The Hollywood studios are already hyping their crop of blockbusters for summer 2002, and it started long before Entertainment Weekly put Spider-Man stars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst on its June 29 cover.
The hype went into overdrive in a galaxy far, far away, when George Lucas announced that he would unveil Star Wars: Episode II in May 2002.
In fact, sequels like Episode II seem to be a dominant theme for next summer's big releases. And chances are, if it's not a sequel, it's an adaptation of a cartoon or comic book hero. Could Hollywood be on to something?
"Until recently, sequels were lucky to do 60 percent of what the first film did," Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations said. "But with films like Mission: Impossible 2, Austin Powers 2 and Hannibal, the tide has changed."
Sequels are indeed proving to be a good summer formula. Dergarabedian noted that sequels are now outperforming their original counterparts.
"There is a built-in fan base inherent in sequels. They are pre-marketed," he said.
Video rentals don't hurt the cause either. Austin Powers, for example, found an audience on video that helped fuel the sequel's success.
Is the hype for summer 2002 too much, too soon? Only next summer will determine that. While the formula of sequels and hyping works now, you can only fool an audience so long.
Here are some films to watch out for next summer:
Spider-Man's senses must have been tingling on the set of this Marvel Comics classic. Since shooting began in January, death, injury and theft have plagued the troubled set. Let's hope the film, which explains how shy high school student Peter Parker acquires his web slinging abilities, has better luck at the box-office. Tobey Maguire takes on the role of Spider-Man, Kirsten Dunst the salacious Mary Jane Watson and seasoned Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin. (Sony Pictures)
Release date: May 3, 2002
Star Wars: Episode II
Set 10 years after Star Wars: Episode I-The Phantom Menace, Darth Sidious takes over the Republic, turns it into an empire and controls everything. The Clone Wars reach their pinnacle as the Jedi Knights struggle to defend the galaxy from the forces of evil. Meanwhile, Anakin Skywalker falls in love with Queen Amidala but begins to succumb to the Dark Side of the force. Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman will reprise their roles. Ewan McGregor will take on the part of Ben 'Obi-Wan' Kenobi as a young man. Cool guy Samuel L Jackson will play Jedi Knight Mace Windu. But will the presence of the all-CGI character Jar Jar Binks spawn as many venomous anti-fan Web sites as he did with The Phantom Menace? (20th Century Fox)
Release date: May 22, 2002
How can you go wrong with a group of teenagers who ride around in a van called "The Mystery Machine," solving crimes with their dog, Scooby-Doo? This is a live-action adaptation of the half-hour animated Hanna-Barbera series The Scooby-Doo Show, which aired on ABC from 1969 through 1974. It will be interesting to see how true the film stays to the story and its characters. But will there be a romance between real-life couple Freddie Prinze Jr and Sarah Michelle Gellar who play Fred and Daphne? And will those references we never got as kids be kept in? (Warner Bros.)
Release date: June 14, 2002
Adam Sandler plays a small-town guy who inherits a fortune and moves to the big city where he is quickly besieged by opportunists gunning for their piece of the pie. One of them is a pretty girl played by Winona Ryder. Seems someone finally told the actress that she needs make herself more marketable. Based on the Frank Capra classic Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. (Sony Pictures)
Release date: June 21, 2002
Steven Spielberg directs this sci-fi thriller set in a futuristic judicial system in which killers are arrested and convicted before they commit murder. Based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, who also wrote Blade Runner, it stars Tom Cruise as Officer John Anderton. (20th Century Fox)
Release date: June 28, 2002
Men in Black 2
Fans have been anticipating this sequel to the 1997 blockbuster hit based on a Marvel Comics comic book about agents who protect Earth from extraterrestrial aliens. The irreplaceable Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones reprise their roles as Agents J and K, and Linda Fiorentino as Elle. If the anticipation is too much, check out the WB cartoon Men in Black: The Series on Saturday mornings.
Release date: July 3, 2002
Stuart Little 2
Who ate my cheese? It can only be Stuart Little (voiced by Michael J Fox), the super-intelligent mouse. He returns alongside his adoptive family (Geena Davis,Hugh Laurie and Jonathan Lipnicki. Melanie Griffith lends her voice to Margalo, a bird out to romance the lovable rodent. (Sony Pictures)
Release date: Summer 2002
Austin Powers 3
Mike Myers is back as the International Man of Mystery. This prequel to earlier Austin Powers films follows the adventures of the world class playboy and part-time secret agent Austin Powesr as he finds his long lost parents. Also starring Heather Graham. (New Line Cinema)
Release date: Summer 2002
Dr. Dre won big in Las Vegas, and he didn't even have to step into a casino to do it. The rapper/producer took home the Legend Award at the Radio Music Awards held Saturday night at the Aladdin Resort.
Creed took home two awards: Artist of the Year and Song of the Year ("With Arms Wide Open") in the rock/alternative category while 'N Sync took home the same honors in the Top 40/pop category.
The three-hour event was hosted by the Backstreet Boys, Sisqo and Sugar Ray frontman Mark McGrath.
MADONNA LETS THE MUSIC PLAY: Madonna performed a 30-minute show Sunday at New York's Roseland Ballroom for what was billed as a thank you to fans. She sang five songs from her latest album "Music" for a standing room only crowd of 3,000. The free show could be a warm-up to her first U.S. tour in seven years next year, Reuters reports.
FROM PRISONER TO CROONER: He's only been out of jail for three months, but Robert Downey Jr. is all over the entertainment map. The actor is mulling over several film offers, has a recurring role on Fox's "Ally McBeal" and is about to break into the music business with the release of "A Very Ally Christmas," a spin-off album to the TV show. It arrives in stores Tuesday.
The recording studio isn't new territory for the actor. He's been recording demos since the '80s. Among the tracks on his debut record? A cover of Joni Mitchell's "River."
'STRAIGHT UP' FOR DURST: Look out for Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst, who appears on "Straight Up," a multi-artist project recorded as a tribute to former Snot vocalist Lynn Strait. Joining Durst on the project are Korn's Jonathan Davis, Sugar Ray's Mark McGrath and Incubus' Brandon Boyd.
Snot was about to make it to the big time with the release of their first record when Strait was killed in 1998 in a traffic accident. "Straight Up" arrives in stores Tuesday.
HER HEART WILL GO ON: The National Enquirer has settled a $20 million defamation lawsuit with Canadian chanteuse Celine Dion. The two parties reached a settlement over a story the tab published that said the singer was pregnant with twins. The story was false and the editors knew it. The tab promised to print an apology and a retraction in Thursday's issue.