Sunday, May 8, 2016

The 2016 Summer Movie Wager

I had a lot of fun doing this last year so I'm up for another round.  Following the rules of the Summer Movie Pool, I'm going to predict the top ten domestic box office grossers of the summer.  It's not about which movies are the best or the most deserving, but which ones simply bring in the most cold hard cash.  That means summoning my inner accountant and sidelining my inner fangirl.  Last time I scored a measly 33 points out of a possible 100.  It's not likely I could do worse, but we'll see.  This time I'm going to be more optimistic, and pick more films that I find appealing, instead of my previous game plan of picking several lowest-common-denominator films like "Pixels" and "Ted 2," which both flopped.

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

1. "Captain America: Civil War" - Strong reviews coupled with lots of hype and a good premise pretty much guarantee this a spot at the top of the box office chart.  My only concern is that we're looking at a year that's already stuffed with superhero movies, and "Civil War" is following up the lackluster "Avengers: Age of Ultron."  However, we're also getting the much anticipated crossover with Spider-man and the promise of some actually compelling antagonists - the Avengers themselves.  It might make less money than it would in another year, but it's still going to make an obscene amount of money.

2. "Finding Dory" - The big kids' film of the summer, one that's on firmer ground conceptually than most of the PIXAR sequels and prequels we've seen in the past few years.  Dory is a wonderful character, and her story makes perfect sense to build a movie around.  I wouldn't be surprised if this one actually comes it at number one, because "Finding Nemo" is still the highest grossing PIXAR film domestically, when you adjust for inflation.  And after two PIXAR original films, "Dory" should benefit from the fact that we haven't had a sequel or prequel from PIXAR in a while, making this one feel less egregious.

3. "Independence Day: Resurgence" - I'm going to bet that this will be the "Jurassic World" of 2016.  It's been twenty years since the original, and there's still plenty of geeky affection for it.  Sure, Will Smith isn't coming back, but Will Smith hasn't necessarily been an asset to a film in a while.  The important thing is that we have disaster king Roland Emmerich back in the director's chair, and his films are always about the carnage more than the ensemble anyway.  I especially enjoyed the teaser trailer that came out a few months ago, which signaled that Emmerich may still have a few tricks up his sleeve.

4. "Ghostbusters" - Probably my riskiest pick, but consider that at this point everyone knows this movie is coming and everyone has an opinion about it.  That kind of awareness isn't easy to generate.  Also, Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthey have a strong track record, so there's a pretty good chance that the movie will turn out to be a decent watch.  Personally, I'm looking forward to seeing what Kate McKinnon is capable of on a big screen with a significant role.  Add in the enduring nostalgia for the franchise, and the guaranteed Bill Murray cameo, and I think that people will turn to see this.

5. "The Angry Birds Movie" - This is my most cynical pick.  Personally, I don't see the appeal of this property at all.  I find the original game pretty dull and the trailer left me cold.  However, reactions seem to be pretty positive across the board, and I can't deny that the fuming fowl and their porcine provokers remain very popular.  "Angry Birds" will also be the only animated film in release for an entire month before "Dory" hits the scene, and the cross-promotional marketing is going to be crazy.  There's no way that small children and their parents are going to be able to avoid this one.  

6.  "X-men: Apocalypse" - The "X-men" franchise has always been a decent performer, but not spectacular.  I expect it'll be in the top ten somewhere, but I'm not sure where.  I think this is the film in the most danger of being affected by superhero fatigue after "Civil War" hits three weeks prior.  However, consider that "Days of Future Past" made the top ten of 2014 and was very well received.  I think that "Apocalypse" will have enough goodwill that it'll perform up to par.  The biggest problem may be scheduling: this is going up against the "Alice" sequel, and may also be dinged by "Civil War."

7. "The BFG" - I love the source material, and really, really want this to do well, but there's a significant danger that "The BFG" is going to be this year's "Tomorrowland."  Steven Spielberg hasn't directed a proper children's fantasy film in ages, and his sensibilities may simply not be a good match anymore for the summer movie crowd.  All the trailers I've seen so far look fantastic, but then again all the marketing for "Tomorrowland" looked fantastic too.  If this one does connect, however, I think it's going to connect pretty significantly for a certain crowd.  On the other hand, it may just be wishful thinking on my part.

8. "Jason Bourne" - I have a hunch that the return of Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon will jump-start this franchise for a late summer sleeper hit.  It helps that unlike last year, there aren't many spy films this season.  It could perform like "Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation."  On the other hand, there's only been tepid marketing and many people don't know the film even exists.  And those that do may be confused as to how this relates to the prior films, including the "Bourne Legacy" spinoff with Jeremy Renner.  So, it could also end up performing like "The Man From U.N.C.L.E," though I don't think that's too likely.

9. "Alice Through the Looking Glass" - The 3D fad has come and gone, Johnny Depp's star has lost a lot of shine, and Tim Burton's not coming back to direct.  Frankly, the sequel probably should have been made several years ago to capitalize on the surprise success of the first, and the prospects of "Looking Glass" are significantly worse than they would have been three or four years ago.  Still, keep in mind that the original "Alice" made a billion dollars worldwide, and its intended audience can be surprisingly strong.  This won't match the numbers of the original, but it should still have some steam.

10.  "Suicide Squad" - I think this is going to appeal to the crowd that made the "Deadpool" movie a hit, and the significant "Batman" fanbase that was frustrated with how "Batman v. Superman" played out.  The big risk factors here are, of course, that the movie is opening in August and is aimed at a much older crowd than the usual superhero audience..  What's certain is that this may be Warner Bros' last chance to salvage their DC cinematic universe, so they're going to be very invested in making this a hit.  I think it will be, but like "Batman v. Superman," not nearly as big of a hit as they would like.

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

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
Central Intelligence
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

The first "Neighbors" did well, and I think the sequel will build on that, but probably not in a huge way.  The Rock had a surprise winner last year with "San Andreas," and is looking to repeat with "Central Intelligence," but the addition of Kevin Hart may actually limit his audience.  "Popstar" looks mighty entertaining to me, but I'm not so confident about its prospects.  So all three of these films get Wild Card status.  Meanwhile, in a weaker year the new "Ice Age" would be in this list somewhere, but the franchise is definitely slowing down, and there's a lot of competition of the kids this time.  I'm rooting for the new "Star Trek" and "Warcraft" because of the talent involved, but I just don't see them having much appeal beyond their existing fan bases.  Finally, I suspect that "The Secret Life of Pets" may turn out to be a good movie, but so far it looks too generic to stand out from the crowd.

Happy watching!


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