One year ago I made some bold predictions about how the 2015 domestic box office would turn out. My performance was mixed–got some, missed some others. But now it’s time to look ahead to 2016. Jump after the break to see what I predict will be the top ten grossing films of the year along with 33 other movies I’m making some bold predictions on!
1. Rogue One – $450M
The Force Awakens is still raking in big bucks in the US. While Disney is loving the performance, Star Wars fans are not just relieved that the new movie wasn’t a prequel–now we’re excited for everything else on the way. Rogue One may not have as much built up anticipation as a new main saga Star Wars movie, but what it lacks in Han Solo it makes up in curiosity. This is the first stand-alone Star Wars movie since Ewoks: The Battle For Endor. And this is the first standalone Disney Star Wars movie, so this will be the shape of things to come in years in between new main saga films. That can’t bring this to the same performance as Episode VII but should be enough to bring in all the fans at least once and several a few more times.
2. Finding Dory – $380M
Finding Nemo is the third highest grossing Pixar film of all time, bringing in $339M back in 2003 (which would be around $380M in today’s money). Pixar’s reputation for quality and coming off a huge win in last year’s Inside Out could propel this movie to the top of many lists, but Pixar has still only crossed the $400M line once with Toy Story 3 (and that was in 2010, so see my note about Through the Looking Glass below as to why that may not be as impressive as it sounds). Inside Out had a ton of buzz, positive reviews, and it made everyone cry. Jenny is still crying about it. But even Inside Out could only bring in $356M. I think Finding Dory will slightly edge out Inside Out based on franchise familiarity, but it has a steep up-tide swim to cross the $400M mark.
3. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – $330m
Man of Steel gets blasted by critics and comic book movie fans alike. But despite the critical mehness, it still brought in $291M, outgrossing half of the MCU films. Man of Steel had a huge curiosity factor with audiences wondering if a good Superman movie could be made, so that drove in ticket sales like the first Avengers film did. While Age of Ultron dropped compared to the first, perhaps because we weren’t as curious, perhaps because it just wasn’t as interesting, Batman v Superman isn’t your typical movie sequel. We have just as much curiosity for this movie as Man of Steel given the introduction of a new Batman and the first big screen appearances of Wonder Woman and even Aquaman, ensuring that Watson will buy a ticket just to see his favorite fish-talker. The previews haven’t lit the Internet on fire beyond the “Oh, that’s what Batfleck looks like” so this is unlikely to break out like the first Avengers did, but I think people will be curious enough for even a solidly mediocre superhero film to pull in the low $300s.
4. Ghostbusters – $320M
It would be easy to bring up the original Ghostbusters’ performance from 1984 bringing in $229M (which would be a whopping $523M in today’s money). And while I cannot wait to see this movie, we also have to look at writer/director Paul Feig’s track record with female-driven comedies. Bridesmaids brought in $169M, The Heat took $159, and last year’s Spy brought in only $110M. This movie should have more curious audience members and an established property helping the marketing. Just the numbers and press makes me think this movie could pull in $220M. And yet…I think this movie is going to be magic. It has four of the funniest people, not just women, on the planet and anytime they can work off of each other the comedy is going to be that much more effective. I think this movie is going to break out in a major way, propelling it over $300M.
5. Captain America: Civil War – $311M
Civil War has so many superheroes in it you can see it called Avengers 2.5 in a lot of blogs. Maybe even this one. That’s nice for a Captain America film, but not so nice for an Avengers film after Age of Ultron took in nearly 30% less than the first Avengers movie. By that comparison, Civil War should take in around $320M. The first Cap film was early in the MCU and only brought in $176M. Winter Soldier is widely regarded as one of the best MCU films ever and couldn’t cross the $300M line, bringing in $259M. I think the inclusion of many beloved characters (and re-introducing Spider-Man!) will bring Civil War over the $300M line, but not by much.
6. The Jungle Book – $280M
Last year’s Cinderella was a surprise top 10 finisher with just over $200M. I think The Jungle Book could be an even bigger surprise. It has a great cast, although they’re all doing voices. The technology is impressive with the entire movie being CG except for the boy playing Mowgli. Although the teaser made the movie look dark, I expect future previews to play up the comedy and relationships to bring in the younger Disney crowd. Plus, Favreau is a fantastic director–from his big budget films like Iron Man to the intimate and powerful Chef, he delivers. I think this movie could break out in a major way, but it’s also a gamble because it could easily fall into the Uncanny Valley of too much special effects making it seem weird. Still, this are Bold Predictions, not Tepid Wonderings!
7. X-Men: Apocalypse – $265
This is a tough one to figure out. X-Men: First Class was a rebooted franchise film that was outstanding but took in only $146M, a low amount for a superhero movie. The second film brought Hugh Jackman back into the mix but also was able to capitalize on the success of the first film and brought in $233. Now that Oscar Isaac takes over the main villain role for the third film, and all the main stars return, can they continue to grow or are they only going to match Days of Future Past? Isaac is having an amazing year after Episode VII but he’ll be unrecognizable in previews and commercials under all that Apocalypse make-up. This movie does get the prime Memorial Day weekend opening and superhero fans will be ready to see something new after Civil War from earlier in the month, so I think a slight bump over Days is possible and it gets over the $250 line.
8. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – $260M
It may seem heretical to doubt the performance of a Harry Potter movie. Normally, I would agree except that this isn’t really a Harry Potter movie. All of the previews and commercials will pound the connection into our heads but at the end of the day: no Boy Who Lived. That makes this a spin-off which is connected but also very different. The last Harry Potter film took in $380M domestically but the four before that all hovered around the $300M mark. I don’t see this film passing an actual Harry Potter film, but if it breaks out and entices Ms Rowling to bring us more Potter movies and not just a play, then I’m cool with that.
9. Doctor Strange – $230M
Ant-Man brought in only $180M shortly after Age of Ultron took in over $400M. Doctor Strange is a new MCU character and probably as recognizable as the Ant-Man character, but this movie has a more recognizable star in Benedict Cumberbatch and being the first magic-based MCU film should make viewers curious. Not as curious as they were with Guardians of the Galaxy, and we won’t see as much great chemistry on screen, but this should outperform Ant-Man and bring in another $200M+ performance for the MCU.
10. Star Trek Beyond – $200M
While the Abrams reboot brought in $257M the follow-up Into Darkness only managed to gross $228M. With Abrams out directing something called The Mass Times Acceleration Stops Sleeping, Justin Lin of Furious 7 helming fame brings a new sense of adventure to the ultimate space western. Judging from the first preview and its inclusion of a dirt bike, expect even more action then the first two movies combined. But this could alienate Star Trek fans while also not attracting Fast and Furious fans who otherwise wouldn’t see the movie. Add to that a rush to deliver the movie for the 50th anniversary of the original TV show and I think this is the worst performing Star Trek movie since the reboot.
Beyond the top ten, here are 33 other 2016 films I’m interested in seeing (or seeing how they perform in theaters) along with a predicted box office take.
Passengers – $160M
If this film doesn’t get delayed it could be an amazing finish to 2016. It’s scheduled to open less than a week after Rogue One, which makes me think it will push to later or move to October/November to avoid the competition. If it doesn’t get moved to Jan/Feb graveyards, this could be the Gravity of 2016, but minus a bit for being a drama rather than action film.
Girl on the Train – $155M
It’s 2016’s Gone Girl! Same release month, another popular thriller book gets turned into a fall movie. Gone Girl did $167M, this one will fare slightly poorer.
Suicide Squad – $152M
This is a tricky movie to predict. Will Smith delivers on highly commercial franchises, but coming in August and after Batman v Superman makes this one hard to pin down. If Batman v Superman exceeds our mediocre expectations, this could cash in on the success. It has a number of new characters but also some favorites like Joker that audiences may be curious about. Then again, it’s coming out in August. Will it be another Guardians of the Galaxy proving that a good movie can cash in even in August? Unlikely. But there’s enough here to bring in some crowds looking to see how DC films handle villains.
Alice Through the Looking Glass – $150M
This movie could very well be my Jurassic World for 2016, but I don’t think the sequel to the #2 movie of 2010 is going to break out in a major way. 2010’s Alice in Wonderland got incredibly lucky by coming out during Spring Break without any competition for the younger audience. It kept its legs because 2010 wasn’t a great year for movies–since movies typically take around 2 years to develop then 2010 was the first batch of movies from the economy crashing in 2008–hence you see a lot of low-risk, lower-budget kids movies ending up in the top grossing films of 2010. The market is different and I don’t think we’ll care about this sequel especially in the summer with many more options.
Secret Life of Pets – $150M
Funny trailer. Crowded summer.
TMNT2 – $150M
The first reboot was a surprise hit with $191M. But it came out in a fairly empty August while the sequel is trying for a more crowded June. I think that’s enough to bring it into the mid $100s but not much more.
Bourne 5 – $140M
Another conundrum. Matt Damon was riding quite the wave with the first three Bourne films. The first brought in $121M in 2002. In 2004, the sequel brought in $176. The trend continued with the third film in 2007 grossing $227. And then he walked away when director Paul Greengrass said he wouldn’t return. The Jeremy Renner helmed reboot only managed to bring in $113M in 2012, but now Damon and director Greengrass are back. Can they rekindle the magic in the wake of the new Bond films and other exciting action flicks like John Wick? Damon is coming off a stellar performance in The Martian, and the movie is intriguingly going to incorporate Bourne being gone for 9 years just like the movies. A late July release could hurt the upside for the movie though making Bourne have to re-earn its fanbase.
Zootopia – $140M
I can’t get a handle on this movie. I think it looks awful but audiences love the preview. And it’s Disney. And it’s coming out in March like Cinderella did. Meaning every kid on Spring Break is going to see it. If it’s good, it could climb to $200, but it’s just not connecting for me.
Now You See Me 2 – $135M
The original film was clever and a blast to watch (and brought in $117M). Bringing back the entire cast plus Harry Potter himself should make this an entertaining flick.
Moana – $130M
Disney. Dwayne Johnson. Lin-Manuel Miranda. Thanksgiving. All great factors, but this is a tough year. I cannot wait to see for the music, but hard to imagine it breaking out in a major way. Now that I’ve said this, it’ll outpace Frozen.
Legend of Tarzan – $130M
I want this to be better than the first trailer appears. On paper it looks great–story is a sequel to his origin which is a nice place to reboot a franchise. And it has a great cast. But then again, Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood also looked good on paper. The special effects look bad in the trailer and the shots look predictable. I’d be very happy to be wrong on this one, but I don’t think it will deliver despite a huge marketing push.
Ice Age: Collision Course – $130M
It’s another Ice Age movie. The last one was horrible and my boys still wanted to see it (and it did $161M). Should be an easy low $100s given the crowded kids market this summer.
Deadpool – $129M
Comic book fans are really looking forward to Deadpool. I’m one of them. But we aren’t enough to make comic book adaptations break out. The Wolverine films ($180M and $133M) had more going for them than Deadpool does–a more recognizable star cashing in on a character from bigger, established projects. The previews for this movie look great, don’t get me wrong, but that’s not enough for a comic book movie to break out. Especially an R-rated one.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War – $127M
I was shocked that the first film made $155M in 2012. A sequel makes sense based on those numbers, but four years is a long time to wait.
Kung Fu Panda 3 – $120M
It’s a bad sign when the third film of a successful franchise is moved to January. The first film made $215M opening in June. The second made $165M opening in May. January? Nope.
Independence Day: Resurgence – $110M
Yes, Independence Day took in over $300M back in the 90s. But that’s when movies like this were rare. Now they’re a dime a dozen, and there’s actually equally compelling material in the alien invasion genre on TV now. The novelty of revisiting the franchise, even without Will Smith, may propel this to the low $100s but I don’t see this breaking out.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back – $105M
The original made $80M but was actually a lot of fun. Tom Cruise had a great 2015 thanks to MI5 so this could get a bit of a bump.
Neighbors 2 – $90M
Comedy sequels are hard to top. Neighbors surprised audiences and brought in $150M two years ago. The sequel tries to recapture the magic by incorporating sororities, but it will probably just rehash the same story.
Zoolander 2 – $80M
If social media mentions were box office grosses this movie would already be in the lead for 2016. But they aren’t. The original Zoolander only grossed $45M 15 years ago. Anchorman 2 beat its original by 50% and this could do the same, but it’s hard to imagine enough sober people wanting to see this movie.
The BFG – $80M
Famous book? Check. Famous Director? Check. You didn’t see Tintin either? Check.
The Magnificent Seven – $77M
Brilliant on paper. But horrible release date in September. Not action enough for summer, not serious enough for awards.
Warcraft – $70M
Yes, World of Warcraft is a monster in the gaming world. But it has less than 6 million players today and only one video game-based movie has made over $100M. This could become the second if it actually delivers, but it has no bankable stars and only questionable appeal outside its core players who are just as likely to stream this movie after the summer as they are to go see the film. If it’s any consolation to the filmmakers, they will probably outgross the Ratchet & Clank movie.
Gambit – $60M
Is this really coming out?
The Founder – $60M
It won’t burn up the charts but I’m interested in this obvious awards-bait film with Michael Keaton starring as Ray Kroc.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 – $50M
Yes, the original brought in an unprecedented $241M in 2002. But we’ve moved on.
Assassin’s Creed – $50M
This could be so awesome. But it won’t. Because video game movies.
The Nice Guys – $25M
Hey, remember when buddy cop movies were funny?
Bridget Jones’ Baby – $22M
Sure, the original made $71M in 2001. But the sequel made only $40M in 2004. Who asked for this movie?
Midnight Special – $20M
It won’t do a lot of business but it looks amazing. Go check out the trailer.
La La Land – $20M
The writer/director of Whiplash keeps JK Simmons for his next film, loses Miles Teller, and adds Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. This isn’t for everybody but it will absolutely be for me!
Snowden – $20M
Only of interest because of the subject matter and star (Joseph Gordon-Levitt who continues to take interesting roles). But Oliver Stone is directing it.
Lonely Island Movie – $15M
It’s Judd Apatow directing and he’s coming off a hit in Trainwreck, but that was more because of the star. Lonely Island hasn’t been on SNL in years and even when they were on they didn’t have much name recognition. If this movie even comes out, don’t expect much.
Angry Birds Movie – $12M
Watson said “This movie is six years too late.” He’s right.