Welcome to this year's 2016 Summer Box Office prediction column, just in time for the annual kickoff to summer blockbuster movie season the first weekend in May.
Quite honestly, the calendar matters less and less when it comes to these sorts of blockbuster movies. Usually the May-through-August summer period is the season of the "popcorn" movies, the populist entertainment full of superheroes, space aliens, monsters, CGI and special effects.
But it almost seems as if these very sorts of crowd-pleasing movies are showing up at any time of the year, not just summertime, and making blockbuster money.
I'll give you three good recent examples: Star Wars: The Force Awakens opened Dec. 18 of last year to the tune of $247.9 million. It remained in theatres all through the winter and has grossed a domestic $936 million, shattering Avatar's record. Adding in the worldwide totals, its haul is $2.06 billion, which didn't set a new record, but is still an impressive showing.
Then this winter there were two more movies that hauled in some big numbers: Deadpool, which opened Feb 12 and has a domestic gross of $361 million, and Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (March 25) with $326 million, so far. Add to that the $324 million by Zootopia (opened March 4) and $261 million so far for The Jungle Book (opened April 15), and you get my point. "Blockbuster season" seems to be all year now. And in fact this has been a very good winter at the box office, the best in years, thanks to all these blockbuster hits normally seen in the summer.
Many studios are releasing these "big" releases at different times of the year now, simply to get away from the summer and get away from the glut of competition that movies face at that time of year. As I have said before, the summer is feast or famine. There is big money to be made, but also the potential for big bombs as well, simply because it is so competitive.
Rather than bore you all with my thoughts I am just going to run down my top 10 list of which movies I think will win at the box office this year. And before any of you get too excited, I have been wrong in my predictions the last two years in a row, so don't get too worked up about these picks.
The summer top 10, in order of finish:
Captain America: Civil War $450 million. Another installment of the Marvel superhero. It opened May 6.
Finding Dory $330 million. Another one from Disney-Pixar. Opens June 17.
Independence Day: Resurgence $325 million. Revival of the '90s action-CGI blockbuster. Opens June 24.
Suicide Squad $320 million. Based on the DC superheroes. Opens Aug. 5.
Star Trek: Beyond $310 million. The franchise rolls on. Opens July 22.
Ghostbusters $265 million. Revival of the 1980s original but with a female cast. Opens July 15.
X-Men: Apocalypse $240 million. Marvel superheroes back yet again. Opens May 27.
The Secret Life of Pets $190 million. From the same people who brought you Despicable Me. Opens July 8.
Jason Bourne $185 million. The Bourne franchise is back! Opens July 29.
Ice Age: Collision Course $150 million. From Blue Sky Studios and 20th Century Fox Animation. Opens July 22.
Here's the reasoning behind my predictions and projections. Basically, it shows you that I still have a lot of confidence in the Marvel franchise to clean up at the box office. It seems Marvel/Disney has confidence in scheduling Marvel movies featuring proven characters like Captain America/Iron Man/Avengers during that first weekend in May to kick the blockbuster season off. They have done this the last number of years and these movies always make somewhere in excess of $300 million. And of course, this particular Captain America movie is going to feature Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), prominently.
So of course it is going to be a hit, and I am predicting it will win the summer. It is already off to a massive start overseas in excess of $200 million.
I also like the chances for Finding Dory, simply because it is Pixar and Pixar never seems to do wrong. It also helps the box office that the voice of Dory is Ellen DeGeneres.
I think extensive 1990s nostalgia is going to drive Independence Day: Resurgence, which ought to corner the market for the action CGI fans.
The real sleeper, I think, is going to be Suicide Squad. This group of DC characters is basically being introduced to the screen for the first time and could do a lot of business simply because it is offering something a little different in the genre than usual. Canadian fans may be particularly interested in it because much of the filming was done in Toronto.
I am having trouble with my Ghostbusters prediction, simply because the movie has already polarized a lot of people. I know it is hard to believe, but there are many Ghostbusters fans out there who are supposedly up in arms and offended about the fact that it's going to be a female cast of Ghostbusters (Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, etc.). Mind you, there will also be people who will be determined to go see Ghostbusters simply because there is a female cast.
Personally, I really don't care about this "controversy,” but then I also don't really care about Ghostbusters anymore. I kind of think this franchise had its day in the 1980s, along with Prince and Michael Jackson, and Reagan and Gorbachev and all those folks.
My guess is this new Ghostbusters effort will still finish in the top 10 for the summer, but probably won't have enough momentum to get higher than that.
There are a number of other movies that look like they could make the top 10, but didn't make my list. I thought hard about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, opening June 3. It's the follow-up to their 2014 movie and these Turtles still have their fans, but I was scared off by comments I've read elsewhere that seem to regard these Turtles as just plain stupid.
I also thought hard about The Angry Birds Movie, opening May 20. I finally decided these birds won't make the top 10 either, simply because they, too, are just too stupid.
All in all, I think it will definitely be a busy summer season at the movies to get your mind off of all the other things going on in the world — such as Donald Trump, for example. Not to mention Hillary Clinton. Which reminds me, this will be a big summer of political conventions in the United States. That will surely drive up business at the cinemas from people sick of seeing politicians on their television sets for those two weeks.
Seriously, what would you rather watch this summer? Donald Trump, or Angry Birds? (Come to think of it, Trump is actually really entertaining.)
That sums up my fearless predictions for this 2016 summer blockbuster movie season! Be sure to check back later this summer to see how wrong my predictions were, again.