The Weekend Warrior’s Summer Box Office Preview

With the big movie season almost here, the Weekend Warrior, Ed Douglas, gives his box office predictions for the summer blockbusters.

For 13 years, this preview of the lucrative summer box office has been a mainstay at Coming Soon, but we’re bringing it over here for those who want to get some idea of what to expect this summer from the box office. We’ll mostly be talking about some of the bigger blockbusters and tent poles that will make an impact during the beach season.

Note: While many of the movies discussed will probably benefit greatly from overseas business, international box office is exceedingly hard to predict because there are so many more variables and little concrete information. Hence, everything discussed below is dealing with domestic box office, i.e. the movies release in North America.

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In some ways, this summer seems to very much be a rehash of the summers of 2013 and 2014 with many sequels trying to capitalize on the success of movies from those years, but there are also movies trying to replicate the success of some of those year’s bigger surprises, as is the case with Suicide Squad.

Superhero Slugfest

Needless to say—and like every summer over the past few years—it will mostly be about the superhero movies, particularly the latest from Marvel Studios, Captain America: Civil War, which once again gets the coveted summer kick-off spot that’s delivered huge hits like the three Iron Man movies, The Avengers, and last summer’s Avengers: Age of Ultron

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Captain America: Civil War (Marvel/Disney) – May 6

Marvel can already claim four of the top 10 openers for the month of May (six if you include Sony’s Spider-Man and Spider-Man 3), and they’re looking to claim another spot with a movie that’s basically a third Avengers movie with most of the characters introduced so far (minusThor and the Hulk). Expect this to match or exceed the opening of Age of Ultron last summer, and it should be one of the biggest hits of the year by grossing more than $500 million in North America.

Projected Opening: $195 – 205 million

Projected Domestic Total: $525 million

related article Captain America: Civil War – Everything You Need to Know

Suicide Squad (Warner Bros.) – Aug. 5

Warner Bros. moved Batman v Superman off the May opening date and ended up with an opening record for March and for Easter weekend, but it quickly faded away after grossing $300 million. Warner Bros. has high hopes for David (Fury) Ayer’s take on the Suicide Squad, starring Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto and many more. Suicide Squad is a weird comic to be bringing to the big screen because other than the inclusion of Batman villains like the Joker (played this time by Leto) and Harley Quinn (Robbie), the characters are relatively unknown to all but diehard comic fans.

That said, they have a former blockbuster star in Will Smith playing the role of Deadshot, and Warner Bros. is hoping that a gang of super villains working for the government might appeal to audiences in a similar way James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy did, which opened in the same weekend frame during 2014.

Projected Opening: $98 – 105 million

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Projected Domestic Total: $265 million

related article – Suicide Squad: Everything You Need to Know

X-Men: Apocalypse (20th Century Fox) – May 27

The third big superhero movie of the summer is Bryan Singer’s fourth outing as director of this franchise, which clearly hopes to bring in similar business as 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, a film that grossed $233 million after opening over Memorial Day weekend. Days of Future Past opened with $110.6 million over the four-day holiday, less than 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand, and one might wonder whether the franchise has already lost its luster when compared to Marvel Studios’ releases. It will also be taking on Johnny Depp and Alice Through the Looking Glass, which opens the same weekend and might snag some of X-Men’s business.

Projected Opening: $110 – 115 million (four-day)

Projected Domestic Total: $235 million

related article – X-Men: Apocalypse – Everything You Need to Know

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (Paramount) – June 3

Another movie that can loosely be labeled a “superhero movie” (since the TMNT originated in comics) is Paramount’s latest stab at the characters, which will try to bring in the same audience that rushed out to see the original remake in 2014, helping it to gross $191 million domestically. It was trashed by critics, as well as many fans of the original ‘90s movies and ‘80s cartoon, and it has a lot more competition in the weeks around it. Normally, it would benefit from being released earlier in the summer… if it didn’t have to take on Disney/Pixar’s Finding Dory in its third weekend.

Projected Opening:  $46 – 50 million

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Projected Domestic Total: $125 million

related article – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Everything You Need to Know

The Legend of Tarzan (Warner Bros.) – July 1

Not really a superhero movie per se, but based on the star of many old movies, pulp novels, and comics, is Warner Bros.’ The Legend of Tarzan, featuring Alexander Skarsgard and Margot Robbie. It opens on the Fourth of July weekend against strong competition (see below). Although footage was well received at the recent CinemaCon, Tarzan just might not be cool enough for anyone under the age of 30, so it won’t have the nostalgia factor some may hope, and it’s likely to have a similar performance as Dwayne Johnson’s Hercules from 2014.

Projected Opening:  $25 – 28 million (four-day)

Projected Domestic Total: $65 million

Animated Awesomeness

With school out for the summer, every studio is trying to get some of that family business from parents hoping to keep their kids entertained during those slow summer days that seem to go on forever.

Finding Dory (Disney/Pixar) – June 17

Like many movies this summer, Disney and Pixar Animation’s Finding Dory also qualifies for the “Big Sequels” category (see below), but it’s unknown whether this Pixar sequel will deliver the same quality as Toy Story 3 (which won two Oscars) or be more in the vein of Monsters University…which wasn’t even nominated.

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The original Finding Nemo opened in late May of 2003 with $70.5 million and went on to become one of Pixar’s highest grossing movies until Toy Story 3 ($415 million) and last year’s Inside Out ($356 million). While there’s no indication that anyone necessarily wanted a sequel to the movie, it’s like the old saying goes, “Money talks, bullshit walks,” and Finding Dory will make a killing at the box office with both older and younger Pixar fans when it’s released on June 17.

Projected Opening: $104 – 110 million

Projected Domestic Total: $365 million

The Secret Life of Pets (Universal) – July 8

What is very likely to be the summer’s biggest sleeper hit is the latest from Universal Pictures and Illumination Studios, offering one of the most brilliant premises for an animated movie not produced by Pixar: what do your pets do when you head off to work or school? Going by the trailers, the results will be hilarious.

Scheduled for release on the same weekend Universal had a huge hit with Despicable Me in 2010, The Secret Life of Pets should have enough space from opening three weeks after Finding Dory to do well. Expect this one to do huge business among kids, families, elderly cat ladies, and pet lovers in general. It should be one of the summer’s surprise hits.

Projected Opening: $82 – 88 million

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Projected Domestic Total: $300 million

The Angry Birds Movie (Sony) – May 20

There’s no denying that the Angry Birds video game brand is going to do a lot to bring families and kids out to see Sony Pictures Animation’s The Angry Birds Movie on May 20, regardless of whether it gets praised or trashed by critics. Featuring the voices of Jason Sudeikis, Bill Hader, Kate McKinnon, Peter Dinklage, and more, it may have a hard time getting the teen and older comedy fans away from that weekend’s Seth Rogen comedy sequel, but hey, it’s Angry Birds. Everyone who owns a smartphone (which is almost everyone) has spent countless hours playing the game so there will be interest in the movie, maybe not quite on the scale of The Lego Movie, but very close.

Projected Opening:  $45 – 50 million

Projected Domestic Total: $155 million

Ice Age: Collision Course (Fox) – July 22

Fox and Blue Sky Studios may be going back to the well one too many times by releasing Ice Age: Collision Course two weeks after The Secret Life of Pets, especially since the franchise has shown diminishing returns with each installment. The previous movie, Ice Age: Continental Drift, grossed $161 million in 2012, compared to the previous movie’s $197 million three years earlier. It’s doubtful anyone really cares about the characters voiced by John Leguizamo, Ray Romano, and Denis Leary anymore, and they may be running out of plausible stories to tell after four previous films, a potential flaw that will hurt.

Projected Opening: $48 – 53 million

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Projected Domestic Total: $145 million

Sequels, Both Large and Small

This summer’s sequels can be divided into two categories: sequels to big blockbusters that have been out of the limelight for a number of years and sequels to more recent hits, hoping to score points by releasing a follow-up while interest is still relatively high.

Star Trek Beyond (Paramount) – July 22

Three years after Star Trek Into Darkness, we get the third movie in Paramount Pictures’ attempt to revive the Star Trek franchise with J.J. Abrams, who has since moved on to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. 2009’s Star Trek revived the franchise based on Gene Roddenberry’s popular sci-fi television show by doubling the gross of the highest installment up until that point while earning $258 million domestically.

Four years later, Star Trek Into Darkness opened lower and grossed less, continuing the diminishing returns of the original Star Trek movies but still taking in almost $230 million. The third movie, directed by Fast and Furious helmer Justin Lin, reunites the original cast but it’s also opening later in the summer and facing Matt Damon’s return as Jason Bourne in its second weekend. So, it probably will end up with less than $200 million total.

Projected Opening: $66 – 71 million

Projected Domestic Total: $175 million

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Jason Bourne (Universal) – July 29

After a disappointing turn with Jeremy Renner in 2012’s The Bourne Legacy, Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass are back for Jason Bourne, reviving the character that began a trilogy of blockbusters for Universal ending with 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum, which grossed $227.5 million after a $69 million opening. It’s hard to tell whether there’s still an audience for these movies, especially after the slew of spy movies released in 2015, but Damon’s been on a roll lately and returning to a beloved character like Jason Bourne will help that continue with one of the hits of the late summer. Like Star Trek Beyond, it has to contend with Suicide Squad in week two, limiting its overall box office.

Projected Opening: $70 – 75 million

Projected Domestic Total: $200 million

Independence Day: Resurgence (20th Century Fox) – June 24

Probably an even bigger surprise return is filmmaker Roland Emmerich’s decision to revive his beloved alien invasion movie after 20 years. His original Independence Day grossed more than $300 million in 1996 at a time when that amount was still a lot of money, but like Pixar’s Finding Dory, it’s hard to determine whether the original movie’s fans, now 20 years older, will be accepting of a movie that mixes younger talent like Liam Hemsworth with some of the original cast. And of course, Will Smith isn’t back and to many, he played a large part in the original movie’s success.

Resurgence should still do well enough going by the success of Emmerich’s more recent disaster films like 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow, and the nostalgia factor that worked so well in 2015.

Projected Opening: $67 – 71 million

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Projected Domestic Total: $200 million

Alice Through the Looking Glass (Disney) – May 27

Some might wonder whether this sequel to one of Disney’s earliest and most successful live-action fairy tale remakes from 2010 makes sense without original director Tim Burton, but most of that movie’s cast, including Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Anne Hathaway, and the late Alan Rickman, are back for a second movie based on Lewis Carroll’s fictional Wonderland.

Burton has been replaced by The Muppets James Bobin, and this is opening over Memorial Day weekend, which is normally the busiest holiday weekend at the movies. It’s also opening against the seemingly stronger X-Men: Apocalypse, which might steal away many of the women that helped the original Alice in Wonderland open with more than $116 million in early March—beginning its journey to a billion dollar worldwide gross. Depp’s star power has certainly taken a tumble in the past six years and not having Burton at the helm may hurt as much as the competition.

Projected Opening: $52 – 56 million (four-day)

Projected Domestic Total: $125 million

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (Universal) – May 20

Next, we get to the smaller profile sequels, although it’s hard to think of Universal’s comedy sequel that reunites Seth Rogen and Zac Efron as “small” when the original Neighbors grossed $150 million domestic and another $120 million overseas in 2014. And that was with an $18 million budget!

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There aren’t a ton of comedies this summer, and its May 20 release date should help keep it away from the bigger blockbusters and sequels, although Seth Rogen’s star seems to be on the decline going by the performance of The Night Before and The Interview. Still, its R-rating will mean it gets a different audience than Sony’s The Angry Birds Movie, but it won’t have as easy a time bringing in audiences as the original movie because there’s a lot more immediate competition including The Nice Guys, which also opens this weekend. It just doesn’t seem to be as necessary or obvious a sequel as 2014’s 22 Jump Street either.

Projected Opening:  $40 – 44 million

Projected Domestic Total: $130 million

The Conjuring 2 (Warner Bros.) – June 10

This summer sees two more sequels to movies released during the summer of 2013, as both Warner Bros.’ The Conjuring 2 and Lionsgate’s Now You See Me 2 are released on June 10.

Once again directed by James Wan, the former film reunites the supernatural investigators played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga for a new case after the original movie grossed $137 million off an astounding $42 million when opening on July 19, 2013. This has been a slower year for strong studio horror movies, so this will be taking advantage of an earlier summer release while also trying to avoid the competing films released the same weekend. The first movie did benefit from being an original concept released in a summer full of sequels, but now this is a sequel in another summer full of sequels. At least it’s coming out early enough in the season to avoid sequel fatigue (hopefully).

Projected Opening: $39 – 43 million

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Projected Domestic Total: $110 million

Now You See Me 2 (Summit/Lionsgate) – June 10

The original Now You See Me, an ensemble action-thriller reuniting Zombieland stars Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg, opened in late May 2013 against Will Smith’s After Earth, and it surprised when it beat Smith’s movie with $29 million vs. $27 million that weekend. Most of the original cast have returned for the sequel, which missed its opportunity to not call itself “Now You Don’t,” although Isla Fisher is replaced with Lizzy Caplan, and they’re joined by Daniel Radcliffe and Chinese pop singer Jay Chou (Kato to Seth Rogen’s Green Hornet). Director Jon M. Chu has also taken over the sequel and, surprisingly, has already been signed for a third movie. So, Lionsgate must know they have something good on their hands again.

The cast and concept of magician thieves will be the biggest draw, but this is facing the exact same challenges that 2013’s Red 2 did, i.e. a Conjuring movie. And that should have warned the studio to get off this weekend since it won’t do as well as the previous installment.

Projected Opening: $22 – 25 million

Projected Domestic Total: $65 million

The Purge: Election Year (Universal) – July 1

The last sequel of interest this summer is the third installment in Universal and Blumhouse Pictures’ sci-fi thriller franchise about a version of America where everyone gets to commit rampant crime for 24 hours, basically to purge it out of their system. This idea has led to two decent hits so far with 2013’s The Purge and its 2014 sequel, The Purge: Anarchy, grossing $72 and $64 million respectively. The third movie has the benefit of having the perfect title for a movie released in an election year, as well as over the Fourth of July weekend, so it should get a slight bump from the previous movie.

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Projected Opening: $29 – 33 million (four-day)

Projected Domestic Total: $74 million

Other Potential Break-Outs

There are a handful of movies released this summer that aren’t sequels, because there’s also remakes and movies based on existing properties! Yay! There’s at least a couple original movies out this summer, too.

Ghostbusters (Sony) – July 15

The summer’s big remake looking to capitalize on the nostalgia factor that played a major role in 2015’s biggest hits is Sony’s new take on Ghostbusters, which reunites Bridesmaids director Paul Feig with that film’s stars Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy. They’re also joined by SNL’s Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon. A new version of the classic ‘80s blockbuster that joined Ivan Reitman with Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis has been in development for a long time at Sony and not everyone was thrilled with the idea of the popular favorite being reimagined as a women’s comedy.

That said, all those women are very funny and it’s been a while since we’ve seen Wiig in a studio movie. McCarthy on the other hand is perhaps more popular than ever, but has also had a number of disappointments lately, mostly her projects directed by husband Ben Falcone, Tammy and The Boss. Personally, I believe that the haters against the idea of this movie will still be intrigued enough by the results to go see it, and if the movie is half as funny as last year’s Spy, then it should do well over the summer. It probably should do okay if not quite being a huge blockbuster since it’s just not being received as well as other movies this summer.

Projected Opening: $52 – 56 million

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Projected Domestic Total: $160 million

related article – Ghostbusters: Everything We Know

Pete’s Dragon (Disney) – Aug. 12

Disney’s Pete’s Dragon is a remake of a not quite as beloved 1977 film (unless you’re over 40) which pairs Jurassic World star Bryce Dallas Howard with more CG creatures. But it’s a great concept that should connect with kids today just as much as the original did. The movie’s August 12th release may not help this find its intended family audience since many families are on vacation (and some schools start early), but Disney has been on a roll this year and that should aid them in getting the word out. Expect decent business despite its less than prime release date.

Projected Opening: $28 – 30 million

Projected Domestic Total: $98 million

The BFG (Disney) – July 1

Disney may have as much or even better luck with director Steven Spielberg’s The BFG, which is based on Roald Dahl’s story about a girl and her “big friendly giant.” Opening on July 1, it returns Spielberg to the style of Amblin family entertainment that helped deliver one of his greatest blockbuster hits, E.T. The Extraterrestrial. The BFG has a similar epic fantasy aesthetic to that classic, similar to the early Harry Potter movies. These things should help bring in families over the Fourth of July holiday with schools out and such. It has some competition that weekend (see below) but nothing too worrisome in the long run.

Projected Opening: $33 – 35 million (four-day)

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Projected Domestic Total: $110 million

Central Intelligence (New Line/WB) – June 17

One would think that pairing two box office superstars in Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson would give the action-comedy Central Intelligence, released by Warner Bros. on June 17, an edge at the box office… if it weren’t opening against Disney/Pixar’s Finding Dory, which will remove a lot of potential audience. But both actors have a lot of fans, and this one will probably cater more to a segment of young males that wouldn’t get caught dead in a movie about animated fish. Thus it should be good counterprogramming.

How well it does in the long run might depend on how good the movie actually is, but Hart and Johnson have been out stumping for it, including their hosting of the MTV Movie Awards recently.

Projected Opening: $28 – 32 million

Projected Domestic Total: $85 million

Warcraft (Legendary/Universal) – June 10

Lastly, we have a daring entry into the summer movie market, one so daring that it’s been delayed multiple times over the past year: Legendary Pictures’ Warcraft, an ambitious effort directed by Duncan Jones (Moon). This is a high-fantasy picture based on the hugely popular and immersive MMORPG that showcases a war between Humans and Orcs with expansive CG worlds and motion-captured performances. 

There’s definitely an audience for this, but mainly among the fans of the games and fantasy genre who haven’t had much since the last The Hobbit movie. But that’s the only audience for a movie that’s also opening the same weekend as two big sequels, which doesn’t give it much of a chance to make a mark but we’ll discuss that more below.

Projected Opening: $27 – 30 million

Projected Domestic Total: $80 million

There are other potential early May breakout films, both original concepts targeted toward older audiences, like Shane Black’s The Nice Guys with Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, and Jodie Foster’s Money Monster, starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts, but neither seems like it might gross more than $50 or $60 million total.

I’d also mention Legendary Pictures’ Spectral, but I’m convinced that will move to next year because releasing it in August at this point, without any trailer, poster, etc. would be suicide (and not of the cool Suicide Squad type).

related article – The Warcraft Movie: Everything You Need to Know

Summer’s Biggest Face-Offs

Some of these are mentioned above, but there are probably five weekends this summer that will be scrutinized closely about which movie might come out on top over the others.

May 20 – The Angry Birds Movie vs. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

While the Seth Rogen sequel might have an advantage, being a sequel to a successful comedy, there’s no denying the name brand power of Angry Birds, and the fact it will be the first PG movie since mid-April’s The Jungle Book, which might put both movies in the $40 to 50 million range opening weekend. I’ll give a slight advantage to The Angry Birds Movie to win the weekend, especially since Neighbors also has to contend with Shane Black’s The Nice Guys.

May 27 – Alice Through the Looking Glass vs. X-Men: Apocalypse

It’s strange having back-to-back face-offs at the box office but for whatever reason, there are two weekends in late May with strong competition. At least in the case of Memorial Day, it’s not that uncommon though. If Tim Burton were still helming the Alice sequel, it could theoretically take Bryan Singer’s X-Men franchise down a notch, but the comic book heroes have become hugely popular mainly due to Singer’s involvement, and this should continue the franchise’s strong showing over the holiday and win Memorial Day weekend.

June 10 – The Conjuring 2 vs. Now You See Me 2 vs. Warcraft

This could be an interesting weekend because it seems like all three movies could get a wide mix of men and women, both teen and older, but The Conjuring 2 should win the top spot with ease over the other two, which will likely split whatever business is left and probably each end up in the $20-30 million range.

July 1 – The BFG vs. The Legend of Tarzan vs. The Purge: Election Year

Fourth of July weekend is always a confounding one, especially when a bunch of movies are released rather than just being one all-encompassing blockbuster—a Transformers movie, for instance. In the past, when multiple films were released, they would split the business and in this case, two of them are going to do better than the third.

I’ll give the advantage to Spielberg’s The BFG since school will be out and kids will be looking for something to do. It should also benefit from the Fourth of July being on Monday, making it a proper holiday weekend. Finding Dory will probably also still be in play in its third weekend, as well as Independence Day: Resurgence. So, this weekend is gonna be a mess either way!

July 22 – Star Trek Beyond vs. Ice Age: Collision Course

The last weekend we’ll look at is the one later into the summer where Paramount’s sci-fi franchise will take on Fox’s animated one. Both of these seem to be a little worn out, but Star Trek Beyond can at least rely on a fairly wide range of fans, both male and female, to help it win this weekend.

Summer’s Top 12

1. Captain America: Civil War (Marvel/Disney)

2. Finding Dory (Pixar/Disney)

3. The Secret Life of Pets (Universal)

4. Suicide Squad (Warner Bros.)

5. X-Men Apocalypse (20th Century Fox)

6. Jason Bourne (Universal)

7. Independence Day Resurgence (20th Century Fox)

8. Star Trek Beyond (Paramount)

9. Ghostbusters (Sony)

10. The Angry Birds Movie (Sony)

11. Ice Age: Collision Course (Fox)

12. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (Universal)

(Alice Through the Looking Glass or TMNT: Out of the Shadows could possibly sneak in there as well.)

Agree with these picks? Think one is being overvalued or undervalued? Let us know in the comment section below!