The Slate That Saves the Box Office? Paramount Shows It Off

Starting with a peek at the closely guarded “Super 8″ Monday night, studio unwraps its powerful summer lineup to exhibitors who could sorely use the tentpoles

From "Thor" to "Transformers," no studio has more heavy hitters this summer than Paramount. 

Thank God.

As the movie industry’s annual lovefest with exhibition kicked off on Monday night in Las Vegas, the one studio that looks like it may change the fate of the box office unveiled its slate.

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To get things started, Paramount snuck a reel from its closely-guarded Steven Spielberg-produced/J.J. Abrams-directed "Super 8." The studio brought out Abrams to talk up the extraterrestrial thriller At Caesars Palace’s Colosseum on Monday night.

(If we told you what the 20 minutes of footage contained, a henchman from the planet Viacom would surely kill us.)

Also making an appearance during the hour-long presentation were "Thor" star Chris Hemsworth and director Kenneth Branagh, "Kung Fu Panda 2" star Jack Black and director Jennifer Yuh, and Marvel maestro Kevin Feige. 

In addition to "Super 8," Paramount showed scenes from November DreamWorks release "Puss in Boots," as well as footage from yet more summer tentpoles: "Thor" and "Captain America."

With the domestic box office down 19.6 percent year-to-year heading into the Exhibitor Tradeshow Formerly Known as ShoWest, the movie business is sorely in need of some heroes.

"I can't think of anyone who has had five big tentpoles the size of what they have," said a marketing executive for a rival studio.

"Profitability-wise, they might be a little off because so many of their film are somebody else's," he added. "But box-office-wise, they're the ones to beat. 'Thor' is going to be huge,'Super 8' (left) is J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg, so you can't really bet against that one; 'Kung Fu Panda' will be huge, and 'Captain America' is going to be really strong."

The cinematic bounty kicks off on May 6, with the release of the $150 million, Kenneth Branagh-directed “Thor,” which Paramount will distribute under legacy contract with Marvel Entertainment.

Two weeks later, on May 26, Paramount will debut the DreamWorks Animation follow-up to its 2008 smash hit “Kung Fu Panda,” which grossed $631.7 million worldwide.

On June 10, Paramount will release its only homegrown project of the summer, the extraterrestrial thriller “Super 8,” which makes up light budgetary heft (it was shot for only around $50 million) with heavy-hitter backing.

On July 1, Paramount will put out the third Michael Bay “Transformers” movie, “The Dark of the Moon,” a follow-up to a 2009 film that grossed $836.3 million globally despite universally bad reviews.

Paramount’s big summer will culminate on July 22 with the premiere of another franchise property, “Captain America: The First Avenger.”

From a marketing and distribution perspective, is the studio capable of launching so much box-office heft in a period of just over two months?

“Paramount is a machine right now, said rival-studio marketing executive. “They’ve done great work recently with ‘The Fighter,’ ‘True Grit,’ ‘Paranormal Activity 2’ and ‘Justin Bieber.’ If anybody can pull this off, they can.”