Welcome to my umpteenth annual Summer Blockbuster Season preview for 2014! It promises to be yet another superhero and monster-filled spring and summer at the movie theatres across North America and the rest of the world.
The season kicks off this weekend with The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the second in the rebooted Spider-Man series, and it continues with such titles as Godzilla, X-Men: Days of Future Past, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles among others.
Of course, some will say the season is already off to an early start with Captain America: The Winter Soldier debuting in April to big numbers, winning the weekend box office for three weekends in a row. That Marvel superhero movie is exactly the kind of effort we expect to see during the summer blockbuster season. Suffice it to say it will be in theatres for weeks to come, so it will fit right in.
There is definitely a divided reaction out there to the arrival of summer blockbuster season, the season of "populist" popcorn entertainment. The superhero fans are, of course, euphoric. Animation fans are also, again, euphoric. The awards-season crowd, on the other hand, is already depressed. They're all resentful because they are going to be stuck with all this juvenile crap, all these explosions and CGI effects and so on, for the next several months at the cinemas.
I feel their pain. Those folks will simply have to suck it up and wait for the fall for more of their preferred type of quality movies to show up again for the annual Oscar race.
My job is to figure out what will be the box office winners this summer. Unfortunately, I'm having a difficult time getting excited about most of the titles out there. A lot of the titles on offer look like the same stuff regurgitated yet again. How many Transformers movies have there been? And how many X-Men? I think many movie fans have the same reaction.
These titles should still end up making tons of money, but I don't see any of them really running away and making $500 or $600 million domestic. I see maybe one or two movies cracking the $300 million mark, maybe.
Here is my top-10 list for the summer and my domestic gross projections:
10. Neighbors: $150 million. I had gone back and forth on what to include here in the number 10 spot. I had considered A Million Ways to Die in the West (Seth MacFarlane's effort) and also 22 Jump Street. But I finally settled on a comedy, Neighbors, which is what I characterize as the "annual Seth Rogen summer movie."
Comedies aren't really known to be big blockbusters, but they do tend to crack the top 10 in the summer, and I'm picking it to sneak in to number 10. It rolls out May 9.
9. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles $165 million. This is another effort bringing back the famous Saturday morning turtles, who were so popular years ago. This movie rolls out on the weekend of Aug. 8, so should have a captive audience around that time, and I have it cracking the top 10.
Keep in mind, though, that I'm the same genius who thought fans nostalgic about their childhoods would make Muppets Most Wanted a big hit. Take this prediction for what it is worth.
8. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: The title for this 3D sequel pretty much says it all. I am predicting $180 million. It rolls out July 11.
7. Maleficent: $185 million: This is from Walt Disney Pictures and is based on that evil villainous character from the old Sleeping Beauty movie from 1959 - the "mistress of all evil." Angelina Jolie will play the title character in this live action dark-fantasy-horror effort and I am guessing this will appeal to the same audience that has made hits out of movies like the Twilight series and the Hunger Games. It rolls out May 30.
6. X-Men: Days of Future Past: $215 million. This is yet another in a long line of X-Men titles and many movie fans are saying they are tired of the X-Men movies. I still think the usual comic book fans will show up, but not in droves. It opens May 23, the Memorial Day weekend in the United States.
5. Guardians of the Galaxy: $250 million. I am expecting a better showing for this effort from Marvel, which rolls out Aug. 1. I notice considerable enthusiasm for this movie out there, even though the characters - including Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Rocket Raccoon and others - are largely not well known.
I think it will do well just for the simple reason that it'll be new and fresh and not "yet another sequel." But because many don't know the characters I wonder whether there will be as big a rush to see it. When The Avengers came out, people at least knew about Captain America and Iron Man, and the Incredible Hulk. That's the challenge here.
4. Godzilla: $275 million. Well, surely by now you must know of Godzilla.
I'd love to see this revival of the famous Japanese monster franchise do well and make a pile of money. This is probably the flick I'm most excited about this summer.
But the previous Godzilla release in 1998 landed with a big thud, and movie fans have long memories about that infamous effort. Also, another monster movie, Pacific Rim, didn't do quite as well as hoped last year. I'm thinking Godzilla will be a big moneymaker when it opens May 16, but perhaps doesn't break through to $300 million.
3. The Amazing Spider-Man 2: $280 million. Like the X-Men franchise, this is another one where people are starting to get tired of seeing Spider-Man movies over and over again. Still, this sequel has a favorable slot, opening on the May 2 weekend to kick off the whole blockbuster season. Usually, that first weekend in May date is a big money train, so my prediction for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is largely based on that.
2. Transformers: Age of Extinction $300 million. Honestly, I have no idea why this franchise has done as well as it has at the box office. The second movie, in particular, was rubbish. You would think some people would be fed up with this franchise by now, but maybe not, maybe it'll be like the Fast and Furious franchise that keeps on going and going. This one also doesn't have Shia LaBeouf in it. Mark Wahlberg is the male lead this time.
I fully expect the rabid fan base will be enough to carry this fourth Transformers effort to a domestic haul of $300 million when it rolls out June 27.
That leaves as the box office winner for the summer of 2014: How to Train Your Dragon 2 at $315 million. I base this prediction on a number of things. First of all, this is the most prominent CGI 3D animated title coming out this summer. Second of all, I remember the enthusiasm last summer for Despicable Me 2, which was a huge hit. I think the kids and their parents will be marching to the theatres in droves to see How to Train Your Dragon 2 when it comes out June 23.
I'm going out on a big limb here, but I am guessing enough people will be sick of the Transformers and that will be enough for How to Train Your Dragon 2 to sneak out a win.
Honestly, though, I have no clue what will happen. Nothing really looks like a runaway hit to my eyes at this moment. But you never know, momentum and word of mouth could build up between now and when these movies roll out, and that can make all the difference.
There it is, my fearless prediction of what I think will happen this summer box office season! Whatever you do, make sure you do not place bets on the box office based on my predictions. Otherwise you may end up with less money to spend on going to the movies this summer season than you would like.