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Our superhero obsession flying high at the box office

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SUPERHERO movie The Avengers this week powered into the all-time top 10 of Australian box office blockbusters but Canberra cinemas are tipping Batman, the reigning champion of comic book adaptations, to kapow his Marvel rivals when The Dark Knight Rises hits screens in July.

The stunning success of The Avengers, which has taken $44.7million in Australia in a month on its way to a $1.2billion haul worldwide, has cinema managers anticipating heroic ticket sales throughout winter for other franchise favourites such as Men In Black 3, The Amazing Spider-Man, Ice Age 4 and The Bourne Legacy.

“We all knew The Avengers would be big, but the enormity of this movie has been a surprise,” Hoyts Belconnen manager Steve Valentine said this week.

Men In Black 3 and the Spider-Man re-boot will do OK but the only worthy opponent can be The Dark Knight Rises.”

The superhero showdown is the key box office battle of the mid-year blockbuster season, when Hollywood studios traditionally wheel out their big-name stars and big-budget movies to woo summer holiday audiences in the US.

As a result, the corresponding colder months in Australia are usually the busiest for cinemas.


Seven of the 10 highest-grossing films of 2011 opened mid-year, led by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, which now ranks third on Australia’s all-time box office list with takings of $52.6 million.

While Marvel’s all-star team in The Avengers is already the one to beat this year, with its takings boosted by 3D ticket prices, the third film in director Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy will put DC Comics back in the game.

Dendy Canberra's Sean O’Sullivan and Greater Union's Kerryn Tippett are both tipping The Dark Knight Rises, to be released on July 19, to top The Avengers for ticket sales.

 “The Batman legacy that Christopher Nolan has created has kept the loyal fans happy and introduced a new fan base for the dark and gripping story,” Ms Tippett said.

The Dark Knight, released in 2008 following the death of its Aussie star Heath Ledger, is the current champion of caped crimefighter movies, ranking eighth on Australia’s all-time list with takings of $46.1million.

As The Avengers closes in on that tally, this year’s superhero contest has already caused collateral damage.

Paramount Pictures announced this week that it was moving the release of its G.I. Joe sequel back nine months to March 2013 to avoid the impending crush of action movies and allow the film to be retrofitted for 3D screens.

In other strategic scheduling, Colin Farrell’s Total Recall remake will open in Australia on September 6, a month after its US release and out of the wake of The Dark Knight Rises, while Oliver Stone kidnap drama Savages has been pushed back to late September and Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris follow-up To Rome With Love won’t be seen here until October.

The fight for family audiences is also intense, with Madagascar 3 held back until September, three months after its US release, to avoid rival animation Brave, a Highland fling featuring Pixar’s first female heroine, and Ice Age: Continental Drift.

 “They have the magic touch when it comes to engaging kids and adults alike,” Greater Union’s Ms Tippett said of Pixar, the Disney-owned animators famous for the Toy Story movies.

“If it has the magic of [Finding] Nemo, Brave will be the king of the kids’ movies in 2012.”

While Snow White and the Huntsman, starring Twilight’s Kirsten Stewart and Aussie Chris Hemsworth, chases The Hunger Games crowd, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and hair metal musical Rock of Ages, starring Tom Cruise, loom as the season’s curiosity pieces.

Dendy’s Mr O’Sullivan expects space thriller Prometheus, with its cryptic link to director Ridley Scott’s classic sci-fi horror Alien, to be a hit.

“Ridley Scott’s return to sci-fi has film buffs everywhere excited,” he said.

Slightly trickier to predict, Hoyts’ Mr Valentine said, was interest in The Bourne Legacy, which promises spy action minus Matt Damon.

“But it’s a strong franchise and Jeremy Renner’s recent appearances in Mission: Impossible and The Avengers should boost its popularity,” he said.

On the lighter side, Mr O’Sullivan reckoned Sacha Baron Cohen’s The Dictator, which topped the Aussie box office this week with the fifth biggest opening weekend of 2012, would have the last laugh over Adam Sandler’s upcoming comedy, That’s My Boy.

“Sandler has been more miss than hit lately,” he said.

Romantic comedies on the way include What to Expect When You’re Expecting, with Jennifer Lopez and Cameron Diaz, Friends with Kids, starring Kristen Wiig from Bridesmaids, and Hope Springs, with Meryl Streep.

The blockbuster-averse audience will find several potential gems between the popcorn crowd-pullers, including period romance A Royal Affair, Aussie musical The Sapphires, starring Jessica Mauboy and Deborah Mailman, and Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom.