No more waiting till June for summer's cinematic tentpole thrill rides. Movie studios' annual box office high season begins on April 29 with Universal's Fast Five.

The film stars Paul Walker and Vin Diesel and is a continuation of the franchise built upon 2001's The Fast and the Furious, which cost just $38 million to produce yet took in more than $200 million in receipts worldwide, Box Office Mojo reports.

Fast Five co-star Dwayne Johnson likely benefits from a beefier production budget, no doubt spent to create the sort of tire-melting, spine-tingling action sequences that helped the previous entry in the series, 2009's Fast and Furious, take in $353 million worldwide. That's Hollywood for you. Create a formula that works and stick with it.

This year, studio executives are sticking with comic book heroes:


Release Date


Fast Five

April 29

Universal Pictures


May 6

Marvel Studios


May 13

Sony Pictures

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

May 20

Walt Disney Pictures

Kung-Fu Panda 2

May 26

DreamWorks Animation

X-Men: First Class

June 3

20th Century Fox

Super 8

June 10

Paramount Pictures

Green Lantern

June 17

Warner Bros.

Cars 2

June 24

Walt Disney Pictures

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

July 1

Paramount Pictures

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

July 15

Warner Bros.

Captain America: The First Avenger

July 22

Marvel Studios

Cowboys and Aliens

July 29

Universal Pictures

The Smurfs

July 29

Sony Pictures

Sources: The Internet Movie Database, Box Office Mojo.

Of this summer's 14 planned tentpole screenings, five are based directly on comics or graphic novels. Another is based on a beloved literary series (i.e., Harry Potter), another on a Hasbro (Nasdaq: HAS) toy line that starred in the comics for years (i.e., Transformers), and another is based on a popular ride at Walt Disney's (NYSE: DIS) various theme parks.

In other words, Hollywood executives believe preteen boys and geek dads who remember their comic-book-reading days will fight for space in line at the cinema this summer, ready to spend big to be entertained by their heroes.

Can the strategy work? I asked my 11-year-old son what he thought of five movies I'd consider taking him to see: Thor, the new Pirates film, X-Men: First Class, Captain America, and Green Lantern. He showed interest in all of them save for Pirates of the Caribbean, and in the process validated Disney's thesis for buying Marvel Studios.

But of them all, the movie my son most wants to see based on the available trailers is Green Lantern. He isn't the only one. More than 33,000 have weighed in at the film ratings site Rotten Tomatoes and 97% say they plan to see the film, which looks epic: