As a continuation/re-thinking of a few predictions for 2012 that I made back in January, this article picks up where my Avengers predictions left off as part of my Second Annual Summer Box Office Preview.
I found some success with my predictions on Harry Potter and Transformers 3 last year, while missing big time on films like Cars 2, Kung Fu Panda 2, and Cowboys & Aliens. Hopefully, I’ve successfully applied the lessons learned from those films in my forecast for this summer.
On April 30, I kick-started the summer predictions with an analysis of The Avengers. Below are my thoughts on the remaining nine of my top ten summer predictions (ordered by release date, not rank). After the “top ten”, I’ll also briefly discuss some other notable movies coming out between now and the end of August.
Let’s get this started…
Its been a decade since Men In Black 2 and Sony is hoping the bad taste left behind by that film will have worn off these past ten years. Smith’s likability and stardom should help power this three-quel to a respectable total, and once again 3D prices will skew it upwards. Opening Memorial Day weekend by itself is a huge advantage, but production troubles do still justify concerns about the final product and how good word of mouth will be.
Comparisons: The fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film followed a three-quel not well remembered by many audiences and, despite retaining its lead star, tanked in ticket sales. Something similar may happen here, even if we get a solid movie.
This makes for one of the hardest calls of the summer because while it could open *like* a franchise picture, its still not as predictable as a sequel might be. The Twilight fan base will be a key factor in giving this a strong opening weekend ($50 million+), but early marketing has helped create awareness among the general public already while also creating interest among some male viewers who might otherwise balk at a “Snow White” movie.
Whether the film can maintain that or not remains to be seen, but as one of this year’s definitive wild cards, a $150 million finish would certainly be respectable.
Easily my boldest call of the summer (well…aside from Avengers), I’m betting big on Sir Ridley Scott’s return to his roots. The first trailers have done a solid job of painting the Alien semi-prequel as an event picture the likes of which we haven’t really seen in awhile and online buzz has become incredibly strong in the process.
Fanboys will definitely show up, and if word of mouth can kick in for this sci-fi blockbuster in a similar as it did for 2010′s Inception, we could see a gross over $200 million become a reality. Personally, if the film delivers, I see it getting closer to $250 million — but it certainly doesn’t need that kind of figure to be considered a success.
Boasting an all-star cast complete with Tom Cruise (fresh off his goodwill from Ghost Protocol and popular Tropic Thunder cameo), Rock of Ages should have the female crowd sewn up for June. Mamma Mia! and Hairspray found a lot of success with their summer releases, and the nostalgic/comedic angle to Rock puts it up the same alley as those two films.
Other than Snow White perhaps, there’s really not much else out there for the ladies this summer and male appeal could potentially be much higher than the two aforementioned musicals. Who doesn’t love a little 80s music?
Brave is a tricky call because my initial reaction is to look at the recent box office disappointments of other animated films. Cars 2, Kung Fu Panda 2, and Happy Feet Two all fell well short of expectations in 2011. Quality can be to blame, and that’s something that it looks like Brave won’t have a huge problem with (especially if early word out of CinemaCon is accurate).
Madagascar 3 releases two weeks earlier, so the kiddies will already get a taste of their annual summer animation entertainment — but I’m betting that film won’t find a lot of traction with older crowds and Brave will more likely satiate that crowd.
The first film did reasonably well back in 2009, but its not as if many were clamoring for a sequel. That film also had a strong kiddie audience driving it. This time around, however, they’ll probably be busier with films like Brave, Madagascar 3, and possibly the new Spider-Man movie.
That being said, adding Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to the cast should help its appeal to older crowds and provide an alternative for those looking for an action movie on July 4th weekend that aren’t interested in a dark Spider-Man reboot. $125 million feels like a safe middle ground prediction. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it land within $15 million up or down of that number, tough.
Early buzz on Sony’s reboot hasn’t exactly been positive and many online fans are wondering if it was really necessary to remake an origin story that was already told very well just ten years ago this summer by Sam Raimi and leading man Tobey Maguire. The darker tone of Amazing Spider-Man clearly indicates that Batman Begins served as inspiration in giving this franchise a new take. Whether it works or not remains to be seen (Batman *should* be dark, but Spider-Man?…).
Begins itself and Superman Returns opened on similar dates in 2005 and 2006, respectively. While the former boasted excellent word of mouth and was very profitable, both films struggled to cross the $200 million plateau. Stigma from their predecessors was largely to blame, and with Spider-Man 3 viewed in a very low light, something similar can be expected here.
3D prices could go a long way to save it at the box office, but the kiddie audience that is crucial to Spider-Man will have a lot of options this summer — as will adults. Being sandwiched in between The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises won’t help either.
Opening three weeks after Brave, the fourth Ice Age entry has a huge advantage in being the last big animated movie of the summer. The third film did surprisingly well back in summer 2009 (and even better overseas) with its $196 million domestic tally.
I’ve low-balled this franchise with each of its first three films so far, and considering that each film has managed to out-gross the last (not accounting for inflation), I’m not making the same mistake again.
A finish over $200 million is very possible considering the severe lack of family competition in July and August.
Warner Bros. has wisely marketed Rises as the conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s trilogy since the first teaser last summer, a stroke of marketing genius that was necessary when realizing that this film would not be able to capture the same advantages as 2008′s The Dark Knight did thanks to Heath Ledger’s widely-hyped performance as The Joker.
This time, however, Nolan himself is a huge asset. Whereas he was still relatively unknown to average moviegoers pre-Dark Knight, his success with that film and 2010′s Inception have cemented his place as one of the recognizable names in the industry by those who aren’t following online movie blogs on a daily basis.
The two big questions are “can it break the opening weekend record again?” and “can it beat The Dark Knight‘s $533 million domestic gross?”
“Unlikely” (thanks to Avengers‘s astonishing $207.4 million opening weekend on the back of 3D prices — alluded to in my April 30th article here) and “maybe, but doubtful” are the answers.
While I fully expect The Dark Knight Rises to top the final Harry Potter film’s $169.2 million (current record) tally, breaking the record in this day and age seems to rely greatly upon a film getting the boost from higher priced tickets. 3D prices will be an asset that Rises won’t have, but I’m reasonably confident that it will *at least* sell as many as or more tickets than Avengers – and possibly any other film in history — on opening weekend.
As far as the final gross goes, quality is always the biggest factor. So far, nothing is pointing to a disappointing conclusion to this trilogy. The trailers have been met with (generally) great reactions, Warner Bros. execs are reportedly very pleased with the final cut of the film, and Nolan has yet to deliver a dud. For these reasons, I’m banking on Rises satisfying most audiences in a way that very few second sequels or trilogy-cappers normally do.
With a potentially long IMAX run in store (thanks to Nolan’s use of IMAX cameras on this film to an unprecedented extent), those ticket sales should go a long way to helping the overall gross eclipse $450 million and potentially upwards of $500 million if word of mouth is as good as I’m betting it will be.
In the end, despite the possibility that Avengers may out-gross it in terms of dollars, The Dark Knight Rises is still one of the most anticipated films in history and its range of potential certainly reflects that. Its not entirely unreasonable to see a scenario where the film does make its way to its predecessor’s $533 million domestic gross — but I’ll talk more about that in July. $500 million is already a very tall order, and it “only” needs to hit $450-475 million in order to not be seen as a significant disappointment.
Summer’s Other Notable Releases:
Johnny Depp and Tim Burton are certainly the biggest advantages going for the film, but younger audiences are unfamiliar with the original television series this is based on and older audiences may be questioning the comedic tone of it (even though that never hurt the Addams Family movies two decades ago). Most importantly, The Avengers is in store for massive second weekend — Shadows will feel the brunt of the effect.
Sacha Baron Cohen didn’t do himself many favors with 2009′s Bruno – a raunchy critical and commercial disappointment. That being said, the marketing of Dictator so far reminds us more of Borat with the political-centric humor. It could be a little *too* close to recent real life events in the Middle East, but his small fan base could still turn out. The lack of any R-rated comedies since 21 Jump Street two months ago also works in its favor.
Before The Avengers released, I was already bearish on this one. The marketing reeks of “hey, we look like the Transformers movies!” and I think audiences will catch on to that quickly. The idea of making a movie out of the board has never sat well with the online crowd either, bringing about negative buzz comparable to that of last year’s Cowboys & Aliens and Green Lantern. With Avengers soaking up the kiddies and action fans for the remainder of the month, and Men In Black 3 just one week behind, Battleship is in a very compromising position.
The ladies finally get something for them… Although, guys might find some appeal in this as well (if we’re to believe the marketing campaign). There hasn’t been much out there recently for the female audience or those seeking a light comedy, so this is well-timed to counter-program against the big May blockbusters. Films such as Monster-In-Law and What Happens In Vegas found moderate success with similar May release dates. I expect something like that here.
Animated sequels have performed poorly over the past year with Cars 2, Kung Fu Panda 2, and Happy Feet Two all failing to meet critical, audience, and box office expectations. What’s worse is that at least two of those films followed very well-loved predecessors and still didn’t achieve impressive numbers. Given that the second Madagascar had fairly poor legs for an animated film, the effects of that may translate to a diminished opening and total for this three-quel.
Oh, Adam Sandler. Early trailers for this — in conjunction with his box office miss Jack & Jill – unfortunately paint the image that he’s now making the very movies that were spoofed with his character in Funny People. Hopefully the trailers are doing this film a disservice and the R-rated comedy brings back the Sandler quality we love, but its a hard call to make at this point. This one could easily go in any direction.
I very nearly excluded this from my preview… Alright, I get that this has Tim Burton in a producer’s role, that it has vampires, and that its directed by Timur Bekmambetov (director of Wanted). But… this isn’t Wanted. There’s no Angelina Jolie or Morgan Freeman. Burton is not directing. Vampires don’t equal automatic big bucks (contrary to popular belief). And, most importantly, the marketing generates more confusion and laughter than genuine interest in paying 10 bucks to see such an absurd concept. Maybe the movie ends up hugely entertaining for its niche audience, but the mainstream appeal on this seems almost non-existent. Worst case scenario, I’m reminded of 2010′s summer bomb Jonah Hex ($10.5 million domestic). Best case scenario…even the very well-received Kick-Ass failed to reach $50 million domestically.
The princess of pop music makes her live-action feature film debut just in time for Independence Day weekend. She’s arguably the most successful and popular pop star of the decade, has broken album sales records for the past two years straight, and boasts a fan base that ranges from teenage girls to 20-somethings and men. Given that past concert flicks from Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, and the late Michael Jackson all managed respectable box office runs, I expect no less from Ms. Perry’s first foray into the cinematic docu-concert realm this summer. Her “summery” image benefits the release date quite nicely, too.
Oh, Matt Damon. Wait — Damon’s not in this? Bad move, Universal. As much of a budding star as Jeremy Renner is, replacing Matt Damon in his most famous and recognizable role is not going to sit well with audiences as far as I’m concerned. Maybe the film delivers and turns out to be a solid story in its own right, but reaching the level of box office success of the last two Bourne films is nigh impossible with Damon in the lead.
How many times are we going to see an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie get remade and/or sequel-ized without him? Terminator Salvation was a box office bomb and last year’s Conan the Barbarian barely even registered on anyone’s radar. With a $200 million budget backing this remake, there’s clearly high expectations for it. Maybe it finds traction in the late weeks of summer, but there’s a lot of competition gunning for the exact same male audience. Survival of the fittest.
Will Ferrell. Zach Galifianakis. Jay Roach (director of the Austin Powers flicks, Meet the Parents, and Recount). Sure, all of these guys have had an occasional “miss”, but that’s the name of the game. This political comedy pits two rival candidates running against each other in a small southern town. The timing couldn’t be more perfect after this year’s embarrassingly drawn-out presidential primary leading up to a real election in November. As long the comedic trifecta can keep the jokes coming, audiences will eat this up. Ferrell has found success during this time of year, too, with 2006′s Talladega Nights and 2008′s Step Brothers. And for what it’s worth, the first scenes shown to CinemaCon audiences reportedly drew very positive responses. Now we just need a trailer…
Very few saw the $100 million domestic haul of the first film coming two summers ago. Those who did: kudos. Those who asked for bigger names in the sequel: thank you. With a trailer that promises more of Willis and Schwarzenegger, on top of the addition of Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme, I’m beginning to come around to the notion that this might actually end up just as much of a hit as the first film — if not bigger. Not a bad way to close out the summer movie season…
Finally, a quick summer market prediction and some historical background: last summer set a new total box office revenue record at $4.33 billion. No doubt though, that was slightly aided by inflating ticket prices and 3D surcharges for a variety of films.
In terms of hard tickets sold, at 541.5 million (estimated) 2011 only saw a 2% increase over 2010 (a summer which saw the lowest attendance on record since 1995) and actually ranked as the third lowest number of tickets sold in the last 15 years.
This is 2012, though, and I’ve long been forecasting that we’d see a huge comeback this year thanks to an excellent slate of widely appealing movies. In the process, I’ve been expecting some box office records to go down over the course of the year. With a huge Winter season behind us (the second-most successful winter in tickets sold since 2004) and a strong Spring (led by The Hunger Games) coming to an end, the tone has been set for the rest of the year — as evidenced by The Avengers‘ record-smashing opening.
Not only do I think this summer will top 2011′s $4.33 billion non-inflation adjusted revenue record, we have a strong chance at seeing total ticket sales reach 600 million for the first time since 2007 (612 million). 2002, 2003, and 2004 also sold a similar number (619 million, 622 million, and 619 million, respectively). Note that all of these summers were buoyed by huge releases such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, Transformers, Shrek, The Matrix, and Pirates of the Caribbean.
With mammoth blockbusters like The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises headlining this summer, we just might reach that 600 million ticket plateau once again (provided that a lot of summer films live up to the expectations of quality behind them).
Prediction: Summer 2012 will exceed $4.6 billion (a record) at the box office and *could* even contend for as much as $4.8 to 5.0 billion if everything fires on all cylinders. Estimated tickets sold will top 580 million for the first time since 2007.