"This summer is the all-time summer! lready, just in May, the box office was about a billion dollars!" says Paul Dergarabedian, president of a box office tracking firm.
He gives two reasons, "Spider-Man," which set box office records the first weekend it opened and "Attack Of The Clones," the fifth "Star Wars" movie.
"Those two films together have accounted for close to $600 million in May alone. If that's not a great way to start a summer, I really don't know what is," says Dergarabedian.
"Spider-Man" and "Attack Of The Clones" are what's known in Hollywood as 'tentpole movies,' big -udget, event films that can carry an entire season for a studio. "Spider-Man" has been out a little more than a month and already is the sixth-highest grossing movie ever.
"This blockbuster has essentially redefined the scale of blockbusters, Which is a little depressing since the rest of us all have tent-pole envy," says movie producer Lida Obst, whose credits include "Contact" and "Sleepless In Seattle."
"Studios establish their entire distribution schedules, are stringing them between these enormous tentpole moves. So every studio that doesn't have 'Spider-Man' wishes that it did," she adds.
Wall Street Journal film critic Joe Morgenstern says, "The very notion of going out to the movies is being re-defined summer by summer by these huge extravaganzas." He has a case of tent-pole anxiety.
"I'm not being sniffy about them. I'm up for that stuff as much as any silly kid. Well, almost as much. But I think grownups who care about narrative films with some complexity, with some emotional density, those grown ups are getting disenfranchised," he says.
Still, critic Morgenstern is not without hope for some of the tentpoles still to come this summer:
- "Minority Report." Steven Spielberg takes another look into the future, this time with Tom Cruise as a cop on the run.
"Being accused of a crime that he hasn't committed yet at a time when people are executed for crimes they haven't committed," explains Morgenstern.
- "Men In Black Two" starring Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones and friends.
"The first one was so unexpected, it was, it was droll, and droll is not something you come across a lot in the summer. So here's to more drollery," says Morgenstern.
- Mike Myers' "Austin Powers In Goldmember"
"My problem with the Austin Powers movies is that I always want them to be better than they are, and I always feel guilty about not laughing quite enough," says Morgenstern.
It's also the summer of the A-list stars. Tom Hanks plays as a 1930s gangster in "The Road To Perdition," co-starring Paul Newman and directed by Sam Mendes, who did "American Beauty."
"In the summer particularly, you give thanks for any film that's made by a filmmaker. Anybody who cares about more than the weekend grosses. And by all proof that we have from "American Beauty", Sam Mendes does," says Morgenstern.
Harrison Ford is starring in "K-19, The Widow-Maker;" Matt Damon headlines in "The Bourne Identity" and Mel Gibson appears in "Signs", by the director of "The Sixth Sense" and "Unbreakable."
"His first film was wonderful, his second film was terrible. He's a creative, original guy, and I wish him well," says Morgenstern.
There are action films: Vin Diesel in "Triple X," Nicholas Cage in "Windtalkers," Chris Rock and Anthony Hopkins in "Bad Company" and the "Spy Kids" sequel.
There are more kids films: "Scooby Doo" and "Stewart Little Two."
"Talking mice are not in my contract at The Wall Street Journal, though I'll be there, and I'll try to behave properly," says Morgenstern.
If it's star-driven movies you want, there's Eddie Murphy, Clint Eastwood and Adam Sandler films to consider. And if you really look, there are so-called small films to see.
Among these are The Emperor's New Clothes," "Lovely And Amazing" and "Dangerous Lives Of Altar Boys." Morgersten calls the last movie "a lovely coming-of-age film, coupled with really imaginative, exhilarating animation.
Among the films for grownups are "Possession" with Gwyneth Paltrow, Robin Williams in the dark "One Hour Photo" and the star-studded "Sunshine State."
"The small, great adult movie is the most endangered species of the summer," says producer Obst.
Despite an expected record $4 billion summer box office, Obst sees dark clouds in the summer sky.
"Clearly, there's not enough room for every single film, and endangered beautiful movies like "About A Boy" might be the kind of movie that wants to wait for a less crowded season. But frankly, there's no such thing as a less crowded season anymore," she says.
So welcome to the crowded summer of "Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood" and secret agents like "Undercover Brother".
The tentpoles are up. The big top is open. The Hollywood circus is back in town.