Predicting Summer Blockbuster Opening Weekends

In the words of Gandalf, "So it begins." The onslaught of so-called "summer blockbusters."

Spider-Man 3 swung into theaters and promptly set the bar so high, you need to be able to spin webs to reach it. $148 million in its opening weekend. $145 million the next. What's next? A cavalcade of cinema hoping to earn your money and squash the web slinger like an unwanted

daddy longlegs.

So here (with nothing to go on except trailers and my own personal and undoubtedly unflawed assumptions) are my predictions for how this year's summer biggies will do on their opening weekends.

Shrek the Third -- May 18th. Number one was funny as H-E double hockey sticks. Two added a host of hilarious characters, although it could have been a bit longer. I'm betting three will be just as good. Plus, the kiddies love it -- so there might even be some parents who don't like

the movie ponying up the pesos. Might knock Spidey out of the top spot at the box office -- but won't beat the web slinger in dollars. I predict $118 million.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End -- May 25th. This is one of the many trilogy sequels this summer where I have not seen the first two, but let me guess: Johnny Depp will be quirky, charming and funny; Orlando Bloom will be brave and hunky; and Keira Knightley will be cute and spunky. Geoffrey Rush is back, and you can add Chow Yun-Fat into the mix. I don't get these movies -- but Dead Man's Chest held the weekend record until Spider-Man 3 came along, so I'm sure this will be another monster hit. My pirate prognostication -- $135 million.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer -- June 15th. I'm not even sure why I'm calling this a "blockbuster." Frankly, I thought the first Four stunk! This one looks like nothing more than a smorgasbord of special effects purely for its own sake. But there'll be enough Fan-Four-Fanatics out there to give it a decent showing. My fantastic four-sight -- $63 million.

Evan Almighty -- June 22nd. When the history books are written 50 years from now, I believe Steve Carell will be considered funnier than Jim Carrey ever was. Okay, maybe not. But I'm certain this sequel to Bruce Almighty will be funnier than the original. Reportedly one of the most expensive comedies ever made, producers might be hoping for a small miracle at the box office. Only two comedies have cracked the top 20 -- Shrek 2 and Austin Powers in Goldmember. I divine $75 million.

Live Free or Die Hard -- June 29th. While typically chock-full of explosions, the Die Hard movies haven't been known for blowing away the competition at the box office. At least not on opening weekends. But there's so much anticipation, number four might be the charm. Plus, everyone wants to see if Bruce Willis is going to fall and break a hip. My yippee-kay-yay estimation -- $100 million.

Transformers -- July 4th. Maybe it's because I grew up on the cartoon version of this movie, but I think it looks pretty darn good with kind of an Independence Day feel to it. I know I've been ranting against CGI lately, but I make an exception here. Unfortunately, I think the robots might

short-circuit at the box office and not bring in nearly as much as producers are hoping. My Optimum Prime prediction -- $80 million.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix -- July 13th. Every other movie should just give up right now. Four previous HP flicks are in the top 11 for opening weekend, the lowest making a mere $88 million in its first three days. Stick the name "Harry Potter" in front of something and you're guaranteed a box office smash. Harry Potter and the Dumbest Plot Ever would still make in the triple-digit millions. And while I haven't read a single Harry Potter book or seen a single previous Harry Potter movie, even I want to go see this film after watching the trailer. My Potter projection -- $179 million. Sorry, Spidey!

The Simpsons -- July 27th. The question everyone's asking is: After 18 seasons, does this franchise have enough juice for a feature-length film? Duh ... yes! If anyone can do it, it's Matt Groening and crew. But don't look for this to shatter any records on its opening weekend. My Homer hunch -- $56 million.

The Bourne Ultimatum -- August 3rd. Without a doubt this will be loaded with action, ground-breaking cinematography, and a smart, sophisticated plot. But for some reason, the spy flicks have never been opening-weekend assassins at the theaters. (Casino Royale brought in a mere $40 million or so.) Although, the last Bourne cracked the $50 million mark, and a lot of people are anxious to see how this trilogy turns out. My Bourne belief -- $79 million.

Ethan Morris: "Not always right, but never in doubt." Go ahead and write me.