There was a time, not so long ago, when the summer movie season of 2015 looked like the mother of all movie-going summers. At this time last year, we were looking at a summer 2015 that kicked off with Avengers: Age of Ultron in the first weekend of May, led up to Memorial Day with Star Wars Episode VII, and then closed out in mid-July via Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Gah… that title!), with the likely mega-smash Jurassic World pulling its weight in mid-June. Two of those films are still going to open as scheduled while two of them (Star Wars 7 and Batman v Superman) got moved out of the summer season. What’s left, beyond the surefire mega-success of Age of Ultron, the return of Pixar, and the probable win for Jurassic World is a mixed bag of probable moderate hits and potential smashes and franchise revivals that seem… risky. I wouldn’t count on summer 2015 being anything resembling a guaranteed record-setter.
May 2015 will be for the simple reason that Avengers: Age of Ultron will be huge. I’m not going to predict whether the film will open bigger than the first film’s record $207 million opening weekend (probably, but that’s an awfully high hurdle to climb) or whether the film will equal or surpass its $623m domestic total and/or $1.5 billion worldwide total (probably, but it’s still a massive hit if it even does 2/3 of that business), but it will raise the overall strength of 05/15. The rest of May 2015 is something of a mixed bag.
Warner Bros.‘ Mad Max: Fury Road may-well just play to the hardcore geek crowd that loved the Comic Con teaser. Cameron Crowe’s “untitled” (with Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, and Rachel McAdams) may play like summertime Silver Linings Playbook or it may play like Elizabethtown (or We Bought a Zoo, which is a happy medium). Pitch Perfect 2 could well break out “huge,” which could mean $100m domestic or a lot more. But fair or not, the overall cume of a summer season isn’t dependent on films like Pitch Perfect 2, which frankly is one of the reasons I don’t generally obsess about cumulative totals.
The rest of May, keeping in mind we haven’t seen a single trailer for most of these films, looks solid without being spectacular. Insidious 3 (which is more of a spin-off than a sequel judging by the new cast) drops on May 29th and an untitled Sofia Vergara/Reese Witherspoon comedy from Warner Bros. the weekend after Avengers 2. Paul Feig’s Spy with Melissa McCarthy and Jason Statham (!) is hoping to replicate the success of The Heat ($159m domestic), although Sandra Bullock > Jason Statham in terms of box office (the good news is that Statham may end up hosting Saturday Night Live towards the end of this season). The 20th Century Fox action comedy opens on May 22nd, which is the day as Walt Disney’s Tomorrowland.
Not much is known about the Brad Bird-directed live-action fantasy starring George Clooney and Judy Greer, and what little I know sure-as-heck won’t be divulged here. The film will surely be sold as the great hope for original would-be blockbusters in a summer of sequels and franchise reboots. Its biggest marketing trump card will be having its trailer seen by every single person who sees Avengers 2 in the weeks prior to Tomorrowland‘s release. It’s a wild card, as sadly anything not based explicitly on a known entity is a risk these days, but it’s an exciting one.
June will likely be dominated by Pixar’s Inside Out (a much-anticipated original involving a journey into a young girl’s mind) and Jurassic World. Inside Out is presumably good for the Pixar standard over/under $240 million domestic and Jurassic World will benefit from both the nostalgic appeal of the franchise and the fact that it has a pretty killer concept (the park has become a reality, and the world has become bored by its once-unthinkable attractions) that actually justifies another installment from an artistic point-of-view.
But not to be underestimated is Seth MacFarlane‘s Ted 2, which is one of the biggest-grossing comedies of all time as well as one of the biggest grossing R-rated films ever worldwide. If recent history (The Hangover part II and 22 Jump Street) is any indication we may see a domestic total over/under the $218m earned by Ted but a worldwide total well-and-above the $549m worldwide, although a number that high doesn’t have much room to grow, especially if it remains 2D-only.
July is where I argue we run into a little trouble. While the sheer number of wide releases (eleven thus far) won’t be an issue, much of the offered content consists of explicitly un-requested franchise reboots and sequels. Does anyone out there really demand a Terminator reboot, a Poltergeist remake, a Peter Pan origin story, or a Point Break remake? Hollywood sure hopes so, because those are three of the bigger July releases. Paramount’s (Viacom) Terminator: Genisys (No, lord help me, that’s not a typo!) goes up against Warner Bros.’ (Time Warner Inc.) Magic Mike 2 over July 4th weekend.
It will be interesting to see how Magic Mike 2 plays. Those wanting beefcake will show up just like last time, but I wonder if those who were turned off by what turned out to be very much a Steven Soderbergh drama about the challenges of economic mobility (IE – a real movie) will show up again. Terminator: Genisys (Yes, I see the red underlining, but I swear that’s not a typo!) is frankly a wild card. Terminator: Salvation was a “disappointment in relation to cost” ($375m on a $200m budget) as well as a much-loathed picture, while Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines made $433m way back in 2003 with an R-rating no less.
The big releases of July 2015 are going to be Marvel/Walt Disney’s Ant Man and Universal’s (Viacom) Minions. Ant Man is yet another Marvel release that is being held up as a less-than-sure thing (by me among others frankly) that may-well embarrass us all when it makes $550m worldwide anyway (cough-Pixar-cough). I was arguing back in 2008 that spending $150-$200m on Ant Man of all things wasn’t a great investment, but at this point Marvel is the brand and I would be foolish to bet against them no matter what behind-the-scenes turmoil took place this summer.
Minions is of course a Despicable Me spin-off which will focus on the yellow mischief-makers that are everyone’s’ favorite part of the ongoing animated series. I can’t imagine it not being a big hit, although we haven’t had a ton of precedence for this kind of animation spin-off. DreamWorks Animation’s shockingly terrific Puss In Boots earned $150m domestic and $550m worldwide (66% of that would will be just fine for Minions, thank you much) while we still don’t know what will come of The Penguins of Madagascar.
Sony has the Adam Sandler/Kevin James video game-based animated/live-action film Pixels on tap for the end of the month, which could also go either way as it vaguely resembles (sight mostly unseen) a live-action version of Wreck It Ralph. The Poltergeist remake, the Hugh Jackman/Amanda Seyfried/Garrett Hudland-led Peter Pan origin story (which has attracted controversy for casting Mara Rooney as Native American “Tiger Lily”)
All of this leads us to August, which unlike last year won’t have the one-two punch of mega-hits like Guardians of the Galaxy and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to save it from the stereotypical August doldrums. Sony’s Jack Black-led Goosebumps is a potentially promising franchise (my kids will be up for that one as my daughter has read a few of the books), but otherwise Assassin’s Creed (starring box office juggernaut Michael Fassbender) and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (starring Superman and the Lone Ranger) will live or die based on the strength of their trailers. Sinister 2 will presumably make a play for the first film’s $77 million worldwide cume; presumably on a budget of not what you spent on dinner but this time what you spent on dinner and desert.
Finally, Universal’s Straight Outta Compton will inspire a million think-pieces about its not-so-ancient history, its factual accuracy, and its social politics, but there will be a ceiling on the NWA biopic. And that’s pretty much your summer for 2015. I’m not going to make any predictions about cumulative totals; although the sheer volume of films in May and July should help avoid the whole “summer box office is doomed!” articles this time next year, and Avengers: Age of Ultron and Inside Out alone will help contribute around $500-$700m in domestic box office that wasn’t there this summer.
Once again, I’d like to reiterate that the loss of Fast & Furious 7 and The Good Dinosaur, and the difference between Iron Man 3 and Amazing Spider-Man 2 accounts for pretty much the entire 2014 vs. 2013 box office difference. And of course, when Fast & Furious 7 opens with $100-gazillion (slight overestimate, but only slight) in early April of next year and ends up out-grossing (or at least out-opening) many of the big summer films, we can expect more discussion about when summer actually starts and whether we still need a specific blockbuster season at all. But that will come when the time is right.
Summer 2015 isn’t going to be the great summer season that will save us from the alleged box office doldrums of summer 2014. Of course, part of that is because the summer of 2014 wasn’t as bad as we’ve been made to believe either. And, once again, all of this relative unpredictability will make tracking the box office that much more exciting. So sound off below if you wish. What films are you most looking forward to in summer 2015? And yes, we’re still nine months out and all release dates are subject to change.
So do you think Summer 2015 is going to be a flop like this year or will Avengers 2 and Jurassic World be able to save it?