Visions of Oscar — and of holiday-season crowds at the multiplex — dance in moviemakers' heads each fall, and this year is no exception.
Among movies putting color in the cheeks of Hollywood accountants are the latest chapters in blockbuster franchises like “The Hunger Games,” “The Hobbit,” “Thor,” “Anchorman” and “Jack Ryan.”
Hoping for Academy Award buzz this fall are directors Ron Howard, Martin Scorsese, David O. Russell, the Coen brothers, Paul Greengrass and George Clooney, plus Omaha's own Alexander Payne.
As for star power, how about Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts facing off in “August: Osage County”? Robert Redford, Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Sandra Bullock, Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson are all counting down to major new premieres.
Here's a double-barrel scattershot look at the fall movie season, targeting best bets for both the box office and the red carpets of award season.
For the box office:
Sept. 6: “Riddick”
Vin Diesel reprises the sci-fi antihero in this hard-R action tale of being marooned on a hostile planet.
Sept. 13: “The Family”
Robert De Niro is a Mafia snitch in witness protection with his irritable wife (Michelle Pfeiffer). Fed Tommy Lee Jones rides herd in this R-rated action comedy.
Sept. 20: “Enough Said”
James Gandolfini's last movie finds him dating Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who's dismayed to learn he's the ex-husband of good friend Catherine Keener.
Sept. 20: “Parkland”
A behind-the-scenes account of what happened at Parkland Hospital in Dallas on the day JFK was shot. Zac Efron, Billy Bob Thornton and Paul Giamatti star.
Sept. 20: “Prisoners”
Two young girls go missing. As a detective (Jake Gyllenhaal) works the case, an anguished dad (Hugh Jackman) takes the suspect (Paul Dano) hostage to interrogate him.
Sept. 27: “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2”
Animated fun as an inventor's machine spews out nasty combinations of food and animals, such as tacodiles.
Sept. 27: “Don Jon”
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a bodybuilding lothario hooked on sex and porn. Dream girl Scarlett Johansson is also in fantasyland. Hers is molded from romantic movies.
October TBA: “Diana”
Naomi Watts plays Princess Diana during her relationship with a Pakistani surgeon, who helps her reinvent herself.
Oct. 16: “Kill Your Darlings”
Daniel Radcliffe (“Harry Potter”) plays beat poet Allen Ginsberg in his coming-of-age years in New York in the 1940s, when an associate is involved in murder.
Oct. 18: “Carrie”
Chloe Grace Moretz stars in this remake, along with Julianne Moore. Kimberly Peirce (“Boys Don't Cry”) directs.
Nov. 1: “Ender's Game”
The military (Harrison Ford) recruits a gifted kid (Asa Butterfield) to save humankind from aliens. Based on Orson Scott Card's novel.
Nov. 1: “Last Vegas”
Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline hit Vegas for an older guys' bachelor party. The script was written before “The Hangover.”
Nov. 8: “Thor: The Dark World”
“Game of Thrones” director Alan Taylor helms this sequel starring Chris Hemsworth as the hammer demigod involved in an intergalactic war.
Nov. 20: “Her”
A lonely writer (Joaquin Phoenix) falls for the voice of his computer operating system (Scarlett Johansson). Spike Jonze directs.
Nov. 27: “Black Nativity”
A story about the youth of writer Langston Hughes includes a gospel choir involving Jennifer Hudson, Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker.
Nov. 27: “Grace of Monaco”
Nicole Kidman is Grace Kelly, turning down a Hitchcock movie to please the subjects of her husband, the ruling prince.
Dec. 13: “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
Part two of Peter Jackson's adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's novel finds Bilbo and the dwarves facing off with Smaug the dragon.
Dec. 13: “Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas”
Madea's niece (Anna Maria Horsford) has secretly wed a white farmer, whose parents are Kathy Najimy and Larry the Cable Guy.
Dec. 20: “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues”
Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell and David Koechner get a shot at redemption in the world of 24-hour cable news.
Dec. 25: “Jack Ryan”
Kenneth Branagh directs Chris Pine as the CIA hero from Tom Clancy's novels. We get the backstory of what made Jack who he is. Keira Knightley and Kevin Costner co-star.
Dec. 25: “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”
Ben Stiller directs and stars in this remake based on a James Thurber story about a dull man's adventurous fantasy life.
As for the award hopefuls:
Sept. 20: “Rush”
Director Ron Howard profiles Formula One racers, chronicling the 1977 rivalry between party boy James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and dour Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl).
Oct. 4: “Gravity”
Alfonso Cuaron directs Sandra Bullock, an astronaut who becomes stranded in space. George Clooney is her co-pilot.
Oct. 11: “Captain Phillips”
Tom Hanks helms a cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates. A deadly standoff with the U.S. Navy ensues. Paul Greengrass (“United 93”) directs.
Oct. 18: “All Is Lost”
An old man alone in the Indian Ocean battles to keep his sailboat from sinking. Robert Redford, 76, is drawing best-actor buzz.
Oct. 18: “The Fifth Estate”
Benedict Cumberbatch plays embattled WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Director Bill Condon calls it a buddy movie.
Oct. 18: “12 Years a Slave”
In 1841, a free black man is kidnapped and sold into slavery in this true story starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Nov. 15: “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Martin Scorsese's new movie details Wall Street excess in the early 1990s. Leo DiCaprio plays a real-life high-living stockbroker.
Nov. 22: “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”
Katniss and Peeta (Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson) are ordered to fight to the death again in this sequel based on Suzanne Collins' novels.
Nov. 22: “Nebraska”
The only Alexander Payne-directed movie without his writing credit stars Bruce Dern and Will Forte on a father-son road trip. Filmed mostly in northeast Nebraska.
Dec. 6: “Dallas Buyers Club”
Matthew McConaughey plays a man who contracts AIDS in 1986 and smuggles meds from overseas in an effort to survive.
Dec. 6: “Inside Llewyn Davis”
The Coen brothers make a movie about the 1960s folk-music scene in Greenwich Village. Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan star.
Dec. 6: “Out of the Furnace”
Christian Bale stars in a mystery thriller about an ex-con who seeks to avenge his brother's disappearance, going after a crime boss (Woody Harrelson).
Dec. 13: “American Hustle”
Con artists Christian Bale and Amy Adams deal with an FBI agent (Bradley Cooper), a housewife (Jennifer Lawrence) and a power broker (Jeremy Renner).
Dec. 13: “Saving Mr. Banks”
Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) spars with the author of “Mary Poppins” (Emma Thompson) over making a movie based on her book.
Dec. 18: “The Monuments Men”
Allied servicemen rescue art looted by the Nazis. George Clooney directs himself, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman and Cate Blanchett.
Dec. 25: “August: Osage County”
Meryl Streep is the drug-addled matriarch of a dysfunctional Oklahoma family, clashing with daughter Julia Roberts as spilled family secrets exact a toll.
Dec. 25: “Labor Day”
Escaped con Josh Brolin forces a mother (Kate Winslet) and young son to help him over a long holiday weekend in New England. Jason Reitman directs.