launch on 7 May as film companies vye for huge audiences.

Troy, which is due for release in May, is expected to be one of the summer box office hits of 2004.

Brad Pitt stars as Greek hero warrior Achilles in Troy - the first sword-and-sandals film since Gladiator.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and the highly-anticipated Spiderman 2 will also turn up the heat in the cinemas this season.

Other offerings include end-of-the world disaster tale The Day After Tomorrow and Will Smith's I, Robot.

Strong concept

Chris Hewitt, of UK film magazine Empire, told BBC News Online Van Helsing should be a big hitter, taking between 200-250m at the box office.

"Van Helsing is such a strong concept it can't really go wrong," he said.

Release dates
Van Helsing - 7 May
Troy - 21 May
The Day After Tomorrow - 28 May
Harry Potter- 4 June
Shrek 2 - 2 July
King Arthur - 7 July
Spiderman 2 - 16 July
Thunderbirds - 23 July
I, Robot - 6 August
Catwoman - 6 August

"It really is Hugh Jackman's film and he is finally going to become the mega-star he deserves to be."

Hot on the heels of Van Helsing's release is Troy - the tale of two of history's most legendary lovers, Paris, Prince of Troy and Helen, Queen of Sparta - which will hit UK screens two weeks later.

Orlando Bloom and Diana Kruger team up as the lovers in the adaptation of Homer's poem, alongside Pitt as Achilles.

Mr Hewitt added: "On the whole [Troy] looks amazing. It has a great cast, big battles and romance so it is difficult to say it won't flop, but it remains to be seen.

"It has been a long time since Brad Pitt carried such a big title himself."

Brad Pitt in Troy
Troy is based on Homer's poem The Iliad

Hewitt said there would be mixed fortunes for the two big "comic book" films of the year, Spiderman 2, starring Toby Maguire, and a feline Halle Berry in Catwoman.

'Disappointment'

He said: "Spiderman will probably be the biggest film of the year, it looks so much better than the original - which itself was huge - and I think it could take up to 300m.

"Catwoman, on the other hand, is hard to see being anything other than a huge disappointment.

"Comic book movies are a huge business, and I think Catwoman will have a big opening weekend, but the general reaction is that comic book fans feel alienated from this one and I think it's going to be a flop."

One of the biggest threats to box office takings this summer will be sporting events.

Euro 2004, which kicks off with home team Portugal taking on Greece, starts on 12 June and runs until 4 July, while the Olympics runs for two weeks at the end of August.

Shrek 2
Shrek 2 is being showcased at the Cannes Film Festival

Most big film distributors have ensured there is no clash with release dates, but a number of female-friendly movies will be slipped in during Euro 2004, including The Stepford Wives, starring Nicole Kidman.

But if England perform well in the tournament, it could mean good news for King Arthur - starring Clive Owen and Kiera Knightley - whose box office takings could swell along with national pride.

Harry and The Prisoner of Azkaban opens in the UK a week before the first game and is expected to rake in the profits.

'Dark horse'

Dan Jolin, from magazine Total Film, told BBC News Online that Harry Potter would be a likely big hitter.

"Harry Potter will do really well," he said.

"In my opinion Alfonso Cuaron is a better director and it is a much more interesting film than the previous two."

Spiderman 2
Spiderman 2 is likely to be one of the biggest summer hits

Mr Jolin added that doomsday scenario movie The Day After Tomorrow could be the "dark horse" of the summer cinema.

"Who could watch the trailer for The Day After Tomorrow and not get excited? It looks fantastic.

"No-one has done a big screen disaster movie for years and I certainly think this one is going to be so much more than just a few big waves. I've got real hopes for it."

Cartoon adaptation

The sequel to animated hit Shrek will compete for the Palme D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival next month, before it opens to general release.

Other films to appeal to children this summer will include Thunderbirds and cartoon-strip hero Garfield the Movie.

Lost in Translation star Bill Murray provides the voice of the lazy, lasagne-loving feline.

Also starring Jennifer Love-Hewitt, the part-animation, part live-action film brings the hugely successful cartoon strip to the big screen in July.




SEE ALSO:
Shrek sequel to compete at Cannes
21 Apr 04  |  Entertainment
2004: The next 12 months in film
29 Dec 03  |  Entertainment
Review: Van Helsing
07 May 04  |  Entertainment


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