It’s probably safe to assume that, in the money-marinated minds of Hollywood executives, the summer movie season unofficially began with the April 14 release of the box office smash The Fate of the Furious. It still seems weird to toss out the word “summer” while everyone was being pelted by April showers, so the summer movie season will officially commence as usual with the first weekend in May.
Over the course of the next four months, over 50 films are slated to open in theaters nationally. While many will debut in limited release before expanding over the subsequent weeks, the wide releases are the ones that will generate the most bank at the box office. Some, like the various superhero outings, seem like sure things, while others come attached with big question marks. Will Baywatch sink or swim? Will Rough Night enjoy a smooth ride? Will Annabelle: Creation scare up potent business? Will Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie help rescue the movie summer season?
All will be answered by Labor Day Weekend. In the meantime, here are guesses for both ends of the spectrum: Predicting The 10 Top-Grossing Movies of Summer 2017 (And 5 That Might Flop).
15 HIT – ALIEN: COVENANT
Ridley Scott enjoyed his first international success with 1979’s Alien, but he didn’t return to the franchise he helped birth until the 2012 prequel Prometheus. Despite a built-in audience and fairly positive reviews, the film couldn’t maintain any traction following its $51-million opening weekend — instead, it spent the next month combating mixed word-of-mouth and dropping over 50% each weekend.
Despite its plummet, Prometheus grossed $126 million and ended up in the #10 slot on the list of that summer’s top moneymakers — a position likely to be similarly snagged by this follow-up. Scott returns as director, while Michael Fassbender, who earned the movie’s best reviews for his portrayal of an android, again assumes co-starring duties. With a plot that sounds more straightforward than Prometheus, Alien: Covenant is in a good position to at least match its predecessor’s box office take when it hits theaters on May 19.
14 HIT – DUNKIRK
While sequels, prequels, and franchise players tend to always dominate the summer box office, there’s usually room for one hit that offers audiences something different. This year, the most likely candidate is Dunkirk, a dramatization of the Allied evacuation of Dunkirk, France, during World War II.
While the WWII film was once a Hollywood staple, it’s become a rarity over the past quarter-century, with the high point — both critically and commercially — remaining 1998’s Saving Private Ryan. Dunkirk, out July 21st, stands a chance of joining that Steven Spielberg smash, Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, and a couple of other movies as the only WWII outings to gross over $100 million. The reason? Christopher Nolan.
Nolan, whose past five summer releases have averaged an astounding $334 million at the U.S. box office, has chosen to make his war flick PG-13 (as opposed to the R sported by Saving Private Ryan and the recent Hacksaw Ridge), suggesting the emphasis will be on action rather than gore. This in turn accommodates younger viewers who might otherwise prefer to steer clear of anything resembling history over summer vacation.
13 MIGHT FLOP – SNATCHED
Trainwreck proved to be one of the pleasant surprises of the 2015 summer movie season, grossing $110 million and landing Amy Schumer a Golden Globe nomination for her first starring role in a motion picture. It was reminiscent of the big-screen breakout enjoyed by Melissa McCarthy,who landed an Oscar nomination for Bridesmaids and subsequently starred in several $100 million grossers.
Alas, Schumer’s latest movie feels more like a Tammy than a Spy. While the critically lambasted Tammy, co-starring Oscar-winner Susan Sarandon as McCarthy’s grandmother, still managed to earn $84 million, Snatched, co-starring Oscar-winner Goldie Hawn as Schumer’s mother, may not climb as high.
The early release date of May 12 helps, as does the presence of Katie Dippold as scripter — in addition to penning a number of Parks and Recreation episodes, she also wrote two of McCarthy’s $100 million titles, The Heat and last summer’s underrated Ghostbusters remake. But the comic shtick by Schumer and Hawn on this year’s Oscar telecast (where they appeared together as presenters) evoked winces rather than guffaws, and the film’s trailers feel outdated.
12 HIT – CARS 3
With a 39% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Cars 2 is the lowest ranked of all Pixar movies to date (the next lowest is — surprise! — Cars at 74%). It matters not a whit. A Pixar release is money in the bank, and even with the overall tepid reaction, Cars 2 still grossed a hearty $191 million. That might sound disappointing for a movie that cost $200 million, but after the foreign box office (a sizable $370 million) was added — well, there’s a reason there’s now a Cars 3.
The animated sequel is being released in a seasonal sweet spot -- June 16; exactly two weeks after Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie and exactly two weeks before Despicable Me 3. Even if Captain Underpants holds better than expected, it shouldn’t crimp too much on the debut of Cars 3. After all, it’s that time of year when there’s plenty of kiddie coin to go around.
11 MIGHT FLOP – THE MUMMY
Perhaps some quantifiers are in order. Universal’s latest attempt to get a shared monster universe off the ground — 2014’s Dracula Untold failed to do the trick — will easily clear $100 million at the U.S. box office, and its international take should be phenomenal. But assuming its budget will be hefty — the studio has been, ahem, mum regarding the final price tag — The Mummy will have to go over like gangbusters on both the domestic and global fronts to inspire confidence and ensure goodwill.
Mindful that the popular Brendan Fraser Mummy movies played more like cut-rate Indiana Jones extravaganzas than straight horror films, Universal is pushing this as an action-adventure yarn rather than a monster flick. It also tapped Tom Cruise to headline the movie — a top-dollar practice that will continue with future films in the shared universe (Johnny Depp and Javier Bardem have already been enlisted to portray, respectively, the Invisible Man and the Frankenstein monster).
Yet will stunts and star power be enough? Probably, although perhaps not at the level anticipated by the studio. So while “flop” might be too strong a word, “underwhelm” sounds just about right. We'll find out on June 9th.
10 HIT – WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES
The relaunch of the venerable Planet of the Apes franchise has been going swimmingly, with 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes garnering positive reviews and potent box office and 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes netting even stronger reviews and even larger grosses.
Whether that upward momentum continues with War for the Planet of the Apes is the million dollar question — or, more specifically, the $208 million question, since that was the amount earned by the last entry. The signs are certainly positive, starting with the return of Dawn director Matt Reeves. Then there’s the addition of Woody Harrelson, with the actor joining the series as a military man hell-bent on destroying all the apes. From his work in The Hunger Games quartet to his turns in The Edge of Seventeen and Triple 9, Harrelson has been killing it lately as a supporting player extraordinaire. It should be quite the trip watching his character square off against simian star Caesar (Andy Serkis) on July 14.
9 MIGHT FLOP – AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING
Blumhouse Productions has a remarkable track record when it comes to squeezing big bucks out of modestly produced horror flicks. The Purge, Paranormal Activity, and Insidious franchises have all enjoyed considerable grosses, and even comparatively small earners like Dark Skies and The Gallows rank as successes when their budgets are considered.
Indeed, a small budget might be the only way for Amityville: The Awakening to avoid being a bomb. For one thing, it’s been 12 years since the last movie that focused on this particular piece of haunted real estate, and no one’s been exactly clamoring for a follow-up. For another, studio confidence is shaky, since the film’s gone through five release-date changes -- it was originally scheduled for January 2015 and has finally landed on a June 30, 2017, release date.
Most crucially, though, is the fact that a robust number of horror yarns are being released this summer, and this one might end up getting lost in the supernatural shuffle. Its competition will include It Comes at Night, coming off positive film-festival buzz, and Annabelle: Creation, part of a series that (unlike Amityville: The Awakening) is presently going strong.
8 HIT – PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES
It’s been six years since the fourth film in Disney’s theme-park series, and while such a lengthy wait often leads to diminished interest, that’s not necessarily the case here.
It’s true that the first three films (released between 2003 and 2007) all grossed over $300 million domestically while 2007’s On Stranger Tides “only” made $241 million. But Tides didn’t have series co-stars Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley returning alongside Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush — they’re back for Dead Men Tell No Tales on May 26th, though, and audiences might be curious to see how their characters, Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann, have been faring after a 10-year absence. The addition of Oscar-winning Javier Bardem, cast as Jack Sparrow’s villain du jour, also makes the project more enticing, and even Paul McCartney is rumored to make an appearance (because after Keith Richards, why not?).
With a budget that has reportedly ballooned to a staggering $320 million, this one might have to be massive across the board if the series stands a chance of continuing.
7 HIT – TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT
As Herman’s Hermits might say, second verse same as the first. Just as the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films all made over $300 million while the fourth brought up the rear with $241 million, this also proved to be the fate of the Transformers series, with the $245 million earned by 2014’s Transformers: Age of Extinction a far cry from the $300-million heights enjoyed by its three forebears.
Whether the dip was due to waning interest in the franchise (surely it wasn’t because of the departure of series star Shia LaBeouf?) or audience disappointment in the actual film remains unclear. At any rate, Transformers: The Last Knight, out June 23rd, will again find Michael Bay in the director’s chair (reportedly for the final time for this series), LaBeouf’s replacement Mark Wahlberg back again in the lead, and — shades of Bloom and Knightley — John Turturro, Tyrese Gibson, and Josh Duhamel all returning after sitting out the previous entry.
6 MIGHT FLOP – VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS
With a budget north of $200 million, this adaptation of a long-running French comic series stands as the most expensive film in that country’s history. Mindful that English-language pictures stand a greater chance of breaking out (at least with American audiences), writer-director Luc Besson has opted to cast this thoroughly Gallic project accordingly, with American and British actors cast in nearly all of the central roles. Will it be enough to guarantee its stateside success on July 21st?
It’s hard to say. The original trailer had a whiff of Jupiter Ascending about it. Neither Dane DeHaan nor Cara Delevigne are box office draws, which even the aforementioned Wachowski dud had in the form of Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis. As for Besson, his only financial smash as director has been 2014’s Lucy, with such popular works as The Fifth Element and The Professional known more for their cult status than for breaking open the box office. It’s entirely possible that Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets might similarly have to wait for home-entertainment enshrinement before its legacy is secured.
5 HIT – WONDER WOMAN
The superheroes (and villains) at the center of the DC Extended Universe aren’t hurting for cash, but they’re certainly aching for a kind word from the reviewers. That could change with the release of Wonder Woman, the fourth film in the DCEU following the critically lambasted trio of Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Suicide Squad.
Even Batman v Superman’s legion of detractors agreed that the highlight of the film was the introduction of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, and the not-insignificant fact that this iconic heroine will finally be headlining her own movie has further stoked the excitement of both moviegoers and movie reviewers alike.
Still, even if the film turns out to be a critical bomb on the level of Catwoman or Howard the Duck, the initial flurry of activity should guarantee a stellar coming-out party for the Amazonian princess on June 2nd. What’s more, its prime positioning as the last puzzle piece before the November release of Justice League will only further solidify its must-see merit.
4 HIT – SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING
Move over, Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, here’s Tom Holland as the latest model of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Following his debut in last summer’s Captain America: Civil War, this new incarnation of Peter Parker and his web-slinging alter ego now finds himself front and center in Spider-Man: Homecoming — albeit with Robert Downey Jr.’s immensely popular Tony Stark/Iron Man serving as added incentive for viewers to come check this new Spidey out on July 7.
Beginning with Maguire’s 2002 Spider-Man through Garfield’s 2014 The Amazing Spider-Man 2, every successive Spider-flick has grossed less than the previous installment — a downward spiral that becomes even more pronounced when one realizes that inflated ticket prices should have provided the latter entries with at least some measure of a boost to level the playing field. But between Holland’s instant appeal, Downey’s clout, and the savvy casting of Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes/The Vulture, that financial descent ends here.
3 MIGHT FLOP – KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD
The last time Hollywood tried to turn King Arthur into a movie star, it didn’t go so well. Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Antoine Fuqua, the 2004 production of King Arthur featured a powerhouse cast (Clive Owen, Keira Knightley, Mads Mikkelsen, and more) and cost a lavish $120 million, but brutal reviews and audience disinterest resulted in it barely crossing the $50 million domestic mark. 1995’s First Knight (starring Sean Connery as Arthur), also underperformed, nabbing only $37 million.
Guy Ritchie is handling helming duties on King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, yet even his slick style might not be enough to entice audiences into enthusiastically exploring the origin of Arthur and his initial encounter with his trusty blade Excalibur. As for star Charlie Hunnam, it remains to be seen whether he can parlay his success on TV’s Sons of Anarchy into a sustained movie leading man career. Legend of the Sword drops on May 12.
2 HIT – DESPICABLE ME 3
Five animated features are scheduled for release this summer, and while The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature can be expected to bring up the rear (particularly if The Emoji Movie overcomes its dubious existence and catches on like The Angry Birds Movie), there’s absolutely no question that Despicable Me 3 will emerge as the ‘toon champ. Even more impressively, the June 30 release stands a chance of being the summer’s top grosser.
Simply put, this is a series that continues to exceed expectations. With $368 million in the till, Despicable Me 2 grossed well over $100 million more than the first movie. Gru’s goofball henchmen, the Minions, were so popular that they received their own movie — and even that one earned an obscene amount (globally, Minions is one of only five animated films to gross over one billion dollars).
The plot of Despicable Me 3 centers around Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) encountering his twin brother Dru (also Carell), but it scarcely matters — even a solid 90 minutes of Minions tripping over each other would set the box office on fire.
1 HIT – GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2
The opening movie of the summer season naturally gets the jump on the rest of the field, yet while sometimes it retains its standing as the period’s top grosser (for instance, Iron Man 3 in 2013), other times it ends up falling behind a challenger (such as last year’s Captain America: Civil War, which was eventually surpassed by the June opener Finding Dory). This year, it’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 that will find itself roaring out of the gate on May 5th and looking over its shoulder for the next four months. It’s doubtful anything will catch up to it.
Granted, the element of surprise that helped power 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy to a $333 million gross is missing, but in its place is something just as valuable: heightened anticipation. Audiences are jacked to see the continuing adventures of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and his band of merry misfits, and with new characters to expand the mythology and additional name actors (Kurt Russell, Sylvester Stallone) to crowd the marquee, here’s a mixtape that will play on a continuous loop throughout the summer.
What movies do you think will hit or flop this summer? Share in the comments!