After the disappointing returns from May, Hollywood movie studios are obviously on edge over the prospects for the remaining summer release slate.  It's no surprise then, that a game of musical chairs has taken place over the past few days as studio tries to jockey for the best possible opening.  The biggest movies concern two prominent star vehicles: Tom Cruise's "Knight and Day" and Steve Carell's "Dinner for Schmucks."

"Knight and Day" is Cruise's first big release since "Valkyrie" battled bad buzz to become a surprise hit a year and a half ago.  It's also his first summer release since "Mission Impossible III" disappointed in 2006  (his supporting role in "Tropic Thunder" really doesn't count).  Unlike co-star Cameron Diaz, a lot is riding on "Knight" to prove Cruise hasn't lost any of his box office clout.  Unfortunately, 20th Century Fox decided to initially release the action comedy the same June 25 weekend as Adam "I don't bomb in the summer" Sandler's "Grown Ups" and less than a week before potential blockbuster "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse."  Realizing their mistake, Fox has moved "Day" even earlier to Wednesday, June 23.  That puts it only a few days after what should be the season's biggest hit "Toy Story 3" which isn't necessarily an improvement.  Needless to say, word is Mr. Cruise isn't thrilled about an uninspired campaign Fox has already spent a boatload of "Avatar" money on (not that they are running out anytime soon) since the Super Bowl.  Oh, and did we mention that the fact it looks so similar to last weekend's dud "Killers" hasn't helped public perception either?

Now, the film is polling for a less than $25 million 5-day opening which is a bomb in the Cruise universe.  The studio should have realized their mistake in April and pushed "Knight" to the more open Holiday season where it could have preformed with less direct competition and been far away from bad "Killers" memories. Too late.  Can Cruise make a comeback?  We'll see.

The other major question mark around town has been Paramount's "Schmucks."  The Carell/Paul Rudd comedy initially came out with a seriously unfunny trailer embedded below.

 

The studio recently revised the campaign somewhat to focus less on Rudd's character with this new preview that debuted last week.


Originally scheduled to open alongside the Angelina Jolie thriller "Salt" on June 23, the studio has now pushed "Schmucks" back a week to July 30. Whether that will provide the studio enough time to turn the campaign around remains to be seen.  "Schmucks" will now go up against the Zack Efron melodrama "Charlie St. Cloud" and the kiddie flick "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore."  However, that doesn't give the comedy much breathing room with Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg's buzzworthy "The Other Guys" debuting the following Friday on August 6.  It's also clear moving "Schmucks" forward keeps it away from the second weekend of Leonardo DiCaprio's "Inception," which is looking like the first non-sequel megahit of the summer.  "Salt" is going to have her hands full trying to get attention with that one in the mix. 

The musical chairs this summer also found CBS Films moving the Alex Pettyfer/Vanessa Hudgens romantic adventure "Beastly" from its original July release date to March 18, 2011.  This avoids having Hudgens go up against her boyfriend Efron's movie, "Cloud," on the same date and allows CBS to try and spin some notoriety off Pettyfer's next role in "I Am Number Four" which opens Feb. 18, 2011.  It's a gutsy gamble for CBS, but after the disappointing turns of "Extraordinary Measures" and "The Back-Up Plan" it may be the safer option than staying in a crowded end of summer marketplace.

Do you plan on seeing "Knight and Day," "Dinner or Schmucks" or "Beastly"?  Share your thoughts below.