I'll tell you a secret. The last act makes a film. Wow them in the end, and you got a hit. You can have flaws, problems, but wow them in the end, and you've got a hit.
Prediction - 2013 Box Office
Last year’s Box Office didn’t contain that many real surprises. No one really thought that John Carter and Battleship would catch fire. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter wasn’t expected to be Fox’s hit of the summer. Yes, Avengers did far more business than anyone countenanced, and Hunger Games had the kind of reception a sequel often receives (once word of mouth has got out; in the rest of the world the series may yet expand). Ice Age continued to make five times its US gross worldwide, evidence if any is needed that US grosses are no longer the yardstick of success. Ted becoming last year’s The Hangover (the adult comedy sub-genre) went to prove that the latter franchise wasn’t a one-off, but no one was predicting half a billion. Titanic 3D made £342m thanks to China, but that kind of re-release success is going to be in the minority. And $400m was probably the best Prometheus could have hoped for.
This year there are several sure-thing sequels but also quite a number of question mark potential franchise-starters (in the “Young Adult” range particularly), non-sequel animations and… Tom Hanks. Some of these predictions will be informed, some ill-informed, some plain moronic (in retrospect). But here they are.
1. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
WW: $1bn - $1.3bn
US: $300m - $340m
An Unexpected Journey had a slow start. It has limped towards $300m US and may scrape beyond $1bn worldwide. Compared to The Lord of the Rings it feels like a damp squib; in any other terms it’s a massive hit. Peter Jackson only had himself to blame, with all his 50 fps hype (and resounding resistance), the cynical move to a trilogy and the over-familiar publicity and trailers. But the second installment ought to be where the meat lies; the revelation of Smaug! I suspect it will improve on AUJ’s performance both critically and commercially. The third installment, with only a six-month gap, is more iffy (previous dabblers in that field, Back to the Future Part III and Matrix Revolutions met with diminished returns).
2. Man of Steel
WW: $750m - $1.1bn
US: $300m - $475m
The promotion of this so far has followed the shrewd Batman path rather than the awkard one of Green Lantern. With Zack Snyder at the helm (and on the evidence of the trailers), I don’t doubt that visually it will pack a punch. There is already an expectation that never solidified for Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns. And the approach of “What value is Supes today?” is a smart starting point. Whether the whole story is solid is less certain (Zod seems a desperately obvious choice, going to the same early ‘80s well that has seen all the Khan rumours for Star Trek), but mostly it’s a question of how well the all-American hero will do in the rest of the world. If it hits on a common nerve it go great guns (bigger than the prediction above); otherwise it might end up making most of its money in its homeland.
3. Iron Man 3
WW: $750m - $900m
US: $330m - $370m
It’s difficult to be sure of the effect Avengers will have on the individual members of the superhero team. Iron Man 2 blew all the goodwill of the first film by being average and uninspired. It still did $600m+ worldwide. This time Shane Black is breathing life into Tony Stark, so probably the least concerning part is the script. From the evidence of the trailers, he’s brought visual flair to the film too. And since Iron Man was the king of the pack in Avengers, it’s a safe bet people want to see him again in a strong solo picture.
4. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
WW: $750m - $850m
US: $360m - $430m
The form of the first film in the “quadrilogy” was US top-heavy ($100m+ more, which is the inverse of the trend, outside of comedies). If Twilight set the pace, then the sequels will likely see increasing business in the rest of the world until they eclipse home box office. I’m dubious there’s much more room for growth from the $408m US haul (particularly as a November release); it will likely continue to have broader appeal than Twilight, but it’s high-end worldwide will probably not exceed its Young Adult predecessor.
5. The Lone Ranger
WW: $650m - $900m
US: $220m - $300m
It would be as foolish to assume Johnny Depp + Gore Verbinski = $1bn as to produce the same equation with Johnny and Tim Burton (worked for Alice, but not for Dark Shadows). There’s a degree of calculation in coming up with another Captain Jack for Tonto (heavy make-up, comic lines, a script from Elliot and Rossio) but this a dusty western, not a piratical voyage to exotic shores. A Verbinski film is a ticket sold for me, though, and there should be enough of a combination of action and whacky Depp qualities to attract an audience that was indifferent to Shadows.
WW: $600m - $700m
US: $250m - $300m
It has the racing aspect of Cars but the anthropomorphic bonus of talking animals! A Dreamworks animation can generally guarantee at least $500m worldwide. Rise of the Guardians was a notable exception ($300m). A supercharged garden snail is a good gimmick to attach to a toon, we’ll see if debutant David Soren can make the most of it. The problem might be, if the Indy500 aspect is overly foregrounded it could limit its worldwide travel. In 2012 Ice Age 4 made nearly $900m; I don’t expect an animation to get nearly that high in 2013.
7. The Hangover Part III
WW: $550m - $620m
US: $220m - $250m
A number of questions arise in respect of Part III, relating to the perceived failings of Part II. Did the public-at-large feel it was just a retread, or was following the basic “What happened?” premise intrinsic to its appeal. Critics lambasted the film, and it didn’t do quite as well as the first in States; it made a good $100m+ more than the original in the rest of the world. The question is relevant, because apparently the final part ditches the “detective work” angle, with the Wolf Pack breaking Alan out of psychiatric hospital. Look for a comparable gross, but unlikely to exceed Part II.
8. Monsters University
WW: $450m - $575m
US: $170m - $220m
Unlike many, I wasn’t instantly smitten with Monsters, Inc. It’s difficult to judge what kind of appetite there is for a prequel (! – because they always go down well) 12 years later. Pixar looks like a lock for $450m worldwide, and even sequels that have been greeted less than spectacularly Stateside (Kung Fu Panda 2, Cars 2) have cleaned up elsewhere across the Globe. I’m going conservative on this, as I’m unconvinced there’s a Toy Story-sized audience anticipating the next (or the one prior) adventure of Jake and Sully.
9. World War Z
WW: $450m - $570m
US: $200m - $230m
I reckon this will be the one where the ire of Internet fanboys (what are they doing to our zombies?!!) is not shared by the general public. It seems much more poised for success than Pacific Rim. I’d draw parallels between this and I Am Legend, another film that was greeted with rage by purists. The iffy-factor is Brad Pitt, who just doesn’t look like he belongs in the way Smith did in Legend. We’ll see, but I don’t think the troubled production history will be any impediment to success if it has just enough big moments (Marc Forster’s direction, however, is another matter).
10. Thor: The Dark World
WW: $500m - $600m
US: $200m - $240m
Iron Man’s a (relatively) known quantity, but what will the Avengers effect have on the second tier Asgardian? I expect the film to be visually more accomplished than the first (Game of Thrones veteran Alan Taylor grasps the megaphone). And Chris Eccleston plays an evil elf. It will surely go higher than the $450m of Thor, but I doubt that anything stratospheric is in store.
11. Fast & Furious 6
WW: $520m - $600m
US: $170m - $200m
Was Fast Five a blip? It gained over $200m worldwide on its predecessor. Justin Lin is bringing back the same formula and stars, so I wouldn’t count against it. But look for slightly diminished returns, though, unless Lin can further surprise following Five.
12. Despicable Me 2
WW: $470m - $550m
US: $160m - $220m
I’m thinking Kung Fu Panda 2 syndrome here. An unnecessary sequel that doesn’t break any new ground. The first was a major boon for Universal animation, and I suppose it could eclipse the original’s $550m worldwide, maybe up to $650m, but I don’t think the audience appetite is there.
WW: $450m -$600m
US: $200m - $230m
Disney tackles the Snow Queen, the same way as they did Tangled (right down to losing the female-skewing title). It should have room to breathe in the winter also.
15. The Smurfs 2
WW: $450m - $550m
US: $85m - $130m
The 2011 reboot of the little blue bastards exceeded anyone’s wildest expectations, but a lot of sequels get made that end up confirming the original only had one-off curiosity appeal. I’m dubious whether it will hit the spot again in the States. The rest of the world may be a different story.
16. Star Trek Into Darkness
WW: $420m - $500m
US: $230m - $270m
Here’s the thing with Trek; its appeal is principally in the States. As huge as the first film was, it took only half of its US gross worldwide, generally the model for comedies. The flipside is that, in the four years since, the realisation will have permeated many potential viewers that you don’t have to be a Trekkie or a geek to enjoy a franchise that J J Abrams has steered in a very populist direction. I’m still not expecting miracles, however (and this is an expensive franchise given its worldwide ceiling).
17. A Good Day to Die Hard
WW: $350m - $450m
US: $120m - $140m
Most likely this will be in the ballpark of Live Free; the trailers have smartly echoed the first movie and the adverts have been clever (“Mother Russia”, indeed). A February release date could also work in its favour, making the most of an empty marketplace. It may stink, however.
18. The Wolverine
WW: $350m - $450m
US: $160m - $200m
Fox has messed up their bed, now they have to lie in it. Origins: Wolverine pooped that bed, and well-received as it was First Class it did $100m less than Last Stand. Everyone seems to think Wolverine is solid gold script-wise, so it’s James Mangold’s to mess up.
19. Whitehouse Down
WW: $275m - $325m
US: $150m - $175m
Air Force One, but without Harrison Ford and the plane? Channing Tatum’s so hot right now, and Roland Emmerich knows his action (if not his scripts). One that will likely not play multiples of its US performance in the rest of the world, but it should perform better than the other Whitehouse film (even though it’s released later).
20. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
WW: $200m - $350m
US: $70m - $160m
Speculating about what will be the next hit Young Adult franchise is probably a fool’s game. Percy Jackson gets a sequel this year but not because the first one caught fire. This could do badly by its readership, or underestimate how much they need a film version. As such, I’m giving quite a bit of leeway in its potential. Hunger Games proved the fiction doesn’t require Twilight’s adult cross-over, but gauging appetite is probably nigh on impossible.
WW: $270m - $350m
US: $80m - $140m
An uncertain quantity, as is ever the case with “new” SF properties (John Carter). The Cruise factor likely guarantees it $200m+, but the key is whether the story is sufficiently commanding.
22. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
WW: $200m - $250m
US: $75m - $120m
Another animated sequel, to a surprise hit that made not far of $250m worldwide. How much it can build on that is debatable, however.
23. Oz: The Great and Powerful
WW: $180m - $400m
US: $60m - $170m
I can’t see this being another Alice in Wonderland for Disney. Does Oz have a built-in audience? Does James Franco? This has the potential of a hugely expensive flop. If it does break out, it probably won’t justify the expense.
WW: $170m - $300m
US: $120m - $170m
District 9 was the little film that surprised. Now Neill Blomkamp has big stars and a big budget, but is still working with a self-penned, original SF. Matt Damon should carry some of the weight but expectations should be held in check.
25. Jack Ryan
WW: $200m - $250m
US: $100m - $120m
Without Harrison Ford, and with a very US-orientated hero, this could work out more in line with Ben Affleck’s stint as Ryan ($194m WW). Sir Ken directing doesn’t exactly promise a masterful reboot.
26. The Croods
WW: $180m - $400m
US: $70m - $150m
A long-gestating Dreamworks production, this Stone Age animation comes across clunky from the trailers. Dreamworks will be hoping otherwise, as their stock took a hit in the wake of their sure touch deserting them with Rise of the Guardians.
27. G.I. Joe: Retaliation
WW: $220m - $290m
US: $90m - $130m
2009’s film made 50-50 US and rest of the world. This one was suddenly delayed a year (bad sign) but has Bruce and the Rock (good sign).
28. Grown Ups 2
WW: $200m - $250m
US: $130m - $150m
Adam Sandler, his well running dry, finally goes down the sequel route. Likely a guaranteed audience, but not a growing one.
WW: $200m - $350m
US: $100m - $160m
Initially intended to go straight to DVD, this Cars spin-off gets a cinema release and most likely has tempered expectations behind it. It could go down a treat, but all concerned will be happy if it makes a modest sum.
29. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
WW: $150m - $400m
US: $65m - $140m
Ben Stiller, family film actor for hire, could expect a massive half a billion hit. Ben Stiller, director, not so much. This has the most obvious potential for straddling the divide between the two. I hope it does, because Stiller’s a highly talented filmmaker.
WW: $190m - $300m
US: $70m - $120m
The trailers are a mish-mash of Avatar and Ferngully, the danger that it has a Rise of the Guardians reaction from a mystified audience. This comes from Fox, who aren’t going to have a new Ice Age on their hands.
31. Pacific Rim
WW: $175m - $280m
US: $70m - $135m
As I’ve said, I’m not seeing it. Certainly not a new Transformers. It could do even worse than I’m predicting, but I doubt that it will do better.
32. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
WW: $160m - $220m
US: $70m - $120m
It all depends if hits the funny bone. The trailer is pretty good, and Steve Carrell and Jim Carrey appear to be having a ball; and they’re a good combination. Carrey in a comedy usually nudges towards a $200m worldwide gross, but this could end up in high concept, low return territory.
33. The Internship
WW: $130m - $170m
US: $70m - $130m
Can Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn repeat their Wedding Crashers success? It depends how much it taps their charms (men in their 40s taken on as interns), but the rest of the world may be a difficult sell.
34. Captain Phillips
WW: $120m - $260m
US: $60m - $120m
Hanks is no guarantee of gold any more, and his instincts seems to have deserted him. Outside of Bourne, Paul Greengrass isn’t a commercial proposition. If the true-life tale touches buttons, and Hanks is in a role that gains audience sympathy (and Oscars) anything is possible.
35. Red 2
WW: $120m - $160m
US: $60m - $75m
Bruce Willis, back again. Is he wanted, though?
36. Saving Mr. Banks
WW: $110m - $240m
US: $60m - $120m
Very different Hanks, this time being a heartwarming Disney opposite Emma Thompson’s P L Travers. But I don’t think it’s any more guaranteed a hit than Tom captured by pirates. Oscar may be friendly, again (it’s all about movie making, innit?)
37. Pain & Gain
WW: $90m - $225m
US: $65m - $145m
If Michael Bay (yes, him!) has hit on the same kind of OTT bad taste humourous streak seen in his Bad Boys films, this Wahlberg and Johnson starrer could reap big dividends. It may have to settle for a cult movie in waiting status, though.
38. After Earth
WW: $90m - $300m
US: $70m - $130m
Will Smith might hoodwink audiences into seeing this vehicle for junior to become an action star, and Shyamalan might do something special. But I’m not convinced.
39. Monuments Men
WW: $90m - $225m
US: $65m - $145m
Clooney as director, like Stiller, requires tempering of expectations. This sounds like pure Oscar-bait, has a tremendous cast, a WWII setting, intriguing subject matter. It’s all down to whether George can make it sing.
40. 47 Ronin
WW: $80m - $320m
US: $45m - $135m
Get the impression this huge budget Keanu Reeves samurai vehicle is seen as dead-in-the-water? Me too. A first-time director, reshoots, release date delays followed by release date delays. For some reason, I’m still holding on that something special will emerge (perhaps because of director Carl Rinsch’s short film The Gift).
41. Last Vegas
WW: $75m - $230m
US: $55m - $120m
More palatable premise (marriage of the last single guy in the group) than the other recent oldies-together movie, Stand Up Guys, if the comedy delivers the assembled cast (Douglas, De Niro, Freeman, Kline) should be able to make it agreeable.
WW: $90m - $150m
US: $80m - $120m
I’m being conservative about this one’s chances, because even if the film lives up to the promise of the trailer, it’s still a baseball film trying to find an audience outside of the US. Harrison gets his Oscar, though?
43. The Great Gatsby
WW: $75m - $200m
US: $50m - $85m
Baz Luhrmann’s Australia (amazingly, as it’s execrable) made $200m worldwide, so as many that find him way too much really take to his campy cinematic confectionary. He’s got DiCaprio on board, and it looks just as you’d expect one of his films to look. Who knows?
44. The Big Wedding
WW: $85m - $260m
US: $55m - $150m
Divorced couple fakes marriage for the sake of a family wedding. Based on a French flick. The cast is colourful (De Niro, Keaton, Sarandon, Heigl, Robin Williams) so much will depend on whether the result is lettuce-limp. That said, if Steve Martin were in it, I’d guarantee $200m+.
45. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
WW: $85m - $200m
US: $40m - $75m
There was ambivalence about making the third Narnia, but it still did solid business. This isn’t going to be a franchise that just needed to find its feet, however.
46. The Seventh Son
WW: $85m - $180m
US: $50m - $70m
Another teen-franchise in waiting, this one looks reasonably interesting and has a strong cast (Bridges, Moore). The historical setting may count against wider success, though.
47. 2 Guns
WW: $85m - $150m
US: $60m - $90m
Denzel and Wahlberg up against the mob; the Contraband director suggests more in that ballpark than Safe House’s.
48. The Conjuring
WW: $80m - $220m
US: $60m - $130m
Saw director James Wan is on something of a roll following Insidious, and this follow-up could have an Amityville effect with it’s based-on-a-real-story selling point.
49. The Host
WW: $75m - $160m
US: $50m - $90m
Just because Stephenie Meyer had a hit with Twilight doesn’t mean…
50. The Heat
WW: $75m - $180m
US: $60m - $120m
I thought the trailer for his Sandy Buttocks/Melissa McCarthy buddy cop-com looked lousy, but what do I know. Paul Feig attempts to repeat the Bridesmaids effect but in an unfriendly comedy sub-genre.
Anchorman: The Legend Continues
Nine years in the making, a sequel to a comedy that made $5m outside of the US. It will be interesting to see if the cult reputation translates into a wider audience.
WW: $90m - $140m
US: $70m - $100m
The other Whitehouse invasion movie, starring box office titan Gerald Butler.
WW: $80m - $140m, US: $50m - $75m
Unnecessary Stephen King remake.
WW: $75m - $150m, US: $50m - $75m
Disaster sci-fi, with a brain.
WW: $70m - $300m, US: $60m - $140m
Expensive SF adaptation, but a difficult sell beyond its fanbase.
WW: $70m - $225m, US: $45m - $110m
Obscure comics adaptation about dead cops.
WW: $60m - $160m, US: $40m - $80m
300: Rise of an Empire
$450m worldwide for the original don’t mean diddly.
WW: $60m - $200m, US: $40m - $80m
Ron Howard takes an interesting story (James Hunt’s rivalry with Niki Lauda) but Formula One movies are tough.
WW: $60m - $220m, US: $40m - $80m
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Again, it’s working on the assumption that a vocal fanbase will garner returns…
WW: $80m - $160m, US: $50m - $70m
Jack the Giant Slayer
Good luck with this, Warner!
WW: $75m - $170m, US: $40m - $75m
Guaranteed an opening in the US, but beyond that?
WW: $80m - $140m, US: $60m - $85m
Now You See Me
I’m intrigued, but how much potential is there, given the lack of star wattage?
WW: $70m - $135m, US: $45m - $85m
The first didn’t hit $100m globally.
WW: $70m - $110m, US: $35m - $65m
Nicholas Sparks romantic drizzle.
WW: $70m - $100m, US: $50m - $80m
Richard Curtis is back. Ahem.
WW: $50m - $90m, US: $30m - $50m
Mr Peabody & Sherman
Weird-ass animated movie. Could go either way.
WW: $60m - $160m, US: $40m - $90m
Insidious Chapter 2
More of the same?
WW: $70m - $120m, US: $40m - $65m
You go, Vin!
WW: $70m - $110m, US: $40m - $70m
WW: $50m - $90m, US: $25m - $50m
A great cast, but that doesn’t necessarily translate.
WW: $40m - $70m, US: $30m - $50m
Do people want to see Affleck not directing himself?
WW: $50m - $80m, US: $25m - $55m
Arnie, Sly, not in The Expendables 3! As for solo vehicles The Last Stand and Bullet in the Head, well I'm ready to be impressed by audiences flocking to see them.
WW: $75m - $150m, US: $45m - $75m
The Delivery Man
Vince Vaughn’s sperm. Nice.
WW: $60m - $90m, US: $45m - $70m
Corporate machinations with Harrison Ford.
WW: $60m - $145m, US: $35m - $75m
Spike Lee remake
WW: $60m - $120m, US: $35m - $70m
Luc Besson and guns.
WW: $75m - $205m, US: $25m - $50m
The World’s End
Pegg! Frost! Wright!
WW: $80m - $120m, US: $25m - $45m
Paranormal Activity 5
Sleepyawning to another sequel.
WW: $100m - $130m, US: $35m - $65m