2019 Summer Box Office Predictions

2019 Box Office

I’ve been (wrongly) predicting the biggest box office hits of the summer ever since this blog started, and for the last three years, the predictions have been accompanied by a podcast recording with my friend Rachel, in which she joins me in trying to figure out what movies will make the most money. You’ll find my predictions below, and if you want to find out what Rachel thinks will be a hit, then listen to our conversation (also below). Being wrong is part of the fun, keep that in mind.

A note on what “summer” means: Box Office Mojo considers May 1-Aug 31 to be the summer movie season, and that’s what we are going with. That means Avengers: Edgame, which comes out the last week of April, is not eligible for our lists. Whether or not you consider it a summer movie is up to you, we just have to draw the line at some point. Never mind the fact that “actual summer” doesn’t start until June 21.

A second note: These predictions are for the domestic box office (U.S. and Canada), by the way, mainly because keeping track of when movies open in foreign markets is too much work.

1. The Lion King
Release Date: July 19
Studio: Disney
Predicted Box Office: 800 Million
Are you good at math? Hear me out. If you adjust for inflation, the live action Beauty and the Beast did 1.87 times as much money as the animated version. If you apply the same logic to The Lion King, then the live action remake would make $996 million, making it the highest grossing movie of all time. Given that we’re dealing with one of the most beloved properties out there, I think such a massive haul is a possibility. Still, a Disney remake being the highest grossing movie of all time doesn’t seem quite right, so I’m going on a half-assed limb at 800 million (which would still make this second highest grossing after The Force Awakens). In any case, I will go out on a limb to predict this makes more than Avengers: Endgame. 

[Update: In the time since writing this, and posting the podcast, Avengers: Endgame had by far the biggest opening weekend of all time, making upwards of 300 million. The likelihood of The Lion King outgrossing it seems quite unlikely, though I stand by what I said.]

2. Pokémon Detective Pikachu
Release Date: May 10
Studio: Warner Bros.
Predicted Box Office: 400 Million
This is my big bet. When it was announced, Detective Pikachu seemed like a joke. But if  the summer of Pokémon Go taught us anything, is not to underestimate this franchise. The trailers have been a total success, pushing the nostalgia buttons so perfectly that even I -who, sure, grew up with Pokémon but hasn’t thought about the creatures in a long ass time- excited for this movie. Kids will go. Young adults will go. There is something in the air about this one. I can feel it.

3. Toy Story 4
Release Date: June 21
Studio: Disney
Predicted Box Office: 375 Million
The Toy Story movies are big money-makers, but I don’t see a lot of excitement for this one. Toy Story 3 was such a perfect cap to the series, a lot of people (myself included) are wondering what’s the point of yet another sequel. Unless the reviews are ecstatic and this ends up being some sort of unexpected masterpiece, I can’t imagine it surpassing Finding Dory and/or Incredibles 2 in the pantheon of Pixar sequels.

4. Spider-Man: Far From Home
Release Date: July 5
Studio: Sony
Predicted Box Office: 340 Million
The MCU is a safe bet, people seem to be into this new version of Spider-Man. Spider-Verse and Endgame should be able to gather enthusiasm for this sequel, which should make about as well as its predecessor (330M.)

5. Aladdin
Release Date: May 24
Studio: Disney
Predicted Box Office: 230 Million
This one could go any other way. People really don’t like the look of the trailers, especially the blue CGI work done on Will Smith’s genie. However, this is a nostalgic property so it should be able to make enough bank to not be a complete disaster.

6. The Secret Life of Pets 2
Release Date: June 7
Studio: Universal
Predicted Box Office: 225 Million
The numbers Rachel pulled out while recording the podcast made me think I’m terribly underrating this one. People love their pets, they need things to take children to, and they do love those Illumination Studios movies, no matter how bad they look to me. I’m sticking with a number 6 spot, hoping that the release of Toy Story 4 a couple weeks after will take some of this movie’s momentum.

7. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
Release Date: August 2
Studio: Universal
Predicted Box Office: 190 Million
The Rock and Jason Stathan in an action extravaganza. Their movies don’t always make as much as they’re supposed to, but attachment to the Fast and Furious franchise should provide enough money to come close to 200 million.

8. Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Release Date: May 31
Studio: Warner Bros.
Predicted Box Office: 180 Million
I see a lot of people online excited for this movie, but out in the real world? I could be totally wrong, but I think a crowded summer might make this an underperformer.

9. Men in Black: International
Release Date: June 14
Studio: Sony
Predicted Box Office: 175 Million
I thought the idea of Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson in a Men in Black reboot was a winning ticket, but the buzz around the movie is apparently really bad. Like most comedies, this will live or die on whether it is funny, and there’s really no way of knowing until the movie actually opens.

10. Dark Phoenix
Release Date: June 7
Studio: 20th Century Fox Disney
Predicted Box Office: 
150 Million
Disney seems to be dropping this one now that they’ve acquired 20th Century Fox. They want to do their own version of the X-Men, one that can interact with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so they just need the current series to wrap up as soon as possible. The buzz online is really bad, the trailers look bad, and most people are excited for the series to end than for this new movie. I wouldn’t be surprised if this doesn’t even crack a hundred, but superhero movies are insanely popular. At least enough for a top ten finish.

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Cannes 2019 Preview

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It’s time for Cannes! Even if it’s unlikely that I’ll ever travel to the Croisette to attend the most prestigious film festival in the world, I cannot wait to hear about all the movies that play there. Hearing what’s coming down the pike from some of cinema’s most respected auteurs is one of the delights of the cinematic year. These are all the movies I get to look forward to for the rest of the year! This year I’ve decided to do something a little different, and list the movies in order of how excited I am to see them (with the caveat that the order will probably change after the movies premiere and we have actual reviews to guide my interest).

Overall, the line-up seems pretty much in line with the kind of movies (and directors) that premiere at Cannes. The biggest surprise was the absence of Once Upon a Time in Hollywoodthe latest from Quentin Tarantino, which was expected to premiere at Cannes on May 21 (the day that Pulp Fiction premiered twenty-five years ago before winning the Palme D’Or). The movie is still in post-production, and although it wasn’t part of the announcement today, will probably be added to the competition in the weeks to come. With four films, this is the line-up with the most female-directed movies in the history of the festival, thought I’ll let you decide if 4 out of 19 is a number to be excited about. 

The 2019 Cannes Competition (in order of Personal Excitement): 

Pain & Glory (directed by Pedro Almodóvar)
Focusing on a director who reflects on his life at a critical point in his career, this movie sounds like Almodóvar is making his version of 8 1/2 and All That Jazz. I absolutely love Almodóvar, and would watch any movie he directs, but what makes me extra excited is that this one has already opened in Spain, and the reviews have been fantastic. Some are starting to think this could be the movie that finally wins the Palme D’Or for Pedro. The movie stars Antonio Banderas, and features Almodóvar veterans Penélope Cruz, Cecilia Roth, as well as the acting debut of pop singer Rosalía.

The Dead Don’t Die (directed by Jim Jarmusch)
The festival’s opener is the latest from offbeat director Jim Jarmusch. Advertised as “the greatest zombie cast ever dissasembled,” the movie stars Bill Murray and Adam Driver as a sheriff and deputy who must protect their small town from a zombie outbreak. They are joined, among others, by Chloë Sevigny, Danny Glover, Selena Gomez and Tilda Swinton. Jarmusch is a Cannes veteran, but has never won the Palme D’Or. This movie, which looks very comedic from the trailer, might not look like the one that finally gives him the win, but it does look quite delightful. I will follow Jarmusch anywhere after the wonderful Paterson, so I’m glad this one has a U.S. release set for June 14.  

Bacurau (directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho, Juliano Dornelles)
Mendonça’s Aquarius was one of the ver best movies of 2016, and featured a powerhouse performance by Brazilian legend Sonia Braga. His new movie, translated as Nighthawk on IMDb, sees the director reuniting with Braga. I don’t know much about the plot, but honestly, I don’t need to. I would be incredibly excited for Mendonça’s latest no matter the subject or star.

Parasite (directed by Bong Joon-ho)
After Mother, Snowpiercerand Okjathere is no doubting Bong as a master of genre cinema from me. No one can balance forward momentum, extreme violence, and dark comedy the way he can, often jumping from one to the other in the very same scene. Re-teaming with leading man Kang-ho Song, his latest movie focuses on a family in hardship whose illegal activities take them down a very dark road. I expect a top-notch, unique mystery.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (directed by Celine Sciamma)
Celine Sciamma is the director of Girlhooda fabulous movie that, if nothing else, features one of the very best scenes I’ve seen in a movie this decade. Sciamma has had success in Cannes sidebars in the past, but this is her debut in the competition. It’s a 18th Century period piece about a young female painter being forced to paint a wedding portrait for another young woman. I’ve been waiting for a while for Sciamma’s follow-up to Girlhood, so color me very excited.

It Must Be Heaven (directed by Elia Suleiman)
I must admit I’m not familiar with Suleiman’s previous Cannes entry –The Time That Remains– but everything I’ve heard about the director makes this sound like a fascinating project. Apparently, Suleiman’s style combines silent slapstick with melancholic introspection (already up my alley). This is the story of a man who escapes from Palestine to discover that the country follows his wherever he goes. I am very intrigued.

Atlantique (directed by Mati Diop)
If you are me, then you will recognize Mati Diop as the young girl from 35 Shots of Rum, or one of the foreign artists in the wonderful Hermia & HelenaThis is her first feature-length film as a director, which makes Diop the first black female director to have a film in the Main Competition. This seems to be a story about African migration to Europe, focusing on one woman who is left behind in Senegal. Despite being a debut, the buzz around this movie is really strong. Many outlets and insiders are claiming this is will go down as the emergence of a new major filmmaker. I’m really excited.

Frankie (directed by Ira Sachs)
Director Ira Sachs, who’s directed lovely American indies such as Love is Strange and Little Men, makes his Cannes debut with this story about three generations of a family working out their personal conflicts while on vacation in Portugal. When Isabelle Huppert and Marisa Tomei headline the cast, one simply cannot ask for more.

Little Joe (directed by Jessica Hausner)
Hausner’s last movie, Amour Fouis a very unconventional period piece. The Austrian director makes her English-language debut with this science fiction story about a group of scientist trying to figure out a mysterious plant that seems to change the personalities of those who come in contact with it. The lovely Ben Whishaw plays one of the lead roles.

The Whistlers (directed by Corneliu Porumboiu)
This movie sees Porumboiu revisit a character from his ten year-old Police, Adjective, as Romanian mainstay Vlad Ivanov plays a police officer who tries to use a secret whistling language in order to pull off a heist. I expect a slow and dryly funny movie in the style of most Romanian New Wave films, which when done right, can do wonders for me.

The Wild Goose Lake (directed by Yinan Diao)
There almost no information about this movie, but Diao’s last, Black Coal, Thin Icewon the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. There was a bit of controversy earlier this year regarding the Chinese government not allowing certain titles to compete at Cannes this year. This seems to have been the one exception. I am not familiar with Diao’s work, so I’m placing it near the middle expectations-wise.

A Hidden Life (directed by Terrence Malick)
Oh, Terrence Malick, the suddenly prolific American auteur returns with a three hour epic set during World War II. It’s supposed to be the story of a conscientious objector who refuses to fight for the Nazis, but knowing Malick, there will probably a lot of philosophical detours taken along the way. Malick isn’t usually my cup of tea, but I do love The New Worldso while I wouldn’t count on it, here’s hoping I can connect with this one in the same way.

The Traitor (directed by Marco Bellocchio)
I’ve never seen a movie by Bellocchio before, though I’ve heard quite good things about his Mussollini biopic VincereThis one is also a biopic, albeit of the less well-known Tommaso Buscetta, known as the “boss of the two worlds”, who apparently became the first mafia informant in 1980s Sicily. The trailer below is just a teaser, so it’s hard to know what’s going on, though I expected the typical darkness, violence, and excess of a gangster/mafia movie.

Oh Mercy! (directed by Arnaud Desplechin)
Despelchin is another Cannes favorite. This is about a detective trying to solve the brutal murder of a young woman. The wonderful Lea Seydoux is the top billed actress, though I’m not sure if she is the detective or the victim… or neither. Murder mysteries are not my favorite genre, and I’m constantly disappointed by contemporary French cinema, so I’m waiting for reviews to see if I gather any excitement.

Sybil (directed by Justine Triet)
The final female-directed film in the competition is a story about a “jaded therapist who returns to her first love of writing” and obsesses over a young actress. Female obsession is always an interesting genre, though my spotty history with contemporary French cinema keeps me from getting excited about this one.

Matthias & Maxime (directed by Xavier Dolan)
The prolific and opinionated Xavier Dolan has a particularly thorny history with Cannes. His last movie to play in Competition, It’s Only the End of the World, won the Grand Prix in 2016 despite being totally eviscerated by critics (a situation so hostile that Dolan claims he got eczema from it). But now he’s back with his latest movie, apparently an ensemble drama about relationships. I’ve only seen a couple of his movies, and haven’t been truly into them. Reviews for his latest stuff has been mostly bad. So my excitement is definitely low.

Les Miserables (directed by Ladj Ly)
This is Ly’s directorial debut, and it’s always exciting to see a filmmaker debut in Cannes Competition, but watching the clip that is available on IMDb lowered my expectations quite a bit. This movie seems “gritty” and “masculine” in a way that is always unappealing to me. The descriptions says it’s about a group of anti-crime brigade operating in a poor French neighborhood.

Sorry We Missed You (directed by Ken Loach)
Loach is one of those people who are extremely prolific and well liked at Cannes, which means that his movies are always in the competition. I personally don’t tend to connect with his particular brand of social realism. Not even his Palme D’Or-winning work can get me very excited, so unless reviews are truly ecstatic, I will probably skip this one.

Young Ahmed (directed by Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne)
I am not the biggest fan of the Dardenne brothers’ hyper-realist miserablism to begin with, so this would be a tough sell for me no matter what. But the log-line “A Belgian teenager hatches a plot to kill his teacher after embracing an extremist interpretation of the Quran” sounds like exactly the kind of movie that I have zero interesting in seeing, especially coming from two white Europeans. They are Cannes favorites, though, so their movies are always in the line-up. 

Podcast: The Best Movies of 2009

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It’s become a tradition. Every year, I go on my friend Rachel’s podcast and we talk about our favorite movies form ten (and sometimes twenty) years ago. This time around, it’s 2009, so give a listen to the podcast below (which is also available on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts). Conversation topics include my distaste for Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air, Rachel’s unexpected experience with Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell, and the wonderful surprise I had when I revisited Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are.

Other Podcasts on this Series: 2007, 2008, 1998

Other “Best of…” Retrospectives: 1992, 1995, 2005, 2006

Dumbo, or Fear of the Big D

dumbo2019

The new version of Dumbo, based on the 1941 animated classic, is an anti-capitalist story. In this live action update, director Tim Burton presents Dumbo -the flying elephant!- as a uniquely talented creature, one that boosts the ticket sales at a crumbling circus and ends up attracting the attention of V. A. Vandevere (Michale Keaton), the biggest entertainment magnate in the country. Vandevere, believe it or not, turns out to be evil. In order to get Dumbo into his fold, he buys the raggedy old circus, not caring about all the circus workers who will lose their jobs in the process. Even worse, he doesn’t care about Dumbo reuniting with his long-lost mother (she’s an inconvenience he’d rather shoot dead). But this being a children’s movie, the ragtag group of now unemployed circus performers (led by Colin Farrell) comes up with a plan to get Dumbo and his mom reunited, and give Vandevere a taste of his own medicine.

How ridiculous is it for a company like Disney to make such a movie? Disney, a company that last week finalized its purchase of 20th Century Fox -one of the “big six” Hollywood studios- creating massive layoffs as it inches slowly into total domination of the entertainment industry. Isn’t this some sort of deep hypocrisy- a giant corporation warning us about the dangers of giant corporations? Vandevere, who owns an amusement park called Dreamland full with massive parades and a “world of tomorrow” exhibit, couldn’t be a more obvious parallel for uncle Walt himself. How can this be a coincidence? Is this some sort of sick joke? In the time of Late Capitalism, Disney is here to sell our ideals back to us, as long as investors get rich. And we’re buying it. It’s hard not to when the same company owns Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, ESPN, the Muppets, Avatar, Titanic, The Simpsons, Disneyland, ABC, FX, and holds a majority stake in Hulu. How could you possibly escape that? 

Who is Dumbo in this analogy? The cute little elephant could be standing for an artist like Tim Burton, who has had his talent and originality drained by the franchise machine (and in no small part by Disney, who makes millions off of Nightmare Before Christmas merchandise). Although at this point in the game, he might as well be standing for any talented young person trying to break into a creative field. Directors, writers, actors spend years trying to get a low budget off the ground, and if that movie breaks through in any noticeable way, the reward is being hired by a big corporation to write/star/direct their latest franchise entry. Independent voices such as Ryan Coogler, Chloe Zhao, Alex Ross Perry, even Argentinian arthouse staple Lucrecia Martel have gone through this process in one way or another. Is Disney’s plan to soak every talented person into its orbit? Is the ability to spend as much money as they can to attract talent what will allow to build a monopoly on culture. Here’s a once ridiculous question that now seems only appropriate: What would pop culture look like in a world where everybody works for Disney?

What makes this real life scenario different from the movie is that there is no ragtag group of circus performers that can save us. There is no Colin Farrell here to lead the charge. How could there be, when we don’t have to take on one bad individual, but an enormous conglomerate who nobody can escape. Because nobody can resits Disney. Not the artist who is presented with a massive, once-in-a-lifetime paycheck. Not the children who are advertised to from the minute they are born. Not the adults who grew up with Disney movies and have a visceral reaction when they hear the opening notes of “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”, or “Circle of Life”, or the Star Wars theme. How do you fight that?

That’s the question I’ve been asking myself for a while. Earlier this year I took inspiration from Alternate Ending editor Tim Brayton and decided that, like him, I will no longer go to see any Disney movie on its opening weekend. But what will that measly moral stance do other than make me feel a little better about my choices? Why does cutting Disney from my media diet feel as if I was becoming a Vegan (something I would never do)? How has a company been so effective at commodifying our pleasure, at owning our childhood, at selling it back to us? Why, if I understand that Dumbo’s anti-capitalist message is absolutely hollow, do I still find the little elephant so damn cute? Why do I get excited when I hear “Casey Junior” and “Baby Mine” on the soundtrack?

I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing to do. I will continue with my “no opening weekend” rule, but Disney cannot be stopped. I do not know what a world in which culture is monopolized by one company will look like, but I am now convinced we’ll find out sooner rather than later.