The film industry saw record breaking numbers at the domestic box office last year, with $11.1 billion made in ticket sales. However, unless a movie was distributed by Walt Disney Pictures or Universal, chances are it didn't exactly light up the marketplace. Just nine films crossed the $200 million plateau in the States last year, and seven of them came from those two studios, including massive hits like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic World, and Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Warner Bros. was one of the many movie houses that struggled to keep up with the Disney and Universal juggernauts. A year after distributing commercial smashes like American Sniper, The LEGO Movie, and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (all of which finished in the top 10 domestically), the studio did not have much pull with audiences in 2015. Their top earner was the Dwayne Johnson vehicle San Andreas, which brought in $155.1 million in the U.S. and $473.7 million globally. That's nothing to sneeze at, but it could be considered a down year for the studio's film slate. Luckily for them, things should be up in 2016.
Speaking at the Deutsche Bank Media, Internet and Telecom Conference (hat tip Deadline), Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes predicted "another record year" for WB, citing the numerous franchise films the studio is releasing over the course of the year. Obviously, the most high-profile of these projects are the DC Comics movies Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad; and the Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. In addition to those, Bewkes believes horror sequel The Conjuring 2 and animated film Storks will turn a tidy profit for the company when it's all said and done.
It isn't surprising that Bewkes feels this way, since WB is releasing some of the most anticipated films of the year. Fans have been clamoring for a Justice League movie universe a la the Marvel Cinematic Universe, something that's finally coming into fruition. And even though it's been a while since the last novel and film were released, the Harry Potter property is still as popular as ever, generating palpable excitement for future adventures set in the J.K. Rowling's famed wizarding world. It's easy to envision a scenario where the trio of Batman V Superman, Suicide Squad, and Fantastic Beasts all end 2016 near the top of the box office charts, successfully launching franchise tentpoles WB can consistently bank on.
Though projections aren't available for the entire lineup yet, the studio looks like they'll get off on the right foot when Dawn of Justice hits theaters later this month. Tracking indicates an opening weekend in the range of $120 - 140 million, which may be lower than some expected, but still an impressive haul. Should Batman V Superman prove to be a sizable hit and generate positive word-of-mouth, that will only increase enthusiasm for Suicide Squad this summer and have a positive impact on the villain team-up's box office prospects.
Time will tell just how successful these endeavors will be, but it wouldn't be wise to bet against WB at this juncture. Last year's champs Disney and Universal are back at it with Captain America: Civil War, Jason Bourne, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, but WB has some heavy hitters in 2016. It would be very surprising, to say the least, if they didn't have a lucrative year.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice opens on March 25, 2016, which is followed by Suicide Squad on August 5, 2016; Wonder Woman on June 23, 2017; Justice League Part One on November 17, 2017; The Flash on March 16, 2018; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League Part Two on June 14, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps. on June 19, 2020.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them hits theaters November 18, 2016. Two sequels are planned for release in 2018 and 2020.
The Conjuring 2 opens on June 10, 2016.
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