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2016 Preview: May

May 1st, 2016

Captain America: Civil War

April started on a soft note and ended weak, but thanks to The Jungle Book, overall the month was actually really good. That's what happens when you get a surprise $300 million hit. This bodes well for May, which is both a slow month and a fantastic month. There are only four weekends and only eight movies coming out, but of those eight films, five have a shot at $100 million. The potential blockbusters are led by Captain America: Civil War, which is not only going to be the biggest hit of the month, but according to a Fandango survey, it is the most anticipated film of the summer. (On a side note, Finding Dory is the most anticipated family film of the summer and Ghostbusters is the most anticipated comedy of the summer. I was surprised by the last result.) Both Alice Through the Looking Glass and X-Men: Apocalypse have real shots at $200 million. One of them could get to $300 million, if they weren't opening against each other. Overall, the month looks excellent. Even better, last May there was only one monster hit, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, and most analysts think Captain America: Civil War will beat it at the box office. (There's also the issue of the misalignment in the weekends, which hurt April, but will really help May.)

Weekend of May 6th, 2016

Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War opens the first weekend of May and it is expected to be such a huge hit that it is scaring all of the box office competition away. With no other film opening wide against it, it should have no trouble breaking the record for biggest opening of 2016 and most likely topping $200 million in the process. That would be the fourth biggest opening weekend of all time. Because of the misalignment, The Avengers: Age of Ultron's opening weekend aligned with the last weekend in April. Therefore, this weekend last year, was actually Age of Ultron's second weekend of release. It earned $77.75 million over the weekend; Civil War will make more than that during its opening day. 2016 is going to completely destroy 2015 in the year-over-year comparison.

Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Marvel.com/CaptainAmerica
Distributor: Walt Disney
Release Date: May 6th, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for extended sequences of violence, action and mayhem.
Source: Based on Comic/Graphic Novel
Genre: Action
Keywords: Marvel Comics, Friends turned Enemies, Government Corruption, Rebellion, 1990s, Prologue, Scene in End Credits, Framed, Gratuitous Cameos, Visual Effects
Directed By: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Written By: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey, Jr., Sebastian Stan, Scarlett Johansson
Production Budget: Estimated at between $200 million to $250 million
Box Office Potential: $550 million

Captain America: Civil War is the latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is inarguably the biggest movie franchise of the past decade. The franchise has averaged nearly $300 million domestically and over $750 million worldwide during its run so far. There are very few people who think those averages will go down because of Civil War. In fact, this film could earn just over $1 billion worldwide and still be seen as a disappointment. Fortunately, the film's buzz and its reviews make "only" getting to $1 billion unlikely. At the moment, the film is only behind Zootopia for best-reviewed wide release of the year, although it is tied for second place with The Jungle Book. ... All three of those movies are Disney releases. It's been a good year for the studio so far.

Look for Captain America: Civil War to open with $200 million, more or less, and finish with north of $500 million domestically.

Weekend of May 13th, 2016

Money Monster

Summer begins the first weekend of May and lasts till the second weekend of August, more or less. During this time, there's only one weekend that isn't a prime release date, the second weekend of May. Usually, the film that kicks off summer is so huge that other studios don't want to compete with it. This is certainly the case this year. Captain America: Civil War will dominate the box office this weekend and the most The Darkness or Money Monster can hope for is becoming a midlevel hit. I think Money Monster will get there. I'm not as bullish for The Darkness. This weekend last year, Pitch Perfect 2 and Mad Max: Fury Road was a powerful one-two punch, while Age of Ultron was a strong third. I don't see 2016 topping that. Civil War could be better on top, but it will be really tough for 2016 to overcome 2015's depth.

The Darkness

The Darkness poster
Trailer: Coming Soon
Official Site: TheDarknessMovie.Tumblr.com/
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: May 13th, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, some disturbing violence, brief sensuality and language.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Horror
Keywords: Family Vacations, Grand Canyon, Hauntings
Directed By: Greg McLean
Written By: Shayne Armstrong, Shane Krause
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Radha Mitchell
Production Budget: Unknown - Estimated at $10 million to $20 million
Box Office Potential: $25 million

A family has a vacation at the Grand Canyon, but when they return, their youngest son has changed. Have Native American spirits returned with him?

I'm not 100% sure this film is opening truly wide. The amount of buzz is close to zero; there are some limited releases with better buzz than this film is earning. On the plus side, there are not a lot of horror films that have opened recently, so the film has the market to itself and that should help. Finally, it likely didn't cost a lot, so it won't need to be a huge hit to break even.

Money Monster

Money Monster poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: SonyPictures.com/Movies/MoneyMonster/
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Release Date: May 13th, 2016
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout, some sexuality and brief violence.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
Keywords: TV Industry, Terrorism, White Collar Crime, Corporate Malfeasance
Directed By: Jodie Foster
Written By: Jamie Linden, Alan Di Fiore, Jim Kouf
Starring: Jack O'Connell, George Clooney, Julia Roberts
Production Budget: Estimated at $40 million to $50 million
Box Office Potential: $55 million

George Clooney plays Lee Gates, a TV personality who hosts an investment show, while Julia Roberts plays his producer. One day, Jack O'Connell comes into the studio while they are filming and takes Lee hostage. It seems Jack followed Lee's investing advice and lost everything. Now he's come, not for revenge, but to make sure it doesn't happen to anyone else. He doesn't think it was just bad advice from Lee, but that there's systemic corruption in the finance industry and he wants it exposed.

This film doesn't have a lot of buzz, but it is just aiming for a midlevel hit in a counter-programming role. I think it has what it takes to get there.

Weekend of May 20th, 2016

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

There are three wide releases coming out this week, two of which have a shot at $100 million. The Angry Birds Movie is a computer animated family film and while it doesn't have the buzz of the average Pixar release, there's enough buzz that it should hit $100 million with ease. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is a sequel to a comedy. Comedy sequels tend to struggle to match the original films, but in this case, the original was such a huge hit that Sorority Rising would have to collapse to not reach $100 million. Finally, there's The Nice Guys, which is playing the counter-programming role this week. I just hope it doesn't get lost in the crowd. This weekend last year, there were five films that earned $20 million or more at the box office. Again, 2016 will be better on top, but 2015 had so much depth that it will likely come out on top in the year-over-year comparison.

The Angry Birds Movie

The Angry Birds Movie poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: AngryBirds-Movie.com/
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Release Date: May 20th, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG for rude humor and action.
Source: Based on Game
Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Animal Lead, Talking Animals, Therapists / Therapy
Directed By: Clay Kaytis, Fergal Reilly
Written By: Jon Vitti
Starring: Jason Sudeikis, Bill Hader
Production Budget: $80 million
Box Office Potential: $125 million

They have made an Angry Birds movie. I have very mixed opinions on this movie.

If this came out two years ago, during the video game's peak popularity, I would be a lot more bullish about its chances. However, while the video game franchise is off its peak, there is a cartoon and other merchandise to keep it in the minds of the target audience. There's not a lot of buzz, but family films rarely have pre-release buzz. There is no direct competition this month and Finding Dory doesn't come out until nearly a full month later. I don't think it will be the biggest hit of the month, but I think it will hit $100 million with relative ease and it will break even before the home market.

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: neighbors-movie.com/
Distributor: Universal
Release Date: May 20th, 2016
MPAA Rating: R for crude sexual content including brief graphic nudity, language throughout, drug use and teen partying.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Neighbors from Hell, College, Fraternity/Sorority, New Parents
Directed By: Nicholas Stoller
Written By: Jay Cohen, Brendan O'Brien, Seth Rogen, Nicholas Stoller, Evan Goldberg
Starring: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Chloë Grace Moretz
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million to $30 million
Box Office Potential: $135 million

Comedies rarely have sequels, no matter how impressive their box office is. The reason for this is simple. Comedies depend on characters and situations and rarely on worldbuilding. There's no natural progression for the characters to take. Some manage this feat, like Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, which was able to take the natural progression of the TV news business and slot the characters into the world of 24 hours news. However, most comedies rarely have such an obvious place to go.

Too many comedy sequels just take the same characters and place them in similar situations and it just isn't as funny the second time around. Horrible Bosses 2 is a perfect example of this. However, if you mix things up too much, then the sequel isn't really a sequel anymore. It's an unrelated film with a similar name. See Evan Almighty for an example of that. So how does Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising handle this challenge? By changing the fraternity into a sorority. ... Yeah, that's about it. The rest of the plot is very similar. On the other hand, the trailer is effective, and the buzz is solid for a film that doesn't open for three more weeks. I don't think it will live up to Neighbors, but unless they tripled the budget, it won't have to do that to become very profitable.

The Nice Guys

The Nice Guys poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: TheNiceGuysMovie.com/
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: May 20th, 2016
MPAA Rating: R for violence, sexuality, nudity, language and brief drug use.
Source: Original Screenplay
Genre: Comedy
Keywords: Private Investigator, 1970s, Los Angeles, Missing Person, Government Corruption
Directed By: Shane Black
Written By: Shane Black, Anthony Bagarozzi
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe
Production Budget: Estimated at $20 million
Box Office Potential: $40 million

Ryan Gosling plays a private eye and Russell Crowe plays an enforcer, who have to team up to look for a missing woman, who might have accidentally gotten mixed up in the mafia, who are moving into Los Angeles.

This film is directed and co-written by Shane Black, who previously made Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. This film has a very similar feel, which is both good news and bad news. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a great movie, but it wasn't a hit at the box office. I doubt The Nice Guys will be a real hit in theaters, but I also doubt it cost a ton of money to make, so it would need to earn $50 million domestically to break even. I think it will be a solid financial hit, but there's also a chance it will get lost in the crowd, as there are two much bigger releases coming out this week.

Weekend of May 27th, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse

The final weekend of May is also Memorial Day long weekend, one of the best weekends of the year to release a movie. There are two potential monster hits coming out this week: Alice Through the Looking Glass and X-Men: Apocalypse. Combined, they should have no trouble getting past $400 million domestically. There's a chance they will both get over $200 million, but I wouldn't bet money on that. This weekend last year, the top five made just a hair under $110 million. This year, Apocalypse could make that much by itself and Through the Looking Glass won't be that far behind. 2016 should end the month on a very high note.

Alice Through the Looking Glass

Alice Through the Looking Glass poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: Movies.Disney.com/Alice-Through-The-Looking-Glass
Distributor: Walt Disney
Release Date: May 27th, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG for fantasy action/peril and some language.
Source: Based on Fiction Book/Short Story
Genre: Adventure
Keywords: Live Action Cartoon, Delayed Sequel, Visual Effects, Time Travel, Posthumous Release
Directed By: James Bobin
Written By: Linda Woolverton, Lewis Carroll
Starring: Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Sacha Baron Cohen
Production Budget: Estimated at $200 million
Box Office Potential: $180 million

Alice in Wonderland came out in 2010 and earned $1 billion worldwide. It isn't hard to see why it got a sequel. However, it is a little hard to understand why it took six years for this to happen. Personally, I think this is too long and the factors that made it a success last time are no longer in play this time. For example, Alice in Wonderland was a very early 3D conversion and while there were many who thought the technology wasn't quite there to do a proper 3D conversion, the novelty was enough to overcome this. That won't be true this time around.

That said, I still think Alice Through the Looking Glass will be a hit earning more than $500 million worldwide, but it will earn the majority of that internationally rather than domestically.

On a side note, these live-action cartoon adaptations have been so successful for Disney that the studio repurchased the rights to The Chronicles of Prydain, having previously made the second book in the series into a movie, The Black Cauldron. I loved this book series as a kid, so I really hope this version works better than the cartoon. In order to do so, they will likely need to aim for a PG-13 rating.

X-Men: Apocalypse

X-Men: Apocalypse poster
Trailer: Click to Play
Official Site: XMenMovies.com/
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: May 27th, 2016
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated - Very Likely PG-13
Source: Based on Comic/Graphic Novel
Genre: Action
Keywords: Marvel Comics, Mutants, Visual Effects, End of the World, Ancient Egypt
Directed By: Bryan Singer
Written By: Simon Kinberg, Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, Simon Kinberg
Starring: Michael Fassbender, James MacAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac
Production Budget: $225 million
Box Office Potential: $275 million

The last big Marvel Comics franchise that Disney doesn't own is the X-Men. I don't think Fox is going to be giving up the franchise for a long time, especially since Deadpool is still the biggest hit of the year and currently represents nearly half of the studio's yearly domestic box office. Fox would love it if X-Men: Apocalypse would match the earlier film. Even though there are some good signs for this film's box office chances, that's not going to happen. It has the second best buzz out of any wide release coming out this month, behind only Captain America: Civil War. Additionally, the previous film in the franchise, Days of Future Past, earned excellent reviews, so fans will have a lot of faith in this project as well. Finally, the movie has an excellent release date. On the downside, it's got big competition from Alice Through the Looking Glass, which will likely prevent it from reaching its full potential.

Filed under: Monthly Preview, The Angry Birds Movie, Alice Through the Looking Glass, X-Men: Apocalypse, Captain America: Civil War, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, The Nice Guys, The Darkness, Money Monster, X-Men, Marvel Cinematic Universe, Johnny Depp, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, Sacha Baron Cohen, Shane Black, Helena Bonham Carter, Rose Byrne, George Clooney, Russell Crowe, Robert Downey, Jr., Zac Efron, Chris Evans, Michael Fassbender, Jodie Foster, Ryan Gosling, Bill Hader, Anne Hathaway, Oscar Isaac, Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Lawrence, Radha Mitchell, Chloë Grace Moretz, Jack O'Connell, Seth Rogen, Bryan Singer, Sebastian Stan, Mia Wasikowska, Jason Sudeikis, Stephen McFeely, Greg McLean, Linda Woolverton, Lewis Carroll, Nicholas Stoller, Simon Kinberg, Jim Kouf, Jon Vitti, Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, Evan Goldberg, James Bobin, Clay Kaytis, Jamie Linden, Jay Cohen, Anthony Russo, Joe Russo, James MacAvoy, Brendan O'Brien, Christopher Markus, Anthony Bagarozzi, Fergal Reilly, Shayne Armstrong, Shane Krause, Alan Di Fiore