It's never too soon for a Hollywood studio to start claiming prime opening dates for its films.
In fact, the 2009 calendar already is a done deal.
Undoubtedly films will drop out and move around, but the heavy hitters are in place and gearing up marketing campaigns designed to separate you from your entertainment dollar.
More than a dozen of these films will be shown in digital 3-D, including James Cameron’s long-awaited space saga, "Avatar," next December.
But between now and then there's a bit of everything. Here's a selection:
March 6 "Watchmen": Alan Moore's monumental graphic novel — Time declared it one of the great books of the 20th century — is a knotty yarn about a group of superheroes who from the '40s to the '80s battle bad guys and each other. Fans of the book are eagerly awaiting this film from Zack Snyder ("Dawn of the Dead," "300"), but it's virgin territory for most audiences, who won't find familiar characters and may not glom on to its decade-jumping narrative.
No big stars, but lots of good actors: Billy Crudup, Patrick Wilson, Carla Gugino, Jackie Earle Haley.
May 1 "X-Men Origins: Wolverine": Hugh Jackman's surly Logan (aka Wolverine) has always been the best thing about the "X-Men" series, so we're looking forward to this prequel about how he came to be. Director Gavin Hood may bring a bit of his art-house sensibility ("Rendition," the Oscar-winning "Tsotsi") to the megaplex (a good thing) and has assembled a solid supporting cast: Liev Schreiber, Ryan Reynolds, Dominic Monaghan, Danny Huston.
May 8 "Star Trek": The venerable space opera returns to the big screen and . . . and does anybody care? The franchise hasn't had a current TV show for several years, and young moviegoers don't have a history with Kirk & Co. Are there enough hard-core Trekkers to keep this one afloat?
J.J. Abrams ("Lost," "Alias," "Cloverfield") produces and directs this yarn set during the early careers of Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), Scotty (Simon Pegg), "Bones" McCoy (Karl Urban) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana). Also on hand: Eric Bana, Winona Ryder and Bruce Greenwood.
May 15 "Angels & Demons": This prequel to the hugely lucrative and critically drubbed "The Da Vinci Code" once again stars Tom Hanks as antiquarian Robert Langdon, this time without the bad 'doo. He's on the trail of the Illuminati, a centuries-old super-secret conspiracy to destroy the Roman Catholic Church. Ron Howard is once again at the helm; also in the cast are Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgård and Israeli beauty Ayelet Zurer.
May 22 "Terminator Salvation": After Skynet goes ballistic on humanity, John Connor (Christian Bale) rises from the wreckage to lead mankind in rebellion against the machines. What with three earlier "Terminator" features and TV's current "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles," aren't we just about terminated out? Hope the six writers credited on "Salvation" came up with something interesting. Directing is McG of music video and "Charlie's Angels" fame — not the obvious choice for post-apocalyptic drama. With Bryce Dallas Howard, Helena Bonham Carter.
May 22 "Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian": 2006's original was a monster hit ($250 million), so this sequel was inevitable. This time bumbling museum guard Ben Stiller infiltrates the Smithsonian, America's biggest repository of historic artifacts.
Director Shawn Levy returns, as do actors Steve Coogan and Owen Wilson. New cast members include Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart, Christopher Guest as Ivan the Terrible, Eugene Levy as Albert Einstein and Bill Hader as Gen. George Custer. Look also for Hank Azaria, Ricky Gervais and Dick Van Dyke.
June 26 "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen": A $319 million haul for the 2007 big-screen version of this toy-and-television franchise pretty much guaranteed a sequel. Director Michael Bay is back and has reassembled much of his cast: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, plus a professorial Rainn Wilson of "The Office."
July 10 "2012": This has nothing to do with Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey." Instead it's director Roland Emmerich's cautionary tale about what will happen when the Mayan calendar runs out in the year 2012. We're talking volcanoes, hurricanes, tsunamis and advancing glaciers. Emmerich already mined a lot of these ideas in his 2004 ecological disaster hit "The Day After Tomorrow." With John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Thandie Newton, Woody Harrelson, Danny Glover.
July 17 "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince": Fans were crushed last year when Warner Bros. yanked the latest Harry epic from the holiday schedule and relocated it to a prime summer slot. But as the last of the hot months' big pictures, it should play well into the fall.
Nov. 6 "The Wolfman": The old Universal horror franchise gets new blood. Benicio Del Toro is the hair-sprouting Lawrence Talbot; with Emily Blunt, Anthony Hopkins, Hugo Weaving. Joe Johnston ("Hidalgo," "October Sky") directs.
Nov. 20 "New Moon": Speaking of wolf men, the sequel to the wildly popular "Twilight" includes not only romantic vampires but an amorous werewolf, too. Stars Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart will return under the franchise's new director, Chris Weitz ("The Golden Compass").
Dec. 18 "Avatar": The year closes out with this 3-D alien tale from James Cameron, the visionary who brought us "The Terminator," "Titanic" and "The Abyss." A paraplegic space marine (Sam Worthington) is assigned to a team exploring and exploiting a newly discovered planet. Instead he leads the indigenous population in a revolt against his fellow humans. If that sounds familiar, maybe it's because you've seen "Dances With Wolves." The cast includes Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldana, Michelle Rodriguez, Giovanni Ribisi and C.C.H. Pounder.