Last year I vastly underestimated how much The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, Ted and Magic Mike would bring in, and I vastly overestimated how Battleship, The Watch and That's My Boy would do.
Anyway, here's how I see this summer going.
1. MAN OF STEEL (6/14) - $380 million - It doesn't open on a traditionally strong weekend, but I think there's still a lot of built-in goodwill toward the son of Jor-El, and audiences would like to see a good Superman movie, which we haven't had for over 30 years.
2. IRON MAN 3 (5/3) - $365 million - It'll open huge and have decent legs through May while all of April's castoffs can't leave theaters quickly enough. Seems anti-climactic to have another stand-alone Iron Man movie after The Avengers, but it's confirmed Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson will cameo. The movie's ace in the hole is Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts, and hopefully they've given her something to do.
3. STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (5/17) - $270 million - Captain Kirk and crew are established, so now that the origin story's out of the way, they're ready to have a full-fledged adventure. Benedict Cumberbatch is the villain, and while they don't say that he's Khan, I have my suspicions.
4. DESPICABLE ME 2 (7/3) - $265 million - The surprise hit has a sequel with a funny trailer and clear hook for the plot. No one can stop the minions!
5. FAST & FURIOUS 6 (5/24) - $225 million - This franchise grows stronger with each installment. It will soon envelop the whole earth. But when are they going to let Lucas Black and Bow Wow come back? I guess they're the Coy & Vance Duke of the F&F franchise.
6. MONSTERS UNIVERSITY (6/21) - $220 million - It's Pixar. They can do no wrong. (My kids love Cars 2, so there it is.) I don't know why they chose this member of the Pixar ouevre to prequelize, but maybe the college hijinks will be entertaining. The fake college-commercial trailer goes over young kids' heads.
7. THE HANGOVER III (5/24) - $185 million - Since it's universally agreed upon that the second one sucked, I don't think it'll score as much money, even if word of mouth is "it was sure better than Part II." It's taking the action back to Vegas, and it isn't following the same pattern as the first two.
8. THE HEAT (6/28) - $155 million - The studio had it scheduled for spring but moved it to summer. That usually means they have faith in it. Sandra Bullock's one of the few reliable female box-office draws, and Melissa McCarthy is red-hot after Identity Thief showed she can make her Bridesmaids karma spread to other projects. (Not to mention she's established herself as one of SNL's most reliably funny hosts.)
9. EPIC (5/24) - $150 million - It's the first animated movie to hit theaters since The Croods so I expect a strong "kids and families" turnout. Title's vague though, and the "all-star cast" isn't exactly must-see. Colin Farrell, Josh Hutcherson, Amanda Seyfried, Jason Sudeikis, etc., lend their pipes.
10. SMURFS 2 (8/2) - $125 million - Alvin & the Chipmunks 2 was a hit. Therefore, it would be an impressive disaster if this didn't make the top ten.
11. AFTER EARTH (5/31) - $120 million - It wouldn't make my "top ten most anticipated summer flicks" list, but it has the weekend to itself, and Will Smith is still the biggest star working, and Jaden Smith has his own resume with The Karate Kid. I hope it's more than just CG creatures chasing Jaden through the woods for 90 minutes. Can director M. Night Shyamalan redeem himself for The Last Airbender (and The Happening, and Lady in the Water...)?
12. ELYSIUM (8/9) - $110 million - It is from the director of District 9, with a strong cast and decent weekend to open. The trailer shows it will be original, although the poor parts of Earth looks remarkably like the shantytowns of South Africa seen in District 9.
13. PACIFIC RIM (7/12) - $105 million - We had Monsters vs. Aliens a few years ago, now we get a live-action Monsters vs. Robots. It's from Guillermo Del Toro, who tends to be more creative with his critters, so if there's a good story under all that CGI, it should do well. What glimpses we've had of the monsters look like a cross between the ones from The Mist, and the arena monsters from Attack of the Clones.
14. TURBO (7/19) - $100 million - It's animated, and we've seen in previous summers how there's enough room for plenty of animated summer movies to do well. It will suffer from being the third animated movie in five weeks. The thought of a super-fast snail is a good hook.
15. THE WOLVERINE (7/26) - $92 million - Hugh Jackman was the only person who wanted this sequel, and I can't say I like the marketing so far, but there's time for them to correct it. It has a weekend to itself, so as long as it's good, it should do okay. If the RotTom meter comes out around 33%, I can see it disappearing quickly. Some movies will be huge hits no matter what critics say, but this one does not have that luxury.
16. 2 GUNS (8/2) - $88 million - Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg are two guys who are funny when they talk fast, so this buddy-action comedy looks like it hits a lot of right notes. It's one of those pairings where the trailer made me think "Why haven't they teamed up sooner?"
17. THE LONE RANGER (7/3) - $80 million - Disney is going to will this to be a hit, and I just don't see it. Johnny Depp is still a big name, but Dark Shadows showed there's a limit to what audiences will consume with him, and Armie Hammer (Mirror Mirror) isn't a known name yet. It's from Gore Verbinski, director of Rango, so we know he can get the flavor of a western down, but will it all blend together well? I mean, the first draft had the Indians turn into werewolves.
18. WORLD WAR Z (6/21) - $78 million - This project's been a production nightmare, and even though zombies are a hot commodity, this trailer didn't do it for me. In fact, it's hard to tell they're zombies. Seemed more like the vampire-things from I Am Legend.
19. R.I.P.D. (7/19) - $72 million - It's the Rest In Peace Department, a Men in Black clone starring Ryan Reynolds as a recently deceased police officer who helps track down dead bad guys trying to avoid hell. Jeff Bridges is his mentor, a Wild West lawman. Looks like it has tons of CG effects.
Could Break the Top 20:
THE GREAT GATSBY (5/10) - This was pushed to summer to get out of a crowded December, so it could be because it's a mess. It's from Baz Luhrmann (Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge) and the trailer definitely makes that clear. (I feel like I should really read the book one of these days.) It stars Leonardo DiCaprio, a pretty reliable box-office draw.
NOW YOU SEE ME (5/31) - I like the preview, and I'm also intrigued by the studio moving it from spring to summer. Usually a good sign. Good ensemble cast too. Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson lead a magic act that also robs banks. Mark Ruffalo is the cop trying to figure out how they're doing it. Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Melanie Laurent (Inglorious Basterds) co-star.
WHITE HOUSE DOWN (6/28) - I'm betting the second "White House under siege" movie of the year is better than the first, but it'll hurt its opening weekend that the first one exists at all.
THE CONJURING (7/19) - James Wan (Insidious) intended to make this a PG-13 horror movie, but the MPAA gave him an R simply because it's just too scary to release as a PG-13. Well, that marketing writes itself, doesn't it?
RED 2 (7/19) - Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren and John Malkovich return as aging assassins, and there might be enough goodwill from the first movie to get people to go again. Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones join the fun this time. Interesting note: this will be the fourth sequel to feature Willis within a 365-day span (Expendables 2, Die Hard 5, GI Joe 2). Thank goodness no one tried to greenlight The Whole Eleven Yards.
PERCY JACKSON 2: SEA OF MONSTERS (8/7) - The trailer makes it look like the actors are comfortable in their roles and ready for their next adventure. Special geek points for getting Nathan Fillion as Hermes.
THIS IS THE END (6/14) and THE WORLD'S END (8/24), also known as the dueling doomsday comedies, are way too similar for either to break out. The June film stars Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill and Jay Baruchel playing themselves barricaded in a house and hoping they can survive the apocalypse going on outside. The August film is a Simon Pegg-Nick Frost collaboration about how people are dealing with the end of the world.
THE INTERNSHIP (6/7) - Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn had a hit with Wedding Crashers, so they reunite for... a 90-minute Google commercial? Reminds me of how the cast of A Fish Called Wanda reunited for... a zoo movie.
300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE (8/2) - This is a prequel that should have come out three years ago. I can't see much anticipation for it now, and even then, Gerard Butler won't be back. What's the point?
KICK-ASS 2 (8/16) - Jim Carrey's role looks interesting, but the loss of Nicolas Cage hurts. I don't see it doing better than the first one. And how come Aaron Johnson changed to Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and why does Chloe Moretz insist on keeping his middle name "Grace" in all of her billing?
Other Wide Releases:
PEEPLES (5/10) - $47
PARANOIA (8/16) - $46
THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS (8/23) - $45
PLANES (8/9) - $43
ONE D1RECTION: THIS IS US. (8/30) - $40
THE PURGE (5/31) - $38
CLOSED CIRCUIT (8/30) - $35
WE'RE THE MILLERS (8/9) - $30
YOU'RE NEXT (8/23) - $25
THE TO-DO LIST (8/16) - $22
SATANIC (8/30) - $20
GETAWAY (8/30) - $16
Box Office Summer 2012
1. The Avengers - $623.35 million
2. The Dark Knight Rises - $448.14
3. The Amazing Spider-Man - $262.03
4. Brave - $237.28
5. Ted - $218.81
6. Madagascar 3 - $216.39
7. Men in Black III - $179.02
8. Ice Age: Continental Drift - $161.32
9. Snow White & the Huntsman - $155.33
10. Prometheus - $126.47
11. Magic Mike - $113.72
12. The Bourne Legacy - $113.2
13. The Campaign - $86.91
14. The Expendables 2 - $85.03
15. Dark Shadows - $79.72
16. Madea's Witness Protection - $65.65
17. Battleship - $65.42
18. Hope Springs - $63.54
19. The Dictator - $59.65
20. Total Recall - $58.88