Every summer has tentpole releases but there are five titles next summer for which the term is an understatement.

In any other year each could the highest-grossing film. Their strength is their brand.

Four of the films are sequels - all third instalments in established franchises (see below).

But the fifth, the only one to be unproven in cinemas, features arguably the most recognisable brand of all and may be 2007's best bet for a $1bn worldwide grosser: The Simpsons Movie (July 27).

The Simpsons is a worldwide phenomenon. Played in more than 90 countries, the TV show is in its 18th season, has won 23 Emmys and on May 20, 2007 will celebrate its 400th episode.

It is also the cartoon's characters' 20th anniversary year, having originally appeared in shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show.

Four music albums, numerous books and DVDs and countless merchandising spin-offs add to the recognition and the show continues to see strong viewing figures.

Nearly 10 years after overtaking The Flintstones as the longest running prime-time animated show and still regularly attracts double-figure million ratings in the US.

It is one of the highest-rated programmes watched in re-runs but continues to set records with new material.

In the US, an episode following last year's Superbowl attracted 20 million. In the UK, broadcaster Sky One saw the show's best ratings yet in April 2006 when an episode written by and guest starring comedian Ricky Gervais drew 2.18 million viewers.

Homer Simpson's famous 'D'Oh' has even received a dictionary definition, and is just one of numerous Simpsons catchphrases to enter the vernacular.

'Perhaps no other entertainment brand in the world has this level of built-in awareness,' says Paul Hanneman, co-president Twentieth Century Fox International. 'It's very exciting to be able to deliver the brand in a way it's never been seen before.'

'There's an 18-year fan base that has grown with [the show], at a frenzy right now for this movie,' adds Jeffrey Godsick, executive vice president of marketing, Twentieth Century Fox.

'That's a base most movies can never start with. However, it also means we have to be incredibly careful with it because The Simpsons is so precious to so many people.'

'If I felt any more pressure I'd be a diamond!', says Al Jean, one of the producers and writers on The Simpsons Movie who's been with the show since its launch.

'I don't think there has ever been a movie with such a big international following pre-aware of the brand that wasn't a sequel and everyone has an idea of what it should be. We didn't want to do this just to do a spin-off of the show. We waited for an idea that we felt warranted a feature length story.'

The producing and writing team for the film is mostly made up of the people who oversaw the show's creation and early landmark seasons.

In addition, director David Silverman is one of three directors who worked on the Tracey Ullman shorts before going on to direct numerous episodes of the show, including its first two to air and to co-direct Pixar's Monsters, Inc.

Jean won't be pinned down on plot details but suggests the film is likely to be between 80 and 100 minutes, something that could give it a box office advantage over its likely 120 minute plus live-action summer rivals.

He says it is important that the movie can stand on its own as a piece of cinema. 'When I went to see The X-Files Movie it felt like a forerunner for the next season debut. That's not us.'

A selling point, that Fox is exploiting with the second teaser trailer, is the animation style and human characters that make The Simpsons Movie stand out from the seemingly endless production line of computer-animated animal films.

'I recently went to a computer-animated film and there were eight trailers or so for upcoming animated films, and they were indistinguishable from each other,' says Jean. 'Your mind would blur.'

Perhaps its biggest advantage is in dating. Launching worldwide on July 27, The Simpsons Movie has nothing of its size released immediately ahead of or following it.

A truly four-quadrant film, shown by its popularity and longevity, awareness should also be high. In the UK, eight months ahead of release, the Rupert Murdoch-owned (as is Fox) tabloid newspaper The Sun started a tie-in promotion at the start of December with a Simpsons Movie-branded gamecard allowing for daily big-money wins and advertising the release date and directing readers to the movie's trailer.

The Sun has the highest circulation of any daily English-language newspaper in the world, with 3.1 million sold daily in the first half of 2006.

'The Simpsons had been a global phenomenon for nearly two decades and therefore we believe its release should be a global event,' says Hanneman.

Not since the first Harry Potter has a film had such strong brand pre-awareness and anticipation, and at $976.5m worldwide in 2001 given inflation if that film had released in 2007 it would have glided past $1bn with ease.


Spider-Man 3 (US release date: May 4)
Sam Raimi reassembles his cast lead by Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst for a darker entry in the most successful superhero franchise ($1.6bn). Topher Grace, Thomas Haden Church and Bryce Dallas Howard supply new complications in Peter Parker's life.

Shrek The Third (May 18)
Paramount distributes DreamWorks Animation's follow-up to the world's highest grossing animated film, Shrek 2 ($920.7m). The cast are all back but previous lead director Andrew Adamson makes way for Chris Miller and Raman Hui.

Pirates Of The Caribbean: At Worlds End (May 25)
The conclusion to 2006's cliffhanging second chapter that became the first summer release ever to gross $1bn worldwide. Chow Yun Fat joins the cast.

Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix (June 13)
The world's most successful movie franchise continues. Each Potter has been the highest grossing film internationally of its year, although the only previous summer entry, Prisoner Of Azkaban, resulted in the series' lowest grosses ($790m worldwide).


Ratatouille (June 29)
The Incredibles' ($631m worldwide) Brad Bird is lead director on Pixar's latest about a Paris rat who wants to be a chef.

Transformers (July 4)
Michael Bay directs the live action feature based on the popular 1980s cartoon and toy sensation.

Evan Almighty (June 22)
Steve Carrell takes over from Jim Carrey in a Noah-themed sequel to 2003 hit comedy Bruce Almighty ($485m)

The Bourne Ultimatum (Aug 3)
Director Paul Greengrass, writer Tony Gilroy and Matt Damon reteam for the third in the series ($502m).

I Am Legend (Nov 21)
Will Smith stars as the last man alive in a world full of vampires in this update of Richard Matheson's novel.

His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass (Dec 7)
An all-star cast supports newcomer Dakota Blue Richards in the adaptation of Philip Pullman fantasy bestseller.


Hot Fuzz (March 9)
The team behind UK hit Shaun Of The Dead aim to do for the police thriller what they did for zombie films.

Blades Of Glory (March 30)
Will Ferrell and Jon Heder star as two rival Olympic ice skaters, banned from men's single competition, who find a loophole allowing them to compete as a pair.

Knocked Up (June 1)
Judd Apatow's follow-up to The 40 Year Old Virgin ($177m), starring Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl.

I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry (July 20)
Adam Sandler and Kevin James star as firefighters who pretend to be a gay couple so they can receive benefits.

Seven Day Itch (Oct 5)
The Farrelly Brothers team up with Ben Stiller for the first time since their biggest hit, There's Something About Mary ($370m).

Fred Claus (Nov 9)
Wedding Crashers' ($285m) director David Dobkin directs Vince Vaughn as Santa's (Paul Giamatti) bitter older brother who is forced to move to the North Pole.


Hostel 2 (Jan 5)
Eli Roth follows up his 2006 low-budget hit ($80m).

Zodiac (March 2)
David Fincher returns with a true-life serial-killer thriller, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr.

300 (March 9)
Dawn Of The Dead ($102m) director Zack Snyder uses Sin City-style techniques to adapt Frank Miller's graphic novel about the battle of Thermopylae.

Grind House (April 6)
Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez deliver a double-feature homage to exploitation B-movies.

Stardust (July 27)
Matthew Vaughn's star-filled adaptation of Neil Gaiman's novel about a young man who promises his love he'll retrieve a fallen star from a magical realm.

3:10 To Yuma (Oct 12)
James Mangold's remake of the 1950's Glenn Ford western, starring Christian Bale and Russell Crowe.

Be Kind Rewind (TBC)
Michel Gondry directs Jack Black trying to remake all the lost films in a videostore after an accident.

Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium (TBC)
Stranger Than Fiction writer Zach Helm makes directorial debut with the story of a young woman (Natalie Portman) bequeathed a strange toy store by its 243-year-old owner (Dustin Hoffman).


Becoming Jane (Aug 3)
Anne Hathaway stars as a pre-fame Jane Austen in Julian Jarrold's film.

Atonement (Aug 31)
Keira Knightley reteams with Joe Wright's adaptation of Ian McEwan's Second World War novel.

The Golden Age (Oct 5)
Shekhar Kapur and Cate Blanchett reteam after nine years for a follow-up to Elizabeth.

10,000 BC (Dec 14)
Day After Tomorrow ($543m) director Roland Emmerich's prehistoric epic.

Charlie Wilson's War (Dec 25)
Mike Nichols directs Tom Hanks as a Texas congressman with covert dealings in Afghanistan. Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman co-star.


Surf's Up (June 8)
The Penguin World Surfing Championship in latest penguin animation.

Nancy Drew (June 15)
Emma Roberts (daughter of Eric, niece of Julia) stars in the teen detective's first big-screen outing.

Bee Movie (Nov 2)
A bee befriends a florist but decides to sue humans when he discovers they eat honey.


Hairspray (July 20)
John Travolta leads musical remake of John Water's classic.

The Kite Runner (Dec)
Marc Forster directs adaptation of Khaled Hosseini's novel.

An American Crime (TBC)
Catherine Keener and Ellen Page star in the true story of a housewife who kept a teenage girl locked in her basement.

Sicko (TBC)
Michael Moore's look at the American healthcare system.

The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford (TBC)
Andrew Dominik (Chopper) directs Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck in the long-delayed story of the legendary outlaw.

American Gangster (Nov 2)
Ridley Scott directs Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington in true story of a cop chasing a heroin smuggler.

Beowulf (Nov 16)
Robert Zemeckis' motion-capture film about the mythic Scandinavian warrior.

Michael Clayton (Sep 14)
Directorial debut of Bourne-series writer Tony Gilroy, starring George Clooney.

The Nanny Diaries (March 9)
Scarlett Johansson, Laura Linney and Paul Giamatti star in the adaptation of the best-selling novel about a college student working as a nanny for a rich New York family.

Sweeney Todd (December TBC)
Tim Burton directs the film of Stephen Sondheim's musical, starring Johnny Depp and Sacha Baron Cohen.


Funny Games (TBC)
Michael Haneke makes his English-language feature debut with a remake of his own thriller, starring Naomi Watts, Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet and Tim Roth.

The Messengers (Feb 2)/Time To Kill (TBC)
The Pang Brothers deliver two English-language films. The first a North Dakota-set horror, the second a remake of their own 1999 break-out Bangkok Dangerous, starring Nicolas Cage.

My Blueberry Nights (TBC)
Wong Kar Wai's English-language debut stars singer Norah Jones as a woman on a soul-searching journey across America.


Hannibal Rising (Feb 9)
Peter Webber directs Gaspard Ulliel as the teenage Hannibal Lecter.

28 Weeks Later (May 11)
2003 horror hit 28 Days Later ($83m) gets the sequel treatment with Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (Intacto) directing.

Ocean's Thirteen (June 8)
George Clooney and Co return for what director Steven Soderbergh and Clooney claim will be a superior sequel in the series ($813m). Al Pacino joins the fun.

Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer (June 15)
Tim Story reunites the team that brought in $330m in 2005

Live Free Or Die Hard (June 29)
Bruce Willis is back as John McClane after 12 years in the $740m earning franchise.

Halloween (Aug 31)
Rob Zombie describes ninth in the Halloween series as 'a prequel and a semi-remake of the first film all in one'.

Mr Bean's Holiday (Sep 28)
10 years on from the $238m grossing Bean, Rowan Atkinson returns on a trip to France.

Alien Vs Predator 2 (Dec 21)
Colin and Greg Strausem the VFX-supervisors behind X-Men: The Last Stand and 300, promise R-rated face off fans didn't get the first time,

National Treasure 2 (Dec 21)
Nicolas Cage looks to discover the truth behind the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in sequel to 2004 hit ($347m).