Summer Box Office – movies to watch

It’s a bit late to be listing the movies I want to watch this summer, given that a couple of them have already set the box office on fire, but better late that never.

1. The Hunger Games – This movie was hotly anticipated as the next big new young adult franchise following the end of the Harry Potter series and the forthcoming end to the Twilight Saga. The first trailer was underwhelming and a few watchers must have started questioning the wisdom of giving the reins to Gary Ross. But when the movie came out, it was a deserving hit, with Ross finding a fine balance between the human story, the action and the social satire, all packaged into an intense, well paced film in spite of the longish 2 hour 22 minute run time. Until a few days ago, this was the top grossing movie at the US box office and at USD 388 mn has out-grossed every one of the Harry Potter films in the US. That in itself is an amazing achievement, given that it was produced for a budget of just USD 78 mn. US + Worldwide combined the film has grossed nearly USD 650 mn. One of the co-writers for the screenplay is Billy Ray, who I have a lot of respect for…check out his writer-director efforts Shattered Glass and Breach. Studio Lionsgate Films, which until now had the Tyler Perry Madea films and the Saw series as revenue generators has struck gold with this franchise. The sequel comes out on Nov 22nd, 2013.

2. John Carter – I was really excited about this film when it was announced by Disney a few years ago. Of course, by now, pages and pages have been written about how they messed up the marketing and let the production run over budget. By and large, I enjoyed the film, although I agreed that they made a mess of the marketing – please refer my post from some weeks ago. John Carter will close its US run with about USD 75 mn and has earned about USD 250 mn elsewhere around the world. I don’t expect any of E.R. Burroughs other John Carter novels will ever reach the big screen in the near future.

2. Battleship – Outside the US, Battleship has been released for a few weeks already. The Universal Studios movie is the typical summer popcorn movie. It has the usual ingredients – alien invasion, lots of high technology and big explosions, a romantic sub-plot and lame dialogue. Peter Berg is a poor man’s Michael Bay, but the output is very similar, although one may argue that it operates at a slightly higher intellectual plan…but only slightly. Battleship opens in the US this weekend, having already taken in USD 200+ mn globally. I expect it to make about USD 200 mn in the US (at best), so all combined it will be marginally profitable for Universal (the formula is that a movie has to gross about twice its production cost to make any money for the studio).

3. Marvel’s The Avengers – Well we knew this would be big for Disney, but obviously, no one expected it to make this much money. It really has helped Disney forget about the John Carter experience, I think. I talked about my top 10 Avengers moments soon after I watched the movie, which was the week before it debuted in the US. As predicted it has grossed USD 1 billion globally and in the US, it is likely to end its domestic run with a gross of about USD 525-550 mn, in the vicinity of the current #3 The Dark Knight.

4. Dark Shadows – I am usually very excited to watch a Tim Burton movie, but I have to admit, I haven’t really enjoyed his last 2 films – Alice in Wonderland and Sweeney Todd. I am not really looking forward to Dark Shadows either and the weird Johnny Depp performances are now getting a bit tired for me. Looks like that’s the verdict of the movie going audience after its tepid launch last weekend and relatively poor Cinemagrade Score. I don’t think this one is going to cross USD 100 mn in the US. I am not in a hurry to watch the upcoming Frankenweenie either, as I explained here soon after the trailer came out in early March.

5. Prometheus –  Releasing on June 8th in the US, this is the movie I am really looking forward to this summer. Ridley Scott has teased Alien fans out of their minds over the past several months – is it a prequel, is it not a prequel? If not, then why are the trailers so similar? The pre-launch viral marketing has been outstanding and very detailed – a bit too detailed in my view as I feel that too much of the back story is being given away already. I have stopped watching any of the new videos or trailers now. I don’t think this will make more than USD 150 mn in the US and about the same amount Internationally, given its R rating. I believe (I hope) it will be my favourite film of the summer.

6. Rock of Ages – Yes, I am looking forward to seeing Tom Cruise sing 1980’s hair metal songs. There, I’ve said it. Adam Shankman did a pretty good job with John Travolta and co. in Hairspray a few years ago. He has directed a couple of episodes of Glee in the meantime, so it’s safe to say the man knows his musicals. I am sure there will be a lot of hamming up on screen with the likes of Russell Brand, Alec Baldwin and Catherine Zeta-Jones. I don’t think the movie will cross USD 100 mn in the US and I don’t think it will get much traction Internationally, but one never knows. This one comes out June 15th in the US.

7. Men in Black III – After the disaster that was MIB2, I was very skeptical when the 3rd edition was announced. But after seeing the trailer, I am really looking forward to a fun ride. I am a big fan of James Brolin and would like to see him try out his comic chops. I expect this to bring the franchise roaring back with about USD 250 mn in the US and about the same amount Internationally. Releasing next weekend in the US.

8. Snow White and the Huntsman – Releasing on June 1st in the US. The trailer is pretty interesting and Charlize Theron is going to chew up the screen as the evil queen. Chris Hemsworth is in a Thor-like role as the huntsman and Kristine Stewart will knit her brows as usual as the warrior princess Snow White. Director Rupert Sanders is an unknown quantity, as it’s his debut film (quite a responsibility, given the big budget, special effects and star cast). I think it’s going to be a success and will make about USD 200 mn in the US and perhaps USD 300 mn plus Internationally.

9. Brave – Pixar need to find their way back after Cars2 (which I thought was more bearable than Cars, but that’s not saying much) and Brave has a troubled history with original director Brenda Chapman being replaced by the eccentric Mark Andrews. But the trailer looks tremendously entertaining and Disney does have the magic touch with princesses. I think this will be a return to box office form for Pixar with about USD 300 mn in the US, though it may not make as much Internationally (except UK, of course). It releases June 22nd in the US.

10. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – Talk about counter-programming. This movie releases opposite Pixar’s The Brave and will target the exact opposite demographic. I am not sure if this will get a PG rating or an R rating, but you can be sure that with Timur Bekmambetov at the helm, there will be plenty of shocks and violence. I think this is a critical release for this sub-genre of the historical-horror mash up that was created by Seth Grahame-Smith a few years ago. If this succeeds then we can expect to see some of his other work come to the big screen. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has already been optioned by Lionsgate.

11. The Amazing Spider-Man – It’s back to superhero territory in July with the opening week kicking off Sony’s reboot of the successful trilogy from the last decade. Many fans including me feel it is an entirely unnecessary reboot, but Sony has to keep making these films otherwise the rights to the character revert to Marvel (and its current owner Disney). I am not convinced that Andrew Garfield will make a convincing Spider-Man, but I had similar reservations about Tobey Maguire 10 years ago and was proven wrong. So, I am willing to wait and watch. I did enjoy director Marc Webb’s (500) Days of Summer, but this is a very different kettle of fish. I expect the film will struggle to cross USD 150 mn in the US and may make about the same amount of money Internationally.

12. The Dark Knight Rises – The final entry in Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy closes off the summer. By this time, The Avengers would have almost completed its box office run and Spider-Man may have fizzled out, so audiences will be ready for a big thrill ride. This is a quality film maker who will deliver a complex, layered product on screen, with even bigger stunts and thrills than before. Since it is the last entry in the current franchise, we can expect a big opening, close to the USD 150 mn of the earlier entry. The final gross depends entirely on the storyline. The final instalment in a trilogy usually ends on a high, but with Nolan that cannot be taken for granted. Also, anyone familiar with the Batman comic storyline knows what happened when Batman went up against the villain Bain. If the end is a downer, then box office will fall off rapidly. Still, I expect the movie to make about USD 400 mn in the US and about USD 500 mn overseas.

I think the eventual box office champion of the summer will be The Avengers, followed by The Dark Knight Rises, with The Hunger Games coming in 3rd. As I said, I am expecting (hoping) that my favourite film by the end of the summer will be Prometheus.

I haven’t bothered listing the 2 animated sequels coming out this summer, Madagascar 3 and Ice Age 4. I expect both to be formulaic and will make about USD 150 mn each. The same goes for G.I. Joe: Retaliation releasing at the end of June.

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