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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 Zach 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.


6. Turbo
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.

13. Frozen
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.


21. Oblivion
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.

24. Elysium
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.

28. Planes
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.

30. Epic
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.

42. 42
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.

Others:


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

Olympus Down 
The other Whitehouse invasion movie, starring box office titan Gerald Butler.
WW: $80m - $140m, US: $50m - $75m

Carrie
Unnecessary Stephen King remake.
WW: $75m - $150m, US: $50m - $75m

Gravity
Disaster sci-fi, with a brain.
WW: $70m - $300m, US: $60m - $140m

Ender’s Game
Expensive SF adaptation, but a difficult sell beyond its fanbase.
WW: $70m - $225m, US: $45m - $110m

RIPD
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

Rush
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


Evil Dead
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

Kick-Ass 2
The first didn’t hit $100m globally.
WW: $70m - $110m, US: $35m - $65m

Safe Haven
Nicholas Sparks romantic drizzle.
WW: $70m - $100m, US: $50m - $80m

About Time
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

Riddick
You go, Vin!
WW: $70m - $110m, US: $40m - $70m

I, Frankenstein
Hmmm.
WW: $50m - $90m, US: $25m - $50m

Prisoners
A great cast, but that doesn’t necessarily translate.
WW: $40m - $70m, US: $30m - $50m


Runner, Runner
Do people want to see Affleck not directing himself?
WW: $50m - $80m, US: $25m - $55m

The Tomb
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

Paranoia
Corporate machinations with Harrison Ford.
WW: $60m - $145m, US: $35m - $75m

Oldboy
Spike Lee remake
WW: $60m - $120m, US: $35m - $70m

Malavita
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


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Ruination to all men!

The Avengers 24: How to Succeed…. At Murder
On the one hand, this episode has a distinctly reactionary whiff about it, pricking the bubble of the feminist movement, with Steed putting a female assassin over his knee and tickling her into submission. On the other, it has Steed putting a female assassin over his knee and tickling her into submission. How to Succeed… At Murder (a title play on How to Succeed at Business Without Really Trying, perhaps) is often very funny, even if you’re more than a little aware of the “wacky” formula that has been steadily honed over the course of the fourth season.

This here's a bottomless pit, baby. Two-and-a-half miles straight down.

The Abyss (1989)
(SPOILERS) By the time The Abyss was released in late summer ’89, I was a card carrying James Cameron fanboy (not a term was in such common use then, thankfully). Such devotion would only truly fade once True Lies revealed the stark, unadulterated truth of his filmmaking foibles. Consequently, I was an ardent Abyss apologist, railing at suggestions of its flaws. I loved the action, found the love story affecting, and admired the general conceit. So, when the Special Edition arrived in 1993, with its Day the Earth Stood Still-invoking global tsunami reinserted, I was more than happy to embrace it as a now-fully-revealed masterpiece.

I still see the Special Edition as significantly better than the release version (whatever quality concerns swore Cameron off the effects initially, CGI had advanced sufficiently by that point;certainly, the only underwhelming aspect is the surfaced alien craft, which was deemed suitable for the theatrical release), both dramatically and them…

You just keep on drilling, sir, and we'll keep on killing.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2016)
(SPOILERS) The drubbing Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk received really wasn’t unfair. I can’t even offer it the “brave experiment” consolation on the basis of its use of a different frame rate – not evident in itself on 24fps Blu ray, but the neutering effect of the actual compositions is, and quite tellingly in places – since the material itself is so lacking. It’s yet another misguided (to be generous to its motives) War on Terror movie, and one that manages to be both formulaic and at times fatuous in its presentation.

The irony is that Ang Lee, who wanted Billy Lynn to feel immersive and realistic, has made a movie where nothing seems real. Jean-Christophe Castelli’s adaptation of Ben Fountain’s novel is careful to tread heavily on every war movie cliché it can muster – and Vietnam War movie cliché at that – as it follows Billy Lynn (British actor Joe Alwyn) and his unit (“Bravo Squad”) on a media blitz celebrating their heroism in 2004 Iraq …

Never compare me to the mayor in Jaws! Never!

Ghostbusters (2016)
(SPOILERS) Paul Feig is a better director than Ivan Reitman, or at very least he’s savvy enough to gather technicians around him who make his films look good, but that hasn’t helped make his Ghostbusters remake (or reboot) a better movie than the original, and that’s even with the original not even being that great a movie in the first place.

Along which lines, I’d lay no claims to the 1984 movie being some kind of auteurist gem, but it does make some capital from the polarising forces of Aykroyd’s ultra-geekiness on the subject of spooks and Murray’s “I’m just here for the asides” irreverence. In contrast, Feig’s picture is all about treating the subject as he does any other genre, be it cop, or spy, or romcom. There’s no great affection, merely a reliably professional approach, one minded to ensure that a generous quota of gags (on-topic not required) can be pumped out via abundant improv sessions.

So there’s nothing terribly wrong with Ghostbusters, but aside from …