May 2016 Box Office Forecast

By Michael Lynderey

May 5, 2016

What did he say about Marvel movies?

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May is here, and in recent years it's easily been the least-populated month of the year: there are just seven new wide releases this time out, falling short of even the eight released in May 2015. The month has traditionally been known for launching the biggest films of the summer, from the original Star Wars to Spider-Man '02, but since we've just (more or less) lived through Deadpool, Zootopia, B v S, and the Jungle Book, a shocking off-season quartet of $300 million+ grossers, can a May really even impress us anymore?

1. Captain America: Civil War (May 6th)

Trying to ignore this year's four $300 million earners (we'll pretend they never happened), the real summer blockbuster season starts here, with the somewhat unnecessary sequel to Captain America 2 (really, I thought all plot lines were satisfactorily resolved last time around). And while the film's title might facetiously claim otherwise, as everybody knows, this is for all intents and purposes another Avengers film, with every single member of earth's mightiest stepping back onto the stage for an encore from last year's sequel - except for that one guy who died horribly, as well as Thor and the Hulk, both of whom are stuck in cinematic time-out in their respective subplots (as far as I can remember, Loki is still on the throne of Asgard, while the Hulk is meticulously blending into the greenery on a remote Caribbean island). Fans will finally see Chadwick Boseman's Black Panther and Tom Holland's Spider-Man, and the villain part, while apparently insignificant enough not to earn his own poster, will be enacted by Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl), another pseudo-Nazi functionary with a name that could plausibly inspire either laughter or fear. Civil War is unmistakably Robert Downey Jr.'s picture, too, in a major way: he and star Chris Evans glare angrily at each other across many a bus station poster, and Downey will also materialize in next year's neo-reboot of Spider-Man (a seething headline from two weeks ago: "Spider-Man 2017: Michael Keaton out, Downey in").


A trivia fact to amaze your friends with: the last blockbuster to open on the first weekend of May that was 'not' based on a Marvel comic book property was poor, underperforming, Mission: Impossible III, all the way back in 2006. It remains a quality film that, in its undergrossing ways, seems to have forever doomed this prime and iconic release slot for any would-be hit that isn't based on a Stan Lee creation. Marvel has the weekend booked up for the foreseeable future, too, all the way through the inevitable Guardians of the Galaxy 2 next year, then 2018's unpreventable Avengers: Infinity War (I still hope that, in a brilliant twist, Thanos is killed by what turns out to be the real villain in the very first scene), followed by Avengers 4 the year after that, and finally, 2020's "Untitled Marvel film", whose existence is vague, but believe me, it is coming.

So, anyway, leaving aside all the useless carping, Civil War will probably be the biggest movie of the summer (then again, that's what Ultron said last year, and look how that turned out). And to my great surprise, despite the vaguely lukewarm reception to last May's Avengers 2 (which finished with $459 million), Civil War is now inspiring the kind of ecstatic reviews usually reserved for Pixar films or Oscar winners about the sexual abuse of minors. All this despite the fact that Civil War seems to consist primarily of the plot element I always hated the most when reading comic books: when superheroes met up and fought each other, a situation as uninteresting to me as one could think of, because in fights between two generally well-meaning do-gooders, everybody held their punches, no one could ever die or even get seriously injured, and nothing was at stake. I would have predicted less, but Civil War was tracking at $170 million when I checked very recently (three weeks ago), and we should all know now that when headlines announce ominous developments like "Deadpool tracking for $50 million opening!" or "Jungle Book slated for upwards of $70 million!", they somehow end up only underpegging the final number. Big time.

Opening weekend: $199 million / Total gross: $458 million

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