Friday, May 8, 2015

The 2015 Summer Movie Wager

Because I'm on a never-ending quest to find a new way to talk about the upcoming summer movie slate, and because I skipped my usual October survey last year, I'm going to take part in this year's Summer Movie Wager, which the guys over at Slash Film and various others take part in every year. The game is simple: predict the top ten domestic box office grossers of the summer. This requires putting aside both my inner pretentious movie snob and my inner fangirl, in favor of my penny-pinching inner accountant who would hire Michael Bay to direct anything based on the strength of his financial track record.

Anything being released between May 1st and Labor Day is fair game. Here we go.

1. "Avengers: Age of Ultron" - because, obviously. This is the most hyped up event movie of the summer and is already breaking records across the globe. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has dominated the box office for the past several summers, including a surprise win last year by "Guardians of the Galaxy," which nobody was expecting. It was released in August, for Pete's sake.

2. "Minions" - Kids' movies traditionally do very well, and I'm expecting big numbers for the "Minions" movie because the "Despicable Me" series has cleaned up in its prior two outings. A note of caution, though, because the movie is going to have some competition from "Inside Out" and "Ant-Man." Also, last year Dreamworks had two highly anticipated sequels, "How to Train Your Dragon 2" and "The Penguins of Madagascar," underperform.

3. "Jurassic World" - Chris Pratt heading up the return of one of our favorite nostalgic franchises of the '90s? That certainly sounds like a winner to me. Both of the "Jurassic Park" sequels were box office champs, even if the last one took a significant dip. The mystery here is the untested director, Colin Trevorrow, who has never handled a film this size. Nobody knows what the "Jurassic World" is actually going to be - but the strength of the franchise will get it an enormous opening weekend anyway.

4. "Ant-Man" - To reiterate, never underestimate the power of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, losing Edgar Wright and following up so close behind "Avengers" is sure to take its toll. I'm extremely skeptical about this one personally, but with the marketing push and the Marvel ties, "Ant-Man" is guaranteed plenty of attention. If it does underperform, it'll probably be because of competition. July is awfully crowded this year, and I'm not sure why Disney isn't trying an August slot again.

5. "Inside Out" - The PIXAR name still holds considerable clout with the parents of young children. PIXAR movies haven't always been chart toppers, but when they do have a hit, it tends to be a big one. This is their first original movie since "Brave," and looks considerably more appealing. However, it is also more high concept and potentially confusing the mindless antics of "Minions," which brings its prospects down a bit. I think it'll perform well, but not as well as a "Nemo" or "Toy Story" would.

6. "Ted 2" - There's always a big R-rated comedy in the mix, and "Ted 2" is the likeliest contender. It's a sequel to a movie that a lot of people loved, it doesn't have much competition for its adult audience, and the trailer was great. There's no question that this is going to make money, but how much money? The original "Ted" came in fifth in 2012, right behind "Brave." This year is a little more crowded, so I'm going to place "Ted 2" a spot lower, right behind "Inside Out."

7. "Pixels" - History also tells us to never underestimate the drawing power of Adam Sandler, though he's been in an awful slump lately after "That's My Boy" and "Blended." I'm guessing that if you combine Sandler with the eye-candy wrangling powers of Chris Columbus, though, you'll get plenty of undiscerning kids into the theaters. "Pixels" is coming at the end of July after a barrage of big kids' movies though, so it might end up slipping through the cracks.

8. "Tomorrowland" - I believe in Brad Bird. I don't believe in him enough to put "Tomorrowland" any higher than this, but there isn't a single one of his movies that I haven't liked, and he gave up a "Star Wars" movie for this one. So my prediction is that "Tomorrowland" will be a good family adventure flick, and that word of mouth will be enough to get people into the theaters. Also, note that with a May release date, it'll be coming out before most of the other kids' films on the slate.

9. "Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation" - Sure, Tom Cruise had a bomb last summer, and a terribly undeserved one, but the "Mission: Impossible" franchise should still have some good legs. "Ghost Protocol" was a solid hit, and by all indications "Rogue Nation" is shaping up to be a worthy follow-up. My only concern is that since "Furious 7" went took that franchise into the spy genre, "Mission" is starting to look a little old hat. And it's coming awfully late in the season.

10. "Terminator Genisys" - Good lord, this franchise just won't die, will it? I hate that they're rebooting the timeline. I hate that Jai Courtney is playing Kyle Reese. But it's "Terminator" which means that it has a built in audience and the movie is going to make money. I think enough people are as fed up as I am so this isn't going to make that much money, but it'll make enough to ensure that the next two films in a planned new trilogy get made. God, that's depressing.

Wild Cards (for extra points if one of them does make it into the top ten)

Mad Max: Fury Road
Magic Mike XXL
Fantastic Four

I think "Mad Max" looks awesome, but not enough people remember who he is, and the R rating is going to limit who can see it. I'm also hopeful for the new "Fantastic Four" movie, in spite of the stories that have come out about its troubled production. As for "Magic Mike XXL," let's not forget that women are a moviegoing force to be reckoned with. The first "Magic Mike" just missed the number 10 spot in 2012, and I wouldn't be surprised if he squeaks through this time. Also, just missing the cut are "Pitch Perfect 2," "San Andreas," and "The Man From U.N.C.L.E."

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