Who's going to win the summer box office? Previewing 2013

John Cairns

Welcome to my 2013 Summer Box Office Preview - albeit a little late. If I had been really on the ball, I would have posted this right at the beginning of May when the "Summer Movie Season" began. But spring came late here anyway, so we might as well be late with this analysis, too.

On top of that, it is kind of ridiculous to call this "Summer Movie Season" when we are still in the spring. Really, we're still in May, and these movie people have the gall to call this summer!

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What we really ought to do is call this the Blockbuster Movie season - the beginning of blockbusters and popcorn movies and the really fun types of entertainment at the cinemas. This is the season when the highest grosses are typically seen for the year - the time of year when the customers are seeking some relief from all the heat outside.

Much has been made about the grosses of the early releases so far - Iron Man 3, The Great Gatsby, and so on - and about where they stack up in the grand scheme of things as far as the box office goes.

I've looked at the various articles and websites with people making predictions, and these prognosticators typically point to Star Trek Into Darkness, Fast & Furious 6, Man of Steel and Monsters University as being right up there with Iron Man 3 as contenders for the box office title for the summer.

There's plenty of good reason why these movies are considered contenders. Typically the box office title usually goes to some big superhero or science fiction movie of some sort. PIXAR movies have occasionally topped the list, as do other movies with cars and special effects in them (Transformers movies, for example). But picking the winner this year is tough, because there doesn't seem to be a consensus runaway hit to point to.

I am going to run down each of these contenders and give my assessment on how each of them stack up compared to Iron Man 3, which has already claimed the second-biggest weekend opening ever already after opening on the May 3-5 weekend to $174.1 million dollars.

Star Trek Into Darkness - The long-successful Star Trek franchise continues to roll on with this second instalment of the "reboot" by J.J. Abrams. Promos for this flick have been all over the television, and anticipation among the legion of "Trekkies" is intense, as it usually is.

Current projections seem to have this movie dominating the weekend box office when it opens on May 16. The numbers look like they are going to top $100 million. This will be a money machine, all right - but from my vantagepoint it seems obvious this will not be setting records and will not be the Summer box office champion when all is said and done.

Monsters University - This movie opens in theatres on June 21and is from Disney's PIXAR unit, which has come out repeatedly with critically-acclaimed and box-office winning CGI animated movies. How successful, you ask? Well, when Toy Story 3 was released in 2010, it became the highest grossing film for the entire year.

But Toy Story 3 was a special kind of movie, the same way that PIXAR movies like WALL-E and Up were special. I've seen the trailers for Monsters University, and while I like monsters like anyone else, these monsters are not special in the least.

Still, the original Monsters, Inc. was a big hit in 2001, and I expect this movie to attract a big family audience and finish in the top 5 for the summer. I also expect it will be a good movie, since PIXAR usually brings their A game to every movie they put out. Usually a PIXAR movie ends up as the highest-grossing animated movie for the summer, and I expect the same here.

That will be the extent of it, though, for Monsters University.

Man of Steel - This movie opens June 14, a week before Monsters University, and is another reboot of the Superman franchise. This one has Zack Snyder directing and Christopher Nolan of the Batman/Dark Knight franchise productng.

This ought to have all the elements for box office success. It's DC, it's superheroes, that sort of thing. Plus it has some credible big names behind it.

Here's the issue I have. For some reason, Superman movies have underperformed at the box office in recent years. They do good business, but a character of this caliber ought to be doing much better, People don't seem to flock to Superman movies the way they do for Batman movies, Spider-Man movies, or even Iron Man movies (counting The Avengers).

For some reason, Superman seems just too vanilla a character for these audiences, in my opinion. What they seem to be doing this time is to attempt to make this character less vanilla than previously, and give this famous superhero more of an edge like some of the other superheroes we have seen in recent years at the movies.

Man of Steel looks impressive on paper, and should do big business as a reboot of the series. Again, likely a top 5 finish - but not the box office title for the entire summer season.

Fast & Furious 6 - This movie rolls out on May 24 for the lucrative Memorial Day weekend at the box office. This is the latest effort for a franchise that keeps on going and going like the Energizer Bunny.

This movie is hugely anticipated, coming off the success of Fast Five, and is considered to be a sure-fire hit. A lot of box office prognosticators - too many, in fact - think this movie might do so well that it might end up winning the box office for the whole summer. Maybe even for the year.

Wow. Now, I don't doubt for one minute that a lot of people will be lining up to see this movie.

Here's my issue - I don't recall, in the entire history of movies, ever seeing any movie win a summer box office title that ended in the number "6".

To me Fast & Furious 6 kind of reminds me of "Friday the 13th Part 6" and movies like that. It gets to be a joke after a while, all these sequels. And it gets stale as well. In fact, most moviegoers I know usually ridicule movies that end in "Part 6." At least, they have before.

If Fast & Furious 6 ends up finishing first for the entire summer, it will set a milestone, all right: the first movie ending in "6" to dominate the box office.

Now, if they wanted this franchise to go on forever, the way to do it is to have a complete "reboot" or reimagining of the franchise. That's what they've done time and again with Batman, Spider-Man and Superman, that's what they even did with James Bond when they brought in Daniel Craig to play him.

But from the looks of it, Fast & Furious 6 is going to be the same people as before, Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez and the rest, driving fast cars and getting into crashes as usual.

Then again, there were endless Harry Potter movies, too, and they dominated the box office. The reason why the very last ones set all those box-office records at the end had a lot to do with the fact that the series was ending and everyone knew there would be no more Harry Potter movies to go to ever again. But with Fast & Furious, there seems to be no end in sight. This franchise is going to go on literally forever.

The other consideration is this movie opens the same weekend as The Hangover III which opens May 23, so there will be some stiff competition for the box-office dollar. I guess I'm simply doing cartwheels trying to justify to myself what I think will happen, but I simply cannot figure out why there are so many people who believe Fast & Furious 6 will win the box office for the entire summer. It flies in the face of all logic to me. Yes, it will do great business, and yes, there will be lines of people buying tickets. But really, folks - the title of the movie ends with the number 6. That is all that needs to be said.

That leaves us with a movie that ends with the number 3.

Namely, Iron Man 3, which already opened earlier this month and is still raking in the dough. Last weekend, it hauled in $71 million to lead the box office for the second week in a row, topping the good haul of The Great Gatsby by $20 million.

You want to know who the box office champ is for this summer? You're seeing it right now. Iron Man 3.

Last year, of course, Marvel's The Avengers rolled out around the same time, on the first weekend in May, and went on to win the box office for the summer and for the entire year. The only question was whether The Dark Knight Rises could top it, but then the shootings happened in Aurora and that freaked out a lot of people, and that just stopped that movie's momentum from the get-go. Hopefully nothing like that will happen again, and it probably won't. But in my judgement, I look at the crowded slate of movies that are coming out this summer and none of these efforts look like they will live up to the anticipation that we saw for Iron Man 3. I just don't see how any of them will be able to top it.

So my prediction for the Summer Top Five:

Monsters University (Disney/Pixar) $275 million

Fast & Furious 6 (Universal) $285 million

Man of Steel (Warner Bros.)$330 million

Star Trek Into Darkness (Paramount) $335 million

Iron Man 3 (Marvel/Paramount) $415 million

And if you want an Honorable Mention, The Hangover III just misses the Top Five in my estimation. Past movies in this series have made it past $250 million and I am expecting a similar result here - unless the movie is absolutely terrible. Then it might do less business. But assuming it meets the usual standard $250 million is my guess.

That is my 2013 fearless (and two weeks late) Summer Movie Forecast. If my past annual columns are any indication you can expect it to be wrong, as usual. Enjoy the air conditioning at the cinema, folks!

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