Looking back at last year, I underestimated Karate Kid, Grown Ups, The Last Airbender, and animation (Toy Story 3, Shrek 4, and Despicable Me all doing better than I thought); overestimated Knight & Day, The A-Team, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Sex & the City 2, and Predators; and was about dead-on for Eclipse, Inception, The Other Guys, and Salt. Fairly close on titles like Prince of Persia, The Expendables, Eat Pray Love, Dinner for Schmucks. Thought Robin Hood would be a bigger bomb than it was.
So looking ahead, here's where I see this summer shaking down.
1. HARRY POTTER & THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2 - $330 million - The final Harry Potter adventure will go out as maybe the biggest. Supposed to be non-stop action, plenty of characters die, and a capper's put on the WB cashcow of the past decade.
2. KUNG FU PANDA 2 - $305 million - Animation's huge, and I see this one being the biggest of the offerings. It's colorful, it's got a great voice cast, the first one's fondly remembered.
3. TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON - $280 million - I'm baffled why Transformers 2 did so well, but hey, the third one can't be worse, and I don't think it will suffer too much from the loss of Megan Fox.
4. CARS 2 - $260 million - Pixar can do no wrong, but doing a sequel to one of the weaker titles at least gives me pause. Should sell a lot of toys over it. I'm sure I'll like it; I'd just rather see The Incredibles 2, if a Pixar sequel must happen.
5. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES - $252 million - I think the overlong third installment sucked some of the winds out of the franchise sail, but I can see this getting some new life with a new director and no mopey Bloom/Knightley subplot we have to follow.
6. THOR - $172 million - Thor will benefit from launching the summer, but it will also be hurt by what I think will be a huge opening from Fast Five the week before. I can't help but notice it's the first non-sequel on my list, and yet it's going to be the fourth film where someone from S.H.I.E.L.D. shows up after the end credits.
7. COWBOYS & ALIENS - $160 million - I have faith in director Jon Favreau. I read the source material and it wasn't very good, but I can tell from the previews that Favs has changed just about everything about it beyond the basic concept. Looking forward to see James Bond and Indiana Jones fight aliens in the Wild West. (What, no zombies?)
8. THE HANGOVER PART II - $150 million - I think it'll be big, but not as big as the first one. It's pretty much the same plot of the first one but set in Thailand, and there's been more news surrounding the tattoo-artist cameo in this movie than any cameo role in history.
9. X-MEN: FIRST CLASS - $145 million - This prequel doesn't have any name stars, per se, but the marketing campaign has been ramping up nicely and it has the June 3 weekend to itself. I like that they're being set in the 1960's, when the X-Men comics actually started.
10. SUPER 8 - $135 million - This family film looks quite Spielbergian, and I'm guessing it's going to capture the family-film imagination the same way The Karate Kid did last year.
11. RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES - $130 million - James Franco's star has faded a bit, but the trailer is really well-done. I can see excitement ramping up for this as it gets closer.
12. CAPTAIN AMERICA - $128 million - The first Avenger will about break even in the US, do okay overseas, and even though I liked the trailer, I don't see this outdoing Hulk. But it's good that the Cap'n gets his own movie before joining Iron Man and company in The Avengers next year.
13. THE GREEN LANTERN - $125 million - I thought the trailer looked awful, but there are a lot of geeks still excited for this. I really don't know what to make of this.
14. THE HELP - $110 million - Where is the break-out chick flick? I guess it'll be this, as it's a beloved best-seller. So was Eat Pray Love, and it did alright despite the reviews.
15. THE ZOOKEEPER - $106 million - The umpteenth talking-animal movie, but it has Kevin James, and he's pretty reliable box-office as long as he's not co-starring with Vince Vaughn.
16. THE CHANGE-UP - $96 million - The R-rated body-switching movie looks like it'll have some legitimate laughs. I'm not sure Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds are different enough.
17. PRIEST - $82 million - I see it opening big, not huge, and then fading lightning-quick.
18. BRIDESMAIDS - $75 million - Opens same day as Priest, could be the What Happens in Vegas of 2011.
19. LARRY CROWNE - $74 million - Tom Hanks in a summer movie should do better than this, but the trailer currently plays flat.
20. MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS - $70 million - Jim Carrey in a classic comedy should do well, but not like the Jim Carrey of old.
Crazy Stupid Love - It will depend on the reviews.
Horrible Bosses - It could be that this one succeeds where The Change-Up fails.
Smurfs - Putting the blue guys in a live-action/CG film worked so well for Rocky & Bullwinkle.
Bad Teacher - I don't think Cameron Diaz can carry a film. Too bad drive-ins don't exist anymore; this could double-feature with Waiting for Superman.
30 Minutes or Less - Jesse Eisenberg's good karma is negated by Danny McBride's bad karma.
Other big titles this summer:
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
Spy Kids 4
Final Destination 5
Friends with Benefits
Conan the Barbarian
Jumping the Broom
Our Idiot Brother