Each summer has question marks, because each summer never quite goes the way we think it will. The studios take some risks, but more reliably double-down on sequels and reboots, and based on results, who can blame them?
Last summer I thought Kung Fu Panda 2 and Cars 2 would be bigger than they were. I also thought Cowboys & Aliens, The Zookeeper, The Change-Up, Priest and Larry Crowne would do better than they did. I was also surprised at how well The Hangover II, The Help, Bridesmaids and The Smurfs did.
So this is how I see this summer going:
1. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (7/20) - $350 million - It may not have the instant hook of Heath Ledger's Joker, but with Christopher Nolan's Inception, audiences have demonstrated In Nolan We Trust.
2. THE AVENGERS (5/4) - $340 million - Should have an opening about as big as Hunger Games, even if it has a steeper drop-off. Early word's been pretty favorable so far.
3. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (7/4) - $250 million - Not as much buzz now, but I anticipate once we get into June, excitement will build for this fresh take on Spidey.
4. ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DIVIDE (7/13) - $220 million - I figure one of the animated titles will pass $200 million but I'm having a hard time guessing which one, so I'll go with the one that comes last. The preview showed more promise than the past couple sequels.
5. MEN IN BLACK III (5/25) - $210 million - I don't really think there's much clamor for this, but it's just nice to see Will Smith working again after that Seven Pounds fiasco.
6. BRAVE (6/22) - $199 million - It's Pixar. It should be awesome. Despite Cars 2.
7. MADAGASCAR 3 (6/8) - $180 million - Kids everywhere will move it move it.
8. BATTLESHIP (5/18) - $175 million - This stepchild to the Transformers looks terribly derivative, but hey, it's summer and it's in good position for a huge opening, deserved or not.
9. SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN (6/1) - $160 million - That trailer made the movie look miles better than anyone could have guessed. I'm genuinely looking forward to this.
10. PROMETHEUS (6/8) - $145 million - I can't tell if I'm lowballing or overestimating this unofficial prequel to Alien. I just know I'm excited to see it.
11. NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH (7/27) - $138 million - Ben Stiller opened Zoolander shortly after 9/11, and now he has this movie opening on the heels of the Trayvon Martin case. But Ben and Jonah Hill and Vince Vaughn should be a good comedic combination.
12. ROCK OF AGES (6/15) - $130 million - Should follow in the tradition of Hairspray and Mamma Mia! as far as musicals opening in the summer.
13. THE CAMPAIGN (8/10) - $125 million - Will Ferrell and Zack Galifianakis in a political comedy. Sounds good to me.
14. THAT'S MY BOY (6/15) - $117 million - Looks terrible, but Adam Sandler's shtick in the summer is bulletproof.
15. DARK SHADOWS (5/11) - $112 million - I don't know how much more appetite there is out there for Depp/Burton weirdness.
16. WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU'RE EXPECTING (5/18) - $110 million - My list doesn't look like there are enough chick flicks on here. So here. Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Chris Rock, etc. should be able to at least do Think Like A Man business, shouldn't they?
17. TOTAL RECALL (8/3) - $106 million - Looks like The Fifth Element doing an Arnold movie impression, but the effects looks good, so if the positive reviews are there, this could be a sleeper hit.
18. G.I. JOE 2 (6/29) - $100 million - I never understood why the first one was such a hit, and now the sequel kills off most of the characters so Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis can be brought in to replace Channing Tatum and Dennis Quaid. Okay.
19. THE BOURNE LEGACY (8/3) - $90 million - Yeah, it's a brand, but I don't know if Jeremy Renner is a big enough name to get people to see this without Matt Damon.
20. THE EXPENDABLES 2 (8/17) - $85 million - Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture and Terry Crews are back; Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis return as well, with bigger roles; and then you throw in Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme, well, that's just too cool a collection to not make the Top 20.
Other possible hits:
Ted - It does open in the Horrible Bosses slot, but how many hit comedies have Mark Wahlberg top-billed?
The Dictator - I've heard positive things, but will audiences be willing to give that guy from Bruno another chance?
ParaNorman - Loved Coraline, and this looks right up that alley.
Hope Springs - Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell are the stars, but it's about marriage counseling.
Seeking A Friend At the End of the World - Steve Carell's fairly bankable these days, but a romantic comedy about the end of the world? Ehh...
Lawless - This comes at the tail end of summer, but the trailer looked good.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - Just not seeing it catch on.
Magic Mike - Channing Tatum may be hot right now, but I expect this movie to cool that off.
Savages - Oliver Stone's high-octane shoot-em-up has some colorful supporting actors (John Travolta, Benecio Del Toro, Salma Hayek) but I don't have faith in the leads (Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson) getting people interested.
People Like Us - Chris Pine's squandering his Star Trek karma.
Other Titles That'll Have An Audience:
Tyler Perry's The Marriage Counselor, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, Step Up Revolution, To Rome with Love, Premium Rush, Moonrise Kingdom, Piranha 3DD, The Chernobyl Diaries, The Odd Life of Timothy Green, The Apparition, Hit & Run, Sparkle