2012 Summer Box Office Challenge!
I know it seems a little early to start talking summer but in Hollywood, summer now starts in May. The Avengers will be opening on May 1st and ushering in the 2012 Summer Blockbuster season so it's time to put the prediction down and see how things shake out. (To skip to the predictions, just scroll down past the next few paragraphs.)
When 2011 started, all the hype was about how tough the summer was going to be. People were citing all of the big tentpole movies coming out but then, one by one, the movies disappointed. Of the top five grossing films of the summer, only the finale of Harry Potter landed with much fanfare from the fans. Not too many people are talking today about: The Hangover 2, Cars 2, Pirates of the Caribbean 4, and Transformers 3. Although the summer was even worse for new potential franchises as Green Lantern, and Cowboys & Aliens took it on the chin from critics and landed with a thud at the box office.
Looking ahead at this summer, it seems rather silly that people were hyping up 2011 at all. Yes, they had some big names but compared to the return of Batman, Spiderman, Men in Black and (unofficially) Alien alongside the assembling Avengers? Throw in a new Pixar film and new films in popular animated franchises Madagascar and Ice Age and you have a summer that is jam packed with potential blockbusters.
On the other hand, this could be the worst box office summer in recent memory for comedies. Bridesmaids was a surprise last year but it had been garnering praise and positive buzz for months. I know that comedies are like the 5/12 matchup in the NBA tournament and you have to pick at least one to shake things up but I'm just not seeing it this year.
Arguably the biggest comedy of the summer buzz-wise so far is "The Dictator" but the word of mouth hasn't been that good. Perhaps Dark Shadows, Ted, Neighborhood Watch, or the latest from Adam Sandler That's My Boy could bring in some money but will it be enough to break into the top 10?
The one film that seems to be flying under the radar a bit that could sneak in, especially because of its later release date that will avoid much of the mid-summer box office battles, is the Jay Roach-helmed "The Campaign" starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis. Will it push past the 150 million mark? I'm not gonna bet on it.
Also, "The Help" managed to sneak into the top 10 last year but I'm not seeing any Oscar bait coming from this summer crop.
So, without further ado, here are my prediction for the top ten movies (and how much I think they'll gross.) If you want to play along, post up your top 10 highest grossing films over at the www.soulhonky.com facebook page or e-mail me at email@example.com . (And to get the current release schedule, head over to Box Office Mojo.
1. The Dark Knight Rises: 440 million
This is the movie that everyone's waiting for. I have no doubt that it will do gangbusters but I don't think it's going to be able to match The Dark Knight. You can already tell that Tom Hardy's Bane and Anne Hathaway's Catwoman will not fill the huge shoes left by Heath Ledger's Joker (and yes, let's be real, Ledger's death also helped make the film bigger than expected.)
2. The Avengers: 365 million
Most reviews have been calling this the best Marvel movie yet so I gave it a 50 million dollar bump from the biggest of the individual Avenger movies (Iron Man). It could crack 400 (usually the first big movie of the summer gets a decent box office bump) but I'm betting against it because I don't think it'll have the same out-of-demo draw that The Dark Knight does.
This is a tough one. No Spidey movie dipped below 300 million with even the lousy Spider-Man 3 drawing 330 million. But the Spidey franchise made less money every time out and I don't know if anyone out there is all that excited to see a new, darker take on the ol' webhead's origin story. Also, this redux seems like an afterthought buzzwise (being drowned out by The Avengers, Batman, and even Prometheus) and it has just two weeks to make money before The Dark Knight Rises takes over the box office. On the bright side, Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield look pretty good and the new trailer is a MAJOR step forward from the first trailer.
4. Brave: 230 million
I'm probably low on this one. I mean, a Pixar fairy tale that has action for boys and a female lead for the girls? There's just something about it, the more serious tone that makes it seem like the least kid-focused Pixar film since Up that gives me pause. Also, it's released just two weeks after Madagascar 3 and two weeks before Ice Age 3 so Pixar won't own the kiddie demo like it has in the past.
4. Prometheus: 198 million
If Prometheus gets tagged with an R rating, I'm going to drop it down on the list. Already, I'm just not sure if this film is going to capture the masses and losing easy access to teenagers will be a big blow. The fans are excited but the fans were also excited for (and pleased by) X-Men: First Class and that film couldn't crack 150 million. Still, I'm not going to bet against Ridley Scott and his aliens.
6. MIB3: 190 million
It's been a full decade since Men in Black 2 (shocking, I know) and four years since Will Smith's last film. While I'm not going to doubt Will's drawing power, I am concerned about the legs of the MIB franchise. The second film had a significant drop from the first from (250 to 190 million) and I don't think people are really itching for this one more than they were the second one. Plus, it doesn't have a lot of time to make money with some heavy hitters opening up on its heels. I'll say it'll repeat the business of #2 but I think there's a definite risk of this one disappointing. 7. Ice Age: Continental Drift: 175 million
I'm a little nervous about Ice Age 3 because it's the third animated film of the summer (fourth, if you count "The Pirates! Band of Misfits" that opens this month). Also, I was burned last year by Kung Fu Panda 2 which landed at #11 and saw a 50 million dollar drop from the original's take.
8. Snow White and the Huntsman: 168 million
I wanted to go higher with this one but if there's a potential X-Men: First Class of this summer, it's Snow White and The Huntsman. Yes, the trailer was impressive, it has Kristen Stewart coming off of Twilight and Chris Hemsworth coming off of The Avengers. It has something for boys and girls alike and it's a story that everyone knows (and safe from the "For Fanboys/Geeks" label of X-Men.) But Prometheus opens up the following weekend so the competition is going to be tough. Also, this is another one that has yet to be rated and an R would be a disaster. 9. GI Joe 2: 160 million
I swore off this franchise after the first film which was just stupid but then I watched the trailer for this one and was stunned that they killed off (apparently) the Joes from the first movie. And then there were ninjas fighting on a mountain. Add in The Rock, Bruce Willis, and the always amazing Adrian Palicki and I have to think that it will do pretty well for itself, despite being released in the middle of a bunch of box office contenders.
10. Madagascar 3: 150 million I wasn't sold on this one but then my friend's daughter looked at the billboard for this film and exclaimed, "The animals are wearing rainbow wigs. On their HEADS!" I'm not sure where else they would wear the wigs but her unadulterated excitement convinced me to keep this in the top ten.
My bet for bomb of the summer is going to be "Battleship". (NOTE: For the record, a "bomb" in this case is defined by how much a movie makes back domestically of its production budget. I'm not including foreign box office in the Box Office Challenge.) I'm not as sold on this tanking as I was with Green Lantern last summer but the opening buzz isn't good and it's got a lot to contend with with Avengers opening a couple of weeks earlier and Dark Shadows and The Dictator opening up afterwards. While I have to admit that it looks simple and inoffensive enough to pull in a decent chunk of change and the early summer release date should help, the gaudy 200 million dollar budget is what made me choose Battleship over other potential flops. I think it'll probably top off at around the 116 million that Green Lantern made which is enough to make it a bomb (in terms of domestic gross.)
The misplaced movie of the summer is "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter". As you could tell, I'm not confident in a lot of my predictions but this is one that I feel good about. The bottom line on the film's bottom line, to me, is that, if it is going to make a lot of money, it needs room to breathe and the summer is not that time. Not many people go to the movies every weekend and in this jam packed summer, if there was ever a movie people might say, "Eh, we can wait on that" about, it's ol' Honest Abe. The premise for this film is so far out there that after I showed some co-workers the trailer, they still asked me, "Wait, so this is a real movie or not?" And to make matter worse, it's opening up against Pixar's The Brave. I'd probably have said that this is the bomb of the summer but since it only reportedly cost 67 million dollars to make, I think it'll manage not to completely drown in the red.
Personally, I think the studio needs to realize what kind of movie (and moreso, what kind of marketing nightmare) they have on their hands and move this from the summer slate. Halloween seems like a more natural fit but October and November are also pretty packed so I'd look to September 7th, a weekend with no real major wide release as a nice landing spot for this. Just move the film there and avoid the mad rush that'll likely trample all over this movies box office dreams. Give it a chance to build some word of mouth. There's no shame in retreating if it means a bigger box office victory in the end.
And for reference, I was 7/10 last summer, missing out on "The Help", "Bridesmaids", and "Rise of the Planets of the Apes." (I had Super 8, X-Men: First Class, and Kung Fu Panda 2 in the top 10.) Money-wise, I was way off on The Hangover 2 (I had it making about half what it did and landing in the 10th spot instead of #3.) It wasn't terrible but it was my worst summer since I started doing this.