July 2015 Box Office Forecast
By Michael Lynderey
July 3, 2015

Scientology just found out he's thinking about leaving.

With June behind us and the summer's three biggest movies - Jurassic World, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Inside Out - now firmly entrenched in the record books, July arrives to give us most of the season's rest, with a couple of worthy challengers set to pick up the pieces. If you've been enjoying the breezy, uncrowded release schedule, you had better buckle up: July is easily the busiest month of the year, so far, and that's not even counting notable indies like The End of the Tour, Irrational Man, and that William Buckley documentary. There are roughly six or seven pretty big movies, but the end game most of them are angling for is around $200 million, so records will remain unbroken.

1. Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation (July 31st)

The fifth film in the franchise, something the title doesn't particularly advertise (not that it would matter at this point), Rogue Nation was somewhat pleasantly moved from a later date (December), and up into a summer release more resembling the first three in the series. Mission: Impossible 5 may also end up as the last really big film of the summer, circumstances pending. After all, all the elements seem to be assembled just right, with nary a misstep in sight. Star Tom Cruise has maintained a solid leading man career in what are still mostly genre films, with his previous release, Edge of Tomorrow, landing a solid mark on his resume. Memorable series supporting actors like Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames make their return, the direction is by the trustworthy Christopher McQuarrie (who helmed Cruise's excellent and over-panned Jack Reacher), and the trailers are brisk and entertaining in the style of the fourth Mission: Impossible, which is still widely considered the best in the series, by far. All this goodwill buys part 5 a lot of leeway for an opening weekend, and if it's well reviewed, that should take care of the rest.

Opening weekend: $75 million / Total gross: $235 million

2. Minions (July 10th)

Before Tom Cruise invaded the release schedule, Minions seems like a shoe-in to be the biggest movie of the month. Indeed, this follow-up spin-off to the monster hit Despicable Me 2 (which grossed $368 million!) takes what are arguably the most popular characters of their parent franchise and enshrines them as leading men, with some bright and funny trailers to announce the upgrade. But in a summer where Inside Out and even Jurassic World have dominated the kids movie marketplace, it's difficult to say if there'll be as strong a hunger for children's fare come July 10th, and the film's box office may end up more or less like its reviews: solid but unspectacular. The vocal presence of Sandra Bullock, while heartening, may not be a particular draw for the presumably largely pre-pubescent audience. Still, without a lot of other options this month, Minions should have its target audience almost all to itself, and anything over $200 million is respectable money.

Opening weekend: $68 million / Total gross: $212 million

3. Ant-Man (July 17th)

It's somewhat surprising, given all the talk of film superheroes, that Ant-Man is one of this year's relative few superhero movies, and it's also perhaps the toughest title of the month to predict. One the one hand, it comes from the storied and apparently infallible stable of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. On the other, the character seems sort of atypical for a superhero, and is largely unfamiliar to mass audiences (it should be noted that these last two statements are frequently made about Marvel films, often mere days before they open to something approaching one hundred million dollars). Paul Rudd is an interesting choice for the lead, and indeed seems to have forsaken his comedy roles, which have served him long and well, to take up super-heroics (he has no traditional comedies lined up at the moment). The supporting cast is promising - Michael Douglas, star of a few of the biggest films of the 1980s and '90s, in a rare special effects blockbuster role, and busy luminaries like Michael Peña, Bobby Cannavale, Corey Stoll, and The Hobbit's Evangeline Lilly in key roles.

Almost without question, and indulging in the pun, Ant-Man will be the smallest-scale action adventure of the year (if we don't count Inside Out). Whether the film is well-liked and audiences catch on to it are two things I'm not absolutely certain about at the moment, but its credentials ought to at least buy Ant-Man a decent opening.

Opening weekend: $55 million / Total gross: $151 million

4. Magic Mike XXL (July 1st)

The sequel with the bizarre, in-jokey title arrives just in time for the Fourth of July! (uh, take the whole family?). The first Magic Mike was one of Steven Soderbergh's last theatrical films (or so he claims), and was certainly one of his biggest: released within the height of Channing Tatum's year, 2012, right on the heels of The Vow and 21 Jump Street, it took in a $113 million total, staggering for what was in fact a low-budget indie film (it cost a mere $7 million). Also worth noting: the original was released on the same unsuspecting day as Ted was, and the films' sequels are running essentially neck-and-neck here again. Of the two, it seems like Magic Mike is the one that's gained in stature (no pun intended. I swear!) over the last three years. Matthew McConaughey's contribution to the original shouldn't be forgotten, and he's not back this time, but I can't help and suspect that the numbers here will somewhat resemble how the Pitch Perfect sequel broke out earlier this summer (and some of the audience must surely be the same). As surprising as it would have been to me three years ago, I don't quite think the first Magic Mike reached the ceiling for this most unexpected franchise.

Opening weekend: $75 million (5-day) / Total gross: $152 million

5. Pixels

As another jokey sci-fi tale with some appeal to children, and starring an actor singularly known for comedies, Pixels is up there with Ant-Man as a film that's hard to narrow down strategically. However, even those who scorn the films of Adam Sandler and his production company, Happy Madison, have to admit that Pixels' idea is sort of brilliant: in a movie world that hungers for pre-2000s nostalgia (see the dinosaurs and talking robots), why not take some of the most famous video game characters of the 1980s, enlarge them onto the silver screen, and then, inevitably, command them to invade and brutalize the earth? Aside from Sandler, director Chris Columbus definitely gives the film credibility with the younger set, and marketing has been relatively clever, without being completely overwhelming. In short, had Pixels been released in the summer of 2005, it would have all the markings of a solid blockbuster, a film easily approaching $200 million. And yet the recent past blurs the picture: sure-fire Sandler vehicles like That's My Boy and Blended have produced box office numbers inexplicably well below his average (and those were not bad movies, at least to my taste). The presence of Kevin James, an actor who's decidedly associated with Sandler, may not change much, but turns by Michelle Monaghan, Josh Gad, and audience-pleaser Peter Dinklage give the film some variety. It's still a tough call, but I'm thinking Pixels will turn in numbers somewhere in the neighborhood of Grown Ups 2.

Opening weekend: $42 million / Total gross: $125 million

6. Trainwreck

While it feels like Judd Apatow and his cohorts and underlings have dominated film comedy since either 2004's Anchorman (which he produced) or 2005's The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Trainwreck comes in as only his fifth film as director. And while his filmography as producer is lengthy and complex, his record as helmer is easier to parse: his first two films, that Virgin and Knocked Up, were knockout successes, with the latter building on the renown of the former to gross almost $150 million in 2007. His two subsequent titles, Funny People and This is 40, certainly have their fans, but were largely unembraced by the public. The equation changes here for one simple reason: Trainwreck stars Amy Schumer, one of the most talked-about comedians in America today. And while it's true that no episode of her television series Inside Amy Schumer has ever had ratings of more than one million plus people, she's blitzed through the last several months with a heaping of media attention to her show, her stand-up performances, and her socio-racial-political commentary. Coupled with already-positive reviews, Trainwreck seems to have a guarantee of playing like a solid summer comedy at the box office.

It should also be said: most of Judd Apatow's films are defined by an undeterred length of over two hours. Trainwreck does not break this tradition.

Opening weekend: $33 million / Total gross: $100 million

7. Vacation (July 29th)

It's back! Vacation is another film moved up from the year's fourth quarter to its third, shifted as it was from October into a release date more closely resembling the original film (which bowed July 1983). A late summer Wednesday release also calls to mind another decidedly R-rated family adventure story, We're the Millers, which did gangbuster business two years back. The date change makes perfect sense - what kind of a person goes on vacation in October? Strictly speaking, this is not a reboot but a continuation of the Vacation franchise, which is probably still best remembered for its third and biggest film, Christmas Vacation, as well as for its first (don't ask about the other two). Ed Helms picks up the reigns as the son of Chevy Chase's character, and the cast also includes Christina Applegate, Charlie Day, Michael Peña (again), Chase himself, and, memorably, Chris Hemsworth in a comedic supporting part. It's also an entry in one of my favorite genres, the road trip film, and should do pretty well even having to share theater space with Trainwreck. By the way, if this film is a hit, a semi-redo of Christmas Vacation is probably inevitable.

Opening weekend: $32 million (5-day) / Total gross: $92 million

8. Terminator: Genysis (July 1st)

The fifth film in the series arrives for the same weekend, the 4th of July, that both immortalized Terminator 2 into summer movie history in 1991, and gave Terminator 3 a decent run 12 years later. As with most reboots or re-imaginings, the cast is led by some of England and Australia's finest rising stars (Jai Courtney, Emilia Clarke, and the presumably unrelated Jason Clarke), but with one notable difference, this time: T5 is a film that proudly touts original series star Arnold Schwarzenegger, reprising his most iconic role and leading the charge into battle. Arnold is surely more of a box office draw than anyone who has served as Governor of California since at least the 1960s, but the '80s-'90s action movie revival has somewhat withered, and he's lately eschewed action for some unexpectedly indie films, with decent reviews, to boot (Maggie). What isn't good for the film's hopes, though: T5 is, at least thus far, receiving reviews that are largely unkind. It's possible that fans of the franchise will make the film at least a solid hit, but general audiences seem just somewhat more enamored with dinosaurs than robots this season.

Opening weekend: $37 million (5-day) / Total gross: $73 million

9. Paper Towns (July 24th)

Always nice to see, this is that rare modern-day teen/high school picture that is set, indeed, in the modern-day (that is, in a contrast to all the post-apocalyptic flotsam that still reigns over cinemas). Paper Towns is based on a 2008 book by John Green, now singularly famous for his 2012 tome, The Fault in Our Stars, and for its subsequent film adaptation. Indeed, Paper Towns is a film that will benefit immensely from the goodwill of its target audience towards its author's cinematic predecessor. Its leads, Nat Wolff and Cara Delevingne, are basically unestablished as film stars, but they can work it, and the plot seems to fall roughly among common "one crazy night"/road trip lines (which are always fun). Fans of the author should give Paper Towns its opening, but whether or not it's well-reviewed doesn't necessarily guarantee legs (Green's 2014 film dropped big in weekend two).

Opening weekend: $32 million / Total gross: $68 million

10. Southpaw (July 24th)

This is a striking-looking boxing drama that's come to the fore lately with some distinct and hard-hitting trailers. It is headlined by Jake Gyllenhaal, who's on an unbroken streak of strong performances in films essentially designed as acting showcases (Prisoners, Nightcrawler), and it is helmed by Antoine Fuqua, who's delivered muscular action films like Olympus Has Fallen and The Equalizer into box office numbers at around the $100 million degree. It's rare to see what is clearly being positioned as an Oscar contender released at such a time of year, but it's a gamble that could pay off for adult audiences looking for counter-programming. The likely enthusiastic critical acclamation and the buzz about Gyllenhaal's performance will most probably lift the film above the fray, even in the summer.

Opening weekend: $14 million / Total gross: $48 million

11. Self/less (July 10th)

A different take on the body swap film, Self/less catches Ryan Reynolds coming off of the decent historical drama Woman in Gold and preceding next year's Deadpool, his re-entry into the ever-expanding comic book cinematic universe. The director, Tarsem Singh, usually delivers visually lively films that receive some just criticism for their narrative insolvency (see Immortals and Mirror, Mirror, or his superior The Cell). Ben Kingsley has a nice showy role here, along with actors like Michelle Dockery, Victor Garber, and Matthew Goode, but there's not a lot of buzz about Self/less at the moment, and it might be hard to get it to stand out from the more renowned action and special effects brands adorning the marquees this month. We'll see.

Opening weekend: $12 million / Total gross: $33 million

12. The Gallows (July 10th)

The first of two low-budget horror films given a perhaps-no-longer-surprising wide release this July, and one with very familiar credits: it's from Blumhouse Productions, also responsible for Paranormal Activity, Oculus, Unfriended, and many, many, more, and it's in "found footage" style, like some of the above (who keeps finding all of this footage?). There must be some strong marketing behind this one (I have to assume), but it's tough to say if ghost film The Gallows will have much draw in a year not particularly brimming with large box office scores for horror films. In fact, it will probably help cement 2015's horror average - a number that is, to be fair, still pretty solid for such a relatively inexpensive production.

Opening weekend: $9 million / Total gross: $23 million

13. The Vatican Tapes (July 24th)

It's the month's other horror film! (how odd, we were just talking about you). This one eschews uncontrolled ghost hauntings for the other horror sub-genre of the day, the unpleasant exorcism picture (and could it be that, in the last 50 years, more exorcisms have been performed on film than in real life?). There's a decent collection of actors here (Michael Peña, yet again, and Djimon Hounsou), and, as hinted above, some studios' marketing departments have managed to take the kind of numbers I'm predicting below and triple them. Still, The Vatican Tapes doesn't have the buzz of The Gallows, and it's easy for a film like this to get lost in such a big, busy month (just look at how far you had to read to get to it).

Opening weekend: $5 million / Total gross: $15 million