Every year, I like playing a little game of Summer box office predictions. The rules are simple (and the game is played officially at Trivia Club and /Film, if you’re interested): Pick which 10 films, and three dark horse candidates, that you think will gross the most money domestically during the Summer movie season.
This year, the game’s outlets are shifting their definition of what the Summer movie season is in order to include Avengers: Infinity War. Avengers was initially slated for release on the first weekend of May, but Disney pushed its release up a week.
For the sake of this article, I’m just going to keep the traditional definition of Summer movie season, which is the first weekend of May to Labor Day weekend. It kind of makes the predicting harder, given that Avengers is almost certainly going to be the highest grossing movie of the year, and if the film were included in this competition it would be number one with a bullet.
All the same, this year’s crop of Summer movies is pretty strange from a box office standpoint.
The Top Ten:
- Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
- Solo: A Star Wars Story
- Incredibles 2
- Mission: Impossible – Fallout
- Ant-Man and the Wasp
- Deadpool 2
- Ocean’s 8
- Disney’s Christopher Robin
- Mamma Mia: Here we Go Again!
- Hotel Transylvania 3 – Summer Vacation
- The First Purge
- The Spy Who Dumped Me
The top three films are easy to pin down. It seems likely that Solo and Jurassic World 2 will duke it out for the top spot. I think Incredible 2 will be close behind, and the Pixar sequel could usurp either of the top two if they “flop” (which is to say, flop relative to their hype).
The more likely flop is Solo. The new batch of Star Wars films are doing gangbusters at the box office. But with the divisiveness of The Last Jedi and the vitriol that Solo is already receiving due to its production shakeups, any problems fans have with Solo could send it downhill in successive weeks.
That said, I think Solo will come out all right. Jurassic World is a safer number one bet, given the high stakes Solo is working under. Think about it this way: if Solo isn’t great, then critical and fan response will cause it to drop off after its first weekend. Given that Rogue One set the precedent low (again, relative) for the non-saga Star Wars films, negative response could tank Solo after it receives a huge opening.
That said (again), Han Solo is a recognizable Star Wars name. Perhaps the most recognizable after Darth Vader. Jyn Erso, on the other hand…why would a non-Star Wars fan care? Solo could bring in a more general audience than Rogue One.
Initially, I thought Deadpool 2 would be a lock for the four slot. After thinking about it, however, I have major doubts about the box office health of the film. As much as Deadpool broke the poison of an R-rating on box office success, it was released in an easy February marketplace. It was able to kill in that month, and even then it didn’t exactly break the bank.
Not to mention the competition. In February, Deadpool had very little of it. Now, the film is releasing just before Solo. That gives it a week of strong dividends before it gets buried by Star Wars presales. As it stands now, it will still compete with Avengers when it comes out. So it’s getting slammed from both sides.
All that and an R-rating: let’s move Deadpool 2 down a few. It still could surprise, but it isn’t looking great for Mr. Reynolds’ dream project.
On the flip side, I had Mission: Impossible – Fallout in the 6-8 range. But looking at the competition, it has an opposite trajectory as Deadpool 2. Its late July release is a perfect slot. The only other “wide release” listed against it (as of now) is the animated Teen Titans Go movie (a niche market picture). The releases on the front- and back-end of Mission: Impossible also aren’t the biggest box office draws.
Rogue Nation made $195 million. Ghost Protocol before that made $209 million. If the trend follows linear, Fallout should make about $180. It could make even more if its direct competition under-performs.
Everything below the top four is a complete toss up. This is because the Summer’s box office is riding on those top three films. Everything else that is coming out could be flops. Even so, I have a feeling some surprises are going to pop up and take the lower slots.
Ocean’s 8 is the biggest gamble of the whole prediction game. It could run as high as five or not show up in the top 10 at all. It all depends on how good the film is. It is opening in a strong June slot with little competition (the biggest competition is Incredibles 2, opening the following week, but those audiences are not the same). But word of mouth is what will make or break this film.
One of my biggest question marks is Ant-Man and the Wasp. Ant-Man was not a smash success for Marvel, and I don’t think they were intending it to be. I don’t think buzz is particularly high for this sequel, especially given how detached the film is from the high stakes of Avengers.
However, Ant-Man was released on the heels of another lackluster Marvel box office showing in Avengers: Age of Ultron. This year, Ant-Man 2 has the benefit of a booming Marvel industry, as it follows the two highest grossing movies of the year thus far in Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War. There are bound to be some residual benefits from that.
The lower tier and dark horse candidates on the list could comprise any number of movies in a number of different ordering. None of the movies I have listed are sure things, but they feel like surer things than titles like The Meg, Sicario 2, Equalizer 2, Tag, Uncle Drew, etc. That said, any of those films could surprise and deliver a few strong weekends.
Tag, in particular, is an option. There isn’t a strong broad comedy on my list, and the marketing campaign for Tag began weeks ago. It certainly has the cast to pull in box office numbers. But I think The Spy Who Dumped Me, given a strong initial reaction, could do better in a weak August market.
I started with Skyscraper at 10, but I just can’t wrap my head around that movie breaking the bank. Aside from the Dwayne Johnson draw and a major marketing push, this movie has nothing going for it. A bland title and a hard-to-market premise for a movie that doesn’t look all that good, either. I’m expecting a flop.
On the flip side, the Purge movies have done better with each successive film. This comes as a shock to me, as I thought the last film was dreadful. But it made $79 million. If The First Purge follows the trend, it could top out in the mid-to-high $80s. Not exactly top 10 numbers, but with the season showing weak depth it could slip in at the 10 spot.
I may be underestimating Mamma Mia, Hotel Transylvania, and Christopher Robin. But they are all strange films from an audience perspective. Mamma Mia was a financial success…10 years ago. And you should never underestimate the children’s market during the Summer season, but Transylvania doesn’t have the biggest audience of an animated franchise.
And Christopher Robin could reap the rewards of a fairly empty August, but that bear…it’s just so creepy. It could reap many things…
As always, thanks for reading!
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)