May 2016 Box Office Forecast

By Michael Lynderey

May 5, 2016

What did he say about Marvel movies?

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5. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (May 20th)

Was I alone in hoping that Neighbors 2 would indeed turn out to be a sequel to 1981's oddball and downright frightening comedy-semi horror film Neighbors, which found John Belushi terrorized by a bleach-blond and thoroughly satanic Dan Aykroyd? The answer to that rhetorical question is yes. The 'other' Neighbors struck gold two years ago and opened with a moderately shocking $49 million, before just barely edging out Knocked Up, $150 million to $148 million, to become the highest-grossing live-action film for star Seth Rogen (it's Zac Efron's biggest non-cartoon, too). And so a sequel was inevitable, as perhaps was its gender-switch to an even more untamed and destructive group of college students (it's supposed to be ironic that the girls are worse, I guess).

Rogen's career arc almost resembles that of the X-Men franchise, without the special effects - he had a strong start with consecutive hits, a cooling-off there somewhere for a couple of few years (2009 to 2012 or so), and now a massive return to box office respectability, beginning with This is the End (hint: the title lied) and leading to this, his first non-CGI franchise. Efron and Rose Byrne are back, too, with the roles of inexhaustible teenage villainesses being filled by Chloƫ Grace Moretz and a few other young actresses, like Selena Gomez and Kiersey Clemons (from last year's underseen Dope).

The trailer is fitfully amusing for those who gravitate to such material, and sequels to comedy blockbusters often open bigger than the original (see The Hangover), but I have a feeling the first one struck gold at what more or less was the ceiling for this franchise (it may have even opened above that ceiling, and yes, that does certainly make sense). There'll be a little competition across the multiplex for those seeking either comedy (The Nice Guys) or loopy humor for the intoxicated (Angry Birds, I assume), but the ingredients for this follow-up seem to have been assembled well enough to do the job.

Opening weekend: $41 million / Total gross: $100 million


6. The Nice Guys (May 20th)
Here's a title evidently meant not to be taken literally, following a 1970s private detective (Ryan Gosling) and the muscle (Russell Crowe) as they look for a missing teenage girl who wouldn't be out of place in a Neighbors sequel, judging by the trailer. It's good to see Crowe experiment with genres, and ditto for Gosling, adorned here with the kind of egregious and stylized mustache that should frighten off any potential teenage audiences. More to the point, The Nice Guys is sort of a retro buddy film from Shane Black, the man who crafted buddy films long before they approached retro; he wrote Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, and Last Action Hero, and directed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and then the behemothic Iron Man 3.

Most of the aforementioned were excellent, and The Nice Guys may well be, too, which it will have to be: unless critics really love it, I can see this detective/comedy throwback getting lost among all the noisy ensemble sequels that seem to dominate this summer month in particular. Gosling previously anchored another L.A. period piece, Gangster Squad, which was marginally less humorous, and there are some neat supporting actors (Kim Basinger is always good to see), but the undeniable skill attached to the film may not be enough to oust neither Rogen's sorority sisters nor Finland's raging fowl from the top spot of the month's busiest weekend.

Opening weekend: $21 million / Total gross: $51 million

7. Money Monster (May 13th)

This May's increasingly token post-Avengers slot brings us Money Monster, about a televised financial wiz (George Clooney) and his producer (Julia Roberts) placed in a decidedly uncomfortable hostage situation by a righteously aggrieved victim of the financial system (Jack O'Connell). Money Monster is directed by Jodie Foster (it's her fourth film as helmer), and it carries a certain distinction it shouldn't be too ashamed of, frankly: it's the one film this month that I think just has no shot at all at making $100 million, but that's okay. Quality counts, even for a box office prognosticator.

The post-Marvel release slot was occupied last year by Hot Pursuit, a somewhat overpanned if unspectacular film with likable big stars. The stars are likable here, too, and O'Connell, most recently of the war film Unbroken, is destined for a strong Hollywood career. Money Monster (what a title) has an earnest trailer that may remind potential viewers of other Clooney entries into the worlds of politics and social issues, like Syriana, The Ides of March, and the Clooney-directed Good Night, and Good Luck. Name recognition and goodwill should give the film a little breathing room, but it looks more and more every day that Captain America is going to obliterate all who dare even glance at its general direction.

Opening weekend: $13 million / Total gross: $30 million

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