June 2017 Box Office Forecast
By Michael Lynderey
June 1, 2017

Is Lightning McQueen mooning us?

In 2017, May was beaten by March, and it wasn't close. And what does June give us? It's a month with too many animated movies, each spaced out two weeks apart from the other (and I'm not even counting the Transformers, who, as it turns out, exist only on a programmer's computer). Two films will lord above the rest, but in the interest of summers to come, let's focus less on sequels and more on finding a breakout hit from the up-and-comers toiling away under the radar.

1. Despicable Me 3 (June 30th)

Yes, the Minions are back. Where were they gonna go, Disneyland?

The Despicable Me franchise, the tale of a very bad man turned nanny to multiple screaming children, first darkened our doors in July 2010, when a vague parody of supervillainy was not yet overwhelmed by all the actual films containing it. Steve Carell's Gru, a frightful-looking man of unclear origin and good heart, is still the nominal star, even if he has clearly had his franchise stolen from him by the numerous pseudo-humanoid yellow critters in his employ. Part 1 grossed $251 million, and was followed by Despicable Me 2, which was the best film of the series, and a Minions spin-off, which was not. Despicable Me 2 almost won summer 2013, with $368 million, but lost to a Marvel comic book film with an actual supervillain, sort of. Four year later, as it turns out, Despicable Me 3 will likely almost win summer 2017, but, as it were, yet again lose to a Marvel film, or, if it is particularly unlucky, lose to two of them (I'm not much into the Despicable films, necessarily, but if I had to root for someone in this fight...).

What's new for the third go-around? Gru must face his evil(er) twin, Kristen Wiig returns as Mrs. Gru, South Park's Trey Parker is another villain, and the film posters depict many of the minions trapped in some incarceratory facility (I have to keep remembering to just say "jail"), leading to all manner of minions-in-prison jokes (will there be a reprise of "It's a hard knock life" from Austin Powers?).

This rather... animated... -looking June schedule probably should have been more carefully thought out (one of the non-Despicable CGI films could have done pretty well on May 19th, switching chairs with Diary of a Wimpy Kid). Me 3's distinctly despicable box office should decrease along the lines of your average three-quel, and its status as the month's biggest earner may turn out to be somewhat in doubt (in that contest, it might get beat by a comic book movie from DC, for a change).

Opening weekend: $114 million / Total gross: $308 million

2. Wonder Woman (June 2nd)

39 years after Superman launched the superhero genre and 28 years after Batman reminded the world superheroes still exist, DC Comics brings another of its iconic characters to the screen. But in the time since, the cinematic ComicCon convention's gotten a lot more crowded.

Immortal Amazonian Wonder Woman is played by Gal Gadot, who made an impression as the character in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), and was a lot of fun in some of the better Fast and Furious movies (including my favorite, Fast 6, 2013). Chris Pine is nicely cast as the male lead, a stranded American soldier who helps lure the title character off her remote Greek island paradise and into decimated, World War I-torn Europe (what a nice guy!). Patty Jenkins, whose only other film is the sharp and stupendous Monster (2003), directs, and Gadot's fellow Amazonians are played by Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen, among others.

Wonder Woman's gender (she's female) will be extensively covered in more mainstream media, but the history of female-led comic book films – Helen Slater as Supergirl (1984), Halle Berry as Catwoman (2004), and Jennifer Garner as Elektra (2015) - is relatively limited. So maybe it doesn't tell us all that much. The latter two films starred actresses who were then-established names, but all three movies got bad reviews, and looking at some of their individual circumstances (dissatisfaction with Supergirl's cousin in the then-recently released Superman III, 1983, and with Daredevil, 2003, which was the first film to feature Elektra), maybe gender wasn't much of a factor.

In any case, none of this seems to matter anymore. Like some, I planned to approach the Wonder Woman movie as just one more superhero film in a long and increasingly never-ending release stream of such, and thus immediately lowered my expectations.

But I was wrong. Wonder Woman has so far received absolutely glowing reviews, blowing away even that other highly-praised comic book film of summer 2017, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The forecast numbers you see below are roughly double what I'd written out just a few weeks ago. That is because, as we saw with Baywatch, King Arthur, and any number of other summer entertainments in search of a breakout opening, even in this day and age, reviews do matter. The number at the top of the Rotten Tomatoes page is important, and in this case, that number is really quite high (wobbling between 94% and more). Critical appraisal, word-of-mouth, and buzz should make this film perhaps summer 2017's definitive breakout hit: you will believe DC Comics can fly.

Opening weekend: $100 million / Total gross: $297 million

3. Transformers: The Last Knight (June 23rd)

Here's a fifth Transformers film for your buck, just in time for the ten-year anniversary of that cool July 2007 afternoon when gigantic robots first started punching each other in the face on our willing screens.

I was going to inscribe a history of the Transformers films here, but every time I tried, my mind went into a haze of metallic robot parts banging up into each other in the air, slang English being shouted at odd corners of the screen, and, from all sides, explosions, bullets, cars being kicked off highways, and screaming dots running away from the clanking machinery and into the foreground (the screaming dots would be us).

Like the Pirates of the Caribbean films, this franchise's $400 million (plus!) days are behind it, and, aside from the usual urgent business of alien robots resolving their differences by inflicting violence upon each other (hey, it's always worked for me), Transformers 5 has decided to add a few scenes retroactively placing its autobots in the middle of historical settings, like World War II Europe or Arthurian England, where they would presumably have been a little hard to miss (was that a Transformer sitting at the far left at the Round Table? I can never tell). I like the subtitle ("The Last Knight"), which has a certain noble sheen often absent from this franchise, and which presumably connects itself to King Arthur's supporting role (Charlie Hunnam does not reprise the character).

Michael Bay directs for the fifth and last (kidding) time, Mark Wahlberg is back in the Shia LaBeouf role, and the very young female lead is taken over by Isabela Moner (hey, whatever happened to Wahlberg's character's daughter and her boyfriend? Dead or in jail? Bonnie and Clyde?). Anthony Hopkins is the latest character actor to award himself the pleasure of acting opposite Optimus Prime, Stanley Tucci returns as the clueless technocrat who somehow survived the last film (... did he?), and Josh Duhamel reprises his role from the original trilogy, to reward those of us who are suckers for continuity ("no, we have not been rebooted").

The bots are again led by Galvatron (né Megatron) and Optimus Prime, respectively, though the latter is apparently no longer friendly, at least until roughly two hours into the running time. Some of these giant automatons have a winning personality and unlimited charisma, but my favorite cranky fictional (?) robot is still King Mondo from Power Rangers (in his opening appearance, in 1996, he announced that he’d been winning so much all across the galaxy he’s gotten bored. Does this sound familiar to anyone else?).

It may be hard to tell, but unlike many film prophets and writers who criticize with their pen, I have a certain admiration for the disagreeable audacity of the Transformers films and their complete disregard for decorum, restraint, plot linearity, and finesse. No country club would have them as a member. And the first Transformers is still pretty cool. Part 4 made less than part 3, which made less than part 2 (a series high of $402 million, if you must), and much like many of the summer's other sequels, the trend only has one way to go. Internationally, Transformers: The Last Knight might drag another cool billion dollars kicking and screaming its way, which assures us that a part six is indeed on the way. Just find a way to add King Mondo.

Opening weekend: $56 million / Total gross: $143 million

4. Cars 3 (June 16th)

The new Cars film brings back the Pixar franchise that has evidently produced them their biggest and most overwhelming collection of wildly successful merchandising and toys (don't know, haven't played with them), with its film sequels now seen as a kind of perk or bonus quirk to every other purchasable thing called "Cars." Cars 3 arrives exactly 11 years and a week after the first film (now who else is celebrating?), which took in $244 million, a heftier bounty than Cars 2, which was a bit underrated (well, a bit, I said!), and finished with $191 million. Cars 2 also remains, alas, the only Pixar release to be stamped out "Rotten" on Rotten Tomatoes, and no, it wasn't close (take note, Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is possible to make a film that critics don't like! I assure you).

The original Cars was the last film credit for Paul Newman (who, interestingly, is credited again on this entry, definitely proving life after death), while the leads are present and accounted for: Owen Wilson returns as ornery red stock car Lightning McQueen, Larry the Cable Guy is tow truck Mater, and additions to this roster are led by one of my favorites, Armie Hammer, who has a great voice for voice over, and who is continuing a prolific year that is looking to end in an Oscar nomination (more on that in November; and no, not for this film... obviously).

Cars 3 may be a quality product, or it may be anything but. We'll see soon enough. Putting aside the history of both Pixar in general and this sometimes-maligned franchise in particular, the equation for Cars 3's summer voyage through the box office freeway is simple: if it gets bad reviews, it'll go the way of many of the sequels of summers 2016 and 2017; that is not a good thing. If it's fresher than, say, 75% on Rotten Tomatoes, I think it can sneak above $200 million, even with all the other cartoons out in force this month trying to lure children away from this one.

Opening weekend: $57 million / Total gross: $141 million

5. The Mummy (June 9th)

The Mummy returns in another blast from the past, a visit from the deathly slow-moving villain whose misadventures began when Boris Karloff's title character first crawled across the dusty screen in 1932. Lots of Mummy movies have come from the woodwork henceforth, but the first modern version, with Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz, was a surprise breakout hit on the first weekend of May 1999, opening with $43 million two weeks before Star Wars Episode I was expected to crowd everything else out (indeed, Lucas’ 1999-2005 trilogy brought a graceful and honorable end to the Star Wars films...).

The Mummy Returns was a classic 2001-era popcorn movie (it was fun!), and delivered a franchise high of $202 million. The third film, Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, made some cast changes and altered the setting to China, though it retained Fraser and finished with $102 million, almost exactly halving its immediate film predecessor in a most unpleasant way. The new Mummy is played by Sofia Boutella (who strode the earth atop metal blades in Kingsman), and her co-star is, as a matter of fact, Tom Cruise (does it feel like I should have mentioned that Tom Cruise is in this a little earlier in the forecast?).

Cruise has continued to assert himself as a box office lead the last decade, working in genre action, thriller, and science fiction, with a consistent range that usually surpasses $100 million, though the recent Jack Reacher: Never Go Back was a notable disappointment last year. The Mummy '17 is part of a series of new monster movies emanating from the classic home of such creatures, Universal Studios. A recent such redo was Dracula Untold (2014), a film about which I can be either positive or honest.

The combo of Cruise and Russell Crowe (whose supporting role as Dr. Jekyll has been heavily advertised) ought to buy this new mummy some cachet and a reasonable box office floor. As a period fantasy film with a kick-ass female lead, The Mummy also follows nicely along the lines of the previous week’s Wonder Woman, even if the Amazonian's increasingly burgeoning fortunes may drown out some of the Mummy's buzz.

Opening weekend: $43 million / Total gross: $138 million

6. Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (June 2nd)

The most baffling entry on the June schedule is this CGI comedy, about children hypnotizing their hated principal into superheroic deeds and goofy city-scape adventures, including gallant battle against the latest malfeasant supervillain (oh, wait! So this is another superhero film, then).

Captain Underpants and its subtitle come from Fox and the production team behind fellow animation Turbo (2013). The voice cast is the kind of reasonable collection of character actors and comedy up-and-comers that populate this type of CGI adventure as a given; the kids are voiced by Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch, who are clearly no longer middle-school age, the heroic principal who must wear undergarments upon his brow is Ed Helms, and the German-accented villain is Nick Kroll, presumably reprising the dialect of his porker character Gunter from Sing last year.

I could be underestimating the good captain's box office. So far, critics like it, and if the trend of diminishing returns for three-quels holds at all, then Captain Underpants may, at the very least, end up the month's best reviewed animated film.

Opening weekend: $36 million / Total gross: $97 million

7. Rough Night (June 16th)

Rough Night is a bawdy R-rated comedy, in the tradition of any number of films about friends reuniting and inflicting debauchery on an unsuspecting city's population. In a bit of novelty, that city is not battle-hardened veteran Las Vegas but the comparatively unsoiled Miami.

The carnage begins at a bachelor party. Scarlett Johansson is the bride-to-be (will she rethink her impending ball and chain through the film? Stay tuned!), Kate McKinnon tries a new accent as the Australian one, Zoe Kravitz is another college friend, Jillian Bell is the lusty one who may have accidentally killed a male stripper, and Ilana Glazer's character really digs on marijuana, in what is not a radical break in her on-screen recreational activity preferences. Rough Night is helmed by Lucia Aniello, responsible for many episodes of TV's Broad City, though the film's title was sadly changed from Rock That Body, a superior name (hurry, you still have two weeks to change it back!).

So, this is all kind of interesting, and given the premise and cast the film is of course all about painting itself a sort of Bridesmaids Have a Hangover. However, as with the other comedies this summer, I can forecast all I want, but critical reception gets final cut on the grosses.

Opening weekend: $28 million / Total gross: $80 million

8. The House (June 30th)

The House teams Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler, who shared about a year together on Saturday Night Live (2001-2002), and who here deliver what looks like another "bored and middle-aged couple vs. the seedy night life" film, in the tradition of Date Night, Keeping Up with the Joneses, and, I suppose, Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

Ferrell plays his trademark role, a suburban malcontent who lashes out of his doldrums in unique and unlikely ways. This time, to alleviate the financial burden of a middle-class lifestyle, he and spouse (Poehler) embark on the operation of an illegal casino in their basement, which must lead to appearances by surprisingly depraved neighbors, mafia tough guys, and police officers who just barely miss out on the crime scene. You get what you ask for.

The House will arrive smack deb center into a summer whose comedies have so far been granted receptions ranging from middling (Snatched) to hostile (Baywatch). So June may be fertile ground for a straightforward funny film, and this is a month that presents only one other contender (Rough Night), though I assure you, there's room in the culture both for disaffected upper-middle-class gamblers, and rowdy millennial survivors of murderous bachelor parties, so they shouldn't beat up on each other all too much.

Opening weekend: $26 million / Total gross: $77 million

9. Baby Driver (June 28th)

Action thriller Baby Driver premiered at SXSW in March, where it received reviews so favorable that the studio stepped on the gas and inserted the film into the already busy June schedule, moving from mid August to the heart and heat of mid summer.

The titular Baby drives getaway cars rather well, and is played Ansel Elgort, the New York stage actor who showed real movie star charisma in The Fault in Our Stars (2014), and who has hung around the edges of a few films since without landing another real lead. He could become one of the bigger '90s-born male stars if the film does well, and even if it doesn't.

Lily James of Cinderella fame co-stars, playing that favorite trope of action and thriller films, the sweet and beautiful waitress who joins the hero in running from men and bullets, and who one way or another never quite goes back to work the next day. The young lovers are surrounded by an all-star cast of smoldering men of ill repute - Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey, and, ever more prolifically on the big screen, Jon Hamm.

Of course, most importantly for many, Baby Driver looks like it may be the first American breakout hit for Edgar Wright, a director whose film work - Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World's End - has inspired varied degrees of enthusiasm amongst myself, and unquenched adulation from certain segments of the filmgoing population. Given the box office reception of Wright's work (his biggest film grossed $31 million in the U.S.), these segments can be viewed as a cult audience.

Baby Driver might change that. Let's see if they got something right with that date change.

Opening weekend: $19 million / Total gross: $73 million

10. All Eyez on Me (June 16th)

Tupac Shakur, perhaps the most legendary and beloved rapper of all time, made verse, raged, and died. In 2017, he finally gets a big screen biopic, after two decades of documentaries, lost music releases, remixes, and re-dos, as well as supporting roles in other films and a hologram that terrorized the Coachella festival in 2012. The film is scheduled for what was to be his 46th birthday.

Demetrius Shipp Jr. plays Shakur. Remarkably, Jamal Woolard, the actor who starred as his cross-country rival The Notorious B.I.G. in the 2009 film Notorious, reprises the man here, and all relevant biographical milestones and supporting players will be touched along the way (Puff Daddy and Snoop Dogg will appear as characters among the large cast).

I haven't heard too much about All Eyez on Me going in to the month, but maybe I'm not the right audience. More to the point, I'm reliably informed there's a groundswell of support for this title that's waiting to burst. The most recent rap biopic, Straight Outta Compton, broke out to a $161 million total and easily won the month in August 2015, while Notorious had a shorter run, finishing with $36 mil in January 2009. At the moment, I see this tribute to Shakur coming in roughly in the middle, though of course that covers a lot of ground, intentionally. It's just nice to finally have it made.

Opening weekend: $35 million / Total gross: $68 million

11. Megan Leavey (June 9th)

Too bad the title War Dogs was taken. Here, that name would have been singular: Megan Leavey is a U.S. Marine corporal who befriends a battle-scarred veteran of the Iraq War, one who, as the trailer tells us, saved countless lives in battle. This veteran is a beautiful and proud German Shepherd named Rex, and the film depicts both their days in battle and Leavey's legal struggle to formally adopt her new companion (bureaucracy!).

Kate Mara plays the title character (and that's the woman's real name), and the supporting cast includes Common as a stern-faced soldier, Tom Felton as a dog trainer, Edie Falco as Megan's mother, and, in another big role, Bradley Whitford, presumably more congenial than he was in Get Out earlier this year. The dog actor playing Rex is uncredited on the IMDb, at least at the moment, a situation I hope is rectified.

So, Megan Leavey is a story of canine bravery meets courtroom drama, with shades of the similar Max, another dog of war whose film took in a respectable $42 million in June 2015. This film, too, ought to attract enough children and dog-loving adults attune to this title, to award it a decent run of counter-programming opposite all the month's computer-drawn films. Good dog!

Opening weekend: $14 million / Total gross: $43 million

12. It Comes At Night (June 9th)

Post-apocalyptic nightmares meet monsters-in-the-woods in this sort of riff on the recent 21 Cloverfield Lane (a film that I believe had the single worst twist ending of all time - not that it means this one will try for same). Much as in Cloverfield 2, family and strangers are ensconced together in a house in the forbidden wilderness, fleeing the terror they're sure must be occurring offscreen.

Star Joel Edgerton has been known for low-key thrillers (he was behind the excellent The Gift in 2015), even if he's not behind the scenes here. The trailers are appropriately chilly and damp with atmosphere, and this type of slow-paced horror film seems to have a knack for breaking out to respectable numbers against all expectations.

Reviews are stupendous, and if a lot of the month's bigger films implode, it's counter-programming like Megan Leavey and this film that'll reap the benefit of spillover audiences looking for something more satisfying than another green screen-flavored sequel.

Opening weekend: $12 million / Total gross: $40 million

13. Amityville: The Awakening (June 30th)

The new Amityville is slated to be the fifth wide theatrical release in the franchise, and, like a lot of horror series, the history here is really quite interesting for a follower of low-budget horror film legacies (yes, such as myself)...

The original The Amityville Horror was released when the country was puzzled by the real-life murders at the Amityville, Long Island house in 1974, and when supernatural horror films were all the rage. The film took in $86 million in the summer of 1979 (that's unadjusted), giving another boost to stars Margot Kidder and James Brolin, and inspired a 1982 prequel (Amityville II: The Possession) and a 1983 sequel (Amityville 3D, part of that era's third dimension craze), both of which finished in the early teen millions.

The series mostly sat out the rest of the horror-loving 1980s, before releasing no less than 16 other TV and straight-to-video sequels and redos (you'd think people would stop moving to that house; and no, I haven't seen them all, although I made a good try at it). The 2005 remake starring Ryan Reynolds inspired enough curiosity to bring the Amityville name shrieking back into pop culture, and gave the actor his first big solo hit (I told you the Amityville house was pure evil!).

Amityville: The Awakening is the first Amityville film to open in the summer since the original. So, what have we on the plate this time?

The house still has its infamous spooky drooping eyes built out like windows, perfect for the glow of yellow light or red glare from inside.

This new entry has been co-produced by Jason Blum, the new instigator of our national nightmares (Get Out, Split, and so on into the nether). It's nice to see Jennifer Jason Leigh getting another big leading role, and teenagers (or simile thereof) are played by Cameron Monaghan, Bella Thorne, and one of my favorite co-generationists, Thomas Mann. The director, Franck Khalfoun, helmed the effective and underseen P2 (2007), which is a good start. Factors like reviews and advertising will make a difference here, but I think we're looking at a total somewhere in the adjusted ballpark of the second two films, or of some of this year's army of horror sequels. Nevertheless, box office or none, I have a feeling the Amityville house will stay standing for a very long time.

Opening weekend: $11 million / Total gross: $24 million