From ‘Prince Of Persia’ To ‘Beastly,’ What Are The Ingredients For A Summer Blockbuster?

From star vehicles to reboots, auteurs to anonymous actors, the competition for our summer moviegoing dollars is on.

Summertime, and the living is … queasy? It certainly is if you’re a studio executive with hundreds of millions of dollars riding on the hope that somebody out there wants to see your movie.

Every year, studio suits adhere to certain recipes for perceived summer success. With that in mind and the year’s most-contested season upon us, here are the five ingredients that seem to be making up the 2010 crop of hopeful summer hits:

Give it a “name”: When it comes to getting a greenlight in Hollywood today, it’s all about the name. If people remember the “Sex and the City” TV show, there’s a built-in audience for the movie (May 27). “Marmaduke” (June 4) may be a bit on the obscure side for most children today, but parents who remember the comic strip could take their kids to the June 4 flick. Whether the names “Prince of Persia” (May 28) and “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” (July 16) will pull in more dough than wholly original films about Persian princes and magic is anyone’s guess, but this much is certain: From “Predators” (July 9) to “The Last Airbender” (July 2) to “The Karate Kid” and “The A-Team” (both June 11), everything old is new again.

The Auteur Theory: Some may argue that the days when an audience would pay to see a film simply because a name like Hitchcock, Kubrick or Wilder is attached to it are long gone. But studios are certainly aware of modern-day geniuses like Christopher Nolan (“Inception” on July 16), Ridley Scott (“Robin Hood” on May 14th) and Edgar Wright (“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” on August 13). In fact, with the Internet making even huger celebrities out of the folks behind the camera, perhaps an alternate auteur theory is beginning to emerge: If an indistinguishable journeyman has his name on the film, audiences are often wise to avoid it.

Extreme makeovers: Remember that scene in “Beauty and the Beast” where the monster got tattoos and body piercings? Wasn’t the car chase in “Fantasia” cool? How about the part in “The Karate Kid” where Daniel-san learned … kung-fu? Of course you don’t remember any of those scenes — because they never happened! Um, yet. Get yourself ready for those very sights as “Beastly” (July 30) puts a new-century spin on the classic love tale, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” takes the Mickey Mouse vignette from “Fantasia” and goes full-length, and “The Karate Kid” (June 11) reboots and relocates to China. Coming next summer: “Top Gun” retold with kids on skateboards.

The next big thing: If recent history has taught us anything, it’s that filmmakers are better off buying low on folks like Seth Rogen, Robert Pattinson and Megan Fox and working to make them overnight superstars than shelling out the big bucks for a “name.” That strategy is in play this summer as folks like Alex Pettyfer (“Beastly”), Jaden Smith (“Karate Kid”), Noah Ringer (“The Last Airbender”) and Adam G. Sevani (“Step Up 3-D,” out August 6) are all starring in roles that would have once been reserved for established stars.

The last big thing: But the statement above shouldn’t trick you into thinking that Mark Wahlberg is taking a barista job at Starbucks to make ends meet. Instead, the superstar is teaming with equally high-priced A-lister Will Ferrell for “The Other Guys” (August 6), Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz are still finding work in the likes of “Knight and Day” (June 25), and Angelina Jolie adds some spice to the season with “Salt” (July 23). Mix in the middle-aged mockery of Adam Sandler’s “Grown Ups” (June 25), and it’s clear that the death of the star vehicle has been greatly exaggerated.

What movies are you most excited to see this summer? Let us know in the comments below!

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