Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Summer Movie Wager 2018

It's that time of year again! 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.   I am notoriously bad at this, but after years of scores in the low 30s, I managed 41 points last year, mostly by avoiding the majority of the obvious bombs. Usually the summer movie season starts after May 1st, but there's no way I'm not counting "Avengers: Infinity War" as a summer movie, so here we are.  

Anything being released until Labor Day is fair game. Here we go.

1. Avengers: Infinity War - I don't think this is going to do as well as the fanboys are expecting, but "Infinity War" should be able to capitalize off of being the latest Marvel spectacular, and mybe piggyback on the performance of "Black Panther."  It'll also be the first major summer blockbuster out of the gate, which is always helpful. Now there are some potential limiting factors: franchise fatigue, newbies being intimidated by the high number of characters and storylines, and the fact that this is almost certainly going to be part one of two.  Then again, I personally want to get ahead of the big spoilers I know are coming.

2. The Incredibles 2 - I'm betting that this is going to be the big kids' title of the summer, especially as it doesn't have much competition for the honor.  There are no Dreamworks or Illumination titles this season, so it's really between this and "Jurassic World," and frankly "Jurassic World" doesn't look nearly as fun this time around.  One potential worry is that Brad Bird is coming off of "Tomorrowland," which was a undeniable dud. Frankly, none of the recent PIXAR sequels have been very good, including last year's "Cars 3."  On the other hand, an "Incredibles" sequel is the one people have actually been asking for since the original.

3. Deadpool 2 - Don't worry R-rated comedy fans, I didn't forget about you.  Yes, superheroes are in all three of my top slots because Hollywood has now worked out a way to make superhero movies aimed at all the major segments of the summer moviegoing audience.  The ad campaign has been great, Josh Brolin looks fab in the Cable outfit, and Dopinder is back! The only thing that gives me pause is that Tim Miller was replaced by David Leitch, who is a much more action-oriented director.  "Deadpool" wasn't a movie I enjoyed for the action. Also, I had some serious problems with Leitch's last movie, "Atomic Blonde."

4. Solo: A Star Wars Story - The production troubles and marketing delays point to this possibly being a disaster in the making.  However, it's a "Star Wars" movie and that's always going to carry some weight. Bradford Young's cinematography also looks absolutely gorgeous, which should get a few doubters to give this a chance.  However, the release date and the extra competition are going to have a big impact. This really should have been a holiday release like the other "Star Wars" films. If it does do well, however, it'll open the door to more than one "Star Wars" film a year as well as sequels and other spinoffs in this vein.

5. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom - "Jurassic World" was the surprise big winner of the summer of 2015, and Universal is putting a lot of resources behind the sequel.  Unfortunately, the trailers look pretty dull, and the only reason I'm personally interested at all is because Juan Antonio Bayona is taking over the director's chair. Evacuating dinosaurs from an island simply isn't as interesting as a theme park disaster with the attractions eating the guests.  I'm sure this is going to still make a lot of money, but I doubt that it's going to make anything close to what the last film did. But maybe I underestimate the public's love of dinosaurs.

6. Mission: Impossible – Fallout - "Rogue Nation" proved this franchise and Tom Cruise's career still have some life in them, and "Fallout" will be proceeding with nearly all the same creatives, even Christopher McQuarrie as the director - he'll be the first to helm two installments.  "Mission: Impossible" has been extremely dependable at the box office over the years, so I have no reason to think this won't perform accordingly. I may actually be underestimating it, depending on how well some of the other big titles perform earlier in the summer. I don't see as many flops happening this time around, so this one stays in the middle of the pack.  

7. Ocean's 8 - Probably my riskiest pick, because the "Ocean's" movies were never hugely successful at the box office and this is a pretty radical new direction for the series.  On the other hand, the female audience certainly helped crown some hits last year, and this looks like a far better choice than "The Hustle," "Book Club," and the other female-led offerings this season.  This could end up being another "Ghostbusters," but I think "Ocean's 8" has a good chance of being a much better movie with the talent involved. It will likely also attract some of the older crowd that doesn't want to watch the superhero brawls.   

8.  Ant-Man and the Wasp - Let's not mince words.  "Ant-Man" was very close to the lowest grossing Marvel film, and I don't see any buzz for the sequel anywhere.  Plus, after "Infinity War" and "Black Panther," there's a pretty high likelihood that audiences are going to be sick of so much Marvel in such a short span of time.  I'm sure that the movie will do okay, but if it breaks $200 million it's going to take the Marvel marketing team a lot of work. They've worked miracles before, and there are some good hooks like Evangeline Lily technically being the MCU's first female headliner, but I'm keeping this low on the list for now.     

9. Christopher Robin - Fully half of this list is Disney movies, which is a little frightening.  I initially balked at the premise of this one, but then I saw that teaser trailer and was just bowled over.  The second I heard Jim Cummings' familiar Pooh bear voice, I knew Disney had a strong potential sleeper hit on their hands.  "Winnie the Pooh" has largely been shelved as a property since the last animated film tanked badly in 2011, so enough time has passed for the nostalgia to really hit home for a particular segment of the audience.  That segment may be smaller than I'm expecting, but I like the odds.

10. Skyscraper - Hey, Dwayne Johnson's going to be in another disaster film!  He's pretty hit or miss at the box office, but when something hits like "San Andreas" or "Jumanji," it tends to make a ridiculous amount of money.  I'm going to bet on "Skyscraper" being one of the hits, even though it's stuck in a crowded weekend in July. There are certain summer moviegoers who just want to see things blow up real good, and "Skyscraper" will come three weeks after "Jurassic World" and two weeks before "Mission: Impossible."  And it will undoubtedly have explosions.
Wild Cards (for extra points if one of them does make it into the top ten)

The First Purge
Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation
The Equalizer 2

Okay, "The Purge" movies have been steadily making more money with each installment, so the latest one might sneak into the top ten, especially if their marketing keeps jabbing the right spots.  "Hotel Transylvania," on the other hand, is seeing diminishing returns, but this latest sequel is still bound to make some money. Finally, it's been a while since "The Equalizer," but that movie made nearly $200 million and one should never underestimate the power of Denzel Washington in a slick action picture.  This could do similar numbers, especially in a fairly uncrowded August.


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