| Eva Green in a scene from Kingdom of Heaven
Los Angeles, May 4 (Reuters): The heat is on in Hollywood.
After two lacklustre months at the box office, director Ridley Scott of Gladiator fame unleashes crusader film Kingdom of Heaven this week, starting the summer season that Hollywood hopes will rescue it from its ticket sales doldrums.
The summer season routinely accounts for as much as 40 per cent of the roughly $9.5 billion in annual US and Canadian ticket sales. Domestic box office totals are down about 6 per cent so far this year at $1.17 billion and last weekend's top 12 films were off 10 per cent from last year, according to box office tracker Exhibitory Relations Inc.
This year Hollywood plans its usual mix of big-budget adventures highlighted by Star Wars: Episode III ' Revenge of the Sith, Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds starring Tom Cruise and comic flick Fantastic Four.
There will be family films like computer animated Madagascar and comedy Herbie: Fully Loaded, remakes of television classics such as Bewitched and rebirths of film icons in The Longest Yard and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
'Summer movies are always the much-anticipated, big ones of the year, so yeah there is very much the concern of pressure,' director Scott said.
Kingdom of Heaven could provide a rousing start with its battle-filled tale of a 12th century crusader, played by Lord of the Rings star Orlando Bloom, who is torn by questions of faith, honour, family, love and belief in God.
The movie has created a fuss for its mostly sympathetic portrayal of one Muslim leader and for its characterisation of some ' but not all ' Christians as killers, but Scott reckons he treated every ethnic and religious group fairly.
'When you see the film, you see balance,' he said.
The summer's sure-fire blockbuster is expected to be the final instalment of the six-film Star Wars in which the saga of Skywalkers, Darth Vader and Jedi Knights gets wrapped up.
At online ticket seller fandango.com, advance sales for Star Wars: Episode III ' Revenge of the Sith have already sold-out for some showings and chief executive Art Levitt said the pent-up demand is as strong as fandango.com has ever seen. 'Clearly if this keeps up, it is going to make the box office numbers it is supposed to make,' Levitt said.