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Will 'Drunks' and a 'Panda' Turn It Around for Hollywood

The box office has suffered from one of its worst slumps in years; it's down 12 percent year-to-date from last year. And now we're heading into the most important season for Hollywood, the 18-week summer period is responsible for between 40 and 45 percent of the annual box office.

Hangover 2
Source: Warner Bros. Pictures
Hangover 2

And this weekend studios are betting big on a couple of drunk guys ('The Hangover 2') and an animated panda ('Kung Fu Panda 2') to draw moviegoers to the box office and turn things around.

These two movies are both sequels and Kung Fu Panda's in 3-D-- two trends that are sure to lift studio performance this summer.

Warner Brothers 'Hangover 2' is expected to be the year's first film to top $100 million its opening weekend, which would make it the very first R-Rated movie to ever do so. The film, co-financed by Legendary Pictures, has already broken records as the widest-ever R-Rated release. The first 'Hangover' was the most successful R-Rated comedy of all time and though the sequel hasn't drawn as stellar reviews, buzz is huge.

DreamWorks Animation has high hopes for Kung Fu Panda 2—the first film grossed over $630 million worldwide. It performed particularly well internationally, and the sequel could very well top the original film.

With the studio's stock down 12 percent in the past year and the company reporting that first quarter profit fell 59 percent on disappointing results from 'Megamind,' Wall Street's looking for a hit.

This weekend will be watched closely for a sign of what to expect from the rest of the summer. There are 8 other sequels on the schedule and 12 other 3-D films due out. Barclay's analyst Anthony DiClemente points out that with DVD sales dramatically down the box office is a more important part of of studios' bottom line.

And with studios making fewer big movies, summer bets carry more weight. The box office is also a key indicator of what the studios can expect to make from other revenue streams-- DVDs, digital distribution, video-on-demand.

But DiClemente cautions not to put too much weight on the box office when considering the media conglomerates behind the studios, they're less and less important, as TV networks comprise a bigger piece of the profit pie.

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.