2017 Summer Box Office Preview – Baby Groot Wages War on the Minions

'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' (2017) - Summer Box Office Preview

Smash-Hit Sequels Heat Up a Crowded Summer Box Office

We’re all aware that summer doesn’t kick off until next month. But, for us box office pundits out there, summer arrives much earlier than that. In fact, the summer box office season is merely days away with the release of Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

Does 2017 have the same pomp and circumstance that Spider-Man did in 2002 or The Avengers in 2012? To be honest, we’ve never had a year like 2017 where nine films have already broken $100 million domestically. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast skyrocketed to a $480 million cume, even The Hunger Games, Deadpool, The Jungle Book or Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice failed to reach. Does the summer box office still matter now that studios are dropping tentpoles year round as of late? Of course it does. In a summer where studios still bring out their big guns with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2., Despicable Me 3 and Spider-Man: Homecoming. So let’s go ahead and break down what’s to come this summer.

Summer Supremacy – Marvel vs. Minions

'Despicable Me 3' (2017) - Summer Box Office Preview

With any summer projections, the favorites are almost always in clear sight. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith in 2005. The Dark Knight in 2008, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 in 2011. The Avengers in 2012. Summer 2017 is no different as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Despicable Me 3 will be the films to beat.

2014 was a peculiar summer. Sony’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was not even in the same league as Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy. The fifth live-action iteration of the web-slinger grossed a franchise-low $202.9 million. That was a far cry from the trilogy’s ($403.7 million, $373.6 million and $336.5 million respectively. Transformers was the in the same boat, burning up quickly to a $245.4 million finish. Like the Spider-Man trilogy, Transformers 1-3 all performed well above $300 million. Enter the most unlikely summer box office champion – Guardians of the Galaxy.

This little oddball Marvel film with the dreadful August release managed the impossible. First, Guardians obliterated the August opening weekend record, held for seven years by The Bourne Ultimatum ($69.3 million). After a start $94.3 million start, Guardians would go on to gross $333.2 million. Outside of The Avengers ($623.4 million) and Iron Man 3 ($409.0 million), Guardians claimed the third best run for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017
$160 million Opening / $405 million Total

Three years later, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 owns some prime summer box office real estate emerging from the gate first. First and foremost, demand for Guardians is at an all-time high. Marvel expects a massive uptick opening weekend. It would be nonchalant to propose a $150 million opening for Guardians. But now slated for the first weekend in May, the legs of the first film will be cut short. With King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Alien: Covenant, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and Baywatch on deck, don’t go expecting a 3x multiplier. It’ll be no disappointment if Guardians burns up much faster than the first film. A finish above $400 million is perfectly acceptable. However, will it be enough to take the summer?

Despicable Me 3 – June 30, 2017
$105 million Opening / $390 million Total

Despicable Me 3 is the biggest threat to Guardians this summer. Illumination Entertainment has more success at the box office than they do snagging awards. There’s a complete awareness. After last year’s The Secret Life of Pets ($368.4 million) and Sing ($270.3 million) both broke out, demand is equally high for Despicable Me 3. It’s been four years since Despicable Me 2 and two since Minions. Yeah, banana-loving characters aren’t going anywhere.

Like Despicable Me 2, Part 3 has the distinct advantage of a Fourth of July weekend opening. With Cars 3 already in the rear-view mirror and The Emoji Movie (not due out until July 28th), Despicable Me 3 will clean house as the go-to family film. Though right now it’s a coin-toss, whether Despicable Me or Guardians will win summer. Both could clear $400 million, yet neither will top Beauty and the Beast. In the long run, Disney will be the de-facto champ of 2017 with Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Beauty and the Beast claiming the top two spots.

A Summer of Never-Ending Sequels and Spin-Offs – Part 1

'Alien: Covenant' (2017) - Summer Box Office Preview
Alien: Covenant – May 19, 2017
$42 million Opening / $120 million Total

The summer box office is simply loaded with sequels this year. After Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, we’re thrown back into deep space with Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant. A sequel to 2012’s polarizing prequel, Prometheus, Alien: Covenant brings back Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender as well as new ill-fated cast to do battle with the Xenomorphs. It’s been five years since Prometheus and it’ll be intriguing to see if audiences are still on board the franchise. Prometheus debuted to an impressive $51.1 million assault in June of that year. Even if Covenant can land a $40-45 million debut with a $110 million finish, it’ll be a decent sequel holdover.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales – May 26, 2017
$70 million Opening / $206 million Total

Disney’s breaking out the rum one more time in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Once the go-to franchise of the summer, Pirates has fallen to the wayside. 2011’s On Stranger Tides was met to mixed reception and a franchise-low $241.1 million finish. Six years have passed since then. Do audiences still care about Captain Jack Sparrow and this “final adventure?” Disney had some bad luck last year over Memorial Day weekend with Alice Through the Looking Glass and the year before with Tomorrowland. Captain Jack’s obviously a bigger brand, but even he may succumb to a less-interested audience. Pirates will have no problems passing $200 million, winding up close to On Stranger Tides. The days of $300-400 million runs for Captain Jack are long gone.

Wonder Woman – June 2, 2017
$90 million opening / $265 million total

While many moviegoers felt burned by Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad last year, interest hasn’t died down for DC’s future installments. Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot, is a wild card at the summer box office. Coming out June 2, Wonder Woman finds itself in a unique spot, caught between the likes of Pirates, Cars 3 and Transformers. So far, every DC film (in the new universe) has soared above $100 million on opening weekend. However, Wonder Woman might be the first to fall short. Even if DC’s latest installment lands around $80-90 million and a $250 million finish, it won’t kill the future of the cinematic universe. Who knows, we could be looking at another $300 million hit too.

Cars 3 – June 16, 2017
$68 million opening / $210 million total

If Wonder Woman doesn’t crack the $300 million milestone, June may not see a $300 million hit at all. Pixar’s Cars 3 only has two weeks before Despicable Me 3 cannibalizes the family-friendly demographic. While the Cars franchise sells toys like hot cakes, the demand in theaters hasn’t been as strong. The strongly disliked Cars 2 ran out of gas in 2011, ending up with $191.5 million. It was the first Pixar film to miss $200 million since A Bug’s Life in 1998. Cars 3 is hoping more than anything that audiences will war back up to the franchise six years later. If it’s Oscar-worthy like Toy Story 3 or Inside Out, it’s possible. Otherwise, this “redemption story” might end up going nowhere. $200 million is currently on the radar. Word-of-mouth will decide whether or not it’s another Cars 2.

A Summer of Never-Ending Sequels and Spin-Offs – Part 2

'Transformers: The Last Knight' (2017) - Summer Box Office Preview
Transformers: The Last Knight – June 23, 2017
$93 million Opening / $232 million Total

Speaking of franchises falling from grace, Transformers continues to fall harder and harder with each passing installment. Can Michael Bay re-assemble his boom boom boom heavy brand with Transformers: The Last Knight? Probably not. From the trailers, The Last Knight lost that “event status” the franchise used to hold dear to from 2007-2011. If Age of Extinction was any prime example, interest in Transformers has dwindled down over the past decade. Yes, the Bayformers jokes are about to hit 10 years old. A better comparison would be between  Transformers and Pirates. Both franchises peaked with the second film and collapsed horribly in a round four. We may know the box office fate of the Autobots and Decepticons a month in advance if Pirates underwhelms.

Spider-Man: Homecoming – July 7, 2017
$101 million Opening / $280 million Total

Ever since his reveal in Captain America: Civil War, Marvel die-hards have been itching to know how Tom Holland will fare as the web-slinger in his own film. Spidey was undoubtedly one of the highlights in Civil War. Homecoming is going places the Sam Raimi trilogy and Marc Webb’s duology dropped the ball on. The masked superhero actually looks the part of Peter Parker. While Tobey Maguire’s performance 15 years ago ignites nostalgia, the age difference was glaring. Andrew Garfield’s take played Parker as more of a cool nerd in the 2012 and 2014 installments. Spider-Man: Homecoming misses the Fourth of July weekend, but we know that the Marvel fans will come out regardless of holiday or not. Right now, focus is all on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 with Homecoming slightly underplayed. That will change come July. Don’t expect Marvel to belt out two $150 million openers in one summer though.

War for the Planet of the Apes – July 14, 2017
$83 million Opening / $235 million Total

The Apes on Horses are back. After Dawn of the Planet of the Apes surpassed its 2011 predecessor with a $72.6 million start, we could only ask whether the sequel could go even higher. If reviews are once again stellar, War for the Planet of the Apes could be the franchise’s biggest installment to date. Rarely do we see second sequels do progressively better in both opening weekend and finish. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King ($72.6 million), Austin Powers in Goldmember ($73.0 million) and X-Men: The Last Stand ($102.8 million) are noteworthy examples. Even blockbuster finales like Return of the Jedi ($23.0 million), Spider-Man 3 ($151.1 million) and The Dark Knight Rises ($160.9 million) failed to take both the franchise’s best opening weekend and finish. War for the Planet of the Apes will defy the odds. Even sandwiched between Spider-Man: Homecoming and Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, the apes will be victorious.

The Summer Box Office Wild Cards

'Baywatch' (2017) - Summer Box Office Preview
Baywatch – May 24, 2017
$48 million Opening / $140 million Total

Comedy remakes are tricky when it comes to the box office. Remember how 21 Jump Street broke out and CHiPs. was nothing shy of a faded memory earlier this year? Exactly. You never know which ones will be major hits in advance. Though, to be fair 21 Jump Street caught on with both audiences and critics alike? Could Baywatch pull a 21 Jump Street in a few short weeks? First of all, Dwayne Johnson screams summer box office success. With The Fate of the Furious and Moana laying the smackdown at the box office the past six months, Johnson is on fire. Summer is in need of a solid comedy from the get-go. Baywatch may fill those needs. Nostalgia, star power, what could go wrong?

The Mummy – June 9, 2017
$38 million Opening / $110 million Total

Did we need another Mummy movie. The last time we checked, field-goal kicking Yetis were adventuring with Brendan Fraser in the Himalayas. But it’s the start of a new cinematic universe from Universal. But it has Tom Cruise. Like the 1999 film, this iteration of The Mummy seems to be pure popcorn entertainment. Cruise still pulls a few wins in the summer months – Edge of Tomorrow (Live, Die, Repeat – whatever it’s called now) and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. Caught between Wonder Woman, Cars 3 and Transformers: The Last Knight, can it break through a saturated June? It might just sneak past the century mark.

Dunkirk – July 21, 2017
$45 million Opening / $155 million Total

Anyone who’s been following the works of Christopher Nolan know he’s a brand all to himself. With the exception of 2006’s The Prestige, every Nolan film since 2005 has passed $100 million domestically. Granted three of those were Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. But even original works like Inception and Interstellar scored major numbers at the box office. Can Dunkirk shake up the summer box office and pull a Saving Private Ryan? Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed World War II film opened July 1998 and even overcame Armageddon as the top film of that year. If Dunkirk screams Oscar, then this harder sell might be the must-see film of late summer.

Atomic Blonde – July 28, 2017
$35 million Opening / $95 million Total

Back in February we’ve already had our John Wick of 2017 with John Wick: Chapter 2. Early buzz about Charlize Theron’s Atomic Blonde is already calling the female John Wick. Theron can draw as part of an ensemble such as Snow White and the Huntsman, Mad Max: Fury Road and The Fate of the Furious. It will be curious if she can draw on a brand-new action-packed property. Audiences might be exhausted by the end of July when it comes to the summer box office. Atomic Blonde could at the very least pull in John Wick: Chapter 2 numbers.

Those are the major players at the summer box office. There could always be a few more breakout films. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Captain Underpants, All Eyez on Me, Baby Driver, Wish Upon, The Emoji Movie, The Dark Tower and Detroit all have potential. But by now means are any of these locks for the century club. Who knows. In September, we could be talking about one of these shockers, blindsiding pundits over what’s sure to be a very packed summer.

Written by
Matt Marshall has been reviewing films since 2003, starting with "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King." He specializes in home media, including 4K UHD, Blu-ray as well as box office analysis. He has a B.A. in Communications/Journalism from St. John Fisher College and resides in Rochester, NY.

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