July 2016 Box Office Forecast

By Michael Lynderey

June 30, 2016

Yeah, I saw what you said about The Martian. And me.

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3. Ghostbusters (July 15th)
From the viewpoint of those who follow cinema, this Ghostbusters reboot is the most "controversial" film of the month (we filmgoers are easily shaken), and the one perhaps most difficult to predict. The original Ghostbusters has grown into an iconic symbol of the 1980s. A June release, it was arguably the highest grossing film of 1984, initially coming in second, but after a re-release or two, finally overtaking Eddie Murphy's ginormous Beverly Hills Cop, itself a likely reboot target, with a total of $242 million to BH Cop's $234 million (this was in that long gone-by time when, even given five guesses, few could have correctly predicted the biggest film of each year). Ghostbusters II was big enough ($112 million) five years later, but then the franchise was sentenced to lay dormant for two and a half decades of internet chatter, speculation, adulation, and wild rumors of a third film. And here it is.

The draws here are director Paul Feig and star Melissa McCarthy, who've teamed before for the spectacular Bridesmaids and The Heat, as well as the more fitfully funny Spy last summer, three films that operate on a downwards curve of box office ($169 million, $159 million, and $110 million, respectively), with that trend likely to be reversed here - I assume. McCarthy's non-Feig films (Tammy, The Boss) have been decent grossers even in the face of unkind reviews, and Ghostbusters goes back to the well of what worked in reuniting her with Bridesmaids co-star Kristen Wiig, who's spent much of the time before and since that film lending her talents to lower-budget indies (she was also memorable in the much-more viewed Anchorman 2 and The Martian). Their co-stars and fellow travelers in ghost-busting are two actresses who've not headlined films quite yet, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones, both current SNL employees (so that's three SNLers out of four in the cast, implying selection bias).

While American posters so far do not announce his presence, there's also a supporting role by Chris Hemsworth, presumably cuing endless and unfunny jokes about his physical appearance. Ghostbusters '16 should open among the highest of McCarthy grossers, I think, and what lies for it beyond that will be determined only by what's right now unknowable: if people like it. Not having seen the film, fans have already reacted with indignation (not to be confused with the Philip Roth adaptation, Indignation, opening July 29th), taking to the internet to ask the sort of moral and philosophical questions that plague such reboots: Will Ghostbusters do justice to the first film? Will it successfully both translate and update the tropes of the original to 2016? Will this film cruelly "rape" the childhood of many innocent viewers? Does it know that "No" means "No"? And so on. It will be good to finally get answers.

Opening weekend: $48 million / Total gross: $140 million


4. The BFG (July 1st)
The traditional Fourth of July slate, used to launch gargantuan blockbuster films since at least the time of the Mayflower landing, has stagnated in recent years, producing only the occasional blockbuster and sticking mostly to less ambitious grossers (Despicable Me 2 was the last July 4th release to cross $100 million). This year will likely follow in that milder way, with the most notable new film being Steven Spielberg's adaptation of Roald Dahl's 1982 book, a film that will probably etch out a win over at least the other new titles on the Fourth of July weekend, though the Purge is feeling mighty patriotic, too. In its story of a small young child's uncommonly benign meeting with a giant and potentially harmful being, The BFG seems oddly similar to another coming Disney film, the Pete's Dragon remake, which bows next month and also has posters contrasting the tiny child figure with a large mass of creature that barely fits in the frame.

Spielberg's name is gold, although not recently tied to very many family films (Tintin being a sort of exception), while Dahl's output (Willy Wonka, Matilda) has inspired much memorable children’s entertainment (indeed, The BFG itself was already made as a 1989 TV adaptation). As with the secret pet life film above, reviews are fairly solid, but I'm not sure there's enough of an appetite for this somewhat low-key, villain-less, material (and two weeks after the world-busting Finding Dory, at that) to guarantee the film much more than a solid, early hundred millions finish this summer.

Opening weekend: $32 million / Total gross: $125 million

5. Ice Age: Collision Course (July 22nd)
July's other four time sequel to a 2002 release successfully proves the centuries-old truism that all franchises, if given enough entries, end up taking the action to space (Star Trek: First Contact neatly reversed this by setting a film on earth). I've seen most of the Ice Ages but for the life of me I've long stopped following the plot, though I've noticed that as the Ice Age crew journeys toward the stars, the film's advertising has created posters beseeching "Bring Scrat home" (gladly, but only if they keep Matt Damon) and lots of other space paraphernalia. The franchise has been with us for so many years that many may have forgotten that the first Ice Age was among the first of the really big CGI hits, and that this series is thus just about the last of the old school CGI franchises still standing (Shrek is in cryogenic hibernation, while Madagascar seems on a time-out). The voice cast members from the original are all back once more, led by John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, and Ray Romano, whose famous sitcom was still on the air when the first film premiered. In the 14 years since their arrival, the critical acclamation of these Ice Ages has ventured downwards at an alarming rate, from 77% for the first film to 57%, to 45%, to 37%, and now to a score of 14% for Collision Course, admittedly so far culled mostly from ice-envious critics in Australia, where the film has been out for about two weeks (Australian exhibitors asked for it really politely). It's been four years since the last film, but even with Dory and the secretive pets competing for the same box office, I think there have to be enough kids (or extremely loyal now 20 somethings) out there to give this Ice Age a decent run, and a place somewhere in the month's upper bracket.

Opening weekend: $32 million / Total gross: $99 million

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