2015 is not going to break records at the box office. 2015 is going to utterly demolish box office records on the heels of two mega-performers and a market that is ready to have some fun in the movie theater again. Especially after this downer of an Oscar season. But what ten movies am I boldly predicting will be the top in the 2015 box office? Before we get to the top ten, let’s see what nine films will miss the cut.
Notable movies missing the top ten:
- Poltergeist (July 24). Oh hey, did you know there’s a big budget remake of Poltergeist coming out starring Sam Rockwell? Seeing as how the original film made $76.6M in 1982 (the equivalent of $188M today) this is a franchise ripe for a reboot. Sadly, while this could do well in the middle of the summer it has a late July release in the middle of a crowded field. This could easily do $150 but that won’t be enough to break the top 10.
- San Andreas (May 29). Disaster movies are a mixed bag. Twister made $241M back in 1996 but Volcano only made $49M a year later. The Rock is on the verge of mega-stardom but this is not the vehicle to launch him there. Especially if future trailers end up as creepy as the first one. Another mid $100s.
- The Hateful Eight (November 13). Quentin Tarantino had his greatest commercial success ($162M) with Django Unchained back in 2012. He sticks with the western theme for his next film but Tarantino repels as much as he attracts. Critics and fanboys will love it, but the same audience will see this as all the others. Mid-$100s.
- Pan (July 24). Hook did amazing box office back in 1991 ($119.6M, north of $200M in today’s dollars) with a bit more star power than this film. But while Hook took some liberties with the original Peter Pan concept the trailer shows that Pan has thrown the whole book out the window, probably aiming for the second star to the right. Hugh Jackman, taking a break from his high-protein Wolverine diet, decides to chew every bit of digital scenery he can find. It will be a fun alternative for kids to seeing Minions for a fifth time, but not enough to crack the top ten.
- Terminator: Genisys (July 1). A confusing time-travel spin, action that looks half-interesting, half-nostalgic for T2, and an aging Ahnuld lacking in his previous starpower won’t be enough to make this movie break out. I’m still a fan of the first four, so I’m hoping for a high $100s to get squeeze some more time-travelling-robot-warfare down the road, but this won’t be the best Terminator movie ever made. It might not even be in the top four of the five Terminator movies ever made.
- Pitch Perfect 2 (May 15). Don’t get me wrong, I am seeing this opening day. The original movie is one of the rare films to break out after a theatrical release (rarer still in the past 10 years) but even if the sequel doubles the original’s take that’s only $130M and not enough to make the podium in 2015. But it will be acca-awesome.
- Mad Max: Fury Road (May 15). This is going to be a visual delight and an action-packed film, no doubt. Director George Miller penned a screenplay so devoid of dialogue he actually made a graphic novel of sorts instead of a script so that the actors could follow what was happening. But even a tornado made of fire won’t be able to draw in the crowds just a few weeks after Furious 7. Still, a strong shot at over $100M.
- Fifty Shades of Grey (February 13). Not gonna happen. Flash in the pan. Housewives still upset there are no new Twilight films may bring this one north of $100M but I’d be shocked if it drops less than 70% after the first weekend or scores higher than 30% on RottenTomatoes. All of these have probably been pretty safe bets, although truthfully any of them could break out. But this next one will draw some ire, because I’m predicting it won’t make the top ten. Ready? Feel the ground shaking? Here it comes.
- Jurassic World (June 12). Yeah, I’m calling it. Jurassic World won’t make the top ten. Yes, it has dinosaurs. Yes, it has Chris Pratt. Yes, it has a prime opening date. Yes, it has some super secret dinosaur we still haven’t seen and a monster shark-whale-Mobysaurus that ate a shark like a shrimp cocktail. But the story seems to be the same thing we’ve seen in all the other films. Yes, it’s been a while since we’ve had a Jurassic Park movie. That’s because they sucked. After the first one the box office dropped. After the second movie the box office dropped. After the third movie they gave up. Just seeing dinosaurs on screen isn’t enough anymore. And every year there is some movie expected to be huge that disappoints in revenue (How to Train Your Dragon 2, Hangover 3, etc.). I say this year’s disappointment is Jurassic World. But given how many people saw Transformers 4 this movie could easily suck and still make the top ten. But that wouldn’t be a bold prediction now would it?
Those are the movies I don’t think will make the top ten. Now here, in all their glory, and with projected box office takes, are the top ten grossing (domestic) movies of 2015. I’ve also included their release dates because those matter.
10. Mission: Impossible 5 (December 25) – $225M
The last Mission: Impossible movie performed so well it actually changed the direction the franchise was heading. Ghost Protocol was meant to be a hand-off to Jeremy Renner and crew, but after it became the top grossing M:I film ($209M) with a mid-December release date, Tom Cruise kept the lead and another December release was scheduled. This one comes just a week after Star Wars, so there will be both an overflow factor (“Star Wars is sold out? Dammit. Oh, hey, Mission: Impossible!”) and a replacement factor for people who saw Star Wars once and won’t see it again (yes, they exist). This one has a lot of upside, but I think the short time before award season hits may hurt it a bit so it only does about 10% better than the last film. But that’s enough to crack the top ten.
9. Ant-Man (July 17) – $230M
If anyone tells you that this could be the moment Marvel movies jump the shark then just look them right in the eye and say “I am Groot.” Because up until Guardians of the Galaxy took off, that’s all you heard about the last Marvel movie too. Not only was Guardians a relatively obscure title for even comic fans, it had no overlap with the tried and true Marvel films that have captivated audiences for years now. Ant-Man, as a character and property, is far more approachable than Guardians. And they’re taking the movie in the comedy-heist direction which is always fun. I don’t think it pulls in as much of the popcorn crowd that Guardians did, especially in the middle of a tight summer, but this easily pulls in the low $200s to secure the ninth spot.
8. Tomorrowland (May 22) – $250M
This is being directed by Brad Bird. If you market a Brad Bird film, it does $200M automatically. Incredibles ($261M), Ratatouille ($206M), and the previously mentioned Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol ($209M). This one will be marketed. It stars George Clooney. It’s a Disney backed film about a signature Disney property. If people knew more about the plot it could make more, but they’re going with the mystery of it all and that might make it too complicated. But $250M is a cake walk for Tomorrowland.
7. Furious 7 (April 3)- $265M
The Fast and the Furious series had a great start that accelerated to an amazing franchise. While the first four were a bit scattershot in tone, story, and results ($144M, $127M, $62M, $155M) starting with Fast Five things took off. That’s when the franchise turned into a heist/adventure series and the franchise took a nitrous-fueled leap into our hearts. Fast Five: $209M. Fast & Furious 6: $238M. Furious 7 takes the earliest release date since the fourth film because of the crowded summer (and the delay from star Paul Walker’s death; this was originally a 2014 summer release that then needed significant rewrites and reshoots) and that will hurt its potential, but it will still easily continue the trend of growing the franchise. We should see release dates for the 8th, 9th, and 10th films in the series by the end of the year.
Besides, how can you not put Furious 7 in the seventh spot?
6. Inside Out (June 19) – $300M
This is a strange concept for a Pixar film but the trailer has been fantastic. Not only did it communicate the concept of the movie with eloquence but it has pulled in every audience I’ve seen it with (and that’s been a lot). There are a lot of strong family movies this summer (including another top ten finisher) which hurts it just a bit but this will still end up being Pixar’s third highest grossing film of all time.
5. Spectre (November 6) – $311M
James Bond is a box office constant. You could plot his revenue on a line almost as straight as the straw left in his shaken, not stirred, martini. When Daniel Craig took over the role the line continued to go up with Casino Royale raking in $167M and Quantum of Solace earning $168M. That changed when Sam Mendes took over directing and John Logan penned the script. Skyfall shot up the charts and finished with an amazing $304M. The same creative team returns and we can expect similar results.
4. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part Two (November 20) – $340M
The first Hunger Games movie was great and earned $408M. The second one was even better by tightening up on the source material–it earned $424M. Then Hollywood got a case of the Harry Potter Greedies and decided to split the last book into two movies. And the first movie wasn’t good. They didn’t take the time to develop stories even with the extra real estate of another movie. But the momentum of the first two movies was still enough to carry the third film to a $333M box office. I think the last one will just barely outperform the third movie and that will actually be helped by more people seeing the third movie on TV prior to seeing the last installment. This could have been a stellar final movie if it hadn’t been split, but I suppose the studio will be just fine with a combined $670M+ take.
3. Minions (July 10) – $400M
If you have kids, just buy tickets to this now. Despicable Me rocked its debut with a $251M box office. The sequel took in $368M. And even though this isn’t a true third film in the series (that’s coming in 2017), this is just as good. Despicable Me 2 was mostly about the Minions anyway, and they are fantastic characters. The trailer for this movie is already better than half the family films that were released last year and this movie will be a strong contender for the #1 spot for many weeks.
And if you’ve read this far in a list predicting the top ten box office grosses for 2015 you know exactly what two movies are left. So rather than spoil the analysis, let’s just play this out, shall we? For our top two spots we have the epic battle of Disney vs. Disney. Or, as most people will call it, the fight between these two:
The first Avengers movie is the third highest grossing film of all time after taking in a whopping $623M. The only films to top that are Titanic ($658M) and Avatar ($760). Since the Avengers, Marvel has released four films as their Phase 2: Iron Man 3 ($409M), Thor: The Dark World ($206M), Captain America: The Winter Soldier ($259M), and Guardians of the Galaxy ($333M). Three of the four Phase 2 movies were sequels that outperformed the previous films in the series by 10% – 47%. The fourth, Guardians, was the only brand new property and it was narrowly defeated by Mockingjay Part 1 for top grossing film of 2014. There is no chance, zero, zilch, nada, that Age of Ultron brings in less money than the first Avengers film.
While Marvel has captured our wallets for the past seven years, Star Wars has owned our hearts for the past forty years. When the prequels were first announced it was not only a geek event, it was an international pop culture event. People started camping out in line at movie theaters a full six weeks before it came out. To say there was a huge amount of pent up demand for a new Star Wars film would be a gross understatement. And then The Phantom Menace came out and we all saw it. Let’s say no more about that. It made $474M which is a giant number. It’s the fifth highest grossing film of all time. But the damage of actually seeing that film was felt like a disturbance in the Force. Episode II made $310M and Episode III made $380M. These are fine, respectable numbers for any movie. And yet, for Star Wars, they are disappointing. But now we have JJ Abrams in charge and despite the lens flare jokes he did a great job with the Star Trek reboot. All of the teasers and reveals we’ve had so far on Episode VII feel good, feel right. Oh, and it HAS THE ORIGINAL CAST IN IT. Which is infinitely better than Jar Jar. Infinitely.
How can these two stack up against each other when the receipts are all counted up? Who will emerge the victor when these two titans go head to head? Here’s how I see it:
2. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (December 18) – $620M
1. The Avengers: Age of Ultron (May 1) – $761M
There is no doubt that Star Wars will outperform the prequels. Demand is back up, people are excited, and you’ve got the original cast. How the next two films perform will depend on the quality of The Force Awakens, but signs are positive. And yet, Star Wars is part of our culture without having the same mass market appeal as The Avengers.
Every Phase 2 movie has outperformed its predecessor. The smallest margin was 10% because that was Thor and Thor is a bit niche among the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Iron Man 3 was 31% higher than Iron Man 2. Winter Soldier was a whopping 47% higher than First Avenger. Avengers has a higher number than both Iron Man 2 and Captain America 1 combined but I still see so much upside here. Joss Whedon has already said that Age of Ultron is the Avengers movie he really wanted to make the first time but couldn’t–he had to spend a lot of time bringing the team together and filling in pieces. He doesn’t have to do that now, he just gets to tell his story.
America loved the first Avengers film. They are going to go nuclear for Age of Ultron. Age of Ultron passing Titanic on the all time grosses list is a given. Passing Avatar may take some doing, including a revitalized marketing campaign later in the summer perhaps. But I imagine Disney keeping the film open long enough for it to beat Avatar by a million bucks and taking the all time top spot.
And yes, if you look at the top ten you’ll see Disney owns five of those spots. It’s a good, good year for Disney movies but an even better year for movie fans.
Think I’ve messed up the top ten? Let me know in the comments and I’ll be glad to correct you. 🙂