Summer 2011 Box Office Predictions

Thanks to sequels, remakes, and adaptations Summer of 2011 might have to be called the year of the extremely long movie title. I made predictions for the top ten highest grossing films of the summer and of those 6 are sequels, 3 are comic book adaptations, and 1 is an original concept. Despite the fact that there are some major high-profile films coming out this summer, I am not predicting that any will earn over $400 million like Toy Story 3 managed to do last year. In 2010 four films had opening weekends higher than $100 million, but that was a bit of a fluke. The popularity of 3-D films is declining, the number of bankable franchises is decreasing, and summer is becoming less and less the cinematic peak season with two of the top five films in 2010 and 2009 coming from the Spring or Fall.

Nevertheless, there will still always be the wonderful communal experience of escaping to an air-conditioned cinema to avoid the heat of the summer and enjoying the latest and greatest in mindless entertainment. Here are the movies that I predict will perform the best in the summer of 2011:

1) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II – July 15
Opening: $139 million | Overall: $339 million

Only two of the seven previous Harry Potter films have broken $300 million at the Box Office and the highest earning film in the series was the first which earned $317 million. So why am I predicting that the eighth film and the second part of a two-film series will be the highest grossing film of the summer? The biggest reason is the built-up anticipation. By ending Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I rather ambiguously and carefully not releasing too many details about movie number 8, Warner Bros. has successfully made this the most anticipated film of the summer for wizards and muggles alike. The Facebook page has over 21 million fans, which is nearly twice as many as any other summer movie according to

This Potter film also has one money-earning benefit that no other film in the franchise had: 3-D. Like it or hate it, the inflated ticket price to see this film through poorly tinted glasses will add to the already enormous revenues. For the first time in franchise history, this Summer will belong to Harry Potter.

2) Transformers: Dark of the Moon – July 1
Opening: $103 million | Overall: $324 million

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was the highest grossing film of summer 2009 despite the overwhelmingly negative reviews. I suspect that the third film in the franchise will be equally critic-proof and prove to be one of the biggest success stories of the summer. Say what you will about Michael Bay, but he knows how to appeal to the masses with the right amount of CGI and cardboard acting to provide some surface-level escapism. Even movie-goers who respect the art of cinema can get some laughs at how self-aware and unapologetic Bay seems to be about being a complete tool. I don’t see any way that this film’s earnings will not be somehow affected by the negative reception of its predecessor, but with promises of more CGI, explosions, and robot crunching sound design this should be another strong year for these robots in disguise.

3) Cars 2 – June 24
Opening: $84 million | Overall: $306 million

Last summer I underestimated Pixar’s Toy Story 3 and it ended up coming out on top as the highest grossing film of the summer. I intend not to make the same mistake twice. Depending on the quality of this film, which I don’t anticipate will be nearly as high as Toy Story 3, this could turn out to be the surprise movie of the summer with legs that carry it to multiple weekends of high grosses. The original Cars is not the most respected film in Pixar’s arsenal, but it has actually earned the highest amount for the animation studio when merchandising is factored in. Cars is like the kids version of The Fast and the Furious where children eagerly anticipate the latest designs of the fast moving toys. I have probably over-inflated the expectations of this film, but there is a magic three letter phrase I have learned in my years as a movie-writer: Never. Underestimate. Pixar.

4) Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – May 20
Opening: $81 million | Overall: $274 million

Last year it was a fluke that four films opened with over $100 million (two in the summer). There could be a marketing surge that propels this film to becoming the third of this year to open higher than $100 million, but I suspect that my 80s range estimate might actually be a little high. I can’t fight the feeling that this series suffers from franchise fatigue, even though it has been 4 years since the release of the previous film. Pirates 3 barely broke $300 million and grossed over $100 million less than the second Pirates film. Sequels will continue to be made until Johnny Depp finally says enough is enough, but as long as the Box Office receipts are pouring in, this will continue to be a bankable Disney franchise.

5) The Hangover, Part II – May 26
Opening: $64 million | Overall: $262 million

The previous Hangover film earned $277 million despite the fact that it had very little name recognition and a very typical marketing campaign. This time around there is enormous name recognition and huge anticipation, which should allow it to easily surpass its predecessor in the opening weekend gross column. However, it may struggle to get up to the high overall mark set by the first Hangover, largely due to steep competition. On the other hand it could just as easily do what the original did and show strong legs propelling it to come from behind victories several weekends into its release. That ability is largely dependent on quality.

6) Kung Fu Panda 2 – May 26
Opening: $58 million | Overall: $229 million

This movie has the disadvantage of opening opposite The Hangover, Part II and the weekend after Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides opens, which will fight for the family audience. It does have the benefit of a long memorial weekend, which should help its overall numbers. It also has that enormous family audience to rely on, which has proven to be the most bankable demographic as of late with animated films like Hop, Rango, and Rio dominating the year so far. Dreamworks will never quite be able to compete with Pixar, but lately films like Monsters vs. Aliens and the Shrek franchise have been sneaking into the top ten grossing films of the year and this sequel should be no different.

7) Green Lantern – June 17
Opening: $48 million | Overall: $197 million

It was very difficult to decide which superhero movie to rank the highest as they all have about equal opportunity for success and will largely depend on their quality, which we don’t know yet (but we can kind of guess). Despite the fact that this year is the summer of Marvel, I’m actually selecting a DC franchise to beat out the rest of the films. Green Lantern has one of the most recognizable stars at the helm with Ryan Reynolds who may help some husbands convince their wives to see it (“honey, it’s got the guy from The Proposal“). It will also be released in 3D and IMAX 3D, which will inflate its earnings somewhat.

8) Captain America: The First Avenger – July 22
Opening: $47 million | Overall: $192 million

I was tempted to put Captain America higher than The Green Lantern because I suspect if I were to conduct a random survey Captain America would have slightly more people anticipating it. However, with a release date at the end of July I have no doubt that superhero fatigue is going to have set in. It will for sure bring in the comic-book audience (and Scott Pilgrim proved how reliable they are) and plenty of other superhero movie fans, but it will no doubt be negatively affected if Thor, The Green Lantern, and X-Men: First Class all are not well-received.

9) Thor – May 6
Opening: $56 million | Overall: $187 million

Thor has the advantage of being the first film released in May, which will bring out those who religiously follow the movie calendar as their obligatory first summer movie. With Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins in the cast, it has recognizable stars and early reviews have said it is actually not terrible, but Thor is not an established enough superhero amongst the mainstream to be able to count on a lengthy theatrical run.

10) Super 8 – June 10
Opening: $41 million | Overall: $182 million

There is always room for at least one original concept film in the summer Box Office and J.J. Abrams’ Super 8 should do the trick. The key for an original movie to succeed amongst Summer films with huge name recognition is quality and movies like The Hangover and Inception had great reviews to accompany their Box Office numbers. I suspect this film could be one of the best of the bunch, but if it is terrible then it will not make the cut no matter how many times they flash Steven Spielberg’s name in the TV spots.

Movies That Could Sneak In:

  • X-Men: First Class – June 3
  • Mr. Popper’s Penguins – June 17
  • Cowboys & Aliens – July 29
  • The Smurfs – July 29
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes – August 5

What do you think of these predictions? Too high or low? Did I over or underestimate any movies?

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  • In my opinion, Kung Fu Panda will open bigger than Cars 2. It is safer to say that Cars 2 will end in mid $200M

    I just have this feeling Hangover 2 won’t go that high or be as success as the previous one.

    Why don’t you predict X-Men too? It’s the one I’m waiting for this summer.

    But after all, I’m curious who will be the winner out of 3 new super hero franchise we have this year, Green Lantern, Thor, or Captain America. If I look at the trailer, Capt America looks more legit and Green lantern looks the cheesiest. But I’m ready to be wrong.

  • I think you are underestimating a Super 8’s demographic audience. I wouldn’t be surprised if that one had incredible staying power. It will be in the top ten longer than any other film on there.

    Also, I think you’re gut instincts about Captain America outdoing The Green Lantern are accurate. I could see Green Lantern being the flop of the summer.

    But I have no gauge for the pop-culture audience and you’re prediction skills have proven accurate (unlike mine). If there is one thing I really don’t understand about movies, it is the box office…

  • Owen

    This is actually the least excited I have been for a Pixar film ever. I know already that I won’t be seeing it in theaters, despite seeing the last 3 films in theaters.

    I see the Green Lantern being the weakest moneymaker of the comic book movies this summer, with it not in the top ten at all. X-Men brings with it a huge fan base and a rebooted franchise…I see that at the very least earning more than GL.

    I agree with your top 2, as I think that the final HP movie will probably earn even more than your prediction, and that this new TF movie can’t be nearly as bad as the last, and the last still made a ton of money.

    Basically, I’d drop GL out of the top 10, and move X-Men into the top 10, bumping everything up one spot.

  • I would move Cowboys and Aliens to the top ten. People will go see it for Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford. Out of the three super hero flicks I’m predicting that Green Latern and Thor will not make much money.

  • Jose

    Something tells me that that’s way to high for Cars 2.
    And maybe the 3D inflated tickets will make the movies go higher than you’re predicting. At least its a better prediction than last year.

  • JMack

    Summer box office predictions:
    1. Transformers 3 – $475
    2. Harry Potter 7 p2 – $375
    3. Pirates 4 -$325
    4. Cars 2 – $315
    5. Kung Fu Panda 2 – $300
    6. Hangover Part II – $250
    7. Thor – $235
    8. Cowboys & Aliens – $215
    9. Captain America – $200
    10. Green Lantern – $190
    11. X-men: 1st Class – $175
    12. Mr. Poppers Penguins – $160
    13. Super 8 – $150

  • @JMack – Whoa, you think Transformers 3 is going to become the 4th highest grossing movie of all-time? That would be truly a shock.

    The only basis I have for putting ‘The Green Lantern’ as high as I did was because my roommate and many of his friends are anticipating it more than any other comic book movie. It’s also in the hands of Warner Bros. who definitely know how to market movies (like The Dark Knight, The Hangover, and the many Potter films).

  • JMack

    Transformers 3 will definatley be the highest grossing movie of the summer. ROTF made $400 two years ago and this one is in 3D so it will make well over $400 and most likely reach $475, even if it is shit like ROTF. I also think it will break the TDK’s opening weekend record, it being released on a friday on the 4th of July weekend.

  • Jose

    I don’t think that will happen, I see it going the same route as Pirates 3 where despite the second one making a s!tload of money a lot of people hated it that the third movie significantly less. The 3D inflation will aleviate that from being a lot but not much.

  • Owen

    You are underestimating the amount of people who bought a ticket to Transformers 2 who feel as though they wasted their money, and will now not be seeing the third movie.

    I actually think it will be better than the second one (mainly because it seems to have a semblance of a plot) but still will be making my decision to attend that one based on the reviews.

  • Joseph Palreiro

    The only title I’m really conflicted about is Thor. I have a feeling that curiosity alone could push the opening weekend close to $70 mil. That said, I don’t think it will carry well and may be the only superhero movie not to hit $200 mil this summer (with the possible exception of X-Men, which will probably be the lowest grossing title, both for the weekend and overall). I also agree that Cap’s grosses will be directly tied to Thor’s. Look for Captain America to have a strong $70ish opening.

    Then again, I could be wrong.

  • Sully

    I seriously dont see Transformers 3 making less then £400 million domestic,

    expecially since its going to be in 3D

    and expecially since Michael Bay has got a lot of pride, he probably saw that avatar beat the shit out of his film in every single way, so he is probably going to try and out do technically (cgi, action ect ect), it wont make as much money as avatar obviously, but it should at least make more money then revenge of the fallen

    and also pirates 3 was considerably worse then pirates 2, i highly doubt transformers 3 is going to be any worse then 2 since they actually had a writer for this one, and more time to make this film then both movies

  • Jose

    I wonder if Harry Potter could make almost $400 million. Yes I’m factoring the 3D but also remember how Deathly hallows Part 1 was the lowest attended Potter film of the franchise and apperantly a lot of people were waiting to watch it with Part 2. Add that in with people who have been skipping the past 7 films and I’m sure even they’ll be interested in seeing the finale of the series. it might have the same level of attendance as the first Potter which has about $450 million counting in inflation.

    And they had the same amount of time between films with the new Transformers movie Sully

  • Ank

    I definitely feel that you have underestimated Pirates of the carribean. My instinct tells me it will have a $110 million opening and an end gross of around $350 million. Other than that, Kung Fu Panda 2 should easily earn over $280 millin, with a worldwide total exceeding $750 millon. Otherwise, your predictions seem absolutely on track. Nice work.


    Very similar to my picks. I am glad you are going lower with Transformers 3 and predict a bigger gross for the final HP.

  • KGB

    Harry Potter no doubt will be the highest grossing film of the summer. people have been waiting for this film for years and years!!! This is a full blown all action non stop thrill ride movie! Fans are not only going to want to see it, but they are going to want to see it again and again!

    I don’t think Thor or Green Lantern will do that well…X-men will forsure be moved up and if Cowboys and Aliens was a little more advertised and more people knew about it then yes that also could be in the top 10. Super 8 has a lot of potential along with Captain America…

    & As for Pirates and The Hangover 2…i have no idea…ill be there tho!

  • TKC

    I have to agree with Luke about his Transformer ROTF prediction; that one reason it may not have as big of numbers is because there is no longer Megan Fox attracting its main demographic. There is no doubt it could be number 2 or 3 as far as opening weekend and definitely has +800 worldwide potential, as long as good reviews can sustain it.

    HP7 will unquestionably have highest OW due to pent up demand, being the last of the sequel to attract stragglers from the previous films, etc. Reviews play almost no role in the success of this movie and it should domestically rake in more than 320.

    I agree with everyone else on GL, it has the most potential to flop even with Ryan Reynolds at the helm, the CG looks cheesy and unattractive, and the movie has had less of a marketing blitz and not as much recognition outside fanboys.

    I see Hangover II being completely front-loaded and struggling to make 210 domestic due to its relative sameness and un-originality. They have taken similar steps as Sex and the City 2, sending the characters to a random exotic destination. However good reviews could push it higher.

    Pirates will have a high opening weekend, but without the presence of Orlando and Keira, and with a new director (Rob Marshall), overall domestic will be lower than all the other 3. Audiences are more perceptive than people give them credit for, and with no participation from Verbinski and the other two stars, audiences may see this as trying to milk the franchise for more than it’s worth. That being said, once again good reviews and word of mouth could sustain it well throughout the summer. I agree with you overall prediction domestic.

    Random thoughts: Cowboys and Aliens will outrun all the comic book movies, Smurfs will flop. Overall, there are some great tentpoles and good summer entertainment ahead which should lead to a record boxoffice summer.

  • Jose

    TKC, that was then though, isn’t Fox now considered annoying and no longer a draw as she was? Look how bad her solo efforts How to Lose Friends & alienate People, Jonah Hex, and Jennifer’s Body did at the box office. I’m pretty sure its main demo wants to see stuff go BOOM.

    As for Knightly and Bloom, weer’nt they among the most critized thing in the original trilogy? I remember that when it was announced that they would not be in the new movie fanboys and a bunch of others celebrated.

    I agree with your other points though, except for the CG in GL looking cheesy. WB has shelled out nearly an extra $15 million to improve its FX and it looks better.

  • TKC

    You have some very good points. Check out my blog to see my full summer 2011 analysis.

  • Jalen

    And Harry Potter ends up on top….I mean C’mon, how could it not.

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