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 BoxOffice.com.
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?