Besides box office hits like Dunkirk, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and arguably Girls Trip, the last two months have been pretty bad for the major studios, though there’s plenty of opportunity for them to recover from a rough summer over the last four months of 2017.
With the summer movie season officially ending this Labor Day, it’s time to examine which upcoming titles could prove to be the highest-grossing films of the fall and holiday movie seasons.
Has Hollywood saved the best for last? Or is September becoming a more enticing month as Stephen King’s It looks to break box office records just as kids return to school. Let’s take a look under the hood and see…
Lucasfilm / Disney
1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Disney/Lucasfilm – Dec. 15) – $700 million to $750 million+
Rian Johnson’s sequel comes just two years after The Force Awakens set a new all-time box office record, and one year after Rogue One also did well, so naturally, expect this one to end up grossing somewhere in between. Maybe it won’t make as much as The Force Awakens, but it will still be an impressive showing, and don’t discount the Carrie Fisher factor. I imagine there will be a lot of people who want to see her very last performance as General Leia.
2. Justice League (Warner Bros. – Nov. 17) – $320 million to $340 million
I have more to write about this movie and how it might fare with all the struggles that have gone into making it, including Zack Snyder stepping away only to be replaced by the currently unpopular Joss Whedon. There are a lot of Wonder Woman fans who are eager to revisit the character this fall, but will Whedon’s involvement keep female audiences away? Either way, this superhero team-up should get a nice bump over Thanksgiving weekend, and it has a good month to make money before The Last Jedi comes out.
3. Thor: Ragnarok (Disney/Marvel – Nov. 3) – $200 million to $210 million
It’s not often that Marvel Studios might take third place in a box office battle, but perhaps they’ve braced themselves for it this time after Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was bested by Wonder Woman this summer. The fact is that Chris Hemsworth’s Thor just hasn’t connected with audiences as well as Downey’s Iron Man or Chris Evans’ Captain America, though his latest outing should get a boost from the return of the Hulk for the first time since 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron.
4. Coco (Disney/Pixar – Nov. 22) – $165 million to $175 million
After the disappointing showing for Cars 3 over the summer, Pixar will try to get fans back with their first original animated movie since Inside Out, this one directed by Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3). One presumes Disney are hoping to bring in the growing Latino audience that makes up a large part of the moviegoing public with the film’s Day of the Dead theme and largely Latino voice cast. This is Disney’s big Thanksgiving release, and they’re hoping it’ll do better than 2015’s The Good Dinosaur.
5. It (Warner Bros./New Line – Sept. 8) – $115 million to $120 million
The very first movie of the fall season is looking like it could be an enormous hit, based on the early demand and social media buzz. It’s likely to become one of the biggest openings for a horror film — competing against Ridley Scott’s 2001 movie Hannibal and Paranormal Activity 3. It will probably end up in the $50 million to $60 million range, but it’s likely to peter down after that massive opening with Kingsman opening just two weeks later.
6. Pitch Perfect 3 (Universal – Dec. 22) – $110 million to $120 million
Opening during the usually slower weekend before Christmas won’t do this sequel many favors, as it might score a significantly lower opening than the $69 million opening of Pitch Perfect 2. There’s also a good chance that after two movies, this will seem like old hat to the fans of the previous two films, and franchise fatigue is likely to hurt it against stronger choices over the holidays.
7. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Sony – Dec. 20) – $100 million to $110 million
Although this comedy starring Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart and Jack Black opens mere days after The Last Jedi, it looks like the type of comedy that can have appeal to a wider audience, which should help it pick up steam over the actual holidays and through January. It’s biggest competition for women over the holidays is likely to be the above Pitch Perfect 3.
8. Kingsman: The Golden Circle (20th Century Fox – Sept. 22) – $100 million to $105 million
Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Secret Service was one of the breakout hits of 2014, and he’ll be trying to bring back some of the fans who helped that movie make over $400 million worldwide. Even with the action being moved to the States and the likes of Channing Tatum, Halle Berry and Jeff Bridges being added to the cast, this may have the same diminishing returns of other 2017 sequels.
9. Blade Runner 2049 (Warner Bros. – Oct. 6) – $95 million to $100 million
Thought to be one of the more anticipated sequels of the fall (if you don’t include any of the sequels above… or some below), Arrival director Denis Villeneuve takes up the baton from Ridley Scott for the sci-fi thriller starring Ryan Gosling with Harrison Ford returning as Rick Deckard from the first film. The original Blade Runner became a bigger cult hit after it left theaters way back in 1982, and while this should do fine opening weekend, it’s hard to imagine it can live up to the original movie, no matter how good it is.
10. The LEGO Ninjago Movie (Warner Bros. – Sept. 22) – $90 million to $95 million
Again, this is a little bit of an unknown, because it’s based on a popular cartoon series and toy line from LEGO, but it’s definitely targeting a younger audience compared to Kingsman, which will bring in teens and older guys that same weekend. This doesn’t seem like it will do nearly as well as the original LEGO Movie or even this year’s LEGO Batman Movie without that older male audience.
11. The Greatest Showman (20th Century Fox – Dec. 25) – $80 million
Still an unknown in terms of how it will fare in terms of awards, but this one seems like a slam dunk to release over the holidays when many people are on vacation from work and looking for movies to go see. Jackman did quite well for himself with Universal’s Les Miserables (also released over Christmas) and with Logan earlier this year, so this will be a good test to see him play another character — the great PT Barnum.
12. Daddy’s Home 2 (Paramount – Nov. 10) – $70 million to $75 million
This is likely to be one of those comedy sequels that doesn’t fare as well as the original, partially because no one asked for a sequel to the 2015 holiday hit that grossed $150 million, but also because it’s being released right between Thor: Ragnarok, Coco and Justice League. This will likely gross about half of what the original movie made.
13. Bad Moms Christmas (STXfilms – Nov. 3) – $70 million
And another sequel to a hit comedy, this one from last year’s Bad Moms, which grossed $183 million worldwide. Again, it was a fine movie but no one asked for a sequel, and opening a Christmas movie so early won’t do the film any favors opening weekend. Maybe it’ll get a boost if it sticks around through Thanksgiving weekend when people really start thinking about the holidays.
14. Jigsaw (Lionsgate – Oct. 27) – $65 million to 70 million
Lionsgate is resurrecting one of its early hits with this soft reboot of the Saw franchise, directed by Australia’s Spierig Brothers (Daywatchers). They’re releasing it just days before Halloween, which can go a long way towards reviving this franchise, which had four movies open over $30 million. This one probably will open lower than that, and it won’t have much room to build on that business with the big holiday movies coming just one week later.
15. Geostorm (Warner Bros. – Oct. 20) – $60 million
While Dean Devlin’s movie looks like another one of the disaster films he did with Roland Emmerich, but it’s unlikely to have the kind of success Emmerich had with movies like 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow. This one could bring in a good $25 million to $30 million opening weekend, but an October release (vs. summer) points to a movie that is likely to get destroyed by the critics, and not have much long-term play.
Alternate: Murder on the Orient Express (20th Century Fox – Nov. 10) – $60 million
This star-studded murder mystery directed by Kenneth Branagh has the potential to break out and be a sleeper if for no other reason than it’s different from everything else out there. Then again, it’s opening in that same awful weekend as Daddy’s Home 2, and there may not be that much business to go around. It also stars Johnny Depp who is slowly turning into box office poison these days.
Again, a lot can change between now and the end of the year. Some movies can be shifted to 2018, while others can start getting buzzy reviews that will help them do bigger business, a la Gravity or The Martian — though the opposite can happen too. All we know right now is that we’re coming off of one of the worst summers in years, and if that continues through the holidays, we can all expect fewer presents for Christmas (or the holiday of your choosing).
Edward Douglas | East Coast Editor