Prediction: 2015 Box Office
Part II: 30-1
30. The Martian
(US: $115m, WW: $295m)
(27 November UK, 25 November US)
Ridley, Ridley, Ridley. I don’t know what to make of his career these days. Then again, his prime pretty much ended in 1982. Since 2000 he has been churning out pictures like there’s no tomorrow, finely honed scripts be damned. But I liked both Prometheus and The Counsellor; despite their problems they were more interesting than anything he has picked in years (Exodus is back to “churn it out” territory). The Martian is his attempt at hard-SF, 15 years on from previous Mars forays Red Planet and Mission to Mars (neither of which set the world on fire). It has Matt Damon on board, hopefully to more scintillating effect than in Elysium. Of the 12 releases since (and including) Gladiator, seven have made more than $200m worldwide, so this is at least likely to be the eighth.
29. Taken 3
(US: $115m, WW: $300m)
Taken 2’s success was based on the warm reception for Taken. If 2 is any influence on this, there’ll be less interest in the third outing, even though Liam Neeson looks to be getting up to more engaging fugitive pursuits this time out. Oliver Megaton is back as director, unfortunately.
28. The Revenant
(US: $115m, WW: $305m)
(16 January UK, 25 December US)
Leonardo DiCaprio treads where Richard Harris trod before in Man in the Wilderness, playing trapper Hugo Glass. Left to die after a bear mauling, Glass seeks revenge on Tom Hardy, Will Poulter and Domhnall Gleeson. I’d guess he dispatches the last two with consummate ease. Birdman’s Alejandro González Iñárritu directs, high on the hit Birdman. Depending on the tone, this could be another big hit for young Leo. Did anyone seriously expect Wolf of Wall Street to make $400m worldwide?
(US: $160m, WW: $325m)
As dumb as its premise undoubtedly is, I quite enjoyed Divergent. I certainly don’t see Hunger Games as leagues ahead in terms of content, theme and execution. Robert Schwentke doesn’t have the quality back catalogue of Neil Burger, but he can handle action (even given R.I.P.D.). Shailene Woodley hasn’t yet become the next J-Law, but, with the success of A Fault in Our Stars and a hot new haircut, she has a fan base all her own now. I’m guessing a small but notable uptick.
(US: $135m, WW: $345m)
Hmmm. Well. How has original science fiction fared of late? Much of it has underperformed in terms of budget (Pacific Rim, Edge of Tomorrow, Elysium), irrespective of quality. This one comes from Brad Bird, having successfully transitioned to live action with Ghost Protocol, and Damon Lindelof, hoping nobody asks him if he’s figured out a decent ending.
Based on the Disney theme park ride? It worked for Pirates of the Caribbean. Britt Robertson is transported to a mysterious futuristic world with the help of inventor George Clooney. Some have accused this of depicting a Randian utopia just out of reach, Bird having flirted with such themes in the past, but there’d hardly be much drama in that. How will it perform? It’s impossible to say with so little given away, but hopefully if it is decent they will come.
25. St James’s Place
(Untitled Spielberg Cold War Thriller)
(US: $175m, WW: $365m)
(9 October UK, 16 October US)
Did Spielberg see Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and think, “I’ll have some of that”? This is his fourth teaming with Hanks (the last being the unloved The Terminal) and probably the latter’s surest thing since he last played Robert Langdon. Based on the U-2 incident of 1960, Hanks’ lawyer is prevailed upon by the CIA to secure the release of a pilot held by the Soviets. The screenplay has been spruced up by the Coen brothers, and amongst the cast is the ‘berg’s next lead, BFG Mark Rylance. The director hasn’t been in thriller mode since the also-period Munich; if he feels the weight of historical events this should at least, at any rate, be devoid of unfortunate sex scenes. Can we hope Mr Spielberg's special hat makes an appearance?
24. Hotel Transylvania 2
(US: 120, WW: 370)
(9 October UK)
Sandler is back voicing the lead in Sony Animation’s sequel to its 2012 hit. I’m not expecting huge growth on the original’s performance and probably a drop in the US. This is more Rio 2 territory than kids screaming for more.
(US: $120m, WW: $375m)
(20 March UK, 27 March US)
If this one scores, it will be probably be the luck of the March release slot, which has served DreamWorks well in the past (The Croods) and also not so well (Mr Peabody & Sherman). The premise sounds like a bit of a chore; an alien race invades Earth and a girl goes on the run with a banished one of their number. Home looks particularly uninspired, completed with well-thumbed homilies (our mistakes are what make us human) and the usual excitably tiresome pop-tastic hits.
21. The Fantastic Four
(US: $145m, WW: $400m)
For regalvanised X-Men in 2014. Can they do the same with their Four reboot in 2015? It isn’t as if they have to contend with raves for the Tim Story’s sorry 2005 and 2007 pictures (so no Spider-Man legacy there). And director Josh Trank was a strong pick given his 2012 debut Chronicle. But should Fantastic Four be gritty? Isn’t that very much not what it is? This could be a case of mixed signals proving unfounded when the first trailer appears, but I don’t think many have high expectations right now. If it doesn’t break $500m, the future of the franchise may be in question (with Fox at any rate). On the other hand, if the reviews are great, and it underperforms, they may persevere.
(US: $135m, WW: $405m)
(27 March UK, 13 March US)
A shoe-in, right? Or a glass slipper-in. Maybe. Maybe not. Sir Kenneth Branagh isn’t the most reliable of directors, even if his ability to summon Dutch angles out of thin air is beyond question. This ought to be a licence to print tickets and tie-ins, and Disney probably thinks that, with a roaring success from tat like Maleficent, they’re quids in. If the princess market is impervious to the need to be even a wee bit good, this might add $200m to the estimate.
20. Inside Out
(US: $155m, WW: $415m)
(24 July UK, 19 June US)
Maybe Pete Docter’s (Monsters Inc, Up) latest will persuade as a movie in a way it doesn’t as a trailer, but it currently conjures visions of a cross between Herman’s Head and Osmosis Jones. If it flails about on a level suggested here, it will be their lowest grosser at home and weakest showing abroad since their early days (and probably ever, inflation-adjusted). Things might kick in as the marketing gets stuck in for the July release date, but, if it doesn’t, Finding Dory won’t be fishing up soon enough for Pixar.
19. The Hateful Eight
(US: $160m, WW: $435m)
(13 November US)
Tarantino may be talking balls about retirement, who knows? He seems to have hit something of a stride post the Kill Bill slump, and the nadir of Death Proof, with a picture surfacing every three years. This second-in-a-row western saw the director become rather irked after a draft was leaked, and threaten never to make it (a live reading/performance appeared to reignite his passion).
The titular octet ends up in an unwelcoming stopover, bad guys (and gal) facing badder guys. Samuel L Jackson, Kurt Russell, Walter Goggins, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern and Tim Roth return to Tarantino duties, joined by the always great Jennifer Jason Leigh and… Channing Tatum. How much more can the director’s adoring audience base grow? How big can a western get? The $400-500m range seems like the limit right now.
18. Fifty Shades of Grey
(US: $140m, WW: $440m)
The potential for lusty chick-lit at the box office? Are we talking Gone Girl thriller proportions ($356m worldwide) or closer to the Twilight franchise that inspired Fifty Shades ($700m+)? Cinderella, with added saucy hijinks and bondage? While not exactly Old Adult, Twilight figures ought to be beyond its reach. So what is the glass ceiling? Of course, it could end up being laughably bad, in which case no one will show at all (although that didn’t stop Twilight).
(US: $135m, WW: $450m)
(17 July UK, 24 July US)
The never-ending quest to reconstitute fantasy classics of film and literature in semi-recognisable form has met with both huge financial success (Alice in Wonderland, Maleficent) and only moderately so (Oz The Great and Powerful, Snow White and the Huntsman). Spielberg climbed aboard one of the biggest stinkers of his career when he decided to continue the Peter Pan story with Hook in 1991, while PJ Hogan’s 2003 Peter Pan barely scraped back its $100m price tag at the cinemas.
Joe Wright has a slippery pseudish approach to classics that sometimes finds him winning (Pride and Prejudice) at others stumbling (Anna Karenina), but he can be relied upon to make them visual sumptuous. The script, is an – God help us - origins story featuring Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard and Garrett Hedlund as Hook (he’s misunderstood like Maleficent, see?) Rooney Mara’s casting as Tiger Lilly has been controversial but is nothing next to Exodus: Gods and Kings. I thought Maleficent would suck (it did) and tank (it didn’t) so I won’t call against this one.
16. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials
(US: $135m, WW: $455m)
The unsuspecting Young Adult that did in 2014. All eyes were on Divergent, which did respectable business but is no next Hunger Games. Poking just above $100m in the US, Maze Runner did okay (particularly given its budget). It’s only factoring in its global success ($339m) that its potential is revealed. Divergent did about 50-50 US/international. Maze Runner was 70% international and it got great reviews. Potentially, this could see the kind of jump Twilight (+$300m) or the Hunger Games (nearly +$200m) did between one and two, but it may be best to be cautious. Where Runner skews differently is that the lead is male. As such it may not perform to such lofty expectations. That title, though.
15. Jurassic World
(US: $175m, WW: $460m)
Fourteen years on from III, Spielberg drafts in an untested fledgling director (Colin Trevorrow) with a middling sci-fi comedy to his name (Safety Not Guaranteed) and hangs the (too late?) rebirth of a franchise on his shoulders. The desire to stick to formula is the bane of Jurassic Parks (island locale, things go awry, kids get into scrapes). This looks to follow suit, even with the overt Westworld breakdown, cute shark gag and GM-dinosaurs.
Pratt doesn’t seem that comfortable playing straight and the friendly dinos/motorbike combo is begging for someone to jump the raptor. Jurassic Park III made $600m less than the original. Even given kids’ love for dinosaurs, is this really providing anything exciting enough to provoke a stampede into cinemas?
(US: $225m, WW: $455m)
(14 August UK, 24 July US)
Just when you thought Adam Sandler could be counted out of the running… Sandler’s previous biggest live action showing is Grown Ups, and that finished up under $300m. Pixels shrewdly draws on ‘80s nostalgia (Wreck-It Ralph made close to $500m worldwide, the giant Pacman and mismatched comedy team are suggestive of Ghostbusters) and could spell a big family-sized hit. Chris Columbus, possibly at the behest of his frantic agent, calls the shots. This could, of course, be the next Mystery Men, but it if so it won’t be for want of a marketable premise.
13. Terminator Genisys
(US: $120m, WW: $475m)
(3 July UK, 1 July US)
The Terminator franchise is such an unholy mess that expectations can only be exceeded at this point. Terminator 3 failed to live up to Cameron’s predecessors, mainly down to a director (Jonathan Mostow) who was unable to rise to the scale or polish. Salvation has been roundly slated as the series’ nadir, and it is a complete mess of a script, but McG’s direction was the least of its problems.
Can the absurdly titled fifth entry salvage the series rep? Well, casting Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese wasn’t a good start; the guy has the bulk of a T-800, not a starving freedom fighter. On the other hand, Emilia Clarke does a more-than-passable Sarah Conner, and the fiddly rewritten history of the plot is at least promising something different. Bringing back Arnie as (yet again) a good Terminator isn’t, however. Alan Taylor’s direction looks reasonable but not too special… Genisys should open fine, but it’s all about the international box office for this one, and even then it needs not to suck.
(US: $165m, WW: $545m)
Ant-Man’s turbulent production history saw an unexpected development; the fans turned against Marvel when one of their uber-geek brethren was cast aside from Kevin Feig’s spandex bosom. With Edgar Wright left rotting by the wayside, enthusiasm for this has been considerably quelled, and at this point it may seem as if it has its work cut out for it if it is to make any kind of dent. The movie arrives a couple of months after Age of Ultron, so might ride its tidal wave of acclaim. But… Peyton Reed has delivered some decent if unexceptional comedies (including Yes Man and the dark-edged The Break-Up) and was once attached to Fantastic Four before Tim Story proved he wasn’t the man for the job.
At this point, anything under $600m globally will be considered a failure (and comparable with the Marvel early-days performances of Thor and The First Avenger), and anyone predicting a less-than-decent result will probably be made to look a bit silly post-Guardians of the Galaxy. But Paul Rudd as a superhero? As unlikely as Chris Pratt, perhaps. Ant-Man is certainly fortunate to be landing in an environment where it has been proved comedy can work in the Marvel-verse, but it will need to do extra well to banish the spectre of Wright.
11. B.O.O. : Bureau of Otherworldy Operations
(US: $155m, WW: $550m)
(16 October UK)
The collapse of DreamWorks’ dreams of eclipsing Pixar is now fairly resounding. 2014 also sounded a warning gong generally for an industry that has rather taken family audiences for granted. Particularly Stateside, where, in a Pixar-free year, it was left to The LEGO Movie to show what could be done (and still, a $300m grosser proved elusive). How to Train Your Dragon 2 made more than $100m more globally than its predecessor, but, considering the original’s rapturous welcome, it should have done much better (such as a Despicable Me 2 increase, indicating there just wasn’t enough cuteness in the mix?) Mr Peabody and Sherman and Penguins of Madagascar have underperformed (in spite of the latter spinning off from a 2012 series-best performance; if DreamWorks was sensible, they might consider calling off the fourth outing in 2018).
B.O.O. finds the studio toying with a Men in Black/Ghostbusters/R.I.P.D. (okay, let’s not dwell on the latter) set-up; a government agency where ghosts protect humans from hauntings. Monsters Vs. Aliens averageness might ensue (on board as a voice is boorish oaf Seth Rogen) but it might lead to the occasionally inspired (on board as a voice is laidback maestro Bill Murray).
Will this even arrive in 2015? It was set for June, but pulled in November with no replacement date set. Is there time to rework it (Jeffrey Katzenberg was reportedly unhappy with the quality; given DreamWorks standards, it must be very sloppy), and would it even be wise to push it to autumn (supernatural competition from Hotel Transylvania 2)?
10. Mad Max: Fury Road
(US: $175m, WW: $550m)
Outside of genre fans and Comic Con, is there an audience for the rebirth of Mad Max? Anyone who doesn’t know the brand may think the title a bit silly, and it anyway it comes from a thirty-year-old trilogy with a reputation resting on one (superb) sequel. Fury Road comes out a couple of weeks after Age of Ultron, so it should have just about enough space to land, and, if word of mouth is as ecstatic as it was for the trailer, this could bounce up towards the $700m mark. Whatever happens with it, the picture has good will on its side. And it probably isn’t going to do Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron and George Miller’s careers any harm.
9. Mission: Impossible 5
(US: $165m, WW: $590m)
(26 December UK, 25 December US)
Ghost Protocol reinvigorated the (financially) waning series and gave Cruise’s stardom a lifeline. Can Christopher McQuarries sustain that success? It’s difficult to judge. Shane Black proved as adept with large scale fireworks (Iron Man Three) as he did with his more compact debut (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang). Jack Reacher was a confidently made affair, more than showing McQuarrie can handle thriller mechanics, but is spectacle in the hundreds of millions of dollars range his bag? He’s obviously convinced the Cruiser. This is up against Star Wars, and if it’s good it probably won’t suffer (see Sherlock Holmes and Avatar). The danger will be if it’s merely decent rather than awesome.
8. Ted 2
(US: $225m, WW: $600m)
(10 July UK, 26 June US)
Seth MacFarlane received a definite vote of no confidence for his stint in front of the camera in A Million Ways to Die in the West, so has returned instead to voice the much adored and extremely crude bear from his 2012 hit. This is likely to fall into the bracket of vulgar comedies with a ready and willing audience (21 Jump Street), rather than ones where the makers should just have been grateful anyone showed up in the first place, let alone have them sequelised (Horrible Bosses). I didn’t think much of Ted, but I can see very little preventing this becoming a big hit, particularly with Wahlberg returning as straight man.
(US: $175m, WW: $615m)
(26 June UK, 10 July US)
Despicable Me 2 made nearly $1bn globally, the sort of figure that makes Pixar and DreamWorks salivate uncontrollably and shows that any pretender to their thrones (here Universal) can strike gold. But are the cutesy supporting characters as important as the main attraction? The comic relief of Madagascar has been unable to replicate the size of the main tentpole (Penguins) and Puss in Boots failed to dollar up to Shrek. I may be wrong, and the ‘60s set prequel has a sufficiently appealing trailer, but there’s a strong risk of diminishing returns here.
6. The Good Dinosaur
(US: $245m, WW: $675m)
(27 November UK, 25 November US)
The first lustre of Pixar has been tarnished over the past three or four years, as the overt money grabbing of Toy Story, Cars and Monsters sequels has laid their creative priorities bare. They have two offerings in 2015, and it remains to be seen if they hew closer to Brave ($539m) or Up ($731m). This is the one I suspect has the best chance, inhabiting as it does the proven genre of cuddly extinct creatures (Land Before Time, Ice Age).
This tale of human-dinosaur relations, in a world where (non-feathered) dinosaurs never became extinct, hasn’t seen a smooth journey to the screen, with Bob Peterson (Up) unable to crack the third act and being replaced with Peter Sohn. Such traumatic birthing isn’t uncommon with Pixar (Brave), so the question is whether this will adversely affect its quality (I liked Brave, but it isn’t regarded as one of the studio’s triumphs) or inspired anthropomorphism will
win the day.
5. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
(US: £335m, WW: $850m)
I expect Hunger 4 to get a boost from being the grand finale, but at this point it doesn’t look like a series that had the juice to incrementally expand its audience each time. Catching Fire peaked below $900m, and there isn’t going to be a $1bn grossing Hunger Games as some once foresaw.
Will the drab, so-so, not much happens content of Mockinjay Part 1 adversely affect Part 2? A similar problem didn’t dent the conclusion of Harry Potter (Deathly Hallows Part 2 grossed nearly $400m more than its nearest competitor in the series), so it all comes down to how satisfying the wrap-up is. Will this enable repeat visits? And where’s the next stratospheric Young Adult success? There are some decent performers (Divergent, Maze Runner) but they aren’t in the same ballpark.
4. Furious 7
(US: $285m, WW: $855m)
A maligned series that could easily have beached, never to return, following the third (almost-) Vin and Walker free outing managed to double its audience when it redefined itself as an amped-up ensemble heist series with Fast Five. Fast & Furious 6 grossed nearly $800m worldwide in 2013, and even previously snooty (and snotty) critics that had dismissed it had to sit up and take notice. I wouldn’t sing retconned praises for a series I have only ever found serviceable, but there’s no denying that a successful formula has been honed.
7 was due in the summer of 2014, with Saw-director James Wong climbing aboard (branching out from horror to… action movies). However, the too-soon demise of Paul Walker delayed a quick turnaround. For the bean counters, this no doubt provides an addition selling point to fans of the series (he’s central to the recent trailer). The combined involvement of the Stat and Kurt Russell offers some good solid villainy, and for now success is guaranteed. But how long can this series continue? And if it does, when will the next reinvention occur? Perhaps Vin should take it into post-apocalyptic, post-Fury Road territory. I’m sure that would be right up his street.
(US: $275m, WW: $1.1bn)
(23 October UK, 6 November US)
So Daniel Craig’s nu-thug incarnation of Bond is officially the biggest 007 ever. Well, maybe not. If we take inflation into account, Connery’s Thunderball probably tops Skyfall globally (certainly, the third and fourth Connery pictures trump it in the States). I liked Skyfall well enough; I loved Roger Deakins cinematography (the silhouetted fight sequence in Hong Kong is gorgeous to behold). But, beyond the classy sheen Sam Mendes brought to the table, there wasn’t much here to testify to the “best Bond ever” tag that many claimed for it.
The attempts at humour showed this isn’t one of Craig’s fortes (he should make a comedy with Nicole Kidman; it would be a riot) and Mendes’ Oscar-heralded status didn’t extend to channelling anything game-changing into the script (the long overdue exit of Judi Dench aside). On that front it looks like it will be formulaic all the way, with Wade and Purvis reportedly having extensively rewritten John Logan. The return of SPECTRE, informing the imaginative title, suggests ‘60s supervillainy, in which case Craig should be careful his grumpy super-ripped status doesn’t look woefully out of sync.
The cast is expectedly fulsome; Monica Bellucci will bring some swish as a mature (but lovely) Bond lady, while Lea Seydoux makes sure Bond keeps up the tradition of canoodling with someone young enough to be his daughter. The new regulars (Fiennes, Wishaw, Harris, Kinnear) are all back, and there will be much connecting of SPECTRE to the damn mysterious Quantum organisation. Hoyte Van Hoytema (Interstellar, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) replaces Deakins. The overlapping with Star Wars probably won’t dent its longevity significantly (it has more than a month’s head start), and, while I may gripe that all this talent ought to extend to ensuring there’s a decent script, it isn’t as if this has ever been the series’ watchword. Like Ultron, I would expect an easy equalling of its predecessor’s gross.
2. Avengers: Age of Ultron
(US: $550m, WW: $1.5bn)
(24 April UK, 1 May US)
Will Age of Ultron top the first assemblage of the Avengers? Betting against it would be foolish, particularly given Marvel’s 2014 successes; Winter Soldier wasn’t too far from doubling the first (rather feeble) outing’s worldwide gross, while Guardians of the Galaxy wiped the floor with doubters (no doubt a good number were in the ranks of Marvel itself).
That said, only Iron Man Three has come close to the ensemble earnings among post-Avengers superhero fare, suggesting the Downey factor is still key to pushing a picture over the top into a whole other level of success. I’m going conservative for Ultron, matching Avengers but not beating it; I fully expect it will be superior to the (pretty great) original, but whether it can replace novelty value with viewer devotion is a question that will also face Cameron when the first of his Avatar sequels arrives.
1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
(US: $600m, WW: $1.75bn)
The biggest poser for 2015’s box office is which will come out on top; Disney or Disney? The Mouse House’s Lucasfilm will be slugging it out with the Mouse House’s Marvel. With release dates six months apart there’s plenty of room for them too. Even if The Force Awakens turns out to be more Phantom Menace than Empire Strikes Back (or more Into Darkness than Star Trek), it will still have ploughed up half a billion before anyone begins to express reservations.
A lot of the fans who would never have given the series a second chance, even those who have sworn horrible maladies upon Abrams for Into Darkness, have roused themselves towards a state of, at very least, cautious optimism. Practical creatures and Stormtroopers and physical props and sets! The old guard returning! A strong line-up of thesps for the new crew!
This may well all end up a bit too whizz-bang flashy for its own good, the pseudo-mystical aspects of series being something Abrams will probably pay lip service to, and it may end up looking like a greatest hits package of Star Wars tropes. But that was always going to be a danger. Just looking like “proper” Star Wars again has broken down a lot of barriers, and the teaser trailer has more than whetted appetites in that regard. Also, being from the Abrams stable, there’s likely to be a (Mystery Box-shrouded) twist or two in there that will invite return visits to theatres. It may be that, in 18 months time, the post-mortem is uncomplimentary, but in the first instance this will surely take the 2015 crown.