Going out to the movies is back in a major way.
Disney's (DIS) The Avengers took in a whopping $207.4 million in North American ticket sales over the weekend, shattering the old record set last year by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.
The Marvel superhero movie isn't a fluke. Lionsgate's (LGF) The Hunger Games raised the bar for March theatrical debuts two months ago.
As with all hit movies, though, it'll be all downhill for The Avengers from here. Even blockbusters experience precipitous drops in attendance with every passing weekend. Thankfully, Hollywood is ready this time.
Lights! Camera! Box Office Action!
Summer may be when studios put out their biggest movies, but this year, Tinseltown is going all out starting in the spring.
After the horrendous year that movie studios and exhibitors had in 2011 -- the first year since 1995 that domestic theaters failed to sell at least 1.3 billion movie tickets -- it's hard to blame them for making sure that they don't phone it in this time around.
There are plenty of potential crowd-pleasers slated to hit a multiplex near you in the coming months. As soon as one blockbuster begins to fade, another heavy hitter should be just getting started.
Multiplex operators, fire up your popcorn poppers: Here are the films that should turn heads this season.
May 18: Battleship
Go ahead. Laugh. After turning its portfolio of playthings into magnetic film franchises through Transformers and G.I. Joe, Hasbro (HAS) is coming at you with -- Battleship?
Yes, Battleship? As in "D-4 -- you sank my destroyer" Battleship.
It's true, but as anyone that's seen the trailer knows, the movie has essentially nothing to do with the popular game. Aliens are attacking, and Liam Neeson is at the helm of a naval battleship bent on stopping the baddies.
Go ahead and laugh at the toy tie-in or even the premise, but the big-budget epic is already laughing all the way to the bank. The movie has already been a big hit in some of the overseas markets, where the flick has been released ahead of its stateside debut.
May 25: Men in Black 3
It took five years between 1997's Men in Black and its 2002 Men in Black II sequel. Patient fans have had to wait twice as long -- a surprising 10 years -- for the third installment.
It will be Will Smith's first new movie in years, and if you haven't heard Josh Brolin's spot-on impersonation of Tommy Lee Jones as a younger version of Smith's partner, you're in for a treat.
June 8: Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted
DreamWorks Animation (DWA) makes no bones about its model. When it puts out a computer-rendered feature film that clicks with consumers, it will keep making sequels until audiences move on.
It served the studio well as it squeezed four installments out of Shrek before spinning off Puss in Boots. The familiar characters of the Madagascar franchise return for a third shot at pleasing young moviegoers and their parents next month.
June 22: Brave
Disney's Pixar wasn't a fan of DreamWorks' penchant for sequels, but critics have loved Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3. Cars 2 wasn't as fortunate, but now Pixar is back with an original entry in Brave.
The fiery princess heroine is a master archer, but don't confuse her with The Hunger Games' Katniss. This is, after all, a family-friendly Disney movie.
July 3: The Amazing Spider-Man
Marvel's rolling with The Avengers, but it was the successful theatrical return of its iconic Spider-Man character that made superhero movies popular again.
The franchise is getting a fresh reboot. Andrew Garfield is replacing Tobey Maguire as the web-slinging Peter Parker. Emma Stone is his first love, Gwen Stacy.
Unlike The Avengers that was put out by Disney, it's Sony (SNE) that's putting out the Spider-Man movies. Mickey Mouse will still be cheering on Spidey, since Disney gets a piece of the action in royalties as Marvel's parent company.
July 22: The Dark Knight Rises
Director Chris Nolan is back for some more Bruce Wayne action.
If you have to see a movie in IMAX (IMAX), this is probably it. Nolan shot several scenes with IMAX cameras to make sure they look their best blown up on IMAX's larger-than-life screens.
August 10: The Campaign
It's not all action and computer animation this summer that's gunning for box office gold this summer.
Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis star as dueling politicos in this well-timed comedy. Jay Roach -- who is best known as the Austin Powers director -- is the one at the helm of the hijinks.
Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any of the stocks in this article, except for Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Hasbro, Sony, and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has created a bear call spread position in Sony. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Hasbro, IMAX, Walt Disney, and DreamWorks Animation SKG.
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