Film News

Lots of Action Sequels, Superhero Films & Animation – Summer 2015 is Starting to Look a Lot Like Summer 2013

UPDATED: There have been a lot of changes to the summer 2015 release schedule since this article.  You can go here to view an updated breakdown and analysis in a newer article published elsewhere on this site.

Remember back in April when you looked at the summer movie release schedule and couldn’t believe the awesomeness that lay before you?  A new Iron Man, Star Trek, Fast & Furious, Superman, Wolverine, Despicable Me plus a Monsters Inc. sequel!  On top of that, there was going to be a robots vs. aliens movie from Guillermo freakin’ del Toro, and potentially not-great-but-at-least-enjoyable films like The Lone Ranger and World War Z.  However, if you’re anything like me you found yourself surprisingly burned out by early July, if not sooner, and just could not bear to watch another scene of mass destruction and mind-numbing action.

Well, history could very well repeat itself the summer of 2015, which currently has too much similar product in a very tightly contained release window.  We’ve known this was coming ever since Marvel announced an Avengers sequel for May of 2015, which was followed by most of the studios completely conceding the entire month of May to Marvel and thus packing all of their big films into June and July.  Events from the past 48 hours or so have served to further define the shape the summer is going to take.  So, let’s re-cap what has gone down:

  • On Monday, Marvel announced it was shifting its upcoming superhero film centered around the character of Ant-Man to a July 2015 release, away from its originally announced November 2015 release.  Why?  Bond.  James Bond.  The next, post-Skyfall James Bond film is scheduled for a November 2015 release, and Marvel basically ran away screaming based upon the colossal box performance of Skyfall this past November (over $300 million domestic, over $800 million foreign).
  • Yesterday, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales has been pushed back from its original July 17, 2015 release date to a general summer 2016 release window.  The reason?  After the failure of The Lone Ranger, which is thought to represent a $190 million loss for Disney, producer Jerry Bruckheimer is being squeezed pretty hard by the studio to keep the budget of the new Pirates film below $200 million.  The current script would cost more than $200 million to make.  Oops.  Go write a new one, thus pushing back the intended start of production well past March 2014.
  • Around the same time that news was breaking, Universal formally announced its long gestating Jurassic Park sequel, which is now titled Jurassic World and schedule to hit theaters June 12, 2015.  Stephen Spielberg is producing while relative newbie Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed) will direct from a screenplay he co-wrote with Derek Connolly.

So, now we have two new huge tentpole movies added to the release schedule, and one which has been moved as a direct reflection of the failure of a similar product from the same producer (Bruckheimer) and star (Johnny Depp) this current summer.

That doesn’t seem so bad, though, right?  Well, let’s take an updated look at the current domestic release schedule for the summer 2015 movie season:

May

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• Avengers: Age of Ultron (5/1) – There are those, specifically the film’s director, who believe the reason Battleship bombed at the domestic market last year is because it had the misfortune of coming out two weeks after the first Avengers film.  The Avengers simply steamrolled the competition.  As a result, at the moment there are no concrete release dates for the rest of May except for the following rumored animated film…
• Monster Trucks (5/29) – … from Paramount Pictures, directed by the same guy who directed this summer’s Epic and and 2005’s Robots 

June

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• B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldly Operations (6/5) – Animated film from the house that Shrek built (i.e., Dreamworks) starring the voice acting of Melissa McCarthy, Seth Rogen, and Matt Bomer.
• Jurassic World (6/12) – The details beyond its title, director/writer(s), and producers are still unclear.  It will be filmed in 3D.
• Assassin’s Creed (6/19) – Adaptation of the immensely popular video game series about a guild of assassins at various moments in world history.  Michael Fassbender is attached as the star.
• Inside Out (6/19) – Pixar’s animated version of the old live-action Fox sitcom Herman’s Head, Inside Out will be told from the perspective of the various emotions in the mind of a little girl.  Bill Hader will voice fear, Amy Poehler joy, Mindy Kaling disgust, Lewis Black anger (perfect casting), and so on and so on.
• Untitled Terminator Sequel/Re-boot (6/26) – Thor: Dark World director Alan Taylor will direct, and Arnold Schwarzenegger is apparently returning.  News about this film continues to mostly exist as mere rumor (Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn returning?  Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson approached about a role?  It’s a re-boot?  It’s not a re-boot?  The beginning of an intended trilogy?).  However, the production company has to make a Terminator film by a certain date or else the rights revert back to James Cameron, meaning this will probably happen whether it’s ready or not.  

July

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• Independence Day 2 (7/3) – Lots of rumors about this one (Will Smith will return/WIll Smith won’t return) with few concrete facts.
• Untitled Illumination Entertainment 2015 Project (7/3) – Illumination Entertainment is the production company that makes the Despicable Me films while also making Hop and The Lorax.
Batman Vs. Superman (7/17) – Oh, btw, that Man of Steel sequel is going to be a Batman/Superman team-up, and Batman will be played by Ben Affleck.  I know, I know.  You totally didn’t know that already.  They are going to film largely in Detroit.  Maybe you didn’t know that.
• The Smurfs 3 (7/24) – What the smurf!  But the sequel bombed!  Yeaaaah, they already made their budget back on product placement deals.  This is thought to be an incredibly profitable franchise for the studio even if the films aren’t exactly regarded with much fondness.
• Ant-Man (7/31) – Probably the most curious of all forthcoming superhero films considering its hero’s ability is to shrink very small or grow very tall, his most notable adversary (Ultron) is being used in the Avengers sequel without him, and the director, Edgwar Wright, is completely untested and remains to be seen if his signature hyper-kinetic editing, will be reined in at all by Marvel.
• Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (7/31) – Tim Burton’s adaptation of the popular children’s novel. 

There are currently no announced releases for August.  The first installment in the new Star Wars trilogy from director J.J. Abrams is also supposed to come out at some point during 2015, most likely the summer.  However, Abrams and company have repeatedly indicated they will push the release window back to accommodate his busy schedule and need to get the best script possible if need be.

Let’s add a quick asterisk here: it’s not really fair to judge this selection of movies this early.  The release dates can shift without any advanced warning (see: Ant-Man, Jurassic World, Pirates), and since we are so far out from the summer of 2015 at this point the only type of films which would be confirmed for a release would be those with the most lengthy production cycles, i.e., big budget action and animation.

That being said, this is sure shaping up like the summer of 2013 all over again. This past summer, we were supposed to learn it’s a bad idea to release so many animated films in such a short period of time, and an unrelenting sameness in the type of film released will cause audience burnout regardless of the quality of film. What is scheduled for 2015?  A bunch of action movie sequels, three super hero films, and 3 animated films and 1 half animation/half live-action (Smurfs 3). Even if the majority of these films end up being kind of awesome, there is still very much so the risk that by the time Ant-Man comes around we’ll all be sick to death of action and desperate for horror or comedy or just something different.

Then again, was this summer really a failure?  Yes, there were colossal bombs left and right, but collectively business was actually up from last year and July ended up as the highest-grossing July in the history of film.  So, should Hollywood be scrambling to radically alter their habits, or simply trying to keep budgets a little lower to minimize risk but otherwise operate as business as usual.  Based upon everything above, it seems like the latter is happening.  However, let’s hope that by the time we get closer to the actual summer there will be some horror and comedy, maybe even a rom-com, mixed in here and there.  Please.

What do you think?  Is history going to repeat itself?  Or is it simply way too early to start making such warnings?  And is there any film listed above you didn’t already know about that you’re now excited about?  Let us know in the comments.

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8 comments

    1. Crap. You’re right. I’ve updated the article to now reference Star Wars. When Disney first announced the new trilogy, they seemed to be making a hard commitment to a summer 2015/2017/2019 release schedule for Episodes 7-9. However, ever since Abrams was hired I’m seeing mixed signals where the Disney studio chief will re-inforce the summer 2015 release window for Episode 7 in one interview while in other interviews Kathleen Kennedy (LucasFilms) and Abrams will re-iterate their intention to push the first film back if it’s not ready in time due to an imperfect script or Abrams being too busy with his TV producer duties. So, at this point who knows what the heck is going on (which is exactly the way Abrams likes it, based on the newscycle surrounding his 2 Star Trek films).

      However, if they do make their 2015 release window it’s impossible to imagine them putting it out at any other time than the summer. I just looked it up and all prior 6 Star Wars films were released no earlier than May 16 but no later than the end of May. You look at the schedule of releases right now, and there is nothing else of significance out there in May other than Avengers. It’s a really weird position to be in because Disney would be competing with themselves (Marvel vs. LucasFilms, both Disney properties), but based on tradition and the current scheduled releases I’d guess they open May with Avengers on 5/1 and then put out the new Star Wars the last weekend of the month. The fourth weekend is when The Avengers finally fell from #1 last year, and in 2015 it could do so again, just this time because of Star Wars.

  1. The tail end of May would give enough room between Avengers and Jurassic World, if they decide to go that way with Star Wars. There’s been some talk of a Nov/Dec release for Ep VII, which I think would be a nice place to put Star Wars. But November’s also a busy busy month already. I don’t know that it fits in December.

    1. Marvel might be setting Ant-Man up for a Pacific Rim type of failure in that even though it’s going to be a big budget action film it has niche appeal written all over it. Given Edgar Wright’s track record, I expect Ant-Man to be The Wolverine of 2015, the superhero film that is in style and tone completely different than any other film of the summer. However, did Wolverine under-perform because people were simply burnt out on superhero movies, or were they reluctant to re-embrace the character after Origins: Wolverine? I’d guess a combination of both, and that Ant-Man will have a boost from coming out so close to Age of Ultron but a mere two weeks after Batman Vs. Superman release date also ensures superhero film burnout among audiences. Marvel has made very few missteps in this territory, but I agree that they appear to be setting this film up to fail rather than succeed.

      As for Star Wars, they are keeping with tradition to some degree by filming in London, and apparently bringing back cast members from the original trilogy. However, Abrams showed with Star Trek that he likes to honor a franchise’s tradition just a little bit while putting his own stamp on it elsewhere, which would be accomplished by putting it out in December. It’s wide open for a late May release, but, like you said, those rumors of a December release are gaining steam. As competitive as it would be to come out at the end of May, it’s almost always way more competitive during December with so many different types of films (family comedies, dramas, award contenders, animated films) coming out every week. At the moment, there is nothing scheduled for December 2015 other than a couple of animated sequels (Kung Fu Panda, Alvin and the Chipmunks). However, that’s sure to change. Given how frequently they delayed Into Darkness and the repeated warnings of a potential delay of Star Wars, I would wonder that if they do put it out in December it will be because Abrams and company simply could not meet the original summer release target because Disney foolishly hired a guy (Abrams) who is too busy to make it on the timetable they wanted.

      1. I am definitely worried about Ant-Man being in with the big guys in July. I liked November for it.

        And as for Star Wars, I’m fine with any delays they need to make as long as they get it right. Patience, we must learn…

      2. I’m with you on Ant-Man.

        And the talk from Abrams and Kennedy about delaying Star Wars is actually encouraging. I, too, would prefer they take the time to get it right rather than rush it out there. It’s just a bit odd what they’ve said about it not always aligning with what the higher-ups at Disney are saying.

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