2019 summer movie box office preview

From “Once Upon a Time” to “Endgame” – Your 2019 Summer Box Office Preview Is Here!

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Break out the sunscreen and flip flops. You may not know it from the calendar, but summer is officially “Now Seating” in cinemas.

Remember when the hottest season began June 21? And then, Hollywood decided Memorial Day weekend was a better date to launch summer. And after a few decades of that, it became the first weekend in May. And now, Disney, the almighty mouse of movie releases, is heating things up the last week of April.

Last year, Disney capitalized on April box office doldrums, moving “Avengers: Infinity War” from May 4 to April 27, and history was made. Marvel’s mightiest debuted with $257M—the highest ever domestic total in the history of cinema—and $2.048B globally when all was said and done.

Now, one year later, the bookend of 21 Marvel movies, “Avengers: Endgame” should light up the box office sky and go out in a blaze of glory, despite the three-hour running time. Some fans and prognosticators are even going as high as $300M+, and possibly $1B worldwide, as it releases day-and-date in nearly all territories.

So, with that type of buildup we will probably see something very special, as “Avengers: Endgame” become just the fifth film join the $2B Club. The question is, does it have a chance at James Cameron? Currently, he has the two highest grossing films of all time with “Titanic” ($2.1B) and “Avatar” ($2.7B).

Hit it Mungo, it’s your time to shine. It’s the summertime.

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You’ve got summer box office questions, we’ve got summer box office answers.

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WHAT WILL LIKELY BE THE TOP 10 FILMS WORLDWIDE THIS SUMMER?

#1 “AVENGERS: ENDGAME” (Disney)– Bookending over 21 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Endgame” arrives poised to rewrite record books and leave the competition in the dust.  For now, “Infinity War” holds the biggest domestic debut with $257M; however, in 4,662 theaters (the largest debut ever) Marvel’s latest is looking to skyrocket towards $300M and $900M worldwide on opening weekend. Then comes the numbers game. Its predecessor became just the 4thfilm to join the $2B Club worldwide. No doubt “Endgame” will do the same, but the real question is whether or not it has the legs to top Cameron’s 1-2 punch of “Avatar” “Titanic” ($2.1B). $2.3 billion…and beyond?

#2 “THE LION KING” (Disney)– Without factoring in for inflation, Disney’s crown jewel of their animated kingdom has grossed nearly $1B globally. That was 25 years ago, and now a whole new generation is poised to take their turn atop Pride Rock. Director John Favreau has already led an expedition like this before as his animated adaptation of “The Jungle Book” finished with $966M globally. Meanwhile, 2017’s “Beauty and the Beast” enchanted audiences to the tune of $1.2B. This really is the only film with a realistic shot at catching “Avengers: Endgame” this summer, but to do so, it would have to roar mightily overseas. Could happen. For now, $1.75B.

#3 “TOY STORY 4” (Disney)– Talk about an iron grip on the box office. The top three films, really? If Pixar’s latest installment matches “Toy Story 3” in Billion Dollar Land, that will likely give the Magic Kingdom win, place, and show at the box office in 2019. While there may be a bit of drop off, especially since “TS3” felt like the perfect conclusion, moviegoers will no doubt want to play a bit longer. $965M.

#4 “THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2” (Universal)– Illumination Animation is like catnip for families. Three years ago, the original surpassed all expectations, debuting with $104M domestic and finishing with $875M worldwide. Incredible numbers, especially without the help of the Minions, proving Illumination is really only second to Disney right now in the animation game. Let’s fill the litter box with $900M, shall we?

#5 “SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME” (Sony)– This is the real conclusion of Marvel’s massive first phase, so “Endgame” spillover will be very real, despite not having Iron Man as his sidekick this time. Two years ago, Spidey netted $880M globally, so expect only minor drop-off with $810M.

#6 “GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS” (WB)– Bigger. Badder. More meanies. That can only equate to one thing: more moolah. Gareth Edwards’ 2014 edition captured $529M worldwide, but WB has seemingly raised the ante with this one and is going big. Really big. $780M or bust.

#7 “POKEMON: DETECTIVE PIKACHU” (WB)– Now Nintendo is playing with box office power. Ryan Reynolds spouting off one-liners, monsters appearing around every corner—what’s not to get jolted about? Pokémon Go was a massive phenomenon and this also looks like it will follow suit. Technically, this would be the first non-sequel or reboot to enter the Top 10, but there have been several animated movies released, so it’s not like this is an unknown IP.  Definitely a wild card, though, as overseas audiences will probably be counted on heavily to power this up the charts. $705M.

#8 “FAST & FURIOUS PRESENTS: HOBBS & SHAW” (Universal)– That’s a mouthful, isn’t it? Well, with the feud between Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson this was Universal’s answer—split the road right down the middle. Johnson and Jason Statham take the wheel, along with “Deadpool 2” director David Leitch, in hopes of burning box office rubber. The summer release date will help as they’ll have a little shoulder room, but will audiences’ eyeballs be fatigued by then? Remember, “The Fate of the Furious” revved up $1.2B worldwide. That’s a tough act to follow, but even half of that would be a success: $695M.

#9 “ALADDIN” (Disney)– Two animated adaptations in one summer? Is Disney crazy? Crazy for nostalgic cash, yes. I mean, they even dropped “Dumbo” just a month ago. So, including “Aladdin” and “The Lion King,” that’s three wishes, right? While Tim Burton’s film was a critical and box office failure, it still easily glided past $300M globally. Keep that in mind if you’re thinking about lowballing the Will Smith starrer, as audiences showed up in 1992 to the tune of $504M globally. Outside the crowded summer this one would no doubt perform even better. As it is, the magic lamp says: $675M.

#10 “MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL” (Sony)– This is a toss-up, really. Could easily be pushed out by “Dark Phoenix,” which will likely attempt to capitalize on it being X-Men’s endgame. That is, until they join the next phase of Marvel. Still, what pushes MiB up is the fact that international (get it, international—I see what they did there) audiences rode 2012’s installment to nearly $450M, while domestic stalled out with $179M. Both those numbers are still better than what “X-Men: Apocalypse” dished out three years ago, tallying up a disappointing $543M globally. Let’s tempt fate, shoot the moon and hope that Chris Hemsworth, sans Thor’s hammer, can actually open a film: $600M.

And if those don’t fulfill Top 10 fantasies, no doubt there are many more looking to make their mark on the box office ledger.

The aforementioned “Dark Phoenix” is a likely candidate, as is “Rocketman,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” and “Annabelle: Comes Home,” which is an endgame of sorts for “The Conjuring” series.

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HOW MANY REBOOTS, SEQUELS AND SPINOFFS THIS SUMMER?

20. That’s one per weekend to whet your continuing saga appetite, or reset it, as it were. How can Hollywood justify doing that? Well, when you consider 16 of the Top 20 films of 2018 fell into that category, it’s not too hard to realize what audiences are buying tickets for.

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HOW HOT IS HORROR THIS SUMMER?

Maybe you should rephrase that? How hot are horror sequels? “Annabelle: Comes Home,” “Child’s Play,” “Brahms: The Boy 2,” and “47 Meters Down: Uncaged” all drop, as does the James Gunn-produced, evil superman tale, “Brightburn,” Ari’s Aster’s “Hereditary” follow-up, “Midsommar,” and Alexandre Aja crocodile creeper, “Crawl,” Blumhouse’s “Ma,” starring Octavia Spencer, the Guillermo Del Toro-produced, “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark,” and let’s not forget Jim Jarmusch’s “The Dead Don’t Die.” Are you crapping your pants yet? You should be. These will all likely scare up some solid coin this summer.

And just outside summer’s reach is WB’s “It: Chapter 2,” dropping Sept. 6. That said, the first one blew everyone away with a domestic debut of $123M and finished off $700M globally. In fact, other studios are so scared of it, only STX’s “Playmobile: The Movie” is set for Memorial Day’s three-day weekend. Which begs the question: Why not just pull an “Avengers” and bump it up a week? Probably should, since August will already be dead by then and an extra weekend with zero competition can only help WB’s bottom line.

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HOW MANY NEW FILMS MIGHT INSPIRE ENDLESS SEQUELS aka SEQUEL POTENTIAL?

Well, WB’s “Detective Pikachu” for one. Nintendo might have just found the perfect mix in Ryan Reynolds and rampaging monsters to kick off a new franchise. Remember, 20 years ago, the animated flick, “Pokémon: The First Movie” made more domestically ($85M) than international ($77M). While fortunes have reversed a bit, and it might not completely blow the doors off the box office in North America, expect the Asian box office to flock to it, especially in China. Monsters and mayhem—always a big seller there.

Now, if Disney has their way, the successful book series, “Artemis Fowl,” will spawn multiple sequels. Problem is, not even Disney has had much recent success with YA adaptations, as they watched with horror as “A Wrinkle in Time” failed to fulfill its series potential. The fact that you have to construct an entire world means these films don’t come cheap.

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I’M A CINAPHILE. WHAT ABOUT INDIE SUMMER?

Indie films are alive and well, and, yes, not just streaming fodder despite what you may have heard. Some are even ready to compete with the big-boy blockbusters. Well, a couple films in particular, including A24’s“Midsommar” (July 3) and Amazon’s “Late Night” (June 7), which both debut in wide release. 

Ari Aster’s last film, “Hereditary,”ended up becoming A24’s highest grossing film of all time worldwide grossing $79M on a budget of just $1M. Even bigger numbers are expected for his latest scare fest, which again goes into cult territory, but this time, as the name “Midsommar” suggests, in the middle of summer, during one of the most lucrative weeks of the year—Independence Day.

Mindy Kaling wrote and stars in “Late Night,” which was purchased for $13M by Amazon at the Sundance Film Festival—the highest amount ever for exclusive US distribution. Will the dramedy, which also stars Emma Thompson and John Lithgow, be able to carve out a niche debuting the same weekend as “Dark Phoenix” and “The Secret Life of Pets 2?” We’ll see if Amazon’s gamble pays off soon enough. 

 On a more limited scale, A24 also has Awkafina’s latest dramedy“The Farewell”(July 12), while Neon hopes the documentary box office revival continues with “Little Big Farm” (May 10) and “This One’s For the Ladies” (June 7).

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I LIKE EXPLOSIONS. WHERE ARE THE BOMBS? 

“Uglydolls” (May 3) – STX is attempting to weave their way into the family film game with their first animated feature, “Uglydolls.” Problem is, this looks like it skews extremely young and is sandwiched between “Avengers: Endgame” and “Pokémon: Pet Detective.” Things could get ugly. Real ugly.

“Ad Astra” (May 24) – Is this even coming out? Why would Disney drop the Fox’s sci-fi flick the same day as “Aladdin?” For some reason, the Fox/Disney flick, starring Brad Pitt and directed by James Gray, doesn’t have a trailer, nor does it have a poster, but it still has a release date. This isn’t Netflix—you can’t just drop it into theaters without any promotion…can you?

“Artemis Fowl” (Aug 9) – There’s still no trailer and was literally no mention of the film at CinemaCon from Disney, which, let’s face it, has plenty of other firepower this summer.  This almost seems like another August afterthought. With Kenneth Branagh at the helm, at the very least, this should equate to quality, right? Well, with so many Disney cooks in the kitchen lately, like most YA fare, I fear it may be homogenized beyond recognition.

“The Kitchen” (Aug 9) – Believe it or not, this is actually a Vertigo comic book adaptation. Problem is, it’s an R-rated one, clocking in at 2hrs and 20mins. While it stars Tiffany Haddish and Melissa McCarthy, it features them as wives of Irish mobsters set in the 1970s, which in itself is a tough sell to summer audiences. Remember “Widows?” That wasn’t well received by audiences and this looks like it’s in the same vein.

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“New Mutants” (Aug 2)There had been rumors swirling that Fox’s X-Men spinoff, which has been pushed back multiple times, would premiere on Disney + instead of theaters, but with the recent Disney announcement addressing their streaming content, that was not confirmed. So, assume—for now—it’s still on target to get run over by “Hobbs and Shaw” and even trampled by “Dora the Explorer: The Lost City of Gold” which both open that weekend.

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I’VE FINISHED ALL MY HARLEQUIN ROMANCE NOVELS. ANY ROM-COMS?

Love has sort of taken a backseat in cinemas. Um, wait a minute, is that analogy a good or bad thing? Regardless, Lionsgate is hoping the odd coupling of Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron in “Long Shot” (May 5) will get people excited and WB’s has a two-fer this summer with Ry Russo- Young’s meditation on life and love in the Big Apple, “The Sun is Also a Star” (May 17), and an 80s tribute to Bruce Springsteen music, “Blinded by the Light” (Aug 14).

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THESE SEQUELS FUMES ARE CHOKING ME OUT. ANY BREATHS OF FRESH AIR?

“Booksmart” (May 24)– United Artist’s coming-of-age comedy stars teenage girls who actually look and act like teenage girls you grew up with. What a concept! Recently, “Lady Bird” and “Eighth Grade” made remarkable strides, dipping their toes into a similar pool. And while this may seem reminiscent of “Ghost World” in scope, let’s hope it finds a larger audience as that film—starring Scarlett Johannson and Thora Birch—grossed just $6M. Actress Olivia Wilde makes her directing debut and received terrific buzz out of SXSW…as do all films. 😉

“Rocketman” (May 31)– Paramount is banking that their biggest summer release will mimic “Bohemian Rhapsody”—a film that has grossed over $900M worldwide, so far—and hook massive audiences. Heck, even if the Elton John biopic makes half that amount it would be a grand success. The musical genre itself has been wildly successful; “A Star is Born” strummed up $434M globally and “Straight Outta Compton” recently hit up $201M. This has quickly become one of Hollywood’s hottest future commodities—creating a film around a musical star’s catalog of hits. Madonna, Prince, Britney, Cher, Drake—get ready for your close-up. Also, don’t forget, Dexter Fletcher directs…the guy who stepped in for Bryan Singer and took a bow for “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

“Yesterday” (June 28) – Speaking of musicals. How about the Beatles? Ever hear of them? Universal might have the sleeper hit of the summer as Danny Boyle conjures up a tale that asks a simple question: What if no one in the world had ever heard of the Beatles, except for one struggling musician? Beatlemania all over again. That’s what would happen. Himesh Patel will be a name that’s you’ll hear a lot more of as he stars, as does Kate McKinnon.

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”(July 26) – Quentin Tarantino. Brad Pitt. Leonardo DiCaprio. Margot Robbie. 1969 Hollywood. What more do you need to know to buy a ticket?  The last time Quentin teamed up with DiCaprio, he had the biggest box office hit of his career with “Django Unchained” roping $425M worldwide.

“Good Boys”(Aug 16) – What if Seth Rogen and Even Goldberg brought the sensibility of “Superbad” to sixth graders? Yes, an R-rated romp starring three preteen potty mouths, featuring Jacob Tremblay of “Wonder” fame.  Also stars Will Forte and was written and directed by “Bad Teacher” and “The Office” scribe, Gene Stupnitsky.

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If none of those movies get your thermometer juiced up, well, there’s always Season 3 of Netflix’s “Stranger Things” dropping over the week of 4thof July, and, oh, you know, that little series called “Game of Thrones” which still has a couple more episodes left.

Yes, entertainment is alive and well on the big screen and the small screen this summer. Did I just call your home unit small? I did. But it’s not the size that counts, it’s the PPI, really. That’s pixels per inch to you and me.

Enjoy that summer shine.

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Jeff Bock, NewsWhistle’s movie editor, is the senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations in Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at Jeff@NewsWhistle.com.

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LEAD-IN IMAGE

“Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” Poster Courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment;  Poster Design by Works ADV

once upon a time in hollywood - movie poster - sony pictures home entertainment