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David Poland

By David Poland

Summer 2017: Here We Go (Wide)!

summer movie screen

The summer movie season will be 35 movies deep (first weekend of May through the 2nd weekend of August). It’s not out of the norm, although last summer saw an unusually dense August (which went three weekends deep with studio activity).

9 Wide releases in May
13 Wide Releases in June
9 Wide Releases in July
4 Wide Releases in the 1st 2 weekends of August.

Of summer 2017 films, twenty-four come from The Majors. The other 11 wide openings offer the launch of Annapurna as self-distributor; the first film to be released by Europa via STX; the rare equivalent of a retro Paramount Vantage release; another that seems to represent the idea of “The New” Focus Features; the second release from a new self-distribution by a hugely successful producer (Blumhouse Tilt, first release today), a new indie distributor (Entertainment Studio), three horror films from established indies (A24, TWC, Broad Green), and one each from Lionsgate and Open Road.

What does history tell us about what is coming?

Disney has has two of the Top 3 domestic grossers in each of the last three summers. In some ways, Summer 2017 is Peak Disney (at least for now). No messing around trying to release anything other than blockbuster sequels. Guardians, Pirates, Cars. Done.

The two times in the past four summers in which the “opening day” film wasn’t in the domestic top 3 were Marvel characters – Thor and Spider-Man. But in the summer when Amazing Spider-Man 2 was soft, Marvel’s August release, Guardians of the Galaxy, “won” the summer. So it’s probably a good bet that Guardians 2 will be on top or at least Top 3 this summer, domestically. But there is also a good chance that Pirates 5 and Cars 3, which both dropped significantly domestically last time around, will not make the Top 3 of the summer. (Cars, as Disney likes to point out, sells a massive amount of licensed product.)

That summer of Guardians, three years ago, is significant to this summer because not only is Spidey also coming back, but so is Transformers (that summer’s #2), and Apes (that summer’s #5). That’s 4 of Summer 2014’s Top 6 domestic grossers cycling through with sequels in the same summer. Left out are the Disney live action reboot of an animated film (Maleficent back then) and an X-Men movie… both of which were already released (Beauty & The Beast and Logan). Godzilla was #7 that summer… and we have already had Legendary’s big animal movie for this year, Kong: Skull Island.

So when someone tells you that Hollywood is obsessed with repeating itself… you have a good argument. Next summer also looks like a 3-year reunion… sequels from summer 2015’s #1 Jurassic World 2, #2 Avengers 3, #5 Mission: Impossible 6, and #7 Ant Man 2. Pixar doesn’t have a sequel to Inside Out (#3), but it does have The Incredibles 2. Minions (#4) has the next in its family this summer, Despicable Me 3. And #6 from Summer 2015, Pitch Perfect has its second sequel coming early… this Christmas.

But wait! Next summer is even more steeped in self-reflection. Star Wars joins the summer with Lord & Miller’s Han Solo prequel. Deadpool 2. Ocean’s 8 (couldn’t find 11 women in Hollywood… ha ha). Another Purge. Another Hotel Transylvania. A reboot of Predator. A reboot of Scarface. And I am suspecting we will be spared Barbie: The Motion Picture and another “Untitled Disney Live Action Fairy-Tale”… neither of which may not be ready to shoot soon enough to make it?

But let’s look at this summer. If I was forced, with a gun to my head, to predict how this summer will work out domestically, I’d say (in order of guessed domestic gross):

OVER $300m
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Transformers: The Last Knight

OVER $200m
Spider-Man: Homecoming
Despicable Me 3
War for the Planet of the Apes

OVER $150m
Cars 3
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
The Mummy
Wonder Woman
Alien: Covenant

OVER $100m
Annabelle: Creation

$50m – $100m
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Captain Underpants
The Dark Tower
The House
The Emoji Movie
Rough Night
Girls Trip

UP TO $50m
Atomic Blonde
Midnight Sun
Baby Driver
Amityville: The Awakening
All Eyez on Me
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
It Comes At Night
Wish Upon
47 Meters Down
An Inconvenient Sequel
Everything, Everything

Of course, the BIG question is worldwide box office, not just domestic. Again, the gun pressed against my temple, the worldwide grosses over $400m:

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – $1.25 billion
Transformers: The Last Knight – $1.1 billion
Despicable Me 3 – $1 billion
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales – $975 million
Spider-Man: Homecoming – $850 million
War for the Planet of the Apes – $750 million
The Mummy – $725 million
Alien: Covenant – $650 million
Wonder Woman – $580 million
Cars 3 – $525 million
Dunkirk – $500 million
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets – $475 million

It’s worth noting that the only two films in this group of 12 (and the domestic top 17) are, in any real way, “movie star-driven,” and they are Pirates of the Caribbean and The Mummy, so an iffy proposition. Does Depp make Pirates or did Pirates make Depp? How much of the Mummy gross will be Cruise and how much will be the familiar concept?

As for esthetics, we don’t know… yet.

What I do know is that there are at least 14 movies that I am really, really looking forward to seeing. If most of those are worth the time, it’s a pretty great summer.

Obviously, Detroit and Dunkirk are the wide-release adults in the room. Two great filmmakers. And I am thrilled by Nolan doing a project about real life. To see his brain work within those boundaries could lead to the best work of his career.

Ridley Scott is still a master… seeming to get closer to the original Alien. Win.

I love Luc Besson. I don’t know if people will buy Valerian, but sign me up twice. So much so that I bought a subscription to a pay-streaming service to watch some of the old French cartoons.

I don’t hear great things about Pirates, but it was made by indie artists, so I’m very curious.

The Apes films are underrated, even as well-reviewed hits.

I hope Rough Night kills. Baywatch looks gloriously stupid. And Edgar Wright is always a happy screening to add to the calendar.

So I am looking forward to these months… which hasn’t been true for me for a few years.

16 Responses to “Summer 2017: Here We Go (Wide)!”

  1. EtGuild2 says:

    Yay! Thanks for the increased writing output lately. Good picks all around. If I had to say you were overshooting on one domestically: TRANSFORMERS 5. Undershooting, almost certainly: ALL EYEZ ON ME. If Searchlight could get Biggie to $37 million in January, LG can certainly get 2Pac to $75, probably $100+ in the post-COMPTON era.

  2. Eric says:

    I saw King Arthur last night. Fun in parts but overall a mess. I think it’ll occupy the annual Huge May Shrug slot (Poseidon, San Andreas, Battleship, Robin Hood).

  3. Bob Burns says:

    Nolan’s Brexit version of an historical event.

  4. Bodhizefa says:

    The summer movies lose more and more money by crowding themselves out with the tight summer booking. I said it 20 years ago and I’ll continue to say it today — the studios should be booking tentpoles year round. The summer season these days is ludicrously dense, and I think some films are missing out on 10%-15% of their potential domestic take (I’m not as sure about the foreign markets). Does Deadpool go over $350 mil if it’s released in June or July of 2016? No f’ing way. Spread these babies out and give them some room to breathe, studios.

    That rant aside, here are my hot takes for the summer:

    1. I think Spider-Man swings back to his former glory (with RDJ’s aid) this summer and gives the Guardians a run for their money for the top grossing film overall. While Civil War was dour, Spider-Man and RDJ help to re-inject some light fun into the Marvel universe. I think it easily hits $300 million domestically.

    2. This is the Transformers film where enough people finally decide it’s bullshit, and the film comes in under a billion worldwide. People finally grow some taste. Right? Right?!

    3. The Mummy fails to reach $125 million domestic and barely scrapes past $500 million worldwide.

    4. Dunkirk nets $150-$200 million more worldwide than the expert consensus. Nolan always seems to strike a chord with a larger audience than most people expect.

    5. Hitman’s Bodyguard is the late breakout hit of the summer domestically, netting over $175 million in the U.S. Ryan Reynolds is bigger and better than Deadpool alone.

    Bonus! — When is The Fugitive going to be rebooted with Harrison Ford’s Dr. Richard Kimble cameoing as a BioTech executive with a heart of gold?

  5. leahnz says:

    please don’t give anyone stupid ideas about reboots

    also, maybe this isn’t the right place for a comment about the trailer for ‘the mummy’, which i just saw yesterday, but fts, i was surprised at my sphincter-factor 9.5 negative reaction to the overblown shitshow CGI. i don’t know why but thought maybe they’d go really old school universal ‘wrapped-in-gauze’ curse-of-the-mummy type deal, but no, what was i thinking, another fake overstuffed crapfest

  6. Night Owl says:

    You’re thinking $1.25 billion for Guardians? Interesting. Maybe. Seems high though. Of course if they manage to get to $1 billion and even one cent it will be the first time Marvel breaks a billion without RDJ. A pointless story but that will be the story.

    Detroit’s release date confuses me. I know people keep citing Straight Outta Compton, but Compton as tough and brutal as parts of it were had some joy, some exhilaration, some victory. Detroit if told honestly is basically everything was bad, everything got worse, everything got slightly less worse, but still pretty bad, the end. Not saying it won’t be great, but as a summer release?

  7. leahnz says:

    “Ridley Scott is still a master… seeming to get closer to the original Alien. Win.”

    meant to write this previously so might as well add: maybe getting too close to the original ‘alien’ replicating similar beats and imagery in the trailer such as the ripley-esque waterston (but with more crying), inside the derelict ship, the eggs peeling open in the hold, the person trapped in the containment room, etc
    (and i guess nobody outside of enzed would get how funny it is to see spaceships landing in milford sound/fiordland, it’s like oh look they’ve gone to live down south, one of the tourist boats will rescue them no probs)

  8. Doug Pratt says:

    Where are the summer comedies? On the title alone, I think you’re underestimating Baby Driver

  9. Bulldog68 says:

    I think you may be low on Wonder Woman. She has a huge fan base, this has been probably the most anticipated superhero debut in years, she was one of the few bright spots in BvsS, and DC’s poorly reviewed movies still leg it to $300m. I’d say at least $250m if it’s bad, and $300m if it’s good.

    Despicable Me also gets across $300m.

    Pirates still gets over $200m but not by much.

    Transformers doesn’t get to $300m. If Spideman is fun, it does.

    Underpants gets across $150m on the strength of Kevin Hart. He’s a promotions machine.

    Bodyguard will be #1 Live Action Comedy of the summer.

  10. Jon says:

    Sleeper hit to make $100M: The Big Sick

  11. TrackerBacker says:

    Valerian won’t be the first Europa movie to go out through STX. The Circle is.

  12. Sideshow Bill says:

    I can’t think of a Summer movie I’m less interested in than Tom Cruise’s THE MUMMY. Pass on that.

    And I agree with some others and think you’re over-estimating TRANSFORMERS. I think people are sick of these things.

    I hope BABY DRIVER is fantastic and grosses $300 million. That would be my dream scenario. I know. I’m off my meds but a guy can dream. Wright deserves a box office hit. I’m happy with him just making great movies but to see some financial validation would be great. ANT-MAN was fine but I mourn his ANT-MAN

  13. Michael Bergeron says:

    Atomic Blonde has my vote to become the summer phenom

  14. hepwa says:

    I think I’d bump up Atomic Blonde (slightly) and The Dark Tower (significantly?) and drop down Transformers, maybe Detroit (I just don’t see it catching fire). Yes, The Big Sick could be a nice surprise. Baywatch, Pirates, Apes, Wonder Woman, they’re all going to have nice opening weekends, then down fast. All speculative of course.

  15. Joe Leydon says:

    After seeing the trailer for Lowriders with an audience, I would push it up a few notches. Maybe $75 million.

  16. brack says:

    Baywatch prediction seems a bit low. It should do close to, if not better than, 21 Jump Street numbers I’d imagine. Dwayne Johnson and Zac Enfron have done well with comedies lately.

The Hot Blog

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin