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In A Crowded Summer 2013 Blockbuster Season, Which Risky Films Will Be Hits & Which Will Flop?

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist March 4, 2013 at 3:03PM

2013 has claimed its first would-be-blockbuster casualty. This past weekend saw "Jack The Giant Slayer," Bryan Singer's long-delayed $200 million fairy tale movie, open to a decidedly underwhelming $28 million, putting it on the path to losing "John Carter"/"Battleship"/"Total Recall"-style sums of money. It was hardly a surprise (most people with half a brain saw this coming months ago), but it's another illustration that for every expensive film that proves to be a hit, there's at least one that fails entirely to connect with the audience that it needs.
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The Internship Owen Wilson Vince Vaughn
"The Internship" (June 7th)
The Cost: "Wedding Crashers" cost $40 million, we'd be very surprised if this cost all that much more, especially given that Vaughn and Wilson's quotes aren't what they were.
The Risk: Eight years ago, "Wedding Crashers" was an unmitigated success, breaking $200 million domestic on a budget of only $40 million. But neither of its stars have ever quite been able to match that toll, with both hits and flops along the way. Owen Wilson saw "Marley and Me" go to $143 million, while Vince Vaughn's last hit was "Couples Retreat," which made just over $100, but their more recent pictures ("The Big Year," "The Dilemma," "The Watch") have mostly underperformed. Will teaming them up again, selling them as a sort of Hope/Crosby double act, be any more successful? The premise of "Wedding Crashers" relied on the pair being young(ish) singletons, but this time the premise revolves more around them being old and out of touch. Will that appeal to audiences in the same way? And while this summer isn't as loaded with comedy as last year, it still follows only two weeks on from "The Hangover Part III," which is sure to be a monster.
The (Possible) Return: Even if the film looked as appealing as "Wedding Crashers" (and right now, it doesn't), it's unlikely that it would match that film's total -- that was something of a once-in-a-blue-moon-phenomenon. But there may be enough goodwill towards Vaughn and Wilson that the film could come close to half the total (especially with the reliable Shawn Levy, who hasn't had a film take less than $80 mill domestically in over a decade). That said, last year's "The Watch" suggested that audiences may be after a comedic changing of the guard, so if the film doesn't get good word of month, it may struggle to make more than $50 million.

Fisher Now You See Me
"Now You See Me" (June 7th)
The Cost: Allegedly around $70 million, so on the lower end of summer fare.
The Risk: For those wanting a break from superheroes and CGI, "Now You See Me" seemed on paper like it could be one of the more refreshing alternatives, featuring a terrific cast including Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Melanie Laurent, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine, in a high-concept thriller about a group of magicians who pull off a seemingly impossible bank heist. While the trailer demonstrated a little too much CGI for our tastes, Louis Leterrier's movie still looked like fun, but we'd still call it one of the riskier prospects of the summer. Summit originally had the film set for January, then March, so the summer release certainly speaks for their confidence in the finished product. But none of the cast are major box-office draws (though the Eisenberg/Harrelson pairing had a modest success with "Zombieland"), and we suspect that it could get buried by its bigger competition in the heart of the summer -- it falls in that dicy in-between ground where it's not quite grown-up counter-programming, and not quite brainless action.
The (Possible) Return: This is one of the harder ones to call this summer. With good reviews and smart marketing, it could doing the $200-odd million that something like "Inside Man," made, though the $450 million of "Ocean's Eleven" seems out of reach. But if "After Earth" and "The Internship" both open big, this could end up being overshadowed significantly, particularly with the rest of June looking so packed.

This Is The End
"This Is The End" (June 14th)
The Cost: Possibly as low as $25 million, but depending on the level of carnage depicted, possibly closer to $40 million.
The Risk: As with their slightly older predecessors, the shine's starting to come off some of the Apatow set, box-office wise. Seth Rogen's "The Guilt Trip" and "50/50" both ended up around $35 million,  as did Jonah Hill's "The Sitter" and "The Watch" (though "21 Jump Street" took nearly four times that), while "Your Highness" took only $20 million two years ago. So will reuniting many of the main players on Rogen and co-writer Evan Goldberg's directorial debut, playing themselves alongside people like Rihanna and Emma Watson, restore some of the lost luster? The red-band clip that dropped recently was funny, and the film has a decent slot in a summer not overladen with R-rated chucklers, coming three weeks after "The Hangover Part III'" and two before "The Heat," plus it gets several months head start on the similarly named "The World's End."  But there's always the risk that the film could end up feeling like an indulgent in-joke, and prove alienating for viewers outside L.A. And just as importantly, it's opening against "Man Of Steel," which unless it turns out to be a fiasco (and the buzz is that it isn't), is likely to stomp it into tiny pieces .
The (Possible) Return: If that cost is accurate, the film is essentially going to go into profit whatever Sony do. Five years ago, some might have tipped this to be a $100 million grosser, but it seems to us that by slating it against "Man Of Steel," they'll be happy for it to hit that $35 million ceiling, and crank out some extra on home video. But, if "Man Of Steel" underperforms, or if they get a trailer in front of another "The Hangover Part III" screenings to make people want to go (it's that technique that helped "Horrible Bosses" become a $100 million hit), maybe it'll exceed our expectations.

World War Z, teaser trailer image
"World War Z"
The Cost: The film was nearly scrapped when Paramount got uneasy about the $125 million budget; it's unclear if that got trimmed down, or if partners Skydance helped make that more palatable. But supposedly, it had risen to $170 million even before the seven-week reshoots late last year, so our guess is it'll be at least $200 million before marketing.
The Risk: Brad Pitt is about as solid a box-office prospect as you could ask for, in commercial fare at least. But "World War Z" feels particularly risky in terms of his studio fare: a sweeping, epic zombie horror actioner, and yet one that's almost certain to carry a PG-13 rating. Paramount are probably hoping it matches the mega-grossing "I Am Legend" (nearly $600 million worldwide) , but that didn't have the high-falutin' socio-political aspirations that Pitt has talked about, and was also virtually unchallenged on release, while "World War Z" will follow the week after "Man Of Steel," and go head-to-head with Pixar's "Monsters University." And then there's the bad buzz that includes the movie being pushed back, a well-publicized total rewrite and extensive third act reshoot. Will it be enough to rescue the movie?
The (Possible) Return): The bad buzz hasn't necessarily broached the consciousness of the mainstream media at this point, and even if it did, moviegoers may not care that much. Even so, films this troubled can still reek, and Paramount's marketing campaign has been pretty tepid by avoiding use of the term zombie, or even making clear what the threat is, while using the same footage in the Super Bowl spot as they did in the teaser. As such, we'd be very surprised if this did anything close to "I Am Legend" numbers. Pitt's biggest hit remains the $500 million "Troy," a more commercial prospect than this. That being said, Pitt rarely misses completely with a non-arthouse film, so this probably won't be a historic flop either.

This article is related to: Features, World War Z, Pacific Rim, The Lone Ranger, After Earth, Summer Pile-Up


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