The premise is simple: take the major motion pictures released between May and August and rank them by their opening weekend box office gross ticket sales.
Starting with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 which was released on Friday and ending with August 22nd’s When the Game Stands Tall, I’ll put each film in order based on the projected first weekend sales, factoring in competition, quality of film, critical reviews, directors, actors and overall buzz. This is the second annual competition — you can find last year’s estimates here and also the explanation for my “success” from two weeks ago here.
There are slight differences with this year’s analysis. Most importantly, only 30 films vie for the crown in 2014 versus 34 in 2013 (as some lesser-performing films have been omitted for everyone’s sake). I’ve attempted to eliminate films with limited releases as they heavily skew the numbers lower, as well as most films without any public promotion/buzz/think pieces yet in the public eye. The volatility between predicted and actual results will likely increase as the summer wages on, but that’s part of the fun.
As always, the numbers in this piece are taken from the esteemed Box Office Mojo, which tracks ticket sales both domestically and internationally. For the purposes of remaining as impartial as possible, I have not sought any outside consultation or read any early reviews.
Without further ado:
1. Transformers: Age of Extinction – June 27
PREDICTION: $102 million
The biggest tentpole of the season will likely be Transformers which benefits from the competing Marvel films in April and May and the limited competition at the end of June. Each of the first three Transformers films grossed at least $70 million on their respective opening weekends, with the second movie — Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen — netting $109 million to lead the trilogy. Factor in the IMAX bump and the fact that special effects, rather than story or even a modicum of narrative, draw the crowds and Transformers: Age of Extinction will likely be the only film to pull in nine figures during its opening weekend.
2. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – May 2
PREDICTION: $98 million
Early buzz for the film suggested that director Mark Webb may have been too ambitious (or been advised to be so ambitious) with the narrative structure of his standalone Marvel franchise. Countless foes and an emphasis on romance likely contributed to the mediocre reviews given to the film ahead of its release, but the success of Captain America: The Winter Soldier ($95 million) should make Spider-Man a success. It will definitely outpace its predecessor, which opened to a soft $62 million in early July 2012.
3. X-Men: Days of Future Past – May 23
PREDICTION: $82 million
The drop off from two to three isn’t as steep as last year’s $19 million, but it represents the likely end of any film’s chances at breaking the $100 million mark. The X-Men films have ranged from $54 million in 2000 to $102 million in 2006 (with the most recent, X-Men: First Class, grabbing $55 million in 2011 and Wolverine grossing $53 million last summer). Days of Future Past combines the actors from both iterations of the series and has enough star and promotional power behind it to approach the $85 million the first Wolverine movie made.
4. How to Train Your Dragon 2 – June 13
PREDICTION: $79 million
The biggest mistake I made last year was overvaluing the best animated films. I predicted that Despicable Me 2 and Monsters University would each surpass $100 million. Neither topped $85 million. With that in mind, How to Train Your Dragon 2 seems like the logical choice for highest-grossing family movie. Factoring in the 3-D bump and its favorably received predecessor, and everything points to a strong showing.
5. Guardians of the Galaxy – August 1
PREDICTION: $71 million
In the past five years, no Marvel film has grossed less than $55 million in its opening weekend, save for Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (which Nicolas Cage likely has forgotten exists). Twelve have topped the $80 million mark. Guardians of the Galaxy could fall anywhere between $30 and $80 million, but the source material makes pegging a number — or even a range — a tough task. If Hercules flops, nothing will be standing in this film’s way of a massive opening, but only if the film is truly impressive.
6. The Fault in Our Stars – June 6
PREDICTION: $68 million
Young adult fiction has proven to be a lucrative avenue for Hollywood and this should be no exception. It’s a tear-jerking emotional gut-punch against a backdrop of science fiction and massive explosions. Shailene Woodley carried Divergent to the tune of $54 million back in March and given the popularity of the book by the same name, The Fault in Our Stars has a clear path to topping $60 million.
7. Godzilla – May 16
PREDICTION: $64 million
Incredible marketing and fan excitement helped 2008’s Cloverfield roar with $40 million in its first weekend, still the second best January opening weekend in history (behind Ride Along). Early trailers hint that Godzilla could turn in a similar performance, especially since its greatest competition — Million Dollar Arm — likely has much less domestic appeal. Provided the film isn’t atrocious, it should at least outperform its 2008 monster movie counterpart.
8. 22 Jump Street – June 13
PREDICTION: $61 million
The only R-Rated comedies to exceed $60 million in their opening weekend are The Hangover Part II and….well, that’s it. 22 Jump Street certainly has a chance to follow in its footsteps — a sequel to a comedy that grossly outperformed expectations with likable stars and quality promotion. With Neighbors likely out of most theaters by this point, there’s little competition in the sector.
9. Neighbors – May 9
PREDICTION: $52 million
Given that most comedies don’t reach even $50 million during their opening weekend, the predicted success of Neighbors stems from its cast — Seth Rogen and Zac Efron combined appeal to a wide variety of moviegoers –and its well-produced commercial spots, highlighting the film’s strong comedic elements. Neighbors will certainly turn a profit, the only question is how long will it take?
10. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – July 11
PREDICTION: $49 million
Ten years after Mark Wahlberg led the first reboot, the sequel to the second will open in in theaters. Rise of the Planet of the Apes premiered three years ago to nearly $55 million against limited competition (remember The Change Up?) and its spawn will likely fall in the same range.
11. Hercules – July 25
PREDICTION: $44 million
Outside of the “Fast & Furious” franchise, the case can be made that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is not a movie star. His best opening weekend? G.I. Joe: Retaliation‘s $40 million, and even that could be attributed more to Channing Tatum and the G.I. Joe franchise. He’s the main attraction in Hercules and it will be on his ridiculously broad shoulders that this movie rests. For any film outside the top 10, Hercules has the best chance of sliding into the upper echelon.
12. Edge of Tomorrow – June 6
PREDICTION: $41 million
Mix Tom Cruise and science fiction and you get Oblivion…wait, or War of the Worlds…or Minority Report, or in this case, Edge of Tomorrow. This will likely outperform last April’s Oblivion ($37 million), but with The Fault in Our Stars coming out on the same day, expectations should be tempered.
13. Maleficent – May 30
PREDICTION: $39 million
This is another film that’s difficult to evaluate. Angelina Jolie starring as a seminal Disney villain seems like a safe bet, but since this is live-action, it certainly could flop. Betting on Jolie and the director who created the lush worlds of Avatar and Alice in Wonderland still only gets someone so far.
14. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – August 8
PREDICTION: $37 million
Adjusting for inflation, the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles released in 1990 earned $46 million in its opening weekend, nearly double the $24 million taken in by TMNT in 2007. The power of Michael Bay to make Shia Labeouf seem somewhat well-adjusted may not be needed here, but his visual prowess could drum up enough interest to get both kids and adults in the theater. It’s also possible Guardians of the Galaxy destroys this in its second weekend and Bay lives out his days crying at various tech expos.
15. A Million Ways to Die in the West – May 30
PREDICTION: $36 million
Only eight movies grossed more at the domestic box office than Ted, the foul-mouthed bear that gobbled down $219 million (en route to$549 million worldwide). While A Million Ways to Die in the West stars MacFarlane in a similar type of film, the lack of animated stars could somehow be a detriment. The film will likely be popular, but crude humor just works better in plushie form.
16. Think Like a Man Too – June 20
PREDICTION: $35 million
Two years ago, Think Like a Man drew $33 million during its opening weekend and with the cast returning for an unnecessary sequel, a similar result seems likely.
17. Sex Tape – July 25
PREDICTION: $30 million
Bad Teacher starring both Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz netted more than $31 million during its opening weekend, which likely puts Sex Tape within the $20 – $30 million range.
18. The Expendables 3 – August 15
PREDICTION: $30 million
The Expendables grossed $35 million in 2010 while its sequel grabbed more than $28 million. The Expendables 3 will likely fall somewhere in the middle, especially if the limited August release schedule flops around it.
19. The Purge: Anarchy – July 18
PREDICTION: $29 million
The Purge surprised analysts by grossing $34 million on its way to $89 million worldwide by the end of its run. Of course, a sequel was needed because, well, money. Only the director returns from the original, but if Paranormal Activity has taught the industry anything, it’s that low-budget “thrillers” are a desirable commodity.
20. Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For – August 22
PREDICTION: $28 million
Almost a decade after Sin City ushered in the Frank Miller era (and with it Zach Snyder, so thanks Sin City for ruining the Justice League), the sequel will finally hit theaters. Fans of the original will likely support the followup, especially since its competition appears quite weak.
21. Jupiter Ascending – July 18
PREDICTION: $26 million
The only prediction I know will come true is that Sean Bean will die in this movie. It’s his destiny. That being said, Andy and Lana Wachowski didn’t necessarily follow the success of The Matrix with further success. Both Cloud Atlas and Speed Racer flopped, suggesting a strikeout is forthcoming. However, the star power of Channing Tatum may exist, and the premise is insane enough to warrant the speculative watch if reviews indicate the film isn’t a total train wreck.
22. Deliver Us from Evil – July 2
PREDICTION: $25 million
It’s a horror movie, it stars Eric Bana, and it has five days to reach $25 million. That’s the USA way.
23. Tammy – July 2
PREDICTION: $24 million
The Heat opened to $39 million on the strength of Sandra Bullock, while the lesser Identity Thief grossed $34 million. Tammy will ask Melissa McCarthy to carry a film by herself, and while it’ll likely challenge for funniest comedy of the year, ticket sales may be consistently mediocre during its run.
24. Blended – May 23
PREDICTION: $23 million
A fun litmus test would’ve been to show five-second teaser spots with the name of the film and a still of Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore acting goofy as the only promotion for this film. It likely would’ve been better than the current trailers on the market. Blended looks terrible, but Sandler and Barrymore alone should at least keep this from performing worse than That’s My Boy.
25. Planes: Fire and Rescue – July 18
PREDICTION: $20 million
It’s the only animated movie that will be released in July. It features talking planes. Will it be good? Not likely.
26. Let’s Be Cops – August 15
PREDICTION: $19 million
This has potential to rival 22 Jump Street, Neighbors and Tammy as funniest movie of the summer. Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. are ready for breakout roles and early indications are the film at least packs some decent gags. If any film has the potential to pull a We’re the Millers — as in use August as a springing board to out-earn its budget by 700% — it’s Let’s Be Cops.
27. If I Stay – August 22
PREDICTION: $18 million
Featuring Chloe Moretz as a half-ghost, half-too good for this movie, If I Stay could find success with well-crafted trailers and a decent marketing campaign. Or, more likely, it’ll get lost in the August shuffle.
28. Million Dollar Arm – May 16
PREDICTION: $17 million
No baseball film has ever grossed more than $27 million in its opening weekend, and Million Dollar Arm is unlikely to buck that trend. It should perform better than 2012’s Trouble With the Curve, which dragged in just north of $12 million, but will be hard-pressed to attract a similar audience to last year’s 42.
29. Jersey Boys – June 20
PREDICTION: $16 million
Clint Eastwood and musical theater, it’s a match made in Billy Eichner’s mind. Eastwood has directed excellent films in the past, but his recent offerings suggest a man at the end of the line. Chicago only drew in $8 million in the first weekend it was in wide release (behind something called Darkness Falls), though a summer release suggests Warner Brothers has a much bigger target in mind. Going up against only Think Like a Man Too in its first weekend may be beneficial, but it’s likely a tough sell as a box office smash.
30. Moms’ Night Out – May 9
PREDICTION: $14 million
Points for the correct use of the plural possessive, and for giving Patricia Heaton something to do. But this is less Bridesmaids and more that scene in Bridesmaids where Kristen Wiig realizes she couldn’t cut it as a pastry chef.