Early B.O. Tracking for June 13: ‘Hulk’ Set to Stomp Shyamalan’s ‘Happening’

Marvel’s second self-financed and self-produced comic book adaptation is Incredible Hulk (Universal) set for release on June 13. Directed by Louis Leterrier (the Transporter series, Unleashed) and starring Academy Award nominee Edward Norton, Marvel is attempting to bury Ang Lee’s reviled, moody 2003 film version of the big green monster, and, according to the latest industry tracking, audiences seem ready to welcome Bruce Banner and his angry alter ego back to America’s multiplexes.

I spent some time with a well-placed source today, who filled me in on how current Incredible Hulk tracking data compares to numbers for Marvel’s mega-hit Iron Man (Paramount) at the same point in its marketing cycle. Although the Norton’s spin in a comic book adaptation is strong, it is shy of Iron Man’s performance.

Eighteen days prior to its May 2 release, Iron Man was at 13 percent Un-Aided Awareness compared to 8 percent for the new Incredible Hulk (Un-Aided Awareness is an excellent measure of buzz and anticipation). Not surprisingly, Leterrier’s tent-pole picture is already at 91 percent Total Awareness, but its Definite Interest score trails Iron Man 51 percent-35 percent. I am told that Incredible Hulk is at 9 percent in Overall First Choice while Iron Man was at 19 percent, and the big green guy has about half of Iron Man’s First Choice number with males (30 percent-14 percent). The two strongest demos for Incredible Hulk are 12-16’s and 25-34’s. The only category that Incredible Hulk scores better is in First Choice with African Americans 18 percent-16 percent.

Tracking will, obviously, continue to improve for Incredible Hulk, but these early number suggest that this will be a very solid hit with, conservatively, at least $50M on opening weekend, and it could still rival the $62M opening that Lee’s version grabbed in its opening frame. With positive word-of-mouth, there’s no reason why this movie can’t get to $140M-$150M domestic. I will continue to update the tracking as industry execs share it with me.

On that June 13 date, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening (Fox) does not appear to pose any real threat. The mercurial filmmaker, whose last film was the dreadful Lady in the Water, faces an uphill battle with this movie that is shrouded in secrecy. I do not know anyone that has seen it, and it remains unclear whether there will be advance screenings for critics. That is not a good sign.

Starring Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel, The Happening has virtually no buzz with just 2 percent Un-Aided Awareness, and the movie, which may be Shyamalan’s take on global warming, has only 54 percent Awareness. It trails Incredible Hulk in Definite Interest with a mere 30 percent, and The Happening has only a 4 percent First Choice score 18 days out.

The bottom line may be that moviegoers do not trust the Indian-born auteur after a less-than-satisfying twist in his 2004 movie The Village and the disastrous Lady in the Water. It is a very safe bet that Incredible Hulk will easily win the June 13 weekend, and Shyamalan will need positive word-of-mouth to parlay The Happening into a modest hit.