Summer turned out to be not so hot after all, at least in terms of movie attendance. It fell to the lowest level since 1997, even though total revenue rose because of higher ticket prices.
But that's all behind us now as we look ahead to Hollywood's fall offerings (holding the really big stuff until the holidays).
There will be lots of 3-D, several remakes, horror to celebrate Halloween, and some big-name stars doing passion projects — all hoping to generate some heat of their own.
Here's what's coming. Release dates are subject to change:
"Resident Evil: Afterlife" — This fourth installment in the popular series (that forges on despite scathing reviews) based on the video game will be in 3-D, with Milla Jovovich returning as the heroine who must lead a group of survivors through a ravenous futuristic society in search of a story line, er, safe haven.
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" — This Swedish version of Stieg Larsson's wildly popular novel (to be remade in America by David Fincher) gained stellar reviews but was never shown in Wichita. To preview the release of the film's sequel on Sept. 17, "Dragon" will be shown for one week at the Warren east. It follows A journalist who is aided by a young female computer hacker to search for a woman who has been missing for 40 years. (In Swedish with English subtitles.)
"Alpha and Omega" — Adorable alert! This 3-D animated tale follows two young wolves at opposite ends of their pack's social order who are thrown together in a foreign land and must help each other get back home.
"Devil" — Movies in tight spaces, part one: M. Night Shyamalan ("The Sixth Sense," "Signs") produces this supernatural thriller about a group of people trapped in an elevator. Weird stuff starts happening, which leads them to think one of them could be the devil — because he has no other way of torturing people.
"Easy A" — Emma Stone ("Superbad," "Zombieland") gets her first starring vehicle in this comedy about a clean-cut high school student who relies on rumors to advance her social and financial standing. And this is different how?
"The Girl Who Played with Fire" — The sequel to "Dragon Tattoo" finds computer hacker Lisbeth and journalist Mikael investigating a sex-trafficking ring, until Lisbeth is accused of three murders, causing her to go on the run while Mikael works to clear her name. (In Swedish with English subtitles.)
"The Town" — Ben Affleck follows his critically acclaimed directorial debut "Gone, Baby, Gone" with this gritty tale of a Boston troublemaker who tries to leave behind a dead-end life as a thief for a fresh start with his new girlfriend, who turns out to be the manager of a bank he just robbed and is working with the FBI to find the perpetrators.
"Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" — Animated 3-D tale directed by Zach Snyder ("300," "Watchmen") based on the book series that follows a young barn owl who is kidnapped by an orphanage that brainwashes its captives into becoming owl soldiers. I did not make any of this up.
"Restrepo" — Filmmakers Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger spent a year with one platoon in a deadly valley in Afghanistan in this documentary that should gain Oscar attention.
"Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" — Oliver Stone's sequel to his 1987 drama that won an Oscar for Michael Douglas, who returns as Gordon Gekko. Here, Gekko is freshly freed from prison and takes a young Wall Street exec (Shia LaBeouf) under his wing, much to the dismay of Gekko's daughter (Carey Mulligan).
"You Again" — A candidate for blandest title of the fall, this comedy follows a young woman who realizes her brother is about to marry the girl who bullied her in high school, so she sets out to expose the fiancee's true colors. Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Kristen Bell, Betty White and Sigourney Weaver.
"Let Me In" — Matt Reeves ("Cloverfield") directs this remake of the surreal Swedish vampire cult hit about a bullied young boy who discovers his young female neighbor is a vampire living in secrecy with her guardian. Chloe Moretz ("Kick-Ass") and Kodi Smit-McPhee ("The Road") are the young leads.
"The Social Network" — David Fincher ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button") directs this tale about the founders of the social-networking website Facebook. Starring Jesse Eisenberg ("Zombieland") and soon-to-be-Spider-Man Andrew Garfield. I like this.
"Buried" — Movies in tight spaces, part two: Ryan Reynolds stars as a U.S. contractor working in Iraq who awakes after being taken hostage to find that he is buried alive inside a coffin. Speaking of which...
"I Spit on Your Grave" — This remake of the B-movie classic follows a writer who is brutalized during her cabin retreat and seeks revenge on her attackers, who left her for dead. How rude!
"It's Kind of a Funny Story" — Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (who guided Ryan Gosling to an Oscar nomination in "Half Nelson") write and direct this quirky indie comedy about a clinically depressed teenager who checks himself into an adult psychiatric ward.
"Life as We Know It" — Another horror film, er, romantic comedy with Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel as two single adults who become caregivers to an orphaned baby when their mutual best friends die in an accident. Hilarious! Love, diapers and high jinks ensue.
"Secretariat" — Disney gives us this life story of Penny Chenery (the perennially lovely Diane Lane), owner of the racehorse Secretariat, who won the Triple Crown in 1973.
"My Soul to Take" — Horrormeister Wes Craven ("A Nightmare on Elm Street," "Scream") returns with this 3-D outing about a serial killer who returns to his hometown to stalk seven teens who share the same birthday as the date he was allegedly put to rest.
"Jack Goes Boating" — Philip Seymour Hoffman's directing debut stars himself as a limo driver whose blind date sparks love, betrayal and friendship in New York City.
"Never Let Me Go" — Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield star as students at an idyllic English boarding school who discover they have been raised and groomed for one very particular, dark purpose.
"Red" — This is based on the cult D.C. comics, but it's not your typical teen action hero story. The subjects here are much older — over 20, even. After all, "Red" stands for "retired and extra dangerous," which describes retired undercover agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) who finds his idyllic life threatened by a high-tech assassin, so he reassembles his old team to fight back. The pedigreed cast also includes Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren — firing guns!
"Jackass 3D" — Stupid guys doing more stupid stuff. And in 3-D? I hate to think about what's going to be flung in audiences' faces.
"Hereafter" — Clint Eastwood directs this supernatural drama about a reluctant psychic in America, a French journalist and two London schoolboys who are all touched by death in different ways. Starring Matt Damon and Bryce Dallas Howard.
"Paranormal Activity 2" — Sequel to the low-tech indie horror hit about a young couple being haunted by a ghostly presence. They caught everything on tape while they slept, then watched it the next day. Talk about starved for entertainment.
"Waiting for 'Superman' " — Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim's documentary follows a handful of promising kids through the public school system, which inhibits, rather than encourages, academic growth.
"Saw 3D" — The torture continues, literally. And in 3-D, the severed body parts will look so much more real.
"Monsters" — Dubbed this year's "District 9," the story takes place six years after Earth has suffered an alien invasion, and a cynical journalist agrees to escort a shaken American tourist through an infected zone in Mexico to the safety of the U.S. border.
"Stone" — Crime drama about a convicted arsonist (Edward Norton) who tries to get his beautiful wife (Milla Jovovich) to seduce his parole officer (Robert De Niro). Guess jail food really is that bad.
"Megamind" — DreamWorks' 3-D-animated tale about a supervillain named Megamind (voice of Will Ferrell) who finally conquers his nemesis, the hero Metro Man (Brad Pitt), but finds his life pointless without a hero to fight. Don't we all.
"Due Date" — Comedy from director Todd Phillips ("The Hangover") that follows a high-strung father-to-be (Robert Downey Jr.) who is forced to hitch a ride with an annoying, aspiring actor (Zach Galifianakis) to make it to his child's birth on time.
"Fair Game" — Doug Liman ("The Bourne Identity," "Mr. and Mrs. Smith") directs this action spy drama based on the autobiography of a real-life undercover CIA agent (Naomi Watts) whose career was destroyed and marriage strained when her covert identity was exposed by a politically motivated press leak. Sean Penn also stars.
"Unstoppable" — Chris Pine and Denzel Washington star in this action tale about a railroad company trying to prevent an unmanned, half-mile-long freight train carrying combustible cargo from wiping out a city. One-way tickets only.
"Morning Glory" — Romantic comedy about a hotshot television producer (Rachel McAdams ) challenged with reviving a struggling morning show program, despite the constant feuding of its high-profile anchors (Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton).
Independent film WISH LIST
These notable films will first be released in larger markets before (hopefully) coming to Wichita. Their limited release dates are listed; Wichita dates are unknown.
"The Romantics" (Sept. 10) —Seven close friends reunite for the wedding of two of their friends, but problems arise because the bride and the maid of honor have had a long rivalry over the groom. Starring Katie Holmes, Anna Paquin and Josh Duhamel.
"I'm Still Here" (Sept. 15) —Casey Affleck directs this documentary that follows actor Joaquin Phoenix's bizarre attempt to leave acting and become a bearded rapper.
"Catfish" (Sept. 17) —Described as "Hitchcock-esque," this documentary thriller is a twisty tale that follows filmmakers Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost as they film the life of Schulman's brother, Nev, who sparks a dangerous online romance.
"You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" (Sept. 22) —Woody Allen heads back to England to explore fate, love and chance among four couples whose lives fall apart. The hefty cast includes Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin, Anthony Hopkins and Naomi Watts.
"Howl" (Sept. 24) —James Franco stars as Allen Ginsberg in this look at how the young poet's seminal work broke down societal barriers in the face of an infamous public obscenity trial.
"Nowhere Boy" (Oct. 8) —Aaron Johnson ("Kick-Ass") plays John Lennon in this chronicle of the musician's childhood.
"Conviction" (Oct. 15) —A working mother (Hilary Swank) puts herself through law school in an effort to represent her brother (Sam Rockwell), who has been wrongfully convicted of murder. Swank is getting buzz for another Oscar nomination.
"127 Hours" (Nov. 5) —Movies in tight spaces, part three: Danny Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire") directs James Franco as real-life mountain climber Aron Ralston, who while climbing alone in Utah gets pinned in an isolated canyon when a boulder crashes on his arm and traps him. He resorts to desperate measures — really, really desperate — scales a 65-foot wall with one arm, then crawls more than eight miles before he is finally rescued. Wow! Gotta see this movie. I just hope it's not too cold out and I can find a close parking space.