How Will Bumblebee Fare?
The dark horse of this box office trio is Bumblebee. Paramount have made a lot of money from the Transformers franchise, thanks to Michael Bay’s critically reviled but commercially successful films. The franchise is the 13th highest grossing movie series of all time, ahead of the DCEU and Paramount's other cash cow, Mission: Impossible. Transformers has been a record breaker in China, and the last two films were made more with Chinese audiences in mind than anyone else, hence all the China-specific product placement.
Transformers: Age of Extinction is currently the 13th highest grossing film in China. But that success was somewhat diminished with 2017’s Transformers: The Last Knight, which made close to $450 million less than its predecessor. That was in large part due to the drop in gross in China. However, Bumblebee has a few more aces up its sleeve that could see the Transformers franchise return to its commercial glory days. For one, Bumblebee is receiving the kind of positive reviews the franchise could only have dreamed about. Transformers remains a hot property but Bay fatigue hit heavily for many and director Travis Knight offers a refreshing return to the franchise’s ‘80s roots.
Leading up to its release, Bumblebee has been projected to earn approximately $20 - $25 million in its opening weekend, which is lower than both Aquaman and Mary Poppins Return, which is disappointing considering how well received the movie has been. However, strong word of mouth during the holidays could lead Bumblebee to become somewhat of a sleeper hit thanks to its family-friendly nature. Bumblebee is something of a dark horse in the race for Christmas box office domination. By comparison, Aquaman versus Mary Poppins Returns feels more like a two-horse race.
Aquaman Will End Up With The Highest Box Office Total
It's clear that the real strength of Aquaman lies overseas. Once again, a comparison to Venom seems apt; as strongly as that film did domestically, and under similar hype, a staggering 75% of its overall gross came from international markets. There will be countries where Mary Poppins Returns performs strongly or even better than Aquaman, such as the UK, but overall, the ball is in Aquaman’s pool. (Mary Poppins Returns' nostalgic appeal also doesn't carry over to the key market of China.) Its head start clearly helps, but in terms of longevity as the competition mounts up, it still has the ability to mount an impressive long-term box office strategy.
But, ultimately, we think Aquaman will be number one overall movie across all markets once the numbers are added up. Even if it doesn’t play as well as Mary Poppins Returns in the domestic box office and Bumblebee gets a more even share across the board, those grosses from China are too big to ignore and could help tip it into the top 10 highest grossing movies of 2018 if the numbers hold on strong. Combine a dedicated fan base with strong reviews, a vibrant and unique concept, and appeal across all demographics, Aquaman is the one with the most cards in play.
The next question is how much money will Aquaman make overall. If Aquaman makes over $500 million, then Warner Bros. will probably be satisfied given the lack of hype it had for so long and the sheer number of headlines predicting it would flop. Justice League made over $657 million and was seen as a disappointment. If Aquaman can outdo that, then it will give the DCEU some comfort for the future. It's not out of the question for Aquaman to surpass the $595 million gross of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, which currently sits at number 10 on the list of the highest grossing movies of 2018, although it’s unlikely it can match the $1.34 billion of Black Panther.
Mary Poppins Returns isn't the usual sort of film that makes the top ten in the current blockbuster age, but neither is Bohemian Rhapsody and that's currently the eighth highest grossing movie of 2018. Musicals with a big hook and familiar name play well, and Mary Poppins Returns has both nostalgia and Disney in its corner. If Mary Poppins Returns cracks the top 10 of 2018, then Disney will have domination over 50% of the list. 20th Century Fox currently occupies two of those spaces, thus meaning Disney's Fox acquisition will give the studio even greater power over the domestic and international box offices.
By comparison, Paramount and Bumblebee cannot help but feel like an underdog, albeit a multi-million dollar one. Bumblebee also has a reported budget of around $100 million, which is significantly smaller than its Transformers siblings, which means the margin for profit is better than, say, The Last Knight (estimated budget: $217 - $260 million). Whatever the case, and regardless of which film comes out on top, audiences can rest assured knowing that, this holiday season, they’ll have an enviable array of cinematic choices.
- Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018
- Bumblebee (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018
- Mary Poppins Returns (2018) release date: Dec 19, 2018