Summer flicks look to boost dragging box office

In this special summer preview edition of Box Office Beat, we’ll be looking over the entire summer slate to see which films will do the best and which films will likely have to make the most of it on cable television.

Superhero takeover · Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr., returns to the silver screen to pick up where he left off in Iron Man 2, finding his world torn apart by Mandarin, a villainous arch-nemesis. - Courtesy of Marvel

Superhero takeover · Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr., returns to the silver screen to pick up where he left off in Iron Man 2, finding his world torn apart by Mandarin, a villainous arch-nemesis. – Courtesy of Marvel


This time last year, The Avengers opened to an astronomical $207.4 million and went on to become the third-highest grossing movie of all time. It was such a dominant film at the box office, however, that it completely overwhelmed other films that came out right afterward, including notable flops Dark Shadows and Battleship.

To be fair, both of those films had issues to begin with, but they had no chance of breaking out. In fact, very few films truly “broke out” — Ted being one of the few exceptions. Not to mention that the later part of the summer had the movie-theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., which arguably scared off a percentage of people who would’ve gone to the movies.

This summer is much more evenly stacked, at least in May and June. Though another Marvel superhero flick will open the season, there’s still plenty of other films that will draw interest and perhaps will serve as the sorely needed boosts to the box office that the industry has been looking for.

Iron Man 3 has the most going for it. Not only does the film benefit by being the first film of the summer lineup, but it also comes on the heels of the wildly successful Avengers film. Though the reception for the second Iron Man was mixed, the marketing for this one has made it out to be an event comparable to last year’s superhero mashup.

With a more compelling villain, a storyline that takes Tony Stark to the brink and all those extra awesome Iron Man suits he has on hand, expect a $150 million-plus opening and a total of around $380 million, which could be enough to be the biggest of the season.

Airing two weeks later, Star Trek Into Darkness, the sequel to the crazy-successful J.J. Abrams-directed reboot, has arguably just as much going for it as Iron Man 3.  Abrams and Co. have done an admirable, if slightly infuriating, job of hiding the plot details as much as possible, and that has only added to the anticipation.

What will likely prevent it from reaching the same heights as Iron Man 3, however, is that Star Trek remains attractive to a restricted audience compared to the former property. Still, expect a giant $130 million-plus opening; since it’s more fan-driven, the total run will drop off quicker to just over $300 million.

Memorial Day weekend will be one of the more stacked weekends in recent memory. Fast & Furious 6, The Hangover Part III and Blue Sky Studios’ Epic all come out the same day.

Though Epic is a wild card, being the first family film of the season, and The Hangover Part III is coming off a polarizing predecessor. But Fast & Furious 6 is bringing even more of the action-packed car chases and high-octane set pieces, which should draw in a large audience.

Expect the sixth feature to jump out with a $105 million-plus opening and a $247 million-plus total.

The third Hangover won’t have as large of an opening as the second one but should still get a $65 million-plus opening and $170 million total.

Man of Steel, the Zack Snyder-directed superhero epic, probably has more relying on it than any film this season. Though Marvel has had unbelievable success, with 10 features starring the company’s characters coming out over the next three years, Warner Bros. and DC have struggled to launch any franchise that doesn’t star Batman; both Superman Returns and Green Lantern failed to connect with audiences.

The studio is hoping that this film, featuring a more serious, deified version of Superman, can launch a series of franchises in much the same way that Iron Man did for Marvel Studios. So it not only has to do great, it has to be super (sorry, had to).

The marketing, fortunately, has sold the Nolan-esque tone, even if we have to go through another origin story. It’s looking like it’ll open above $85 million-plus and have a $250 million-plus total.

In the battle of the animated features, we have Monsters University on June 21, Despicable Me 2 on July 3 and Dreamworks’ Turbo on July 17.

Against all odds, the biggest animated feature of those three could be Despicable Me 2. The original was one of the biggest summer surprises in years, and those little minions are still as crazy, annoying and adorable as you’d hope. Aided by the Fourth of July weekend, it could end up with a giant total of more than $300 million.

Coming in second, Monsters University will likely settle for a cushy $200 million-plus total, and Turbo, being the odd one out in the bunch, which will settle with about $130 million-plus or so.

This doesn’t even touch a third of the big films of the summer season, which is sure to have something for everyone. Not every film can be The Avengers, but sometimes it’s better to have multiple good box-office runs than just one outstanding one.


Robert Calcagno is a second-year graduate student in the School of Cinematic Arts pursuing an MFA in animation. His column “Box Office Beat” runs Fridays.