The heated presidential race may be hogging the headlines, but Hollywood anxiously awaits your vote in a different contest.
Another summer-movie season is upon us, and the film industry has sunk billions of dollars into what it thinks you want to see. Decisions like whether a blockbuster will receive another sequel, whether a comedian will get the green light or whether a TV show will be adapted into a movie will all be made based on ticket sales in the coming weeks. And in this election, not voting is a vote in itself.
Below is a breakdown of summer 2008's biggest Hollywood initiatives. Every Friday night, when you look at those 20 titles on the theater marquee, choose carefully. Because ultimately, the most powerful person in Hollywood is you, and the world will be watching the results of your box-office ballot.
Will Girls Be Allowed to Have Fun?
Quick: How many comedies can you name in which a woman single-handedly headlines? "Legally Blonde"? "Miss Congeniality"? "Private Benjamin"? They're few and far between, and at least one studio has reportedly decided that women simply don't sell movie tickets. August 22 brings us "The House Bunny," an Anna Faris vehicle that hopes to make a household name out of the silly, sexy "Just Friends" scene-stealer. Starring, produced by and partially written by Faris, this flick about a Playboy Bunny who becomes a sorority house mother looks promising, and the star will have help from Katharine McPhee and Emma Stone. Sure, the summer got off to a good start with the two-woman comedy "Baby Mama," and the "Sex and the City" foursome definitely raked in the box-office bucks, but make no mistake about it: If the target audience for "House Bunny" decides to stay home, the only solo-female comedies we'll be seeing in the next several years will involve Martin Lawrence in a dress.
Will You Shell Out $10 for a TV Show?
Want to see that proposed "Arrested Development" movie? Do you hope "24" badass Jack Bauer will make his jump to the big screen? Well, you'd better buy yourself tickets for the "X Files" and "Sex and the City" movies. From "Star Trek" to "Twin Peaks," studio execs have long argued over whether a series' supposedly loyal fanbase will pay money for something it has been accustomed to watching at home for free. This summer marks a major battle in the ongoing war.
How Do You Like Your Superheroes?
On movie sites like this one, fanboys love to scream that every comic-book-based film needs to be darker than Venom itself. But the studios want to sell toys and tickets, and they've been arguing with filmmakers for decades that the way to do that is by making comic adaptations family-friendly. It's no secret that Batman came thisclose to being recast and dropped into a more lighthearted "Justice League" movie, so purchasing a ticket for "The Dark Knight" will give Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan a mandate to maintain their badass Bruce Wayne. Meanwhile, actor Edward Norton reportedly fought a losing battle to make "The Incredible Hulk" more brainy than brawny, so if you prefer Ang Lee-like angst, you might want to stay home.
Which Comedians Have Jumped the Shark?
Even if they're your favorite stars, you probably wouldn't argue that "Evan Almighty," "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry," "Semi-Pro," "The Heartbreak Kid" and "Be Kind Rewind" are the best films in the canons of Steve Carell, Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller and Jack Black, respectively. In Hollywood, you're only as good as your last movie, which means that these comedians (as well as Mike Myers, whose "The Love Guru" is his first proper vehicle in a half-decade) need to remind us why we came to love them in the first place. Buying tickets to "Guru," Carell's "Get Smart," Sandler's "You Don't Mess with the Zohan," Ferrell's "Step Brothers" and Stiller's "Tropic Thunder" gives the stars more power to get their next projects off the ground. Avoiding their films, on the other hand, could send any of them to Chevy Chase Boulevard.
Which Old Friends Do You Want to Revisit?
Unlike groundswell franchises like "The Matrix" and "Austin Powers," chances are good that you don't know anyone who has been obsessively demanding a sequel for "Hellboy," "The Mummy" or "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants." Still, this summer will bring us follow-up installments to all three, giving each fence-riding franchise another shot to hook viewers. Producers for all of them have indicated that they'd like to make at least one more movie. Will you give them the power to get that green light?
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