The Beat’s 2019 Summer Box Office Preview
The summer movie season runs from May through Labor Day, but thanks to Marvel Studios (and the “Fast and Furious” franchise), the summer has been extended into April as they launch the Summer Movie Season of 2019 with the sequel to one of last year’s biggest blockbuster.
The summer is an important time for the studios, because it’s the best time to release a tentpole that can do well enough to help fun the studios’ line-up for the rest of the year. It’s not uncommon for movies to make $100 million, $200 million or more, especially once schools break out for the summer and some lucky people get summer hours to leave work early. This is why you’re likely to see a ton of sequels, many remakes and reboots galore. Original movies are a bonus over the summer, and often, these do well as moviegoers get tired of the alternative.
I’m going to start out by talking about the bigger movies, than at the bottom, I’ll give you my early predictions for each of the movies, focusing specifically on the top 12.
Avengers: Endgame (Marvel Studios / Disney – April 26)
Easily one of the most anticipated movies of the year is this direct sequel to last year’s hit Avengers: Infinity War, in which people will finally find out… SPOILER, I guess? … “What happened to all the Avengers snapped into non-existence by Thanos at the end of the last movie?” The anticipation for the movie has led to some of the fastest ticket sales in history with many Thursday and Friday showtimes already sold out, so we could very well see a new opening weekend record, breaking the one set by Infinity War last year. That opened with $258 million, one of only six movies to open with more than $200 million since the first Avengers movie in 2012. I’m not going to write too much more about this, since I’ll be writing a LOT more about it in next week’s Box Office Preview, but you can expect this to be the biggest movie of the summer, if not the entire year. $700 million domestic seems like a given, as it looks to become one of the top 3 movies of all time.
The Lion King (Walt Disney – July 19)
Disney has slowly been remaking all its animated movies into live action ones with Cinderella, The Jungle Book and 2017’s Beauty and the Beast all being sizable hits. Pairing with director Tim Burton for the recent Dumbo hasn’t been as successful as some hoped, but 1994’s The Lion King remains one of Disney’s highest-grossing non-Pixar movies to date with $422.8 million grossed domestically. The Lion King also made nearly a billion worldwide at a time when that was not a normal thing. With The Jungle Book director Jon Favreau at the helm, the movie features an all-star voice cast portraying the photo-realistic CG animals of this faithful remake, its only hindrance being the diehards who might not feel it was necessary to remake the classic. Even so, The Lion King seems like it can fare more like 2017’s Beauty and the Beast, which grossed over $500 million in North America and $1.2 billion worldwide. That was based on a 1991 animated movie that made almost half as much as The Lion King did, so one can expect this to be another Disney blockbuster for the summer.
Spider-Man: Far from Home (Sony – July 5)
It looks like Sony’s third attempt at creating a Spider-Man franchise is finally sticking thanks to their partnership with Marvel Studios, who have put Tom Holland in three other movies including 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. Coming out two months after Avengers: Endgame, this one might get an even bigger “Avengers bump” than other MCU solo movies, since Tom Holland’s Spider-Man has proven so popular. 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming made $334.2 million domestic after a $117 million opening in the same weekend – it grossed another $545 million overseas – and there’s very little downside to the sequel doing even better.
Toy Story 4 (Disney-Pixar – June 21)
While generally, a sequel to a beloved Pixar classic animated film like this would be a no-brainer hit, but Toy Story 4is the sequel to the 2010 threequel, which some might feel was the perfect way to end the series. Making a Toy Story 4, especially without many of the Pixar founders involved, seems like a Disney money-grab even to those who loved the other movies. I have a feeling that maybe this franchise should have ended things with the third movie as to not go the way of the Shrek franchise, which took a massive plunge with 2010’s Shrek Forever After, released just a month before Toy Story 3.
The Secret Life of Pets 2 (Universal – June 7)
Another animated sequel that might benefit from getting a two-week lead on the latest Pixar movie is the sequel to Illumination Entertainment’s 2016 hit The Secret Life of Pets, which grossed $368.3 million domestically and another $500 million overseas. The sequel looks to offer a similar amount of aww-worthy laughs for pet owners with the addition of new characters voiced by Tiffany Haddish and Harrison Ford, doing his FIRST EVER voice work! It’s opening in early June, which should put enough distance between it and other family films to really capitalize on the schools that get out early for the summer before Toy Story 4 opens.
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (Universal – August 2)
The first spin-off from Universal’s hugely successful Fast and Furiousfranchise teams the title characters played by Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham to take on a genetically-enhanced villain played by Idris Elba. There’s a lot going for this movie which branches off from stuff set-up in the last few movies, then add Deckard Shaw’s sister, as played by Vanessa Kirby from Mission: Impossible – Fallout, and Johnson’s wrestling relative Roman Reigns, and you should have a rich action-comedy, as helmed by David Leitch of Deadpool 2. One expects this will have a similar audience as the Fast and Furiousmovies, especially with the two-year gap since The Fate of the Furious. (Also, neither Hobbs nor Shaw will appearing in next year’s Fast and Furious 9, so this will be a good test to see how much Johnson and Statham bring to the franchise.)
Godzilla: King of the Monsters (Legendary/Warner Bros. – May 31)
Likewise, you can’t deny the huge fanbase for giant monster movies and as the title surmises, Godzilla IS the “King of the monsters.” Besides the giant lizard, this movie will reintroduce the likes of Ghidira, Rodan and Mothra, giving Godzilla more monsters to fight against, which should make it a strong summer offering even with the competition of Rocketman and Mathat weekend (see below). This one is following five years after the $200.3 million grossing Godzilla, which opened with $93.1 million. Some might think five years is a long time to wait for a sequel, but it’s just the right amount of time for people to forget any problems they had with the movie.
Dark Phoenix (20thCentury Fox – June 7)
There was a time when a new X-Men movie would be a guaranteed summer hit, but this new installment directed by writer/producer Simon Kinberg (making his directorial debut, no less) is the second attempt at bringing the classic Claremont/Byrne “Death of Phoenix” story to the big screen after Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand back in 2006. This is coming out three years after the poorly-received X-Men: Apocalypse, which opened to $65.8 million, above the openings of the original Bryan Singer X-Menin 2000 and the Matthew Vaughn reboot X-Men: First Class, but a sizeable drop from other X-Men movies. Although presumably Jennifer Lawrence might have a smaller part this time, the cast is joined by Jessica Chastain– who should have won the Oscar for Zero Dark Thirty, the year Lawrence won for Silver Linings Playbook, but I try not to hold grudges. There are definitely positives that could give the movie a bump over Apocalypse, like being the final chapter in the series under Fox, but it also doesn’t have the excitement that Marvel’s summer movies are getting.
Aladdin (Walt Disney – May 24)
This is also an odd one since it’s from one of my favorite directors, Guy Ritchie, but it’s another live action remake of a Disney animated film ala Dumboand The Lion King, which comes out less than two months after the latter. It does have Will Smith playing the Genie, which might make up for the casting of younger unknowns in other roles, but the 1992 musical movie has never been deemed a classic on the level of The Little Mermaid or others. It also won’t help matters for this to open over Memorial Day, which was the same release date for the similarly-looking video game adaptation Prince of Persia. I have a feeling the current ongoing love for Disney will keep this from completely bombing, but expect this to be on the lower side of Disney’s 2019 blockbusters.
Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (Warner Bros. – May 10)
Possibly one of the summer’s stranger releases is the decision to take the popular Pokemon franchise and move it into live action with Ryan Reynolds voicing the beloved title character, joined by Justice Smith from last year’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. What’s weird is that in this movie Pikachu is a detective looking for a killer. While the Pokemon games continue to be a worldwide phenomenon, one has to wonder how many older moviegoers i.e. over 18 will give this a look due to Reynolds’ growing popularity from the Deadpool movies. As far as the animated movies, the Pokemon franchise quickly faltered with each successive movie, as you can see here.
Men in Black International (Sony – June 14)
Another one of the summer’s anomalies is this spin-off from the popular sci-fi-comedy franchise that starred Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, this one reteaming Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson from Thor: Ragnarok along with Liam Neeson. Trying to do a spin-off from a popular franchise without the original stars is a gamble, and sadly, Sony bowed out of CinemaCon, so we haven’t had a chance to see anything besides the first trailer. Oddly, this is directed by F. Gary Gray from The Fate of the Furious, now directing a spin-off from another franchise.
Then there are a few movies that are looking to make $100 million or could come very close… or not.
John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum (Lionsgate – May 17)
Keanu Reeves had a bit of a comeback with the release of the action-thriller John Wick, which made $43 million in 2014 but led to a sequel three years later that made twice that amount domestically. Two years later, John Wick Chapter 3is the first installment released during the summer, and besides offering more of the same kick-ass action, this one also has Halle Berry. One shouldn’t be too surprised if this opens better than the last installment’s $30 million opening, but it might have too much competition on its tail to maintain business.
Annabelle Comes Home (New Line/WB – June 28)
The horror genre has been getting a nice boost this year, mainly from Jordan Peele’s Us. This is the third chapter in a horror franchise spin-off, but also a follow-up to the prequel Annabelle: Creation, which made $300 million worldwide. With this movie’s direct tires into the Warrens’ artifact room from The Conjuringmovies, I can see fans of that franchise being even more interested in this one.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Sony – July 25)
Quentin Tarantino’s first movie in over three years is his first movie not made with Harvey Weinstein– for somewhat obvious reasons – but his movie for Sony also stars two mega-superstars in Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, neither of whom have had a high-profile release in some time. Add to that Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate and an amazing story set in ‘60s Hollywood and you have the makings of another Tarantino classic. Unlike The Hateful Eight, which was somewhat disappointing compared to Tarantino’s previous Western, Django Unchained, this has all the makings of another hit for the popular filmmaker.
The definition of a “sleeper,” at least in terms of summer box office, is any movie that ends up with more than 3 times its opening weekend by the time it leaves theaters. You might not think that’s very impressive, but for comparisons, Captain Marvel is currently at 2.5 times its opening and Jordan Peel’s Us is much lower. Those are two of the biggest movies of the first quarter of the year. Most of the time, these sleepers come from movies delivering from buzz and word-of-mouth of those who see them opening weekend.
Long Shot (Lionsgate – May 3)
Having a romantic comedy opening the week after Avengers: Endgamemight be a gamble, but when it comes from Seth Rogen and his Point Grey production team, pairing him romantically with Charlize Theron. It’s a movie that played well at SXSW and at CinemaCon, and though it’s opening on the second weekend of Avengers: Endgame, I have a feeling it will find an audience, particularly women, with a longer-than-usual run, because there’s no other rom-com competition this summer.
Good Boys (Universal – August 16)
Another movie from Seth Rogen and his production partner Evan Goldberg is this updating of Superbad via Eighth Grade with Jacob Tremblay, Brady Noon and Keith L. Williams playing 12-year-olds who get into all sorts of trouble while trying to figure out how to be good kissers. Everything I’ve seen from this movie by two of the writers of The Office makes it look like one of the summer’s funniest movies. Its late August release has already helped previous Rogen/Goldberg productions like 2008’s Pineapple Express ($87.3 million domestic gross) and 2016’s Sausage Party ($97.7 million).
Ma (Universal – May 31)
This is a strong psychological thriller from Blumhouse starring Octavia Spencer that could end up finding an audience despite opening against stronger movies. It’s Spencer’s latest collaboration with The Help director Tate Taylor, in which she plays a freaky stalker character looking to get revenge for being bullied in high school. Psychological thrillers have been somewhat hit or miss in the last few years, but this is the type of movie that can get people talking and get more business after opening weekend.
Lastly, that brings us to four rather prominent music-related movies being released over the summer, beginning with the Elton John biopic Rocketman (Paramount – May 31), starringKingsman’s Taron Egerton and directed by Bohemian Rhapsody’s “ghost director” Dexter Fletcher. Yesterday (Universal – June 7) teams Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle with Love, Actually’s Richard Curtis with a high-concept about a young musician who is hit by a car and comes out to a world where no one has heard of the Beatles. A week later, NEON will release Wild Rose, a Scotland-set film about a young woman who wants to be a country singer, which also should find an audience. And then in mid-August, New Line will release Blinded by the Light, a memoir-based comedy from director Gurinder Chadha that uses the music of Bruce Springsteen and was a big hit at Sundance this year. Honestly, Yesterday seems like the safest bet to break out and be a summer sleeper, just cause the Beatles are so much better than Elton John, Bruce Springsteen and all country music put together. (No need to comment about me being right on this.) Oh, who am I kidding? Rocketman is getting so much more of a high-profile release means it’s the one more than likely to cross the $100 million domestically.
Of course, being the summer, there’s likely to be more than just one or two movies that don’t connect, but here’s two that just don’t seem to match up with the movies above.
The New Mutants (20thCentury Fox – August 2)
Honestly, I’m not even sure this movie will be released in August as planned. If it does come out this weekend, it’s going up against Fast and Furious and Dora and the Lost City of Gold , which means certain death. I wouldn’t even be surprised if Fox’s new overlords at Disney decide to just throw this movie on the new Disney+ streaming service in November. It’s kind of a shame since it looked like writer/director Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars) was looking to do something different with superheroes, creating more of a horror movie, but the constant delays is worrying.
Stuber (20thCentury Fox – July 12)
Not to just pick on Fox (who have much bigger issues to deal with right now) but this action-comedy starring Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick) and former wrestler Dave Bautista just looks like a disaster waiting to happen despite premiering at SXSW last month. It’s opening in between Spider-Man: Far from Home and The Lion King against two similarly low-key movies in the cop drama 21 Bridges and the horror film Crawl, which look like stronger or at least easier to market offerings.
SUMMER TOP 12
The Summer Top 12 should look something like this… with the caveat that there are many factors that can change between now and release, things like reviews, etc.
- Avengers: End Game
Opening: $275 million; Total: $700 million
- The Lion King
Opening: $188 million; Total: $535 million
- The Secret Life of Pets
Opening: $143 million; Total: $385 million
- Spider-Man: Far from Home
Opening: $153 million; Total: $375 million
- Toy Story 4
Opening: $125 million; Total: $340 million
- Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw
Opening: $95 million; Total: $255 million
- Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Opening: $100 million; Total: $220 million
- Dark Phoenix
Opening: $86 million; Total: $200 million
- Detective Pikachu
Opening: $62 million; Total: $180 million
Opening: $72 million (4-day); Total: $165 million
- Men in Black International
Opening: $46 million; Total: $130 million
- Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Opening: $43 million; Total: $120 million
Just past this should be Rocketman, Annabelle Comes Home and John Wick Chapter 3, barring other surprise breakouts.
Feel free to leave your own thoughts and predictions in the comments. Check back next week for more thoughts and analysis on Marvel Studios’Avengers: Endgamein our regularly scheduled Box Office Preview next Wednesday.
Edward Douglas has been writing about movies and other forms of entertainment for over 25 years, so he’s probably older than you.