Summer Box Office Preview, by Aaron Pinkston
As a movie nerd, I have a love-hate relationship with box office. Part of me says that it’s unimportant and drives films further away from taking risks and being artistic and more toward being economically safe and cheap thrills for a mass audience. But, on the other hand, I can’t deny the power that the box office has on what movies will be made in the future and therefore what movies I’ll be seeing. Also, box office statistics can be pretty amazing — I’ve spent countless hours on Box Office Mojo looking at how movies have performed in relation to their genre, actors, directors, etc. My naivety still wishes that the best movies will make the most money and the uninspired are boycotted, although that rarely seems to happen.
The summer of 2012 proves to be pretty exciting, for a few reasons. One, more importantly, there are a good mix of awesome films slated to open. Yes, there are a number of sequels and adaptations, but there are also a few interesting original films that will open in wide release and should make some money. It’s also an exciting summer from a purely box office perspective. There is a potential for multiple films to gross over a billion worldwide (which has only happened 11 times previously). Unlike previous years of making a box office preview list, there are more films on the release schedule that should be able to pull good business. Last year’s top ten had a surprise or two (Bridesmaids was the big one), but was otherwise cut-and-dry. This summer, after a fairly obvious #1 and #2, the rest are a toss-up.
10. Battleship, directed by Peter Berg
I really didn’t want to put Battleship on this list, but I was just too unsure if films I expect to be better (Prometheus, The Bourne Legacy, specifically) will be able to do better business. The trailers are big, loud, certainly summertime popcorn entertainment. Battleship feels a lot like Transformers (name-checked in the trailer), which will help it bring in audiences, though not to the same tune. Prediction: $165 million
9. Snow White and the Huntsman, directed by Rupert Sanders
This is a tough one to call, but it has a lot of important ingredients. First and foremost, star power, with Kristen Stewart in the lead. Though the Twilight gang haven’t had too many successes outside of the franchise, I feel this breaks that trend a bit, pulling in some of that demo audience. It is also a retelling a of a classic tale, which should get in families and fans of the story. Smartly, though, it also seems to be something that can cross over to young males, with the battle sequences and dark atmosphere. I also see it a bit as this year’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes — if reviews are strong (a good possibility), it could bring in some of the snobs and skeptics. Prediction: $171 million
8. GI Joe: Retaliation, directed by John M. Chu
I know what you’re thinking: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was really, really bad. And though it ending up losing money domestically, it still managed $150 million box office. With a pretty good trailer and a surprisingly successful filmmaker crossing over into action, I see this as this summer’s Fast Five — another corny action sequel that was helped by strong reviews. When my girlfriend sees a trailer for a G.I. Joe film and is excited, I’m seeing that this could be a pretty decent cross-over success. GI Joe: Retaliation also brings in some star power with The Rock and Bruce Willis, so that will bring people in. I also think the film will be aided by opening on a very slow weekend (along with Soderbergh’s Magic Mike) and close to the July 4th holiday. Though another film that will make my list opens during the mid-week holiday, there will be plenty of people who decide to see this on their day off. Another interest question: Can Chu’s social media prowess and connection to the hordes of Justin Bieber fans, can he motivate them to see a film they would never have considered otherwise? Prediction: $175 million
7. Ice Age: Continental Drift, directed by Steve Martino & Mike Thurmeier
This spot was basically a toss-up between Ice Age and Madagascar 3. I picked Ice Age, though, only because of previous success. The previous two films in the series both eclipsed $195 million, so there is a pronounced pedigree there. It would also be plain dumb not to have at least two animated films on this list, as that is historically how it plays out. I’m a little nervous on this pick based on its release date, though, as it comes out after the two other big animated films. Prediction: $178 million
6. Brave, directed by Mark Andrews
Even with my reservations on how successful Brave will ultimately be, this is a Pixar film and Pixar films don’t fail. There have only been three of the studio’s films that were unable to reach $200 million, including last year’s disappointment Cars 2. I see Brave making a modest rebound, helped by strong reviews and an original story. It’s tough to sell an animated film with a female protagonist (this is the first time Pixar has tried), but the Pixar brand will prosper as usual. Even with more success than last year’s outing, I still will put Brave ahead of only four Pixar films. Don’t worry, though, as they studio has a sure-fire smash hit later this year with Monster’s, Inc. 2. Prediction: $211 million
5. Men in Black III, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld
At first though, Men in Black III is an obvious contender. While it will definitely make boat-loads of cash this summer, I’m a bit more relaxed on it. First of all, it’s a franchise everyone forgot about. Will it be able to bring in the 20-somethings that grew up with the first two? I’m not so sure. Also, Will Smith is a big star, but he hasn’t opened a movie since 2008. Two of his last three films raised well over $200 million, though, so I don’t see too much trouble with the franchise film. Prediction: $249 million
4. Dark Shadows, directed by Tim Burton
Here is the one I’m most going on a limb for, and I could be completely stupid for doing so. The easy reason I think Dark Shadows will make a ton of money is because people love Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. In 2010, Alice in Wonderland was a box office giant, grossing a staggering $334 million. While Dark Shadows doesn’t have the pedigree of the classic tale, and it certainly won’t make as much money, it has a few advantages. Johnny Depp is the bonefide star — something the marketing of Alice in Wonderland tried to make you think. It can skew toward an older audience while still getting families and teenagers to buy tickets. Alice did those monster numbers in March, outside of the peak season. Though the reviews for Alice were middling, I hated the movie, and just hope this might be better and can earn its intake. Also, simply, Dark Shadows is able to market itself as the creator and star of Alice, which should help its buzz. Prediction: $253 million
3. The Amazing Spider-Man, directed by Marc Webb
To me, there are three obvious choices for the top three of the summer. The Amazing Spider-Man is a film most film nerds are shocked has been made — a reboot of a popular franchise only five years since the final film is about as cash-grabby as you can imagine. With a unestablished star (Andrew Garfield) and unestablished filmmaker (Marc Webb), it doesn’t seem to have the ingredients for a huge success. Complaints about the Spidey suit, the tone of the trailer, and a general lack of buzz don’t seem to help. But let’s be real, people. This is Spider-Man. Everyone loves Spider-Man. And all the nerds who have been complaining will still go see The Amazing Spider-Man. The previous trilogy made 403, 373 and 336 million respectively, and there is no reason this one can’t be right in there. It is also tremendously aided by the July 4th release date — long enough removed from one of the other big superhero films that will opening before it. Prediction: $370 million
2. Marvel’s The Avengers, directed by Joss Whedon
The race between The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises will be one of the best showdowns of all time. While I think it will be close, I see The Avengers coming in second. I see the upside higher than any of its predecessors, but have a funny feeling the ceiling isn’t incredibly more than Iron Man (the biggest money-maker of the super team). Obviously though, with the 3 year build and the sheer uniqueness of this film — there may be many superhero films out there, but there aren’t any with so many together — the sky’s the limit. Prediction: $480 million (making it the fifth best domestic release ever)
1. The Dark Knight Rises, directed by Christopher Nolan
In 2008, The Dark Knight shattered so many domestic box office records. Grossing $533 million, that is the third most all time. The Dark Knight Rises obviously has the pedigree and the tools to get back in that neighborhood, but I would be shocked if it is more successful. To the negative, there was so much hype surrounding the Joker, the incredible trailer and the untimely death of Heath Ledger, I don’t see how lightning could strike twice. It also isn’t in 3D, so that knocks off some of the extra ticket costs. With Inception, people showed they connect with Christopher Nolan as a filmmaker, and being this will be the final of Nolan’s Batman films, I can see some craziness happening and people flocking to the theater multiple times. Prediction: $493 million (for the fourth best domestic release ever)
A few dark-horses that could end up in the top 10 by summer’s end: Prometheus (just think it’s too out there for a mass audience, though overly good reviews will help it. I expect its performance overseas to be much better in relation), Rock of Ages (don’t know if it will do well outside of its target demo), Ted (usually a comedy has ended up on the list, but Ted just isn’t one that I have high hopes for), The Bourne Legacy (biggest problem is that it comes out really late in the summer and without Jason Bourne, I don’t know if many audiences will make the connection).