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The Eleven Biggest Films of the Summer?

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The summer movie silly season is almost upon us, and has there ever been a year with so many established franchises making an appearance? Of the eleven films here, only two aren’t from returning series; there’s one second part, six thirds, a fourth, and a fifth. So will it be superheroes, pirates, young wizards, or maybe an aging cop who reigns supreme this year?

Spider-Man 3

US Opening: May 4

Budget: $300 million (estimated)

The Upside: This one seems like a sure-fire hit, with the other big films wisely giving Spidey a couple of week’s breathing room. With no real competition around until the 18th and with the added draw that this may be the last in the series as director Sam Raimi eyes The Hobbit and Tobey Maguire remains uncommitted to further installments, this could be the biggest Spider-Man film yet.

The Downside: They may have over-egged the pudding by cramming in one too many villains, leaving no time for the characters to breathe. Added to that they’ve messed with Spidey’s origin, which may piss off the comic book geek contingent.

On the Money: I think this will be one of the top four films at the box office this summer, coming in somewhere between the first film's $822 million and Spider-Man 2’s $784 million. Predicted worldwide gross: $800 million.

Personal perspective: I’ve been a Spider-Man fan for almost as long as I’ve been able to read and the first two films captured the spirit of the comic almost perfectly. While I think it was a mistake to introduce Venom (they should have stuck with the classic villains) this is still top of my must see list this summer.

Shrek the Third

US Opening: May 18

Budget: Unknown

The Upside: This would seem to be another winner, with Shrek 2 having banked almost twice as much as the first film worldwide but it faces stiff competition with the final part of the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy opening the following week. Still it has more appeal for the younger end of the market than any of the other films here, and with the voice cast all back for more, plus the addition of Justin Timberlake, it’s hard to see this failing.

The Downside: We’ve seen everything from dancing penguins to a sabre-toothed squirrel in recent computer animated features and Shrek may be too familiar to get audiences excited anymore. Plus with Pirates opening hot on its heals this needs a big opening weekend.

On the Money: Shrek grossed $485 million, Shrek 2 grossed $921 million, so if the third film follows the same trend it should come it at about $1.5 billion. Somehow I can’t see that happening and while I think this will do well, I think it will fall well short of Shrek 2’s figure and finish behind Spider-Man 3. Predicted worldwide gross: 750 million.

Personal perspective: I’m looking forward to this, although I do think they are pushing it a little with a third film.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End

US Opening: May 25

Budget: $200 million (estimated)

The Upside: Arriving with the second film still fresh in everyone’s minds, this will definitely be the film to beat this summer. While the first two films left this viewer cold, there is no denying that the film struck a chord with audiences worldwide and with this third chapter bringing the story to a close I can see no way that Captain Jack won’t get the lion’s share of the spoils at the box office.

The Downside: Negative publicity about father-snorting rocker Keith Richards? No, I can’t really see anything stopping this one from box office supremacy.

On the Money: Curse of the Black Pearl $654 million, Dead Man’s Chest $1.07 billion, At World's End? Predicted worldwide gross: $950 million.

Personal perspective: I really don’t see what all the fuss is about. Bloom and Knightly are totally vapid and while Depp is great, it’s hard to imagine his performance alone accounting for the huge success of Dead Man’s Chest. I know this is going to be big, it’s the "why" that escapes me.

Ocean’s Thirteen

US Opening: June 8

Budget: Unknown

The Upside: Clooney! Pitt! Damon! Three of Hollywood’s biggest stars are all back for this third entry and Al Pacino’s on hand as well to provide a little extra star power.

The Downside: No Julia Roberts (although for this writer that’s actually a plus) or Catherine Zeta-Jones this time round, with the female lead going to Ellen Barkin, who’s not exactly a box office draw. Add that to the generally held opinion that Ocean’s Twelve was, to put it bluntly, a bit crap, with takings down almost $90 million on the first film and you’ve got a recipe for one of the year's biggest disappointments.

On the Money: Eleven = $450 million, Twelve = $362 million Thirteen? Predicted worldwide gross: $430 million.

Personal perspective: I like the stars. I like the director. Yet I have absolutely no interest in seeing this film.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

US Opening: June 15

Budget: $130 million (estimated)

The Upside: Jessica Alba is hot. Not so much at the box office, with the first FF movie her biggest hit to date, but she is certainly easy on the eyes and her star is definitely on the rise, as is Chris Evans’. With a (slightly) bigger budget this promises to outdo the first film in the action stakes. It also features the Silver Surfer and Galactus and that should guarantee the fanboys turn out for it, although the latter is rumoured to only appear at the end of the film.

The Downside: Will audiences want to see another comic book inspired film so soon after Spider-Man 3? The first film did decent business ($330 million) but met with widespread critical disdain (although I rather enjoyed it).

On the Money: This could go either way depending on whether audiences are superheroed-out or thirsty for more. Predicted worldwide gross: $450 million.

Personal perspective: As you’ll have guessed from my Spider-Man comment, I’m a comic book junkie and even though the first film wasn’t perfect, it did capture the essence of the source material. Hopefully they'll build on that and we’ll get to see a third film.

Live Free or Die Hard

US Opening: June 27

Budget: Unknown

The Upside: It’s Bruce Willis as John McClane; what more do you need?

The Downside: Will audiences want to see the fourth entry in a franchise that started before many of them were born? It’s been over ten years since we last saw John McClane, can Willis still cut it as an action hero? Is Underworld’s Len Wiseman up to the task of helming one of the year’s biggest films? So many questions.

On the Money: Previous installments in the series don’t really have much bearing on this as it’s been so long since we had a new Die Hard film, but for the record; Die Hard = $138 million, Die Hard 2: Die Harder = $239 million, Die Hard With a Vengeance = $361 million. Predicted worldwide gross: $350 million.

Personal perspective: I’m a little excited about this one, but only a little. The trailer has its moments but it also shows far too much CGI. Wiseman is definitely no McTiernan, but then neither is McTiernan these days.


US Opening: July 6

Budget: Unknown

The Upside: Robots in disguise! Michael Bay making the kind of big dumb movie he was born for. Shia LaBeouf, currently as hot as Angelina Jolie in Tabasco-flavoured edible underwear after Disturbia, headlines. Plus it’s based on a much-loved animated series.

The Downside: It won’t stimulate your mind (but then who expects that from a summer blockbuster?) and audiences may have had their fill of big special effects extravaganzas. It also doesn’t have an established star with proven pulling power.

On the Money: If audiences have had enough of comic book heroes and the Fantastic Four flounder, this could pick up the slack On the other hand, if FF does well, this could pay the price. Predicted worldwide gross: $270 million.

Personal perspective: I’m not a Michael Bay fan, I’ve yet to see a film he’s directed that I can say wholeheartedly I’ve enjoyed. The trailer looks good, but you can say that about any of Bay’s films. But… BIG ROBOTS!  The kid in me can’t wait for this one.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

US Opening: July 13

Budget: $150 million

The Upside: The most established franchise in the summer release schedule this would seem like another guaranteed hit.

The Downside: An untried director in David Yates, whose background is in British TV, a far cry from mega-budget Hollywood epics. Was the failure of Eragon last year a sign that audiences are tired of the epic fantasy genre?  And is opening so late in the summer a wise move?

On the Money: Harry tends to do better as a Christmas movie; only Prisoner of Azkaban has been released in the summer months and it had the weakest showing at the box office of any of the Potter films. Sorcerer’s Stone = $976 million, Chamber of Secrets = $877 million, Prisoner of Azkaban = $790 million, Goblet of Fire = $892 million. Predicted worldwide gross: $730 million.

Personal perspective: I’m not a Harry Potter fan, not the books and not the films, so this isn’t high on my must-see list.


US Opening: July 27

Budget: $65 million

The Upside: Plenty of familiar faces (De Niro, Pfeiffer, O’Toole) and it’s based on another well-regarded fantasy novel, this time from the pen of Neil Gaiman.

The Downside: There may be plenty of familiar faces but no established bankable star. Director Matthew Vaughn’s only previous directorial experience was the British crime film Layer Cake, can he handle a special effects heavy film like Stardust?

On the Money: Coming so soon on the heals of Master Potter, it’s hard to see this doing the business. Predicted worldwide gross: $250 million.

Personal perspective: I hated Matthew Vaughn’s Layer Cake but I am a fan of Neil Gaiman so I’m willing to give him another chance. I also love The Princess Bride and the trailer suggests this will mine a similar vein which can’t be bad.

The Bourne Ultimatum

US Opening: August 3

Budget: Unknown

The Upside: The third entry in the saga that pointed James Bond in the right direction. Matt Damon showed he had what it takes to be an action star in the first two films and this should offer more of the same with Supremacy director Paul Greengrass back as well. A less special effects heavy action movie may be just what movie-goers want after a summer full of explosions.

The Downside: Bourne may have shown Bond that gritty action was what audiences wanted, not silly gadgets, but last year Bond showed he’d learned his lesson in spades with Casino Royale ending up the fourth biggest film of the year. Will audiences still hunger for Bourne now that the granddaddy of spy movie franchises is back on track?

On the Money: Identity = $214 million, Supremacy = $288 million. Predicted worldwide gross: $300 million.

Personal perspective: Bourne turned me into a Matt Damon fan so I’m eager to see this although I thought the first film was the best so far, with Greengrass’ direction a little intrusive in Supremacy.

The Also-ran: Rush Hour 3 

US Opening: August 10

Budget: $120 million (estimated) 

The Upside:There isn't one.

The Downside: The biggest flop of the summer as audiences finally realise that Chris Tucker really is annoying, and even that nice Mr Chan can't compensate for his incessant squealing.

On the Money: Rush Hour – $244 million, Rush Hour 2 = $347 million. Predicted worldwide gross: $200 million.

So my predictions in order:

  1. Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End $950 million
  2. Spider-Man 3 $800 million
  3. Shrek the Third $750 million
  4. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix $730 million
  5. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer $450 million
  6. Live Free or Die Hard $350 million
  7. The Bourne Ultimatum $300 million
  8. Transformers $270 million
  9. Stardust $250 million
  10. Ocean’s Thirteen $230 million
  11. Rush Hour 3 $200 million

Budget figures (where available) from IMDb.

Previous worldwide grosses are provided by Box Office Mojo and have been rounded up to the nearest million.

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About Ian Woolstencroft

  • Ty

    “On the Money: Shrek grossed $485 million, Shrek 2 grossed $921 million, so if the third film follows the same trend it should come it at about $1.5 billion. Somehow I can’t see that happening and while I think this will do well, I think it will fall well short of Shrek 2’s figure and finish behind Spider-Man 3. Predicted worldwide gross: 750 million.”

    I think you are off. Shrek 2 is the highest grossing comedy OF ALL TIME. It pulls in adults and kids, which is why it will shatter it its own record.

    I’m not the biggest fan of this “Franchise” (I hate this overused word in movies now!), but to think that Pirates will out draw it is laughable. The market is just so much bigger for Shrek than Pirates, they will spend their money on Shrek.

    Mark my words. The Ogre gets the last laugh (although Donkey is still NOT funny!!!)

  • Thanks for the comment Ty.

    You’re right about Shrek pulling in both adults and kids but so does Pirates (although not quite such young kids). Still Shrek 2 didn’t leave audiences with the need to see the next film. Pirates 2 did amazing business (more than Shrek 2) and it left audiences with a strong desire to see the conclusion, something they’ve only had to wait twelve months for.

    I’m a big Shrek fan and as I said in the article Pirates does nothing for me, so I’d love to see the green dude knock Captain Jack on his arse. I just can’t see it happening.

    And I hate the term “Franchise” as well (although I’ve used it). It does seem to fit with the way Hollywood markets its movies – having more in common with McDonald’s i.e what’s advertised always looks nicer than what you end up with on your tray.

  • Pirates of the Caribbean was a great movie; it’s a shame they never made any sequels.

    What’s that? I can’t hear you. Nope, still can’t. No sequels at all. That made sense and didn’t suck, anyway. I won’t be seeing At World’s End, for sure.

    Then again, I probably won’t be seeing Shrek the Third, either. I’m in for Spider-man 3 and 28 Weeks Later, though. And yeah, that last one didn’t make your list. Too bad it won’t be a “big” movie, but it’ll be better than many of these.

  • 28 Weeks Later will be in the next list Philip, namely “10 Films to see this Summer if all the Blockbusters have sold out” (or maybe “10 Films to see this Summer if you don’t want to leave your brain at home”).

    It’s more than a little worrying that so many of this summers films are sequels but looking on the bright side, at least they’re not remakes.

  • “Added to that they’ve messed with Spidey’s origin, which may piss off the comic book geek contingent.”

    They already did that with the first movie by giving Peter a reason not to help the promoter out.

    I am baffled by the Shrek franchise. I thought the first one was lame. Maybe I had had my fill of poop and fart jokes the day I saw it.

    HP will certainly get a boost from the release of the final(?) book.

  • You’re right they did but not to the same extent. This is a BIG change, along the lines of Tim Burton’s Batman, where Joker killed Bruce Wayne’s parents. It also seems more than a little lazy.

    You obviously feel the same way about Shrek as I do about Pirates, Bicho.

    As for Harry Potter, they are clearly hoping for a push from the final book, hence the summer opening, but I’m not convinced it’ll work. With so much competition and a frankly bizarre choice for director, I think it will be a disappointment at the box office, at least by HP standards.

  • You forgot the Simpsons which is out in June 26th I think..it’s going to kill the competition.

  • I thought the first Pirates was fun, but the second was a nonsensical bore.

    Watch, The Simpsons jumped the shark at least 10 years ago. People might go, but it will most likely be lame.

  • Bob Sagat

    lol, “costed”

  • VanJoe

    I’m puzzled why Stardust is even considered for your list. I think it will be lucky if it gets close to $100 million worldwide, and I’m saying that being a fan of Gaiman.

    As for the movies you missed, Ratatouille from Pixar is pretty much guaranteed to be one of the biggest of the year just because its Pixar. Evan Almighty has a good chance of being up there and after Madagascar, how can you not include the Surfing Penguins movie?

  • nick

    American movies are becoming into a great great great sequel (x3) at least 9 of the movies are sequels of sequeles of sequeueleles.. pathetic!

    hollywood had good stuff before… now its just crap!

  • i like the personal note… hehe… check out my list of ten movies as well…

  • With the omissions from your list noted by others above, I think you have called it more or less right. Pity that American producers feel that Jackie Chan needs a US sidekick to appeal to the American moviegoing public; Chris Tucker is an absolute disaster and even Owen Wilson wasn’t 100 percent successful. However Jackie is getting a little past it to hack it on his own and his recent Hong Kong movies, where he is trying to stretch his acting chops, are really no great shakes.

  • guru

    Ratatouille is surely big one. Surely will make 500 and above
    What i can say this is just a list of Sequels of some big hits

  • Mike D

    You are wrong about Harry Potter. The buzz is currently extremely positive and given that the seventh book comes out a week later the hype going into the opening will be tremendous. It has a good chance of beating Goblet of Fire and certainly will do better than Prisoner of Azkaban.

  • Mike D

    Just read your comment,

    Based on what has been shown so far, Yates seems to have handled it well. Also, as not being a fan of the franchise yourself, I think you are discounting the massive fanbase which has only grown since Goblet of Fire.

  • Nice listing, but you should know how to use headings (h2, h3) because movie titles are completely unnoticable in that stream of letters, I had to use Firebug to make them stand out (and really see which movies you’re describing)

  • Thanks for the comments guys.

    To the people who think I forgot the Simpsons, I didn’t forget it I just think that, in a summer full of epic blockbusters, audiences won’t want to go and see something they’ve been able to watch for free on TV for almost 20 years. But I could be wrong.

    VanJoe, I think Stardust is going to do well because it will work as a date movie; it’s a fantasy rom-com. I think it would have done better if it wasn’t following Harry Potter though. In fact I think the film should have been held over until Christmas when it could have cleaned up rather than fighting for Harry’s scraps.

    Pat, I think you’re spot on about Jackie Chan. It’s a pity he never really got a chance at Hollywood when he was in his prime.

    guru, Ratatouille is I think going to see Pixar finally fall from grace. Cars underperformed, more so at the international box office than the US, and is generally regarded as the weakest of the studios output and I think they have lost their knack for picking winners. Plus will audiences want to go and see a film when they can’t pronounce the title? “An adult and two kids for Raty..Ratatat..Rataloo…Shrek 3.”

    Mike D, I’m not discounting the massive Harry Potter fanbase, in fact I’m counting on it to the tune of $730m. It’s the more casual viewer I think will waver towards Pirates, Spider-Man and some of the others. I think this is the stiffest competition Harry’s had to deal with and I think he’ll survive but the best he can hope for will be finishing third, he may get past Shrek but not Spidey and Pirates.

    If I’ve let my personal taste affect any of the predictions it’s the Fantastic Four. It may be wishful thinking that puts it at number 5 with $450m but as I said in the article it could go either way. If it fails then Transformers will fill the void and the places will be reversed. We’ll have to wait and see.

    And Riddle, I’ll keep that in mind for next time.

  • Jon

    I would put Pirates at #1, and Rush Hour 3 #2. The Rush Hour movies are a great time, and that’s what we want at the movies.

  • Charlie

    You don’t even mention the movie that is the top of my must see list – “The Simpsons”

  • No I don’t, and I just said why in the comment right above yours.

  • Dan

    Are the predicted worldwide gross figures from marketing research sources or are they just off the top of your head?

  • Well off the top of my head sounds like I just picked a numbers out of a hat but they are my figures.

    I tried to take into account the general buzz about the film, studio hype (which can sometimes have a negative effect)including the trailers, and, most importantly in a summer so full of sequels, how previous parts fared.

  • Movie News (#7), you really should read the Radar Magazine article to which you linked before quoting from it. All sources connected with the studio claim the film’s budget was *less* than $300 million, so Ian is already a bit high from their perspective.

    I’ve seen other claims that the $500 million figure includes marketing and promotion and such, which aren’t normally included in a film’s budget. In other words, none of the other films on this list include those costs, so neither should Spider-man 3.

  • PW, it is possible that no one at the studio wants to admit the costs. It wouldn’t be the first time.

  • El B, sure, it’s possible. Probable, even. My point is that Ian is not completely off-base here, and it’s all speculation at this point.

  • guru

    i agree with you cars was the dumbest movie by pixar and its pretty difficult to pronounce Ratatouille 🙁

  • Cool ‘n’ Casual

    I absolutely disagree with you about Ratatouille and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
    You are saying that Ratatouille will be a dud just because every Pixar movie (all seven of them) have been incredible successes. It is almost derivative to assume that they are bound to foul up soon. But I do not think that is going to happen. Cars was a wonderful movie and Ratatouille is looking good in the trailer. I guess we’ll have to wait and watch.
    But whatever your opinion is about the movie, you have to accept that you simply forgot to add it to the list. It definitely deserved a place there. This list is about the biggest films of the summer and a Pixar movie is as big as they get.

    As for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, it has success written all over it. Mark my words, it is going to be the highest grossing Potter movie yet. Almost every Potter fan is dying to see this movie and everyone knows how huge a group of people we are talking about when the Harry Potter series is involved. 🙂

  • I’m not saying that Ratatouille will fail just because every other Pixar film has been a success. It’s failure (if it fails) will be down to Shrek the Third and the summer’s other big animated film, The Simpsons. I can’t see three animated films doing mega business over the summer, only one will reign supreme. Plus I don’t think there is the kind of excitement about Ratatouille as there has been about other Pixar flicks like Toy Story 2 or The Incredibles.

    And do you really think that the cult of Harry accounts for all the money the films have made? Do you think every single person who goes to see the films has read the books? It will be big sure, but some of the people who go and see Potter films but have never read the books will be tempted by some of the other big films that come out before this one. It is the last of the summers big four to come out of the starting gate and even taking into account the added publicity of the new book I think it will pay dearly for that.

    But as Philip said, it’s all speculation. Who knows Rush Hour 3 could be the biggest film of the year 😉

  • richasi12b

    the top films of the summer will outgross anything in the last 2 years

  • richasi12b

    The top films of the summer or for that matter will include:
    Spiderman which will have the biggest opening ever at 145mill and go on to make closs to 1 billion worldwide
    Pirates is a close second with and long holiday weekend opening of 140 million with an 800 mill total gross
    Happy Potter will come in third with an opening weekend of 80 million and go on to end closee to 650 million
    Shreck will open at 80million with total gross of million
    Oceans Twelve will open at 50 milion with total gross of 300 milion
    28 weeks later will open at 35 mill then drop off to gross only 120 million
    Hairspray will open at 27 milion then slow down with a final gross of close to 1million
    Bourne sequal will open at 60 million and go on to gross 330 million
    fantastic four will open at 50 million and eventually make 200 million

    evan o mighty will open large at 45 million and stands to gross 200million
    blades of glory while over its itial opening will end up with 180 million
    Distrubia will hit 120 million when all is said and done
    live free die hard will open with less that 25 million and barely break even
    the simpson will open big at about 45 million a gross over 140 million
    knock up will open at 22 million with the potentiol to hit 100 total

    Hlloween and Boardertown will open big at 45 milion with a total gross of 120 mllion

    Nancy Drew will open at 18 mill then fall off the charts making under 50 million

    the invasion will open at 33 million and go on to gross over 100 million

    sweeny todd will open at 18 million but go on to gross 120 million

    Alvin and the chipmunks will open at 26 million with a total froas of 150 million

  • libbylu1692

    Distrubia is the best movie I have ever seen. It’s really great. I love it. I can’t wait to see it again. Shia LaBouef is a great actor. I really like him. He’s great in this movie. I LOVE DISTRUBIA.