The Weekend Warrior’s 2014 Summer Box Office Preview

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2014 is just flying by and it’s almost shocking that we’re just a few days away from the start of what’s normally the busiest movie season, the time when the studios roll out their biggest movies in hopes of making enough money to make even bigger movies in the following years. This is a particularly interesting summer since we do have a couple of potentially big movies but nothing quite like a “Dark Knight” or “Avengers” or a “Star Wars” movie looking to completely overpower the box office for weeks.

It’s actually kind of nice, because it gives other movies being released later in the summer the time and space to breathe, possibly overcoming the importance of opening weekend so that we might see movies sticking around a little longer than we’ve seen in recent summers. It also creates great opportunities for smaller-budgeted movies, particularly comedies, to break out.

I’m not sure why, but every summer it seems to get harder and harder to look into the crystal ball and try to figure out which movies will hit big and which ones will fall hard. Although I’ve seen trailers and marketing for many of the movies and maybe a little more than most thanks to this year’s CinemaCon, there are still a lot of unknowns.

Just to make it clear, this is meant as a preview of the movies coming out this summer, but like my weekly Weekend Warrior column, we’re going to focus more on how various movies might fare at the domestic box office. Let’s not forget, movies can be art, movies can be entertainment, but when it comes down to it, this is the movie BUSINESS and no business thrives without making money.

Those who follow me on Twitter may know that I’ve already put out a couple of thoughts on the summer box office as part of my semi-frequent appearances on the Movie Moan podcast. It was that show’s co-host Jamie Williams who has suggested this will be the first summer in a long time where we won’t see any movies grossing over $300 million, and frankly I don’t see that happening, especially when The LEGO Movie already grossed $250 million after opening in February and Captain America: The Winter Soldier is well on its way to at least that amount.

The Ones to Beat

Despite the above subtitle, at this point, Legendary Pictures’ decision to revive and revamp Toho Studios’ classic monster movie figure Godzilla (Legendary/WB – May 16) into something that can appeal to modern audiences is turning into one of the more anticipated movies of the summer, so it might not be as big a gamble as some may have thought when it was first announced. Of course, a lot of pause comes from the last time a studio tried to bring Godzilla to the screen at the hands of Roland Emmerich, but since that was 16 years ago, the statute of limitations has passed and few people under 30 will even remember it. Unlike last year’s Pacific Rim, which was also produced and released by Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros., this one takes a much more serious look at what might happen if a giant fire-breathing lizard attacked the United States, and the marketing for the movie has been almost note-perfect, which will certainly pay off both opening weekend and over the first half of summer.

On the other hand, Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy (Marvel Studios/Disney – August 1) is still being seen as a big gamble for the summer, being that it’s a movie based on characters few people besides current comic book readers will know much about. It’s a weird outer space odyssey with oddball characters, somewhat reminiscent of Joss Whedon’s Serenity, but played by a cool cast that includes the likes of Chris Pratt, who provided the main voice in the hit “LEGO Movie,” the always popular Zoe Saldana and the likes of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel providing the voices of a gun-toting raccoon named Rocket and a talking tree named Groot. There’s little doubt the movie will be a lot of fun thanks to the endeavors of writer/director James Gunn, who has been a genre fan favorite for many years but never directed anything this big. Marvel is coming off three hit sequels with Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, all which were helped by the “Avengers factor” which may not be in effect with the lesser-known “Guardians.” We expect an opening more in vein with the last few X-movies—mid-to-high $50 million—and it to gross somewhere in the range of the original Thor and Captain America movies domestically, though it should do decently overseas.

It’s been just as long a road for the Japanese novel “All You Need is Kill” to come to the big screen as the action thriller Edge of Tomorrow (Warner Bros. – June 6), starring Tom Cruise in his second sci-fi action movie in a row after last year’s Oblivion. Co-starring Emily Blunt and directed by Doug Liman (Jumper, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, The Bourne Identity), this one has an odd premise that’s reminiscent of the Bill Murray comedy Groundhog’s Day only put into a sci-fi action environment that can be sold on its big action set pieces. Sci fi movies can be hit or miss with audiences as seen both with Oblivion and Elysium. Neither of those movies grossed over $100 million and this is being released in a busier summer against stronger fare, which will likely keep it from doing as well as either.

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