9 Summer Movie Burning Questions: Can Marvel, Disney Survive Success? Where Are the Black Movies? Is ‘Terminator’ a Crazy Gamble?

TheWrap Summer Movie Preview 2015 also ponders: Why will Sony be rooting for a Fox comedy? What would a real quake do for “San Andreas?”

Plugged-in moviegoers know this could be the biggest summer ever at the box office — and the most expensive in Hollywood history, too.

They know Marvel’s “Avengers: The Age of Ultron” has a good shot at breaking the record for biggest movie opening ever when it jump starts the season on May 1.

They also probably know that sequels are big. Fourteen — or nearly a third — of this summer’s 44 wide releases are next chapters or reboots of past hits.

But what they don’t know are the answers to these questions:

1. With “Avengers: Age of Ultron’s” massive tracking, can it get any better for Marvel and Disney?

In 2009, Sony Pictures owned the rights to Spidey and Fox had the X-Men and Fantastic Four, locking up Marvel’s most well-known characters. Remained characters — Thor, the Hulk and Captain America — were considered junior varsity squad.

But Marvel assembled “The Avengers,” and with new parent company Disney’s marketing help turned its second string into box office champs. And they did it again last year with “Guardians of the Galaxy,” the summer’s biggest surprise hit. Nobody turns hit movies (its 10 Marvel releases have grossed nearly $7 billion at the box office) into cash cows better than Disney, with its TV networks, stores and theme parks. The studio is looking to rinse and repeat with the $225 million sequel “Avengers: Age of Ultron” — which is tracking to top the original’s $207 million opening on May 1 — and “Ant-Man,” set for July 17.

Disney distribution chief Dave Hollis acknowledged that the bar is getting very high for Disney and Marvel.

“When you create momentum of brands you also create quality mandates for real diversity, originality and storytelling, If you don’t provide those things, it could get stale,” he told TheWrap, while pointing out the benefits to being on top. “The success we’ve had and the consistency of the relationship allows us to take creative risks that maybe others can’t.”

terminator-genysis - arnold2. Is Paramount crazy to think it can reignite its “Terminator” franchise with a retirement-age Arnold Schwarzenegger and without James Cameron?

It’s been 30 years since the ex-governator first became the Terminator, and the last two films were just OK, commercially and artistically. That means Paramount, Skydance Productions and Megan Ellison, who bought the rights for a reported $20 million, have taken a significant gamble. But their plan could be, as they say in really bad action movies, “just crazy enough to work.”

“Terminator Genisys” director Alan Taylor isn’t James Cameron, who helmed “T1” and “T2” and passed on this one. For that matter, Emilia Clark, who plays Sarah Connor, isn’t Linda Hamilton. But they could bring the fire and blood they showed on “Game of Thrones.” Combined with Jai Courtney, Jason Clarke and recent Oscar winner J.K. Simmons, “Genysis” will have to deliver relentless action and at least one line that bears repeating with a thick Austrian accent.

If all that happens and it steals the spotlight from Channing Tatum in “Magic Mike XXXL” on July 4 weekend, Paramount could go on to make a lot of money before 2019 when the rights revert to Cameron, with plans to release “Terminator” movies for the next two years. They’d be crazy not to, right?

spy-melissa3. We all agree that women aren’t as funny as men, right?

Not Hollywood, which has scheduled eight female-centric comedies this summer.

Trying to tickle our ribs will be Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara (“Hot Pursuit”), Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson (“Pitch Perfect 2”), Victoria Justice and Eden Sher (“Outskirts”), Melissa Rauch (“Bronze”), Helen Hunt (“Ride”) and Amy Schumer (Judd Apatow’s “Trainwreck”). Even Meryl Streep is getting in on the act with Sony TriStar rock comedy “Ricki and the Flash.”

Early word is very positive on Fox’s R-rated “Spy,” which re-teams director Paul Feig and star Melissa McCarthy for Memorial Day weekend. Still, don’t be surprised if the laughs of Ivan Reitman and new Sony Pictures Chairman Tom Rothman sound a tad anxious.

The “Ghostbusters” producer and studio are wagering that the director and star of “The Heat” and “Bridesmaids” can deliver on next July’s “Ghostbusters 3,” Sony’s all-female reboot co-starring Kristen Wiig. They’re hoping the “Ghost” gals will launch a franchise and ultimately a “cinematic universe,” which has already kicked off with Channing Tatum’s “Ghost Corps.”

If “Spy” flies high for Fox, it will mean momentum for “G3,” and possibly sequels, spinoffs, TV shows and toy sales. For franchise-starved Sony, that would be good news, whether Bill Murray’s in on the joke or not.

straight outta compton4. Are there any movies, aimed at or made by, African-Americans this summer?

Yes there are, and they look pretty good.

“Straight Outta Compton,” the tale of L.A. rappers whose defiantly obscene lyrics formed the frontline of a 1980s culture war, will be a hit as long as director F. Gary Gray and the script from Andrea Berloff and Alan Wenkus get it right. Universal thought enough of it to bump a “Bourne” movie to next year so that it could have that Aug. 15 release date.

Producer Ice Cube is played by his son, O’Shea Jackson, while Jason Mitchell takes on Eazy-E and Corey Hawkins portrays Dr. Dre, who is also a producer.

“Dope,” the Sundance hit written and directed by Rick Famuwiya and produced and narrated by Forest Whitaker, has the makings of a winner for Open Road Films.

Set in post-hip hop Inglewood, California, just a Blue Line train’s ride from Compton, the dramedy is about a geeky high school kid (Shameik Moore) dodging drug dealers and gangs while trying to get into Harvard. Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons, Zoe Kravitz, Blake Anderson and rapper A$AP Rocky co-star.

Hate to answer a question with another question, but why are there only two?

i am big bird5. Why are we talking about documentaries — isn’t this the superhero-and-sequel season?

Because there are several hot docs that keep it real and interesting, and we get two in the first week of May.

In “The Seven Five,” Michael Dowd recounts how he went from a 20-year-old rookie policeman in Brooklyn to New York’s most powerful crooked cop. Drug lords, cronies and betrayed officers also chime in for the film Tiller Russell wrote and directed for IFC Films.

“I am Big Bird” gives us Carol Spinney taking off the yellow feathers he’s worn for four decades — he played Oscar the Grouch, too — to spill Sesame Street’s secrets in the Tribeca Films release. The 80-year-old’s dish on Jim Henson is sharp, sweet and savory.

On May 22, Magnolia’s heart-stopping “Sunshine Superman” profiles the late Carl Boenish, an aerial cinematographer and father of the extreme sport of BASE jumping.

Warner Bros. doesn’t normally do docs, but made an exception for “Batkid Begins,” a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the heartrending short film about Miles Scott. He’s the 5-year-old boy with leukemia who, thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, for one day became the cutest caped crusader ever. It opens June 26, and will be hard for Julia Roberts to top with her feature based on the documentary.

Without a hint of a lisp, David Thorp’s documentary featuring George Takei poses the question “Do I Sound Gay?” for IFC on July 10. And then there’s the Jason Bateman-narrated “Beyond the Brick: A LEGO Brickumentary,” which Radius-Dimension is opening on July 31.

jurassic world6. How much will “Jurassic World” make if it plays China?

Plenty is the short answer, provided it can get in. Universal’s 3D re-release of Steven Spielberg’s original “Jurassic Park” played there in 2012, taking in $57 million despite being 20 years old. It was new to the Chinese — the original never made it there — and those returns helped push the leaping lizards over $1 billion at the worldwide box office. It doesn’t have a China date yet, but debuts in the U.S. on June 12.


7. Does new film studio STX Entertainment know something about digital movie campaigns that the rest of Hollywood doesn’t?

We’ll find out for sure when its first release, “The Gift,” opens on July 31. Writer, director and co-star Joel Edgerton appeared on Mario Lopez’s Periscope channel to premiere the trailer for the psychological thriller in April, releasing the full trailer on Twitter. Hollywood has been at the digital forefront before: Universal was the first company to buy Snapchat ads, for “Ouija,” and Lionsgate pioneered Facebook autoplay video ads for “Divergent.”

San Andreas

8. If an earthquake hits California before “San Andreas” opens on May 29, will it help or hurt at the box office?

The makers of the disaster film starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson consulted with top quake experts prior to shooting the film, which stresses the need for emergency quake kits, producer Beau Flynn tells TheWrap. So if the Big One pushes half the state into the Pacific, it won’t be the movie’s fault.

9. Doesn’t the storyline of “Max” sound like another Warner Bros. release, “American Sniper”?

Yes it does, but unlike Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper, “Max” director Boaz Yakin and human star Thomas Haden Church will be willing to talk about whether it’s a pro-or anti-war film. Moviegoers can make up your own mind. The story about a traumatized German Shepherd returning from the war in Afghanistan and trying to heal with a family hits theaters June 26.

Read more of TheWrap Summer Movie Preview 2015:

9 Breakout Movie Stars of Summer 2015: Navigating the Galaxy From ‘Paper Towns’ to ‘Tomorrowland’