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You wanted a prophecy? This is your prophecy.

Prediction
2017 Box Office

Welcome to my annual rune-casting for the biggest box office of the year. Which, if previous form is any indication, even the most woefully ill-informed can get it right occasionally. But then, I used to love the forecasts in the likes of Premiere magazine, and seeing how wrong (or right) they could be. A few under consideration that didn’t make my Top 50 include A Cure for Wellness, My Little Pony, Split, American Made, The Greatest Showman, Smurfs: The Lost Village and XXX: The Return of Xander Cage, so they’re all sure to do extra well to spite me. If you’re so inclined, you can skip to the end and check my 2016 score card.

50-41

50. It
WW: $125m, US: $65m

Stephen King adaptations tend to attract a lot of attention, but this has to be balanced against how modestly most of them perform. Of the 40-odd movies relating to his works, maybe a quarter could be called decent-sized hits, and less than a handful as really big ones (The Green Mile is atypical, both in terms of subject matter and audience). It previously surfaced on TV, and the advance publicity isn’t doing much to sell it as unmissable (the new Pennywise definitely doesn’t have that Tim Curry factor). (8 September)

49. The Greatest Showman
WW: $130m, US: $70m

Playing PT Barnum is right up Hugh Jackman’s street, and with Rebecca Ferguson, Michelle Williams and, er, Zac Effron, this one is no doubt setting its sights on Oscar season. If it finds a great story in there too, all the better. (UK: 29 December, US: 25 December)

48. Geostorm
WW: $135m, $60m

Dean Devlin directing a sci-fi disaster movie might be sure thing, if he was Roland Emmerich. As it is, Gerard Butler’s presence is probably a reliable yardstick of how big this won’t be. As for what transpires, the title is all you need to know. (20 October)

47. God Particle (title TBA)
WW: $135m, US: $75m

Cloverfield 3-ish, with JJ Abram’s magical mystery box ensuring interest in this tale of a missing Earth and a space shuttle encountered by the crew of a space station (provided Life, also set in space and involving a crew encountering something monstrous, doesn’t steal its thunder). Weirdness will ensue. And maybe a space monster. (US: 27 October)

46. Snatched
US: $135m, US: $90m

Trainwreck announced Amy Schumer as a comedian who could carry a movie, self-penned at that. But, if her personality is divisive Stateside, it’s just plain unknown most of everywhere else. Here she’s rewriting Katie Dippold (Dippold is evidently struggling with screenplays, be they Heat or Ghostbusters) and directed by Jonathan Levine (a good director, when not encumbered by boorish oaf Seth Rogen). This will live or die on Schumer’s chemistry with Goldie Hawn as her mum, though (it’s a vacation-gone-wrong movie, in Ecuador, but alas without Chevy Chase). (12 May)

45. Life
WW: $140m, US: $55m

Life on Mars is discovered by Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds and Rebecca Ferguson. Daniel Espinosa (Safe House and Child 44) directs what may be a bit of a Prometheus rip-off. Or an Alien rip-off. Or maybe a Leviathan rip-off. Or, if we’re lucky, a Deepstar Six rip-off. May benefit from having the drop on Alien: Covenant. Alternatively, joe public may just decide to wait eight weeks. (24 March)

44. The Lego Ninjagio Movie
WW: $145m, US: $80m

The second Lego movie of the year, based, so I’m told by Wikipedia, on their similarly-named toy line. I’d have thought more modest takings than the earlier Lego Movie, or the Bat-brand, are in store, but I’m quite willing to admit to being entirely in the dark. Maybe Ninjagio is even more popular than DC piss-takes? (UK: 13 October, US: 22 September)

43. The Snowman
WW: $160m, US: $70m

The Fass playing a Norwegian detective, but in English. They still do that, do they? Of course, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo did really well! And Child 44! If the movie is great, that won’t matter a jot, but it might have been better to relocate it, all told. (13 October)

42. Annabelle 2
WW: $165m, US: $55m

The first movie made $90m more than my prediction for the sequel, but this is milking on a different scale to The Conjuring, where viewers are coming back for the couple and new hauntings. This will surely get predictable. Surely? (US: 11 August)

41. The Dark Tower
WW: $165m, US: $70m

The year’s other Stephen King adaptation, with a convoluted/hopeful-leaning plan for TV/movie spanning sequels and a rough development hell period that saw Ron Howard exit as director (phew!) but still finds Akiva Goldsman credited as writer (along with director Nikolaj Arcel and two others). I do wonder what the broader appetite is for this, outside of the devoted fan base, and if it isn’t just a bit too elusive/involved. Still, a decision to use the novel as a leaping-off point, and a cast including Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba suggest this should be interesting at very least. (28 July)

40-31

40. The Star
WW: $175m, US: $85m

A donkey hooks up with an assortment of anthropomorphic chums en route to Bethlehem, so indoctrinating us with introducing us to the true story of Christmas. Hey, it might just work, might go great guns, but it depends entirely on tone – too whacky and you turn off the core/key Christian audience, too reverential and you alienate easily-bored tiny tots. Possibly one more likely to prove a long-term earner for the studio (Sony) than an instant megahit. Donkeys definitely have potential as cinematic fodder (Shrek) but The Musicians of Bremen might have been a better place to start. (UK: 15 December US: 10 November)

39. The Coldest City  
WW: $180m, US: $85m

Charlize Theron in a Cold War thriller blessed with action beats from John Wick guy David Leitch. It could be a keeper, and it has the jump on J-Law doing Soviet spy work. Probably the cooler choice to like, if not the most successful one. (11 August)

38. Blade Runner 2049
WW: $205m, US: $75m

Did anyone even give serious thought to whether this made financial sense before giving it the greenlight? The much-loved status of The Thing didn’t stop the “prequel” bombing, and just because Harrison Ford was in two other franchises where he barely showed up (consciously) 30 years later and they made a mint doesn’t mean this one will (he should do Hanover Street 2, if this one cleans up). I hope I’m wrong, and I hope audiences flock to it and it’s an instant classic, but I’m having trouble seeing this one find a larger audience right now. (21 July)

37. Baywatch
WW: $210m, US: $85m

It’s the old, make-a-wacky-version-of-a-much-loved-but-terrible-TV-show routine, but I doubt Baywatch will have the breakout appeal of 21 Jump Street (unless it really is really funny). Dwayne Johnson is loved but no sure thing, and Seth Gordon is hit-and-miss to put it mildly. (UK: 12 May, US: 26 May)

36. Jumanji
WW: $230m, US: $110m

We had a kind-of Jumanji the other year with Goosebumps (Jack Black’s in this too), and then there’s Dwayne Johnson in family guy mode. The selling point will be the updated effects, though, although it arrives a week after Star Wars Episode VIII, so it’s a toss-up if it rides the wave of a box office boon or is simply drowned. (UK: 29 December, US: 22 December)

35. The Emoji Movie
WW: $235m, US: $105m

There’s nothing quite like flagrant whoring for child dollars. Last year The Angry Birds Movie failed to fulfil its potential ($350m) but was perhaps about three years late to find its ideal roost. Emoji? I’m not sure where to start, except that its intentions are hopefully more towards the irreverent and anarchic than faux-sincere. Gene (TJ Miller), a multi-expressional emoji, sets out to become a normal emoji. Mmm-hmmm. Yes, I can see where this is going, and it will likely make me bloik. Steven Wright is voicing a character on the plus side, while James Corden doing likewise adds to the roster of negatives. (4 August)

34. Dunkirk
WW: $240m, US: $95m

Maybe, just maybe, there’s a riveting plotline concealed within Dunkirk that is being carefully concealed by the first trailer. But the message I’m getting from Christopher Nolan’s push for non-SF genre (read: Oscar) respectability is stolid, inert, more the kind of self-consciously prestigious WWII movie we thought had gone out with the ‘60s and the likes of The Longest Day, or at very latest when Sir Dickie did A Bridge Too Far. Can its writer-director fashion a hit just on the basis of it being a Nolan joint? Tom Hardy squeezing himself into a spitfire, Sir Ken filling in for Olivier again and Mark Rylance being contractually obliged to appear in every British period piece? This could be another Pearl Harbor, box office-wise (a disappointment given the cost, and critically maligned), although Nolan obviously isn’t as crass as Michael Bay. On the other hand, future trailers may reveal some core attraction I’ve as yet undetected, or it may arrive at time when ripe propaganda is the flavour of the day… (21 July)

33. Mother/Day 6/TBC
WW: $245m, US: $115m

J-Law’s run with David O Russell somewhat hit the rocks with Joy, and Passengers appears to be a relative dud, so can current other half Darren Aronofsky put her back on top? He’s making a habit of eking out successes from unlikely material (Black Swan, Noah), and I don’t doubt that what, on paper, sounds a bit mainstream (uninvited guests arrive at a couple’s home and disruption ensues) will wring out wilfully warped once it has been through his hands. And the rest of the cast (Domhnall Gleeson, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer, Ed Harris) suggest thespian fireworks. This is perhaps a conservative estimate, as no one would have expected the success Swan saw, but also much depends on how much Lawrence’s star is or is not wilting when it’s released.

32. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
WW: $250m, US: $40m

The last couple of Resident Evils – admittedly going back five years –  made more than $200m each at the box office, on medium-sized budgets, so this trumpeted fifth and final instalment (no doubt preceding an inevitable reboot) is likely to comfortably make its money back and then some. The series’ Stateside showings have generally been fairly indifferent (such that less than 20% of the gross came from the US and Canada for Retribution) but internationally it has gone pretty much from strength to strength. Paul W S Anderson directs his missus again (even Len Wiseman didn’t maintain such dedication with the Underworlds). Not bad for a 15-year-old franchise coming from the generally-doomed computer game adaptation genre.

31. Red Sparrow
WW: $265m, US: $115m

How’s J-Law’s Russkie accent? Here’s your chance to find out. Likely to be slick and stylish, but as ultimately empty as Hunger Games (yes, I did just say that). Lawrence is coming off a not-so-hot streak, but she still has time for several comebacks before she reaches 30, and this might be the first of them. If it’s not a continuation of audiences getting a wee bit fatigued by her. (10 November)

30-29

30. Ferdinand
WW: $270m, US: $75m

This is, apparently, the greatest juvenile classic since Winnie the Pooh, but being an illiterate swine, I’d never even heard of it (and I don’t think I’ve seen the Disney short Ferdinand the Bull). Carlos Saldanha (the Rio movies) is directing for Blue Sky/Fox, and if those are anything to go by it will be likeable but slight, in desperate need of meaty, mirthful supporting voice work from Jermaine Clement. I’m not sure the release date is an ideal one, either (although, Sing seems to have thrived in a similar slot). (22 December)

29. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
WW: $270m, US: $95m

Guy Ritchie gets all pre-medieval on our asses. 2015’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was mostly well-received, but audiences generally just weren’t interested, either in its stars or its legacy. Arthurian legend has more cachet, but the question mark hangs over whether they want to see a laddish take on one of the mythic tales. And, without Downey Jr as a lead, how high Ritchie can take a movie? Particularly one with Charlie Hunnam as the titular kingly type. (12 May)

28. Pitch Perfect 3
WW: $275m, US: $135m

Even given that Picture Perfect 2 made more than twice its predecessor’s take, it was top heavy on the US end, more so than the original. As such, I’m dubious of how much more it can broaden its following (of course, I failed completely to consider that the sequel might be some kind of minor phenomenon, and I may be doing likewise here). Something of a plateau, perhaps. (22 December)

27. The Boss Baby
WW: $285m, US: $115m

DreamWorks Animation’s Tom McGrath has good form… with the Madagascars. Megamind, not so much.  This is based on Marla Frazee’s 2010 book and has the queasy-sounding premise of Baby Boss Templeton (Alec Baldwin), a preternaturally adult baby, and his seven-year-old brother proving that love is an infinite force in the world as they foil a plot by the CEO of Puppy Co. Michael McCullers (Austin Powers) scripted, off the back of his work on the (very good) Mr Peabody and Sherman. The trailer makes it look like a Secret Life of Pets kind of take on little ones, while smeared with the usual irritating, ingratiating DW pop-sensibility. But who knows, it worked for Trolls… reasonably well. How about someone makes a Baby Face Finlayson movie? Where’s the Beano Cinematic Universe when you need it? (UK: 7 April US: 31 March)

26. The Mummy
WW: $290m, US: $85m

Like Paramount and Transformers, Universal’s development of a whole new cinematic Universe with its horror legacy has the whiff of desperation. Not because it isn’t necessarily an idea with potential, but because the purveyors thus far leave something to be desired and simply don’t appear to have the sensibility or skill to pull it off. Certainly, this looks like a CG-mess, and has already become infamous thanks Tom’s disintegrating aircraft scream. I mentioned Transformers, but at least they have consistency on their side. Universal seems to be taking the hope-for-the best-approach that is currently slaying DC’s prospects of becoming a creative challenger to Marvel. (9 June)

25. Murder on the Orient Express
WW: $295m, US: $120m

This sort of prestige Agatha Christie adaptation tends to sell itself. Just wind it up and set it off. Sir Ken is sure to ham it up something rotten as Poirot, but whether it’s on Finney levels, we’ll just have to wait and hope. As for his direction, he’s certain to break out the Dutch angles, so that’s something to look forward to (a world in which Ken is a bankable Hollywood director is one I never thought to see; a sign of the coming apocalypse, no doubt). And will Johnny Depp ham it up as much as his co-star, or just settle for some outrageous facial appliances? In fairness, it’s a good 45 years since the last Hollywood adaptation, so there’s a whole new generation not to know whodunit, and the rest of us can settle for seeing other players inhabiting familiar parts and art direction. (UK: 24 November, US: 22 November)

24. Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
WW: $295m, US: $135m

DreamWorks Animation has definitely been on a losing streak of late, How to Train Your Dragons aside, hence their increasing turn towards external properties to beef up their takings. Even that hasn’t necessarily provided the yields they hoped for (Trolls, Mr Peabody and Sherman), but David Soren, the director of one of their most resounding commercial misfires Turbo, may be on firmer ground with an adaption of Dav Pilkey’s series of children’s books. Even then, while this has the lead on a crowded animation month (Cars 3, Despicable Me 3), the studio that once frequently eclipsed Pixar will have to settle for distant third place. (UK: 26 May, US: June 2)

23. Paddington 2
WW: $325m, US: $85m

The success of Paddington globally is a further indication of the diminishing reliance on the US as the primary source of box office receipts (only 29% of the gross was taken there), and probably partly explains the lack of hurry to release this sequel across the pond; as per the original, it’s out in the early part of the following year. While the character is very well known, his success was no sure thing, so it will be interesting to see how much the first film’s near-universal positive word of mouth has an effect. I’m going for the moderate verdict, although it would be very nice to see Paddington 2 reach giddy heights. As for Hugh Grant appearing, well he’s surely the perfect foil for a talking bear. (UK: 10 November, US: January 2018)

22. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
WW: $380m, US: $80m

Lucy, an unremarkable slice of rote sci-fi and not even lightyears near Luc Besson’s best, put him back on the map as a director, even if his Europacorp pictures have been churning out hits big (Taken) and not quite so big (Transporter) for years. Part of the disappointment with Lucy was that it had no real wit or personality, certainly nothing like his previous foray into the genre, The Fifth Element. If that picture is anything to go by, Valerian will have a rather tepid reception in the US, with the question generally being how big it can get as a non-Hollywood science fiction blockbuster from mostly unknown source material (outside of France) and unproven stars. (UK: 4 August, US: 21 July)

21. Logan
WW: $395m, US: $150m

The forty minutes shown to select preview audiences this year elicited a few comparisons to Fury Road, but I can’t help but be sceptical. Old Wolverine, with a junior sidekick and an even older Charles Xavier, directed by James Mangold (a safe pair of hands, but never anything more than that) and furnished with an R rating off the back of Deadpool’s success. But does anyone care? I may be wrong, and this might, if not Days of Future Past, reach Apocalypse figures, but neither of the solo Wolverines did all that impressively (£373m and $415m), and the tepid response to Apocalypse may have further dampened appetites for Fox product that isn’t wilfully different and anarchic. In its favour: a very pre-summer release date. (3 Mar)

20-11

20. Kingsman: The Golden Circle
WW: $400m, US: $135m

The Secret Service’s surprise success ($414m globally) was much deserved for the most part, but can the sequel sport inventiveness enough to match audiences’ initially hankering? If anyone can do it, Matthew Vaughn can, and he’s been very sage to resuscitate Colin Firth. It remains to be seen if this can top the original – it’s a tricky environment for sequels just now, where presumed sure things aren't necessarily taking off, and this blend might be too ill-disciplined for some returnees – but it’s certainly more deserving of reward than the Bond series it is evoking and reacting against. (UK: 29 September, US: 5 October)

19. Ghost in the Shell
WW: $415m, US: $85m

The accusations of whitewashing that have greeted the live-action Ghost in the Shell might be easier to ignore if the movie looked especially distinctive or interesting. Unfortunately, director Rupert Sanders appears have taken the Terminator Genisys approach: CGI overload that masks any individual merits. That, and selling it based on Scarlett Johansson wearing a flesh-coloured body stocking. Johansson looks particularly vapid (as she often does without a strong director) and the visuals entirely Blade Runner derivative (which they are). Ironically, given the lead casting, Paramount/DreamWorks surely have in mind this cleaning up in Asian markets. Less certain is home turf, although I doubt it will do as badly as Warcraft, unless it outright stinks. (31 March)

18. Cars 3
WW: $425m, $160m

A franchise based on the enthusiasm of John Lasseter for four wheels. That, and merchandising sales; reportedly, the series is one of Pixar’s biggest successes in that area. Cars 2 grossed more worldwide than the original ($562m to $462m) but took a dip at home ($191m to $244m). I don’t see Cars 3 making serious inroads. Even less juniors have probably been crying out for more adventures from Lightning McQueen in his six-year absence from the screen than in the five years between Cars and Cars 2, and Pixar only has a two-week head start on Despicable Me 3 before there’s a much more enticing and cute distraction (more Minions!) There’s also the advertising, which is attracting attention for its downbeat “realism”, but may not translate into parents willing to risk upsetting tots. (UK: 14 July, US: 16 June)

17. The Lego Batman Movie
WW: $435m, US: $210m

It seems that each year there are more and more animations competing for the same territory, and somehow the boom hasn’t led to bust (yet), although invariably it’s the same big studios cropping up. It’s just that now the likes of Universal and WB are able to compete in a game that was once sewn up by DreamWorks and Disney/Pixar, with the occasional nudge from Fox. Warner’s Storks did unremarkably last year, but came reasonably cheap (they’re better at budgeting than their peers). Is the Lego brand an unlimited font of animation gold, or is it a flash in the pan? I suspect the cachet of Will Arnett’s Batman, particularly in light of WB’s hash-up of the main DC brand, will see this one to returns comparable to 2014’s The Lego Movie, but when it comes to September’s The Lego Ninjago Movie, that may be the real tester. (10 February)

16. Alien: Covenant
WW: $440m, US: $130m

The Internet would have you know Prometheus was an appalling insult to the intelligence, except for those who grudgingly admit it looked quite pretty. And those who grudgingly admit that, although it was really stupid, it was also quite watchable. And those who readily admit that they quite liked it for all its flaws (that would be me). The point being, for all the brickbats it received, quite a lot of people did like Prometheus, albeit they’re not necessarily willing to admit it openly, certainly enough to justify a sequel that will be getting up close with the xenomorphs themselves. The air of familiarity in the trailer for Covenant may be both a good and bad thing for the future of the series (playing safe is what leads to Alien Vs. Predators), but there’s always Michael Fassbender’s dual androids to mix things up. For all its potential, I’m not expecting a hugely different performance to the original, barring a release in China. (19 May)

15. Fifty Shades Darker
WW: $475m, US: $150m

Does Fifty Shades of Grey stinking matter? Such trifling details did little to diminish the Twilight series; I’m not sure this series will grow, though, and as such it might be reasonable for the sequel to take something of a hit. The question is, how much? Director James Foley will be attempting to add some dramatic weight to the proceedings, so good luck to him there. (10 February)

14. Kong: Skull Island
WW: $505m, US: $180m

I don’t know if it’s something to be celebrated or maligned that there’s a seriously-considered Kong-Godzilla cinematic universe. Not in an elitist sense, but simply in terms of the desperation with which any and every franchise branding, post-MCU, is considered something to pursue. Godzilla did very nicely in 2014, considering its only interesting character was killed off in the opening reel and it spent the rest of the time rather hopelessly trying to integrate its cardboard characters with the spectacle (so not too unlike Gareth Edwards subsequent Rogue One, then…) If we’re to go by the takings of Godzilla, Peter Jackson’s King Kong and the 1998 Roland Emmerich one, something in the $500-600m range seems about right; Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ movie looks great, but then there’s the thing of not really evidencing how these “proper” thesps fit into his world, or how the comedy will work (John C Reilly). I guess, at least they’re attempting a lighter touch somewhere in there. If this follows Godzilla’s example, initial huge interest will taper off quite quickly, unless the picture has hidden, as yet untouched upon character or plot merits. (10 March)

13. Coco
WW: $525m, US: $235m

Pixar has already fallen foul of accusations of cultural appropriation with regard to its movie based on the Mexican Day of the Dead (but hey, if there’s money to be made, it’s a great leveller, hence bringing on board Mexican-American cartoonist Lalo Alcarez, who had received attention for his condemnatory depiction of a Godzilla-esque Muerto Mouse – “It’s coming to trademark your cultura”). Off the back of the well-received, but criticised for depicting Polynesian stereotypes in some quarters, Moana, Disney is well aware there are greenbacks to be reaped from plundering diverse cultural histories and myths. There’s also, in the forthcoming Trumptopia, sure to be an added spotlight on a movie based around a country he plans (or, at least, has shouted loudly about) building a defensive wall against. 

All that aside, one has to consider the form for Pixar fare when it’s using straight human protagonists. Up did very well, Brave less spectacularly, and it comes out in November, which may not do it many favours with Star Wars released less than a month later. On top of which, Coco’s lead character Miguel, obsessed with music in a house that bans it, finds himself in the Land of the Dead on a quest to find his musical idol. The alt-reality might go down as well as in Inside Out. Alternatively, parents may blanche at the prospect of complicated explanations of death and the afterlife. My guess is that it will do respectably but unremarkably, by Pixar standards. (UK: 8 December US: 22 November)

12. War for the Planet of the Apes
WW: $605m, US: $210m

Dawn made $200m more than Rise, and with that kind of audience vote of confidence, the sky ought to be the limit for this series. But I’m dubious how much a movie that is thus far selling itself as more ape-human fighting is going to stand out as a must-see. Who knows, maybe Fox is right, since the original series experienced diminishing returns as it mixed things up with the end of the world, time travel, an ape uprising and then, in the last comatose sequel, a war. As precisely made as these movies are, they seem to have foregone offering any narrative surprises. I hope Matt Reeves proves me wrong. (14 July)

11. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest/Salazar’s Revenge
WW: $635m, US: $150m

Series that suddenly hit audience fatigue point can leave execs scratching their heads. It was all going so well for Ice Age, quality be damned. And Transformers, well, it hasn’t nose-dived, yet. On Stanger Tides experienced significant shrinkage Stateside, but still made more than $1bn globally. But since then, Johnny Depp’s star power has been lukewarm at best; The Lone Ranger and Alice Through the Looking Glass did nothing great and mostly suggested no one would show up to anything he showed up in, and then there’s been all that bad press regarding his personal life. On the other hand, it has new blood director wise. On the other other hand, it has Orlando Bloom back. And Brendan Thwaites as his son. If Captain Jack Sparrow is able to make audiences remember why they took to him so originally, this could yet perpetuate the series, but I rather expect it will perform more like the original, which won’t be what Disney wants. (26 May)

10-1

10. Beauty and the Beast
WW: $640m, US: $265m

There’s mucho anticipation for this latest live-action version of a Disney classic, much more so than for Cinderella, which made a nothing-to-be-sneezed-at $544m in 2015. And even given that the Beast looks more like the non-descript, snuffly, transformed Dee Wallace at the end of The Howling than anything bestial or (whisper) leonine, this will have to throw some serious spanners in the works not to do very well, thank you. It could feasibly reach the (fluky) hit level of the desperately average Maleficent ($759m), and with Bill Condon directing the chances are it’s actually more interesting than the workmanlike retread initial trailer suggests, but if it’s a movie that only reminds you how the animated “original” is superior, it may encounter difficulties. (UK: 17 March, US: 22 March)

9. Thor: Ragnarok
WW: $665m, US: $225m

Coming out in November might not be so wise for this Thor this time round. March might have been a better bet. With Justice League two weeks later and Star Wars five, its window isn’t that large, and the cachet of the title character sharing screen time with the Hulk and the potential wackier approach of Taika Waititi providing more of a Guardians of the Galaxy vibe may hit the jackpot, but on the other hand it may feel like it’s trying too hard for the loaded Gunn factor. (UK: 27 October, US: 3 November)

8. Wonder Woman
WW: $695m, US: $255m

While the trailers for Wonder Woman have made it look by far the most assured and clued-in of the DC Universe thus far (admittedly, not hard), over-estimating its potential would be foolhardy. Gal Gadot was easily the best part of Batman v Superman, and that should do her in good stead, and any shortfall certainly won’t (or oughtn’t) be blamed on a female-led superhero movie. If this catches on in a big way it could be looking at $100m or so more; if it’s a bit of a botch job (but a very well packaged botch job), it could struggle to the $600m mark. (2 June)

7. Justice League
WW: $725m, US: $260m

How close are WB to a superhero-who-cried-wolf scenario? They opened BvS and it topped out at $873m, way short of their (probable) dreams of $1.5bn. Conversely, Suicide Squad, which began life with modest expectations but grew out of control, finished only $130m shy of that, and for all that it received rancorous notices, didn’t drop precipitously following its opening. Right now, Justice League looks like more of the same as BvS, which may not give it much hope, prior to the post-Snyder reset of the barely-started-but-already-drowning DC Universe, but if Wonder Woman does well (and it will surely open), Justice League may yet rekindle some good will, even if it gets a similar to BvS slaughtering from critics, and a nonplussed response from audiences. (17 November)

6. Transformers: The Last Knight
WW: $895m, US: $205m

TransFourmers was the second most successful in the franchise (which has a new trilogy planned, and a Bumblebee spin off; Paramount are really desperate for a movieverse that floats, besides Mission: Impossible), but by some measure the least profitable in the US. And you can trace that trend globally, with the exception of China where it made £320m, doubling the gross of Dark of the Moon. If we’re to assume for a moment that there’s a general waning in interest in the series (due to inter-changeability as much as anything) and that China is beginning to slow down in terms of box office growth, this one may well not top $1bn, no matter how much it’s pepped up with Arthurian legend, Adolf and IMAX 3D. (23 June)

5. Spider-Man: Homecoming
WW: $925m, US: $325m

There’s no doubting that Spidey’s arrival in Civil War, in the form of Tom Holland, did much to wash away the bad taste of The Amazing Spider-Mans (which, lest we forget, were in no way box office busts, just in no way were they successes on a scale of the Raimi movies, or ones that could justify such enormous Sony spends; Amazing 2 made almost $200m less than Spider-Man 3, and that isn’t even factoring in inflation). The trailer for Homecoming is certainly selling this as FUN, in a way that will tap current appetites for the same (see number three on this list), and its being part of the Marvel universe, complete with Tony Stark, adds undoubted cachet (I suspect his involvement is being disproportionately sold in the trailer compared to his screen time in the actual movie, but that’s entirely understandable). (7 July)

4. Despicable Me 3
US: $985m, US: $305m

There’s always the danger that spinning off Despicable Me’s secret weapon, the Minions, will weaken the performance of the main brand, if one considers they might be the chief reason nippers were showing up to the adventures of Gru in the first place. Added to that concern, there’s the Shrek factor: an insufficiently distinct sequel gets a huge lift on the basis of goodwill towards the original, and the fallout isn’t really detected until diminishing returns set in for the third instalment. Countering that is that Illumination Entertainment is on a roll, The Secret Life of Pets powering close to the $900m mark globally, and that the Ice Age franchise didn’t take a downturn until this year’s fifth. (30 June)

3. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
US: $1.07bn, US: $340m

There’s good reason to expect good grosses from this Guardians of the Galaxy sequel. It was a huge hit straight out of the gate ($773m globally), with numbers only Doctor Strange has come close to (and that was still shy of Guardians by $100m) and those above it in the Marvel cinematic universe are either Avengers, Avengers-in-all-but-name (Civil War) or Iron Man 3 (still the reigning champ of Marvel movies, quality-wise, and one that had a bounce off the back of the first Avengers’ success). There’s no dour, serious-minded posturing or squaring off here, simply the desire to be irreverent, goofy and have a good time (a similar, although tonally very different, reason for Deadpool’s success), and as such it’s quite possible this will shoot past the $1bn mark. I’m going conservative, but grosses in the Civil War range are quite possible. There’s an appetite to see more from these characters, and more from James Gunn’s distinctive, relatively unrestricted messing about in the Marvel bathtub. (UK: 28 April US: 5 May)

2. Fast and Furious 8
WW: $1.205m, US: $310m

This will be the tester; to what extent were the gains made by Furious 7 based on Paul Walker’s death and the mythologizing of their “family” unit? 7 felt like a good place to end the series, but it’s Vin’s only successful franchise and it made not that far off twice what its predecessor did globally, a phenomenal result ($1.516bn to $788m), so there was no way Universal wouldn’t want to see one of its few franchise brands continue. Whether F Gary Gray was the right guy to do that, I’m not so sure; he’s fine for the dramatics (Vin’s turned traitor? Or has he? Well, of course he hasn’t, you can tell by how unconvincing he is snogging Charlize... What’s that you say?) but not so much for the camaraderie and comedy antics, and the absence of that lightness of touch (and sense of absurdity) may ultimately be 8’s (formerly Fate of the Furious) undoing. $400m of the gross came from China, though, more than the US, so betting against this is a mug’s game. But there has to be a ceiling for any franchise. Doesn’t there? (14 April)

1. Star Wars Episode VIII
WW: $1.95bn, US: $725m


Strictly by past form of the second parts of Star Wars trilogies, Episode VIII should take a bit of a tumble, which can either be seen as down to crushing disappointment with the first instalment (Attack of the Clones) or the sheer, unbeatable event status of the original (A New Hope, although The Empire Strikes Back arrived at a time when sequels tend to be cheap cash-ins rather than deluxe continuations). The Force Awakens is unlikely to suffer too much from the former, but I suspect there’ll be a whiff of the latter in its final tally. Albeit, more on the domestic front than internationally. As such, a better yardstick might be how Age of Ultron performed in comparison to The Avengers, dipping 25% at home but a mere 8% overall. Even with those kind of results, Rian Johnson would be finishing up all-time fourth globally and third Stateside (unadjusted for inflation, obviously). Whether the movie drops below that or not, it’s still going to be simply unbeatable this year. (15 December)


The 2016 Shakeout


Time to chuckle at how wrong I was, with the occasional gasp at uncanny accuracy (figures as at January 8 2016).

1. Captain America: Civil War
Actual WW: $1.153bn/ US: $408m
My Prediction: (2nd) WW: $1.1bn/ US: $375m

I suggested: Just the fact of Downey Jr and Spidey should guarantee this a billion-plus.

And it did. Although, that Civil War didn’t reach for the skies suggests there may be limits to the no-frills approach most of Marvel’s chosen directors take. If my top two are pretty much on the ball, given a minor position shuffle, the real aching chasms come to bear shortly.

2. Finding Dory
Actual WW: $1.028bn/ US: $504m
My Prediction: (1st) WW: $1.2bn/ US: $425m

I suggested: Pixar revert to slumming it… It is sure to make profuse amounts of money.

What I didn’t anticipate was just how much of that profusion would be home-grown. Nearly half Dory’s take is not what you’d call something to shout about, given that, if it had been as good a movie, and as lauded, as the original, it could have expected to become the top grossing animation ever (non-inflation adjusted, of course).

3. Zootoopia
Actual WW: $1.024bn/ US: $683m
My Prediction: (18th) WW: $475m/ US: $175m

I suggested: Disney has been on a bit of a roll lately… but how robust is the animation market this year? Can each of the contenders deliver $500m+ at the box office? The March release date might favour Zootopia.

It certainly did. Far exceeding anyone’s wildest dreams, it ended up within a whisker of the second spot. It ought to be one in the eye for sequel-mania, but chance would be a fine thing. Particularly since Zootopia 2 is a certainty.

4. The Jungle Book
Actual WW: $966.6m/ US: $364m
My Prediction: (28th) WW: $285m, US: $85m

I suggested: It’s a toss-up between Favreau’s The Jungle Book being this year’s over-produced, likely to plunge down the box office Pan, and Disney reintroducing a classic in the manner of last year’s live-action Cinderella.

This is where my inverse expectations begin to take hold; I assumed a near-flop, little anticipating its 3D-lure in the vein of Avatar. Of course, some might just suggest it was simply very good, but I can’t say I agree.

5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Actual (TO DATE) WW: $914m/ US: $477m
My Prediction: (11th) WW: $625m, US: $255m

I suggested:  If they build something good, multitudes will doubtless come, but hopefully there’s more to it than just getting hold of those boring old Death Star plans.

Er, no. Not really. That hasn’t stopped it though; Rogue One’s heading for the $1bn mark fast, and ought to end up in pole position for the year. The lesson: always bet on Star Wars.

6. The Secret Life of Pets
Actual WW: $876m/ US: $507m
My Prediction: (7th) WW: $655m/ US: $265m

I suggested:  This Universal entry, concerning the shenanigans pets get up to when the owners are away, has huge potential if done right.

Ironically, it wasn’t; many of the sight gags were great, but the lead characters simply weren’t endearing. However, that didn’t stop it showing that Illumination is currently unstoppable and Universal is the new animation champ to beat.

7. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Actual WW: $873m/ US: $330m
My Prediction: (4th) WW: $850m/ US: $295m

I suggested: If it’s really good, expect BvS to break a billion, otherwise, more of a Man of Steel response.

Which is pretty much what happened. WB should be grateful it took as much as it did.

8. Deadpool
Actual WW: $783m/ US: $363m
My Prediction: (27th) WW: $290m/ US: $160m

I suggested: Could be one where the Internet hype doesn’t garner the gross.

Wrong! But even if I’d been right, no one would have figured the top end much higher than $500m. This is the one that most confounded studio expectations in 2016.

9. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Actual (TO DATE) WW: $795m/ US: $229m
My Prediction: (8th) WW: $645m/ US: $255m

I suggested: Just on the level that these sorts of things rarely do quite as well, expectations should be tempered.

It hasn’t, but the enthusiasm was most tempered Stateside (71% of the gross internationally, the highest ratio in the Top 10). How does this bode for the sequels? By the sounds of things, swathe oneself in continuity. After all, it’s working gangbusters for Star Wars.

10. Suicide Squad
Actual WW: $745m/ US: $325m
My Prediction: (13th) WW: $595m/ US: $235m

I suggested: The question is… the gritty approach (see also Rogue One), and whether David Ayer can pull off something really commercial.

Well, who knows what it looked like before the reshoots. But, like BvS, WB must be plain relieved such a mess became such a success. How long can their luck hold out, though?

11. Doctor Strange
Actual (TO DATE) WW: $658m/ US: $230m
My Prediction: (9th) WW: $635m, US: $215m

I suggested: Expect cosmic, but not crazy Ang Lee Hulk cosmic. Which is a pity, but playing safe will bolster the Marvel brand’s business.

And it certainly did. A storming debut, only outpaced in the MCU by Guardians of the Galaxy.

12. The Mermaid

13. X-Men: Apocalypse
Actual WW: $544m/ US: $155m
My Prediction: (14th) WW: $565m/ US: $155m

I suggested: I’d be unsurprised if this doesn’t even make this much… Possibly the Spectre to DaysSkyfall.

Pretty much, which doesn’t bode well for Logan.

14. Kung Fu Panda 3
Actual WW: $521m/ US: 144m
My Prediction: (16th) WW: $535m/ US: $135m

I suggested: Kung Fu Panda 2 made $665m back in 2011, and the original made $632m, but is this really awaited with baited breath?

Not so much, evidently. It performed acceptably, but dipped $100m on its predecessor; DreamWorks cancelled The Croods 2 based on a better gross than this.

15. Moana
Actual (TO DATE) WW: $450m/ US: $225m
My Prediction: (21st) WW: $370m, US: $145m

I suggested: unless it’s been as precision tooled as Frozen, Moana might get rather lost in the Christmas melee.

Moana has certainly been performing well, but it seems more likely to finish in the Big Hero 6 ballpark than Frozen or Zootopia. Still, even that is a resounding vote of confidence.

16. Warcraft
Actual WW: $434m/ US: $47m
My Prediction: (37th) WW: $215m/ US: $55m

I suggested:  the trailers for this suggest yet another video game adaptation flop.

And it would have been, if not for China, which scored $221m of its total. On the one hand, this has made the kind of money that would grant most franchises a follow-up. On the other, it cost a lot, and no one much cared for it, apart from in that one region.

17. Jason Bourne
Actual WW: $415m/ US: $162m
My Prediction: (5th) WW: $775m/ US: $300m

I suggested:  Assuming it is good, the anticipation nearly a decade on could make this even bigger than most are expecting.

It wasn’t. It was merely okay. And the results were merely okay. After all that cajoling and pleading from Universal, and backpedalling from “Never again” Greengrass and Damon, they went and made a tepid Bourne movie.

18. Ice Age: Collision Course
Actual WW: $408m/ US: $64m
My Prediction: (3rd) WW: $865m, US: $145m

I suggested: internationally this is the most reliable animation series there is. Don’t bet against it.

All series reach their tipping point, and Ice Age 5 did so particularly starkly; it grossed less than half the global tally of its predecessor, suggesting that, unless Fox is going for the truly barrel-scraping, future escapades for Scrat and co will be confined to the small screen (ironically, this would be a par for the course return for DreamWorks of late).


19. Independence Day: Resurgence
Actual WW: $390m/ US: $287m
My Prediction: (10th) WW: $630m/ US: $275m

I suggested: It will undoubtedly have a massive first weekend

Not really that massive, actually. I expected a slump, as with Alice Through the Looking Glass, but I didn’t anticipate how much of a slump. No new franchise for Fox here.

20. Monster Hunt

21. Sing
Actual (TO DATE) WW: $357m/ US: $213m
My Prediction: (29th) WW: $285m, US: $115m

I suggested: duking it out with Moana

Which hasn’t done it any harm; it came cheap, and it could well make more than half as much again before it’s through. This should have been no surprise; it’s another Illumination title.

22. The Legend of Tarzan
Actual WW: $357m/ US: $127m
My Prediction: (40th) WW: $195m/ US: $65m

I suggested: It should at least open.

All told, Tarzan did surprisingly okay. Not enough to justify its stratospheric price tag, but at least to combat the idea that critics can kill a picture.

23. The Angry Birds Movie
Actual WW: $350m/ US: $127m
My Prediction: WW: (6th) $705m, US: $305m

I suggested: should at least spell a half a billion, unless it’s entirely wrong-footed

More that it came half a decade past the game’s peak than it was entirely wrong-footed.

24. Star Trek Beyond
Actual WW: $344m/ US: $159m
My Prediction: (19th) WW: $425m/ US: $215m

I suggested: Paramount will be hoping it isn't the Insurrection of this still fledgling incarnation of the original crew.

More another case of failing to anticipate how much of a hit it would take, rather than it taking a hit, this performance surely throws the announced fourth picture into doubt.

25. Now You See Me 2
Actual WW: $335m/ US: $65m
My Prediction: (41st) WW: $185m, US: $65m

I suggested: If there’s any justice, this will be a Ted 2.

There wasn’t. US antipathy was spot-on, but it finished just a little below the first globally.

26. Trolls
Actual WW: $333m/ US: $151m
My Prediction: (17th) WW: $505m/ US: $165m

I suggested: DW will be anticipating an audience ready and willing, regardless of quality.

Par for course with DreamWorks recent sub-par performances. They’re no longer really a contender.

26. The Conjuring 2
Actual WW: $320m/ US: $102m
My Prediction: (33rd) WW: $230m, US: $115m

I suggested: The first was well-received, so this could do nicely.

And it did, with a gross only slightly down on the first instalment.

27. Alice Through the Looking Glass
Actual WW: $300m/ US: $222m
My Prediction: (12th) WW: $620m/ US: $155m

I suggested:  I’m dubious this will do half the business of Burton’s picture, since no one seems to be much demanding a revisit.

My doubt was correct, but I don’t think anyone – least of all Disney or they’d have scuppered the thing – reckoned on the dip it would take. Looking Glass made significantly less than a third of the 2010 original. And it was a better movie (not that such a thing was difficult).

29. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Actual WW: $285m/ US: $87m
My Prediction: (31st) WW: $265m, US: $115m

I suggested: Tim Burton desperately needs a hit, and family fare (Alice, Charlie) has done him well historically.

A merely adequate showing, but probably the best that could have been hoped for.

30. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
Actual: $246m/ US: $82m
My Prediction: (23rd) WW: $360m, US: $145m

I suggested: I’ve got this $100m below the original, but it could well be one of those mystifying Transformers success stories, and go $500m+

Such are the unknowables of box office. Paramount expected a big fat monster hit sequel, but it managed to take $250m less than the first. Next stop, a reboot.

31. Sully

32. Ghostbusters
Actual WW: $229m/ US: $128m
My Prediction: (25th) WW: $335m/ US: $145m

I suggested: it may perform closer to previous pictures from Feig, none having grossed more than $300m globally.

It did, and I overestimated even then.

33. Inferno
Actual WW: $220m/ US: $34m
My Prediction: (20th) WW: $420m, US: $125m

I suggested: Hey, maybe this will be the first good Robert Langdon movie. No?

No. And, like Ice Age, audience patience finally expired. Another that made $250m less than the previous instalment.

34. Central Intelligence
Actual WW: $217m/ US: $127m
My Prediction: (32nd) WW: $255m/ US: $145m

I suggested: Kevin Hart has yet to translate internationally, but Dwayne Johnson is making ever more of a mark

It did okay. No more.

35. Bridget Jones’ Baby

36. Me Before You
Actual WW: $208m/ US: $56m
My Prediction: (49th) WW: $125m/ US: $60m

I suggested: Angling for this year’s The Fault in Our Stars, rather than Paper Towns.

And on a budget of $20m, even with a gross $100m less than Fault, it most definitely came up trumps.

37. London has Fallen
Actual WW: $206m/ US: $63m
My Prediction: (38th) WW: $205m, US: $90m

I suggested: Gerard Butler snaps more necks.

Which was on the money. It made the first one look classy too, which is saying something.

38. The Monkey King 2

39. Passengers
Actual (TO DATE) WW: $186m/ US: $81m
My Prediction (35th) WW: $225m/ US: $85m

I suggested: Much as I’d like it to be great, and it might just be, I’m guessing it’s still too damn expensive.

It wasn’t great, and it was too damn expensive (it may even struggle to reach my projected final tally).

40. Storks
Actual WW: $180m/ US: $73m
My Prediction: (43rd) WW: $175m, US: $65m

I suggested: Can Warner animation deliver a big hit, or merely a baby-sized one?

Definitely baby-sized.

41. The BFG
Actual WW: $180m/ US: $56m
My Prediction: (15th) WW: $545m/ US: $175m

I suggested: Hopefully this will be less Hook and more Tintin

No one was suggesting The BFG was another Hook, but no one wanted to see it either. One of the year’s biggest clunkers.

42. Bad Moms

43. The Divergent Series: Allegiant
Actual WW: $179m/ US: $66m
My Prediction: (34th) WW: $225m/ US: $85m

I suggested: Has the Divergent series had it?

The answer: yes.

44. The Girl on a Train

45. The Huntsman’s Winter War
Actual WW: $165m/ US: $48m
My Prediction: (26th) WW: $300m/ US: $125m

I suggested: Is the original one folks just happened to see but didn't really care that much for?

It certainly was, taking in more than $200m less than Snow White and the Huntsman. There’s a lesson here for Paramount, if they think Hemsworth will get anyone extra coming to see Star Trek 4.0.

46. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
Actual WW: $161m/ US: $59m
My Prediction: (42nd) WW: $175m, US: $70m

I suggested: Cruise is really reaching if he thinks this is going bigger than the tepid response to the last Jack.

And, unlike the last Jack, it was a bit rubbish.

47. Magnificent Seven
48. Ip Man 3
49. Arrival
50. Don’t Breathe

51. Gods of Egypt
Actual WW: $151m/ US: $31m
My Prediction: (46th) WW: $145m/ US: $35m

I suggested: this looks like an onslaught of bad CGI gubbins.

Good fun, though. No one was interested, regardless.

52. The Accountant
53. Lights Out

54. Pete’s Dragon
Actual WW: $143m/ US: $76m
My Prediction: (22nd) WW: $365m, US: $165m

I suggested: This looks like a year for big creatures befriending wee bairns

… which families are entirely indifferent to.

55. Sausage Party
56. Hacksaw Ridge
57. Detective Chinatown
58. Mechanic: Resurrection

59. Ride Along 2
Actual WW: $124m/ US: $73m
My Prediction: (47th) WW: 140m/ US: $110m

I suggested: Likely a similar US response to the original Kevin Hart/Ice Cube starrer

Pretty much.

60. The Shallows
61. Deepwater Horizon
62. The Purge: Election Year
63. How to Be Single
64. Office Christmas Party
65. The 5th Wave
66. 10 Cloverfield Lane

67. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
Actual WW: $108m/ US: $55m
My Prediction: (45th) WW: $165m, US: $80m

I suggested: More coarse hijinks, but to diminishing returns?

Indeed.

68. Assassin’s Creed
Actual (TO DATE) WW: $100m/ US: $50m
My Prediction: (44th) WW: $175m, US: $65m

I suggested: Michael Fassbender attempts to break the curse of video game adaptations.

Keep on trying.

69. The Little Prince
70. Dirty Grandpa

71. Ben-Hur
Actual WW: $94m/ US: $36m
My Prediction: (36th) WW: $220m, US: $65m

I suggested: unless Timur Bekmambetov is wooing the Christian ticket, this will go the way of Exodus.

It was even worse than that. Such a forgettably big stinker, hardly anyone even cares that it was a stinker.

89. Hail, Caesar!
Actual WW: $63m/ US: $30m
My Prediction: (48th) WW: $125m, US: $45m

I suggested: probably finishing up in The Royal Tennenbaums ballpark for eccentric period comedies.

Not a chance, as it was simply too wilfully idiosyncratic.

135. Nine Lives
Actual WW: $20m/ US: $20m
My Prediction: (50th) WW: $120m, US: $60m

I suggested: Kevin Spacey stuck in a cat, kind of.

The ignominy! The performance of his career, and Spacey’s latest couldn’t catch a break.

Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

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How dare you shush a shushing!

Home (2015)
(SPOILERS) Every so often, DreamWorks Animation offer a surprise, or they at least attempt to buck their usual formulaic approach. Mr. Peabody & Sherman surprised with how sharp and witty it was, fuelled by a plot that didn’t yield to dumbing down, and Rise of the Guardians, for all that its failings, at least tried something different. When such impulses lead to commercial disappointment, it only encourages the studio to play things ever safer, be that with more Madagascars or Croods. Somewhere in Home is the germ of a decent Douglas Adams knock-off, but it would rather settle on cheap morals, trite messages about friendship and acceptance and a succession of fluffy dance anthems: an exercise in thoroughly varnished vacuity.

Those dance anthems come (mostly) courtesy of songstress Rhianna, who also voices teenager Tip, and I’m sure Jeffrey Katzenberg fully appreciated what a box office boon it would be to have her on board. The effect is cumulatively nauseating though, l…

He’s a good kid, and a devil behind the wheel.

Baby Driver (2017)
(SPOILERS) Pure cinema. There are plenty of directors who engage in superficial flash and fizz (Danny Boyle or JJ Abrams, for example) but relatively few who actually come to the medium from a root, core level, visually. I’m slightly loathe to compare Edgar Wright with the illustrious likes of Sergio Leone and Brian De Palma, partly because they’re playing in largely different genre sandpits, partly because I don’t think Wright has yet made something that compares to their best work, but he operates from a similar sensibility: fashioning a movie foremost through image, supported by the soundtrack, and then, trailing a distant third, comes dialogue. Baby Driver is his most complete approximation of that impulse to date.