The correlation between creativity and money in film exists as a predictor of future projects. Gross $200 million in 2013 in order to have the independence to make a new movie in 2015. Fail to meet lofty box office expectations and it’s back to producing music videos.
No season is more important to the vitality of the film industry than the summer blockbuster season, the period from early May through mid-August that will set the bottom lines and establish the potential for movies without numbers attached as suffixes. This is where careers are made, where money goes on its vacation from its stretched-too-thin work during Oscar season.
There are more than thirty movies set to be released to wide audiences (2,500+ theaters) this summer, about two in each of the season’s sixteen weeks. The premise here is simple: based on previous seasons, past performances in the franchise and directors, stars, and producers, the task is to place each film in order based on its final box office gross.
For example, The Avengers topped the 2012 box office, raking in more than $623 million in domestic receipts. This does not include foreign totals, merchandise or DVD/Blu-Ray/On-Demand sales, simply individuals in the seats watching the big screen, most likely with 3-D glasses adorned to their faces.
(It should be noted that these rankings are only for the “summer” season, so while The Hunger Games was the third highest-grossing movie of 2012, it would not have made the list last season given its March release. )
All dollar amounts are courtesy of Box Office Mojo:
1. IRON MAN 3 – May 3
PREDICTION: $145 million
Just as The Avengers last year, Marvel will again have the top performing movie of the summer (and most likely, the year). In Iron Man 3‘s favor are the fact that its release kicks off the summer season, therefore it will likely have the longest run. It is also being released in 3-D, which adds $2-$5 per ticket. The fact that its passed $300 million internationally before it even premiered domestically suggested peak demand for a franchise whose first two iterations each grossed over $300 million in their lifetimes. The first Iron Man pulled in nearly $100 million in its opening weekend five years ago, suggesting that as long as the new edition wasn’t universally panned, it had a chance to reign supreme over Iron Man 2, which netted $128 million in its first three days.
Given the reporting structure of this piece (and overall laziness), Iron Man 3 will have been released by the time this is published. Its opening weekend total surpassed $175 million, besting projections to be the second highest grossing first weekend in history (behind The Avengers). This level of excitement will have an effect on the remaining predictions insofar as to adjust them higher, though the order will generally stay the same. My guess, timestamped on social media, remains the same:
2. MAN OF STEEL – June 14
PREDICTION: $142 million
While Iron Man 3 is nearly a lock for the top spot given its production company, source material and history, the same three factors make Man of Steel the most difficult guaranteed blockbuster to predict. It will make money, this is what Christopher Nolan does, armed with an Instagram filter and a director who doesn’t need to worry about writing a movie. Zack Snyder is responsible for 300, and he would like everyone to forget about Sucker Punch and to a lesser extent The Watchmen. His primary strength as a filmmaker is depicting action, everything else simply falls by the wayside.
With Man of Steel, the script has strong influences from Nolan and David S Goyer, who co-wrote Batman Begins. Despite the potential pitfalls with the most recent Batman installment, it still grossed $160 million in its opening weekend, $110 million more than Batman Begins. With Man of Steel, the bar is set extremely high, given that the last attempt to revive the franchise failed spectacularly in 2006 (despite grossing $391 million worldwide). Given the pedigree of those involved with the project, and the favorable buzz surrounding early cuts and trailers, Man of Steel should recapture Superman’s glory.
3. MONSTERS UNIVERSITY – June 21
PREDICTION – $116 million
The second installment of Pixar’s beloved Monsters, Inc. franchise should take the crown of highest grossing animated movie of the summer. It has the benefit of being released before Despicable Me 2, the most likely challenger to its animated crown. Pixar won the race last year with Brave racking up $66 million in its opening weekend. Monsters University has some advantages over its Scottish counterpart, most notably that it’s part of an established franchise.
Its closest comparable may be Toy Story 3, a sequel released eleven years after its previous iteration. Toy Story 3 grossed $110 million in its opening weekend and with Monsters University set to be released almost twelve years after Monsters, Inc., the similarities are evident.
4. STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS – May 17
PREDICTION – $109 million
The second installment of the Star Trek reboot should improve upon the $75 million Star Trek grossed in its opening weekend four years ago. Factoring in inflation, the franchise’s popularity and the likability of director JJ Abrams, and Star Trek should climb above the $100 million mark (only four films claimed that accomplishment last year). It should be interesting to see the role IMAX screens play in its opening weekend.
5. FAST & FURIOUS 6 – May 24
PREDICTION – $105 million
It should come as no surprise that every film so far is part of an established franchise, as Hollywood has turned into an industry of low risks and high rewards. The Fast and Furious franchise has spawned six installments in twelve years, an impressive rate for even the most low-brow concepts. Fast Five made $86 million at the box office in its opening weekend, though its April release may have tempered revenues.
Fast & Furious 6 will be released in May — a traditionally higher grossing month — though it will square off with The Hangover III, a film with a similar target audience. The Hangover III has pushed its release up a day earlier (May 23) and unless Fast & Furious 6 responds in a similar fashion, its opening weekend may suffer a bit.
6. DESPICABLE ME 2 – July 3
PREDICTION – $103 million
The first Despicable Me was a slow burn, raking in “just” $56 million in its opening weekend (9th in 2010) en route to $251 million domestically (7th that same year). The sequel is eagerly anticipated, and has earned the July 4 holiday slot. Its main competition – The Lone Ranger — is in jeopardy of being one of the bigger busts of the season, as Johnny Depp in full Native American garb (and accent) may be a tough sell.
The main attraction in the Despicable Me franchise are the minions, yellow blobs of recklessness that may have a longer shelf life than the penguins of the Madagascar series. With expectations at an all-time high, Despicable Me 2 may challenge Monsters University for top spot among the animated titles.
7. THE HANGOVER III – May 23
PREDICTION – $97 million
The Hangover franchise shares many similarities with Iron Man. The first films were critically praised and established new global film empires. The second iterations grossed more money, but were critically underwhelming, somewhat rushed and misguided. Now, the third (and potentially final) films will be released, both primed to approach the fantastic level of the first installment. With Hangover II grossing almost $86 million virtually two years ago to the day, an improvement is expected. However, unlike two years ago — when the biggest competition was Kung Fu Panda 2, The Hangover III and Fast & Furious 6 will be going heads up. Given the former’s “R” rating, it seems that Fast & Furious 6 should have a small advantage.
The bigger question for director Todd Phillips will be if The Hangover III can break the “R” rated opening weekend record of $92 million set by The Matrix Reloaded. Given Warner Bros. decision to release the film a day early, it has a chance.
8. THE WOLVERINE – July 26
PREDICTION – $94 million
The Wolverine will be the X-Men movie and the second featuring Wolverine in a titular role, because money is money and movies like this allow Hugh Jackman to make films like Les Miserables. Despite the potential for franchise burnout and the lackluster previews for The Wolverine, the previous film opened at $85 million. The brand may be worth more than the film itself, but in Hollywood, that’s usually more than enough.
9. THE LONE RANGER – July 3
PREDICTION: $64 million
How far can Johnny Depp carry a movie? Rango drew $38 million, though The Tourist (with Angelina Jolie), garnered only $16 million in its opening weekend. The Lone Ranger will have the benefit of a favorable opening — and an extra two days factored into the equation — but the underwhelming trailers and limited concept may keep Tonto from another big box office gross.
10. WORLD WAR Z – June 21
PREDICTION: $56 million
There are few comparable films that would indicate a roaring success is imminent for World War Z. There was Cloverfield in 2008, which made $40 million in its opening weekend, though that carried the JJ Abrams brand (and was slightly more mysterious), rather than being based on a best-selling book. With Brad Pitt and zombies, World War Z has the cornerstones to make a huge splash, but its placement the week after Man In Steel – which projects to be a major hit — and its less-than-stellar trailers should temper expectations some.
11. PACIFIC RIM – July 12
PREDICTION: $53 million
Giant robots fighting deep sea monsters seems like a film found on basic cable very early in the morning. Instead, it will be displayed on big screens (and IMAX), in 3-D in July. Pacific Rim has the potential to be a phenomenal movie that shows the true art of digital effects. Or, it could be a colossal failure the size of one of the giant monsters seen in the trailers. Early indications are that the film is fantastic unsurprising given that Guillermo del Toro is at the helm. Its opening weekend gross should fall somewhere between Cloverfield‘s $40 million and the original Transformers‘ $70 million.
12. WHITE HOUSE DOWN – June 28
PREDICTION: $50 million
Yes, this is the second film about the White House coming under military attack this year, because even when Hollywood may have a creative idea, it has to double down. This version stars Jamie Foxx as the president and Channing Tatum in his best Gerard Butler impersonation, which suggests that the film may be better a little than Olympus Has Fallen. That film premiered in March to $35 million in its opening weekend, numbers that are respectable, yet would be underwhelming three months later. Given that its fiercest competition is The Heat, White House Down could net up to $50 million and win the weekend.
13. THE SMURFS 2 – July 31
PREDICTION – $49 million
Summer movie fatigue may not hit many genres (or even exist at all), but the plethora of family films could hurt those released later in the season. The Smurfs 2 may be able to avoid this potential problem, as its late July release (on a Wednesday) has the market all to itself (and has two more family-focused films following it in the proceeding weeks). The first film grossed more than $35 million in its opening weekend and this iteration should have no problem making its fans blue themselves in the theater.
14. GROWN UPS 2 – July 12
PREDICTION: $48 million
Nine percent. That is the critical reception to the original Grown Ups according to Rotten Tomatoes, though expecting Adam Sandler comedies to rate well with critics is more childish and ignorant than his persona. Grown Ups grossed $40 million in its opening weekend and ended up making $162 million domestically, the 15th highest grossing film of 2010. This is why Hollywood makes sequels. Grown Ups 2 features a similar level of low-brow comedy that has worked for Sandler for decades, so betting against him is unwise (unless he’s cross dressing).
15. ELYSIUM – August 9
PREDICTION: $46 million
The success of Elysium will likely hinge on its ability to attract audiences — either through positive reviews or mind-blowing trailers. Starring Matt Damon, Elysium is the follow up from Neil Blomkamp, who directed District 9 to a $37 million opening weekend. The science fiction genre is well represented this summer, but a late arriving and powerful narrative has the potential to surprise.
16. AFTER EARTH – May 31
PREDICTION: $45 million
This seems impossible to predict, the pros and cons all so overt that any guess will be incorrect. After Earth is a Will Smith vehicle, so that should guarantee a sizable opening weekend payout. Only, the film looks like it could take the title for worst sci-fi attempt of the year, even beating out Oblivion. But it also stars Jaden Smith, the prodigal offspring that will ascend to the right hand of his father, most likely in the film itself. After Earth could turn out to be a runaway hit, and given that its magic act will undoubtedly outperform the literal magic act it’s competing against, it should easily push $30 million. Expecting much more than that, however, puts too much faith in Will (and Jaden) Smith.
17. THIS IS THE END – June 12
PREDICTION: $44 million
After The Hangover III, the slate of summer comedies looks particularly bleak. There is the Aubrey Plaza vehicle, The To-Do List, though that was moved up to be burned off against Wolverine. In June, the choices are The Internship or This is the End. The latter looks profoundly better than the former, given those involved and what appears to be a level of freedom regarding its plot, characters, and creative narrative. This is the End features an incredible ensemble of comedic talent and should open better than Superbad‘s $33 million in 2007, especially when considering that it’ll be released on a Wednesday.
18. THE HEAT – June 28
PREDICTION – $43 million
For comedies, marketability is key. Since The Heat boasts strong turns by Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy as archetypes of their comedic roles, there is little left to the imagination (and subsequently the likelihood of a poor film is greatly diminished). Still, only two “R” rated comedies grossed more than $50 million in their opening weekend – The Hangover Part II and Sex and the City – so expectations should be relatively low. Also working against the film is the fact that Bullock has never led a movie to an opening greater than $34 million. The Heat should top Bridesmaids, its closest comparable and a film that netted $26 million in 2011, though it will assuredly pale in comparison to The Hangover III.
19. PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS – August 7
PREDICTION: $39 million
The first iteration grossed $31 million in its opening weekend thee years ago (in February), so a bump should be expected. While the plethora of family-friendly films may limit the box office return, Percy Jackson‘s Wednesday release — along with the 3-D conversion — should boost the numbers.
20. TURBO – July 17
PREDICTION: $38 million
Another animated movie in a season overstuffed with them, Turbo attempts to separate itself from the pack by…well…nothing. The story about a snail who wants to go fast is Dreamworks’ version of Cars, featuring a similar “crew”, race structure and most likely plot. Turbo could be somewhat decent, which would help its five day opening weekend, but it seems that for families interested in seeing one film in July, why would they choose Turbo over Despicable Me 2? Expectations for anything more than Ratatouille’s $47 million are ignorantly ambitious.
21. 2 GUNS – August 2
PREDICTION: $34 million
Will it be more like Safe House ($40 million) or more like Pain and Gain ($20 million)? While Hollywood is determined to make Mark Whalberg a star, the financial success of 2 Guns will hinge on Denzel Washington (and potentially Kanye West). Most likely, a favorable slot — the 300 sequel has been pushed back to 2014 — will push the film over the $30 million mark in its opening weekend.
22. THE GREAT GATSBY – May 10
PREDICTION – $33 million
It’s been eight years since an established franchise did not kick off this particular weekend when Monster-in-Law nabbed $23 million (Star Trek may not have been a sequel, but it was not the first movie in the series). Other factors working against director Baz Luhrmann are middling reviews and the fact that none of his previous films grossed even $15 million in their opening weekends. While the star power is abundant, Leonardo DiCaprio failed to deliver box office royalties with J Edgar, his most recent turn as a leading man. With Iron Man 3 still hovering over the industry in its second weekend, expect The Great Gatsby to most likely finish second in its opening turn.
23. PLANES – August 9
PREDICTION – $30 million
In classic Disney over-saturation, the company has commissioned a Cars spin-off in Planes, the Cars of the sky, apparently. Given Pixar’s non-involvement in the film, quality and buzz seem likely to underwhelm. Planes will also be competing against the second Percy Jackson installment, further limiting its opening weekend gross.
24. THE INTERNSHIP – June 7
PREDICTION: $28 million
While it was the 6th highest grossing film of 2005 — and the highest “R” rated film of that year – Wedding Crashers netted only $34 million in its opening weekend, the 16th best opening weekend. Reuniting the leads from such an impressive film seemed like box office gold, but weak trailers and what appears to be a similar level of comedy eight years later has potential audiences thinking twice. Going up against male-friendly films in their second weeks (The Hangover III and Fast & Furious 6), The Internship looks to be the wrong movie at the wrong time.
25. KICK ASS 2 – August 16
PREDICTION: $26 million
Making $96 million on a $30 million budget allowed Kick Ass to have a second life. Kick Ass 2 follows in the original’s graphic novel influence, though director Matthew Vaughn has handed over the series as he focuses on another X-Men film. Kick Ass 2 has enough buzz that it should outpace the original, though not so much that a graphic and violent niche comic book film will see more than $30 million in its opening weekend.
26. R.I.P.D. – July 19
PREDICTION: $25 million
The premise is creative, if this were 1999. Ryan Reynolds, in an attempt to salvage his A-list trajectory, plays a cop who succumbs to injury and becomes an invincible officer defending the after life with Jeff Bridges. Even if this were intentionally satirical or campy, it would be a tough sell at the box office. There may be enough fans of the source material for RIPD to win its weekend, but it seems like a tough sell as a major hit.
27. THE PURGE – June 7
PREDICTION: $24 million
The concept is incredible: the government allows for a twelve hour period, known as The Purge, where any and all crime is legal (murder, vandalism, etc.) and all emergency services are suspended, creating total chaos. There are elements of Panic Room and The Strangers, which add to the potential intrigue. Still, given the premise, and the fact that it appears to be more thriller than horror, expectations should be tempered.
28. RED 2 – July 19
PREDICTION: $20 million
One day, Red will be the answer to the trivia question, “What film starring four AARP members grossed $200 million worldwide?” As unlikely as it is, Red spawned a sequel, which will surely be a small hit at the 4 pm matinee. Splitting the bill with RIPD could dig into its opening weekend, but neither film should expect to net a large payday.
29. NOW YOU SEE ME – May 31
PREDICTION: $19 million
This may be a film that gets critical praise, but fails to resonate at the box office. Now You See Me is a movie about magic, which appeared dead-on-arrival with The Incredible Burt Wonderstone earlier this year. The similarities to Ocean’s Eleven would be a boost, if only the star power was anywhere close to the same level. Led by Jesse “Facebook” Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson, Now You See Me has resorted to displaying its first four minutes online to generate publicity.
30. EPIC – May 24
PREDICTION: $18 million
Vague title? Check. Ambiguous trailer that simultaneously provides no details and summarizes the entire plot? Check. Epic has suffered from a less-than-stellar marketing campaign, with little public awareness about the film, suggesting that Fox has little faith in the film. While it may benefit from being in 3-D and being the only widely available film for children that weekend, Epic has inspired little faith.
31. WE’RE THE MILERS – August 9
PREDICTION: $16 million
Ed Helms, Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudekis, Emma Roberts and Neil Offerman star in We’re the Millers about a pot dealer who creates a fake family as part of an attempt to move large amounts of marijuana from Mexico. The premise seems funny (as it should), but without anything more than a cast list and a synopsis, it’s difficult to judge a film’s chances. A release date in August suggests decent, if not spectacular expectations, but unless the hype builds dramatically over the next few months, a high box office gross seems out of reach.
32. THE TO-DO LIST – July 26
PREDICTION: $14 million
Aubrey Plaza is not a household name, despite her being on one of the best shows on television, Parks and Recreation. Her film about a high school girl looking to complete a sexual check list has potential, but it likely will need a strong word-of-mouth reputation and critical acclaim. Going up against the latest installment in the Wolverine cash cow likely won’t help.
33. THE CONJURING – July 19
PREDICTION – $13 million
Horror films rarely are released during the summer movie period, over-saturation makes it more difficult for a small film without critical acclaim to turn a profit. The Conjuring could get lucky amongst a slate of mediocre films if the trailers garner more attention, but the limited views on YouTube (for a trailer that has been out six weeks) suggest a low turnout
34. PARANOIA – August 16
PREDICTION: $10 million
With no trailer out for the Harrison Ford / Gary Oldman vehicle, any box office guess seems premature. Still, the fact that there is little buzz behind this picture — though it was moved up to the summer season — suggests that RelativelyMedia, the studio that brought you Movie 43, has little impetus to hard-sell the film.