The Kevin James comedy "Zookeeper" will be released next summer.
Why is that a big deal? Note the word summer, as in, possibly the movie industry's most competitive, cutthroat season.
James has scored hits in the past, and next month he'll appear in "Grown-Ups" with Adam Sandler, Chris Rock and David Spade. But James has never carried the lead role in a comedy released during the summer months, when studios pull out their big guns. This year, for instance, we'll see Tom Cruise, Will Ferrell, Julia Roberts and Robert Downey Jr.; who knows what next summer will hold?
James, a Stony Brook native, graduated from television ("The King of Queens") to movies with 2007's "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry," in which he and Sandler played New York firefighters posing as a gay couple. It was a hit, but James' next comedy, 2009's "Paul Blart: Mall Cop," got plunked into theaters on a cold, dead January weekend. Nevertheless, it also became a hit, eventually pulling in $146 million, according to BoxOfficeMojo.
With "Zookeeper," James won't be entirely on his own: Sandler, Sylvester Stallone, Cher and Judd Apatow will provide the voices for various animals who help a lonely zookeeper (James) win the girl. Sony appears to believe in the film: The studio purchased it from the ailing MGM and moved the release date from Oct. 8 of this year to July 8 of 2011.