The Weekend Warrior’s 2014 Summer Box Office Preview Part 2

R-Rated Comedy Kings (And Queen?)

This seems to be another big summer for comedies although it shouldn’t be too surprising after comedies like Todd Phillips’ The Hangover and Seth MacFarlane’s Ted far surpassed expectations to become the biggest hits of the summer.

The first potentially big comedy of the summer is Neighbors (Universal – May 9), which pits new parents played by Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne up against Zac Efron, Dave Franco and their frat brothers. It’s the latest movie directed by Nicholas Stoller of Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek, combining his comedy sensibilities with that of Rogen and his writing/production partner Evan Goldberg, who had a comedy hit in the summer of 2013 with This is the End. Universal knows they have a funny comedy on their hands, much like they did with Bridesmaids a few years back, and they’ve been screening the hell out of the movie to build up word of mouth. Even though there is a danger of oversaturation if anyone who might want to see the movie has already had a chance, Neighbors is definitely looking like it will be the first comedy of the summer to gross over $100 million and probably won’t be the last either.

A few weeks later, Seth MacFarlane returns with his follow-up to the hit Ted, a spoof of Westerns called A Million Ways to Die in the West (Universal – May 30), which co-stars Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris, Giovani Ribisi and Sarah Silverman. MacFarlane has a pretty huge fanbase thanks to his hit show “Family Guy” and the success of Ted (which grossed $219 million domestic) although doing a Western comedy just won’t have the draw of a movie about a talking teddy bear with the audience being more young males than anyone else. We still think they’ll be out in force opening weekend for a good $30 to 35 million, but it might not get the strong buzz or legs of Ted and will likely end up with less than $100 million.

Having already had an impressive hit with the 2012 remake of the ’80s television show, Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill are reunited with The LEGO Movie directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller for 22 Jump Street (Sony – June 13), which looks to up the ante of undercover police officer hijinks by putting the guys in college and sending them on spring break. The trailers, particularly the Red Band ones, are very funny and the comedy is targeting a high school and college youth market who will all be getting out of school just as this opens which should lead to a huge opening and decent legs if it’s as funny as it looks in the trailers. It should be able to surpass the $138 million grossed by the original movie.

I’m not 100% confident Melissa McCarthy can continue her run of hit comedies with Tammy (Warner Bros. – July 2), a movie she co-wrote with her husband Ben Falcone, who is making his directorial debut. In it, she plays another outrageous character, similar to her roles in last year’s Identity Thief and The Heat, but this one more working class. McCarthy certainly has found quite a strong fanbase among women, bolstered by her role on the CBS comedy “Mike and Molly,” but she doesn’t have a Jason Bateman or a Sandra Bullock in this one, since it’s all her. In some ways, this one may belong in the “Studios Taking Chances” category, too, because it’s being released over the 4th of July weekend and could get lost in the shuffle.

On the other hand, reteaming Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel and their Bad Teacher director Jake Kasdan for the raunchy comedy Sex Tape (Sony – July 25)–with a box office bonus for having “sex” in the title!—may be a stroke of genius if the movie can live up to the premise of a couple trying to keep a sex video they made away from all the people they know who suddenly have access to it. It’s getting a similar late July release as Bad Teacher, hoping to be the only comedy in theaters for a few weeks, which should definitely help it, and we think it will be another one of this summer’s comedies that pushes past the $100 million mark.

Batting comedy clean-up for the summer is another movie that can go either way. Let’s Be Cops (20th Century Fox – August 13) puts “New Girl” co-stars Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. into police uniforms in a reverse take on the undercover cop comedy (because they’re NOT cops). This year, we already saw a huge hit with Ride Along and we expect 22 Jump Street to be big and those are both following last summer’s big comedy sleeper The Heat. In the past, we’ve had a number of late summer comedy hits like last year’s We’re the Millers, Will Ferrell’s Talladega Nights and The Other Guys, a cop comedy co-starring Mark Wahlberg, as well as Wayans and Rob Riggle (who also appears in Let’s Be Cops). Some comedies haven’t hit like The Change-Up, which had much bigger stars than this, so this really is going to rely on how well it’s marketed and if Fox can sell the premise. Right now, we think it will end up in the $40 to 50 million range, although it could capitalize on the reemerging popularity of the genre.

While it’s not R-rated, we wouldn’t be surprised if the sequel to the hit movie Think Like a Man Too (Sony/Screen Gems) also does even better than the $91.5 milion grossed by the original movie, since there aren’t many movies directly targeting African-American audiences. Setting the sequel in Las Vegas opens the movie up for humor that appeals to wider audiences as well as it getting away from Steve Harvey’s self-help book, which is more geared towards women, so we could see it opening even bigger than the first film.

Potential Sleepers and Breakouts

While there are a lot of big (or biggish) movies this summer that everyone already knows (or at least assumes) will be big, there are a couple of lower key movies that could very well break out and find an audience just by the virtue of what we normally get during the summer.

I’m not quite sure what to think of Shailene Woodley’s passion project The Fault in Our Stars (20th Century Fox – June 6), except that it’s based on John Green’s bestselling book and it’s being released right after her entrance into the Y.A. franchise arena with Divergent, which has grossed $135 million so far. This could very well breakout during a summer that doesn’t have a ton of movies targeted towards women, but it’s also a movie about cancer and that’s not something that people might want to rush out to see during the summer, so we wouldn’t be surprised to see this making around $50 to 60 million but not becoming this summer’s The Notebook.

Another interesting choice for a summer release is the supernatural thriller Deliver Us From Evil (Screen Gems/Sony – July 2), directed by Scott Derrickson (Sinister) and starring Eric Bana, which has the same idea as last year’s hit horror movie The Conjuring in that it’s based on real cases, something that tends to connect with moviegoers. What’s strange about it is that it’s being opened over the 4th of July weekend, which is normally reserved for big budget tentpoles (like “Transformers” which opens earlier than previous installments). If the movie is as scary and creepy as what we’ve seen so far, this one could do well based on word-of-mouth.

The other movie opening on 4th of July weekend is Begin Again (The Weinstein Company – July 4), the new movie from Once‘s John Carney, starring Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo and Adam Levine from Maroon 5, which will try to capitalize on the latter’s fanbase to help create a similar crowd-pleasing movie. It’s already played at a couple festivals including this past weekend’s Tribeca Film Festival and though I haven’t seen it, it could generate decent word-of-mouth over the second half of summer although it doesn’t seem like something that would make more than $40 million or so.

Another music-related movie coming out this summer that could do surprisingly well is Get On Up (August 1), the James Brown biodrama that brings together The Help director Tate Taylor and 42 star Chadwick Boseman, as well as a great supporting cast that includes Oscar winner Octavia Spencer and Oscar nominee Viola Davis. We wouldn’t be too surprised if the audience of James Brown fans is enough to help make this a substantial late summer hit that has legs through the rest of the month.

Or Things Could Go Horribly Wrong…

On paper, casting Angelina Jolie as the star of anything is guaranteed to make money because she’s proven herself time and again as a box office star from Lara Croft: Tomb Raider to Salt. That’s partially why having her play Sleeping Beauty’s arch-nemesis Maleficent (Disney – May 30) seems like it could be box office gold, considering how well some of Disney’s other live action fairy tale movies have done whether it’s Alice in Wonderland or last year’s Oz The Great and Powerful. This big budget reimagining of a fairy tale looks a lot like the 2012 summer hit Snow White and the Huntsman only without the namebrand of the actual fairy tale in the title, and the big question is whether or not Angelina Jolie has the pull she used to have as a box office star after years away from potential blockbusters like this. Jolie’s long-time partner Brad Pitt proved that he still had what it took last year with World War Z, which opened bigger than all his previous films including Mr. & Mrs. Smith, so there’s a chance Jolie’s fans will be thrilled by her return in this sort of role… at least opening weekend.

At the same time, putting Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in a beard and long hair for the Brett Ratner-directed Hercules (Paramount – July 25)–the second Hercules movie of the year, mind you–just seems like a bad idea, as much as it might be a passion project for the former (and probably future) professional wrestler. This has been a year already full of swords and sandals movies, few which did very well, so it’s not a genre that’s gaining much ground. Even if this opens in the $25 million range against Sex Tape, it doesn’t stand a chance of holding up well against Guardians of the Galaxy the following week, and it will be lucky to make $70 million but probably won’t even hit that mark.

There are probably a number of nostalgic fans who have been wanting to see the return of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Paramount – August 8), but this Michael Bay-produced return of the popular ’80s characters starring Megan Fox already has a lot of detractors from what we’ve seen, and unless it’s able to bring in kids and younger moviegoers–always tough this late in the summer season–it’s best bet is to have a big opening weekend before it quickly tails off, but it’s also going to suffer the same problems as the above two movies if it doesn’t live up to expecations.

Clint Eastwood’s first summer release in well over ten years is his movie based on the hit musical Jersey Boys (Warner Bros. – June 20), featuring the music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. One might expect that fans of the musical and the popular ’60s recording act would be interested in the movie, but unlike the attempted movie based on Rock of Ages, there’s zero star power other than Christopher Walken, so it’s hard to think anyone else will be remotely interested in the movie and this one might be lucky to bring in $40 million.

I’ve been looking forward to Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (Dimension – August 22) for quite some time, not because I was a huge fan of Robert Rodriguez’s original movie as much as being a fan of Frank Miller’s graphic novels, particularly the one on which this is based. Unfortunately, Rodriguez may have waited too long to make this one while he focused on Machete and other things, and the audience for a sequel may be gone. We can probably expect a performance better than last year’s Kick-Ass 2 though nowhere close to the $74 million grossed by the original movie.

The Weekend Warrior’s Top 15 Movies of the Summer

I’m going to do the annual summer box office list a little differently this time. Essentially, we’re only going to see one, possibly two, movies make over $300 million, a handful over $200 million and the rest will be in the mid-$100 millions or lower. Since some of the movies on the lower side of the list that are coming out later in the summer will probably end up in the $85 to 90 million range, we’re going to offer an alternative choice. And the last caveat is that some of these numbers might change by the time I actually get around to writing about the movies in the Weekend Warrior.

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