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April 30, 2009
Box Office Predictions: The Top 20 Movies of Summer 2009
Posted by CoolerKing in Awards Watch

The star-powered summer movie season is finally upon us and it's filled with more box office potential than perhaps any year previous. Economic times are tough, but the super-grosses of early 2009 films like Paul Blart and Taken have proven that, despite foreclosures and 401K implosions, people are still going to the movies in droves. In fact, some have argued that people need Hollywood escapism now more than ever. Well, audiences will be getting heavy doses of such escapism, to the tune of billions of dollars, over the next four months. So, when the summer 2009 box office has closed, which movies will be at the top? Looking over the schedule, we're predicting an amazing thirteen films grossing over $100 million, a little less than last year (17 made it across the line, although four were just barely at $102 million or less), but a very respectable total, nonetheless. Below you'll find our predictions for the final box office tallies for (what we believe will be) the twenty highest-grossing movies of summer '09. Let us know what you think of our box office Nostradamus act - are you convinced that Up or Public Enemies is going to tank? If so, tell us why - and be sure to check back around late August to marvel/gloat at how awesome/horrible our guesses were.

--Brian Tallerico

1. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (6/26)

Huge. Enormous. A license to print money. The first Transformers movie satisfied audiences to the tune of $319 million in the summer of 2007. Follow-ups to big summer movies almost always make more money than the first. And I expect that Fallen will actually be a better film than the first movie. Audiences will have had enough time to get over the action onslaught of May (Wolverine, Trek, Terminator) and be lining up for this thing in droves. It will be number one on the season by a large margin and possibly even the year. But how big?  Dark Knight did more than double Batman Begins, but that was a unique case. X2: X-Men United made 37% more than the original. That sounds about right. Our Prediction: $435 million

2. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (7/17)

It's so nice to have a movie with an easy pattern to follow. Prisoner of Azkaban made $240 million in the summer of 2004, Goblet of Fire did $290 million in late 2005, and Order of the Phoenix made almost exactly the same in nearly the same weekend as Half Blood Prince two years ago. Why would the new Potter do less? In fact, I think it will do more, as anticipation for the end of the story builds. Our Prediction: $300 million

3. Terminator: Salvation (5/21)

For me, this is the toughest call of the summer. You can't really use any previous films as models. This will surely out-gross Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, right? Even that made an amazing $150 million. So, double that? And what about previous Memorial Day action? Indy 4 made it to $317 million. Pirates 3 made it to $309 million. X-Men: The Last Stand rocketed to $234 million. But none of those went against a movie nearly as big as Night at the Museum 2. So, how do you call this one? Don't you think this one will largely be determined on quality? I know summer movies are all about marketing and release dates, but Salvation is $200 million if it blows and it could go as high as $400 million if it's spectacular. There's a huge range. I'm gonna play it safe in the middle, but just based on Memorial Day gross patterns, it's going to be one of the biggest of the season. Our Prediction: $290 million

4. Star Trek (5/8)

The J.J. Abrams reboot of the Gene Roddenberry universe is in a tough position weekend-wise. Just think about it from a screen standpoint. Wolverine will have a lot of them when this film opens and Angels & Demons, Night at the Museum 2, and Terminator: Salvation will come out in the two weeks after. There are only so many screens out there for movies to show on. But I think what will separate Star Trek is if it's as good as advance reviews make it out to be. If this can start breaking out of the teen demographic and adults go to see it, which I think is especially possible if Angels & Demons doesn't work, then I wouldn't be surprised if it's the top movie of the summer. As is, it will be close. Our Prediction: $250 million

5. Up (5/29)

Let's look at the Pixar pattern. Last year, WALL-E made $224 million. Ratatouille made $206 million. Cars made $244 million. The range of potential for Up seems clear. WALL-E and Ratatouille played to older audiences and critics more than kids. Despite having a senior citizen protagonist, Up is a return to the Cars aesthetic, something action-packed for kids. It's about adventure and kids will eat it up, as long as they're not too busy throwing up what Night at the Museum 2 fed them. I would go as high as $300 million if it wasn't for the crowded month and the slight hit from audiences not willing to pay for both Museum and Up. Our Prediction: $240 million

6. Night at the Museum 2: Escape from the Smithsonian (5/22)

Like Angels & Demons, here's another film where I simply don't understand the massive appeal of the first movie. The original made an amazing $250 million domestically over the holiday season in 2006. Will the family audience come out for Memorial Day? Think about their options. The weeks before will have been McConaughey, Spock, Wolverine, and Demons. Families will be dying to see something over the Memorial Day holiday. Up will eat into the take a week later, but past seasons have proven that multiple family films can be hits at the same time. The much-more-crowded season will take a brief hit off the take of the first film, but not much because of what I expect will be a HUGE opening weekend. Let's say 5% off. Our Prediction: $235 million

7. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (7/1)

Fox's very successful animated franchise moves from May to the middle of summer and I think they'll really like their new digs. When Ice Age 3 lands, it will have been over a month since Museum 2 and Up. Families will be looking for a movie and Dawn of the Dinosaurs should be a perfect choice. The first film made $176 million. The second film went up about 10% to $195 million. With the better release date and perfect counterprogramming against Public Enemies, I'll predict that the inflation on part 3 will rise a bit to 15% from the last one. Our Prediction: $225 million

8. Angels & Demons (5/15)

It didn't matter to audiences that most critics couldn't stand The Da Vinci Code, as that film went on to make an amazing three-quarters of a BILLION dollars worldwide. Even though I suspect it will actually be better than the first movie (the book is better and Howard knows this kind of material better, having learned from his mistakes on the first one), I don't think this will top out quite as high. The buzz on Angels isn't near that of Da Vinci, which came out when the book and Dan Brown were everywhere. And the month of May is arguably the most crowded in movie history. Still, it will do very well. Let's say 15% off the first one. Our Prediction: $185 million

9. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (5/1)

In a lot of ways, the summer box office is more about the release date than the movie itself. First weekend in May, Memorial Day, and Independence Day will automatically increase your movie's take. It's become nearly impossible for a first weekend of summer movie to NOT open big or to not make it to at least $100 million. The only question is where it goes from there. With Star Trek the next week and Angels & Demons two weeks later, Wolverine is going to plummet like a rock. An $80 million opening is totally within reach, but the drops will be catastrophic and Origins will struggle to get to double its opening, making less than the last two X-Men movies and possibly even the first. Our Prediction: $160 million

10. Funny People (7/31)

Judd Apatow has directed two movies and they both grossed over $109 million with Knocked Up getting near $150 million. Does anyone think that adding Adam Sandler to the Apatow-verse is going to make him dip below nine figures for the first time ever? Of course not. And the early buzz on Funny People is spectacular, indicating that this could be awards-level material. If word-of-mouth on Funny People is good enough to spread the film wider than the Sandler or Apatow demographic, it will be enormous. But might the serious themes detract from the box office? 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up were essentially about sex. Funny People is about mortality. Tougher sell. But still a huge hit. Our Prediction: $130 million

11. Public Enemies (7/1)

After Terminator: Salvation, this one is the most difficult to call. Will the Johnny Depp and Christian Bale fans come out for a period piece movie by Michael Mann? They'll come out for a big opening weekend, but they won't return or tell their friends if it's bad. Enemies' take will depend greatly on its quality level. If this is the Oscar-level material that I expect it to be, then it makes good money. If it's Miami Vice, it drops like a rock. Our Prediction: $125 million

12. Bruno (7/10)

Can Sacha Baron Cohen make Borat-level money in the summer, particularly now that so many people already know the joke? I'm surprised at how many people I talk to that think Cohen is making a mistake by trying to have lightning strike twice so quickly. I still think they're the minority. In a season light on comedy in the first half, Bruno should be the first huge one of the year. Borat did $129 million. This one does close to the same. Our Prediction: $120 million

13. G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra (8/7)

Early August is when summer movies really start to wear out their welcome. Think about it. If you're a major studio head and you know you have a real quality action flick, why wouldn't you play with the big dogs in May or June? On the other hand, if you have Mummy 3 or Death Race, you know you still need to get some kids on summer vacation but that you can't compete with films that are, you know, good. I hope G.I. Joe is good but I think it will probably follow that late-August, Mummy 3 pattern - big opening because kids are still in summer movie mode with huge drops soon thereafter. Our Prediction: $100 million

14. The Taking of Pelham 1,2,3 (6/12)

Denzel Washington in action films usually equals a reasonably impressive box office take. If you take out The Great Debaters, which never opened that wide, his last four films have all made over $64 million. He's a reliable box office draw and I don't think this remake is going to break that pattern by either failing to meet his general range of domestic gross or by exceeding it. Our Prediction: $80 million

15. The Hangover (6/5)

Sleeper hit! Something will come out before the Fourth of July that most box office prognosticators won't see coming and I'm placing my bet on The Hangover, an alternative to the action-packed first half of the season. There's no logic to it. I can't quote previous grosses from Bradley Cooper or Ed Helms movies as guides. Just a gut feeling. Audiences are going to dig this one. Our Prediction: $75 million

16. The Proposal (6/19)

Is this the summer's What Happens in Vegas? Probably. That Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher comedy made a surprising $80 million. It came out earlier than The Proposal, in a less crowded marketplace, but I think this Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock comedy will have a similar draw. Bullock has a bigger following than people think and Reynolds is generally well-liked. Not enough to be a huge hit but enough to be a good chick flick alternative in a season of dick flicks. Our Prediction: $70 million

17. Land of the Lost (6/5)

When will the TV remakes stop? This one's simple for me. Bewitched made $63 million. Yes, Lost looks better and has decent buzz, but this summer is also even more crowded and economic times are tougher. It all off-sets and makes just about the same. Sorry Will. Our Prediction: $65 million

18. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (5/1)

Matthew McConaughey may be a romantic comedy star but he hasn't had a $100 million-plus movie in over six years. Even "hits" like Failure to Launch and Fool's Gold couldn't cross that threshold and, since How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, every major romantic comedy he's made has grossed a bit less than the one before. The counterprogramming against X-Men Origins is a good idea but last year's Made of Honor was counterprogramming against Iron Man and it couldn't make it to $50 million. We'll give it a little more because McConaughey and Garner are bigger stars than Dempsey and Monaghan. But not much. Our Prediction: $60 million

19. Halloween 2 (8/28)

On the same weekend two years ago, Rob Zombie's Halloween reboot opened huge and ended up making nearly $60 million. Horror sequels usually do a bit better than their predecessor, but will audiences be tired out after an action-packed summer season and find themselves unwilling to go back into Zombie's twisted world again? Perhaps, but horror fans are loyal. I think Halloween 2 will actually be a better film than the original, even bringing out a few people turned off by Zombie's first film and balancing out the exhaustion factor at the end of the crazy season. Our Prediction: $55 million

20. Final Destination: Death Trip 3D (8/28)

How many people out there even know this is coming out? And yet the franchise is profitable enough and the 3D trend is big enough (even My Bloody Valentine crossed $50 million), I think it will make a top 20 dent. Just barely. Our Prediction: $50 million

Five Potential Alternates:

All of these movies have $50 million-plus potential but enough drawbacks - like the length of Tarantino's film, the lack of star power of Raimi's film, or the recent track record of Eddie Murphy - to hold them back from the top 20... however, if one of my predicted 20 bombs, it will be one of these that takes its place:

Drag Me to Hell (5/29), Imagine That (6/12), Year One (6/19), Inglourious Basterds (8/21), and Julie & Julia (8/7).


What do you think? Are our predictions WAY off? Are we coming in too high, too low? Can't accept that the Transformers can beat up G.I. Joe?

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Posted by CoolerKing in Awards Watch - April 30, 2009 at 8:04 AM

MoonRiver at Jul 26 2009 22:58:51
Cool effectiveness sight about this movie: Transformers How to Backup Transformers 2 DVD Movies on Mac http://www.dvdcopymacosx.com/tutorial/how-to-copy-transformers-II-dvd-movies-on-mac.html#129
My top 20

saboteur2008 at May 03 2009 12:07:53
1. Transformers 2 $268m 2. Ice Age 3 $264m 3. Harry Potter 6 $238m 4. Wolverine $230m 5. Up $219m 6. Night at Museum 2 $214m 7. Angels and Demons $189m 8. Star Trek $128m 9. Terminator 4 $121m 10. Public Enemies $105m 11. Ugly Truth $99m 12. Funny People $98m 13. Hangover $94m 14. GI Joe $92m 15. Bruno $90m 16. G Force $85m 17. Julie and Julia $70m 18. Ghosts Girlfriends $69m 19. Taking Pelham 123 $68.7m 20. Imagine That $65m
One Omission....

Sharkbait at May 02 2009 19:30:24
You really don't think Inglourious Basterds is gonna make the list? While it won't make it near the top, doesn't Tarantino have enough of a following to knock Halloween (or, certainly, Final Destination) off this list? I really, really hope Public Enemies does well, and I really think that Star Trek has tremendous potential, but you're right about the competition being stiff....
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