As I left Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 I had a Jack Nicholson moment, thinking to myself:
What if Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is as good as it gets for movies this summer? Sure, there may yet be better movies as well as movies which sell more tickets, but will there be anything else this summer which is as universally beloved as Guardians 2 AND as financially successful?
Maybe not. According to the Los Angeles Times, studios are expecting to make 10% less between May and September than they did last year, with the primary culprits thought to be franchise fatigue and a generally weaker crop of movies. The herd was already thinned by the number of summer blockbuster-like movies which came out in March instead (i.e., Power Rangers, Ghost in the Shell, Logan, Skull Island, Beauty and the Beast). Now, what’s left doesn’t inspire much enthusiasm, and the summer is off to a horrible start:
We’ve already had a candidate for biggest box office bomb of all time (King Arthur), a quick and sudden end to Amy Schumer’s brief reign as a bankable leading lady (Snatched, which will just barely make back its $42m budget), an Alien movie which opened 30% below the last Alien movie (although the difference is partially offset by Covenant costing $33m less to make than Prometheus) and a DOA Diary of a Wimpy Kid reboot.
Plus, a handful of indie critical darlings (Colossal, Sleight, Lost City of Z) have struggled to break through, destined, no doubt, to find their largest audiences after they’ve left theaters and landed on various streaming services. All of that and we’re still only into the third week of the summer box office season, which officially kicked off with the release of Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on May 5th.
But are we merely witnessing the after-effects of Guardians 2’s success, diverting eyeballs away from other movies, most of which didn’t have good word-of-mouth anyway? Guardians 2, after all, is exactly the huge hit it was always going to be (it just crossed $300m domestic), just as pretty much anything which arrives with the Marvel Studios logo induces a worldwide pavlovian response where we all lurch zombie-like to the nearest theater and mumble, “Take my money now, please.” Everything else in the month has been, on some level, a disappointment. Even an apparent victory like How To Be a Latin Lover surprisingly grossing nearly $30m comes with the caveat that it’s still well south of star Eugenio Derbez’s 2013 breakthrough comedy Instructions Not Included ($44m) or even his faith-based film Miracles From Heaven ($66m) from last year.
Now we’re heading into Memorial Day weekend. Guardians’ dominance is coming to an end. Pirates of the Caribbean 5 and Baywatch should clean up this weekend, but will they? The latest projections (and I have previously written about how little faith we should put in projections) have Pirates 5 equaling if not bettering Pirates 4’s $90m debut, which was a franchise low. Baywatch, meanwhile, is projected to roughly replicate the $35m opening off Dwayne Johnson’s last comedy, 2016’s Central Intelligence, which ultimately legged it to $127m. Even if both films achieve or exceed those projections, May 2017 will still likely have a lower cumulative gross than May 2016 (the month of Captain America: Civil War, X-Men: Apocalypse and The Angry Birds Movie).
Beyond that, there’s Wonder Woman (6/2; which is tracking to open significantly lower than Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad), Captain Underpants (6/2; gets the honor of being the first animated movie of the summer but currently has next to zero buzz), The Mummy (6/9; tracking for a modest debut,) Cars 3 (6/16; a toy-selling sequel no one asked for yet can’t be dismissed, not after the box office magic Pixar worked with Finding Dory last year) and then Transformers 5 (6/23) and Despicable Me 3 (6/30).
The rest of the summer brings Spider-Man: Homecoming (7/7; when is enough going to be enough with this whole Spider-Man reboot cycle?), War for the Planet of the Apes (7/14), Dunkirk (7/21; this gritty war movie will seriously test of the Christopher Nolan brand), Atomic Blonde (7/28; Charlize Theron’s female-fronted version of John Wick) and The Emoji Movie (7/28; if Angry Birds Movie can make money so can this, but how much money?) and The Dark Tower (8/4; too far out to tell how its current buzz will translate to ticket sales).
Those are just the big movies. There are several smaller films which have a shot at breakthrough success, such as Kumail Nanjiani’s film festival hit The Big Sick (6/23) and Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver (6/28).
Generally, the way this has gone lately is anything animated will print money, almost anything Disney will set records and everything else will suffer or rack up respectable ticket sales despite not being very well liked (looking at you, Transformers). Broadly speaking, summer 2017 seems unlikely to change that pattern, although Wonder Woman, War for the Planet of the Apes and Dunkirk all have legitimate shots at achieving both box office and critical glory. Still, by the end of the summer it’s probable that the highest-grossing and most well-liked (based on the various review aggregators) film of the season will still be Guardians of the Galaxy 2.
Maybe this is as good as it gets. We might have already witnessed the consensus pick for movie of the summer because that title sure as hell isn’t going to the fifth Pirates or Transformers. Let’s see if something else comes along to truly surprise us financially and/or critically [6-9-17 update: something did-it’s called Wonder Woman], but while we wait Hollywood’s already downgrading profit forecasts and preparing for a disappointing summer.
Source: Los Angeles Times