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

by Oliver Lyttelton
March 4, 2013 3:03 PM
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The Heat, trailer
"The Heat" (June 28th)
The Cost: Aside from a substantial paycheck for Bullock, and probably a decent one for McCarthy, it probably wasn't wildly expensive. Assuming they took upfront payments, let's call it $60 million all in.
The Risk Factor: Sandra Bullock certainly has a built-in audience, but it tends to be for reasonably comforting fare -- "The Proposal," "The Blind Side," "Miss Congeniality" et al. When she steps outside that zone, as with "Premonition" or "The Lake House," takings tend to drop. Which is why it's intriguing to see her starring in an R-rated action comedy. Will that alienate her usual audience? However, the film got moved quite late on from April to the heart of summer, which is a show of confidence.
The Return: While it could be seen as a risk on paper, this looks like a license to print money to us. Bullock's a reliable leading lady solo (and her desire to push her brand a little bit here is admirable), and teaming her with "Bridesmaids" director Paul Feig, and that film's breakout Melissa McCarthy (the main draw of the lone box-office bright spot of 2013 so far with "Identity Thief") is a golden opportunity. The film looks pretty funny as it is, and it has a prime release date, with no comedy competition for two weeks either side of it (and no R-rated comedy competition until "We're The Millers" six weeks later). This definitely feels like a case where Fox moving the film to the summer was a bullish move. The film should crest $100 million domestic, but it could go as high as "The Proposal" or even "Bridesmaids" ($179 million).

White House Down, Channing Tatum
"White House Down" (June 28th)
The Cost: Ain't nobody saying. Given the smaller scope, it's likely to be less than the $200 million cost of "2012,' but it's probably also well over $100 million.
The Risk Factor: Every year has some kind of duelling-premises contest between rival movies, and this year brings the contest between two "Die Hard"-in-the-White-House movies. And "White House Down" has the disadvantage of coming a couple of months after "Olympus Has Fallen." Coming second didn't affect "Snow White & The Huntsman" which comfortably outgrossed "Mirror Mirror," but they seemed to have more obvious differences in their target audiences. At this point at least, four months from release, Sony haven't shown much beyond stills of "White House Down," and maybe need to get going on that campaign, for risk of making audiences think they've already seen the film, and that it starred Gerard Butler. Plus "Olympus Has Fallen" looks so terrible that it could be tarnished by association. It's also worth noting that the "Die Hard"-type movie hasn't been a great draw in recent years: even "A Good Day To Die Hard" is struggling, and looks likely to be the lowest-grossing of that series.
The Return: All that said, Roland Emmerich is, for the most part a hit machine (if we exclude "Anonymous,""10,000 BC" is his only significant flop, and even that took over $250 million worldwide), and Channing Tatum has proven a reliable lead across the last year pushing three movies to over $110 million domestic. Having co-star Jamie Foxx coming off "Django Unchained" will help too. Hitting just in time for the 4th of July weekend can only be a boost too. It's unfortunate to be splitting audiences with "The Heat" (as Tatum vehicle "Magic Mike" did with "Ted" on the same slot last year), but both films should perform, with the $300 million worldwide take of "Air Force One" probably the high watermark in this case.

Lone Ranger, Johnny Depp
"Lone Ranger" (July 3rd)
The Cost: Shut down/delayed once because of a budget deemed unacceptable to Disney, the film was eventually greenlit, only for costs to soar again once filming began. It's likely to be at least $250 million, and may have gone higher than that even, making it one of the summer's most expensive films.
The Risk: You wouldn't think that a movie that reteams most of the creatives behind the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films, which have taken close to $4 billion between them, could be deemed as a risk. But you also wouldn't have thought a western could cost over $350 million (once P&A is taken into account) either, and yet here we are. It's the kind of "John Carter"-ish sum that means the film has to be a megahit or bust (we're not even sure that the $600 million that the original 'Pirates' took would put this into the black). But the risks go beyond that. Depp proved with "The Tourist" and "Dark Shadows" that he can't turn everything into gold, and co-star Armie Hammer is untested as a draw. Plus westerns historically perform less well internationally, and worldwide gross has been the savior of recent 'Pirates' films (75% of the take for "On Stranger Tides" came from outside the U.S.). Plus, remember "Cowboys & Aliens."
The Return: Much of this was said about pirates movies before "Pirates of the Caribbean," so it's possible that if the film works, Disney have another billion-dollar franchise on their hands. Depp certainly remains popular enough around the world, and even if the character isn't exactly popular, there's a degree of name recognition there. Plus Disney are probably comforted that "Django Unchained" has so far made 60% of its box office abroad, so westerns aren't totally U.S-centric. But even so, Disney's marketing hasn't quite brought across the have-to-see factor. We can see a world in which this makes "John Carter" money, around $300 million, and a bunch of people at Disney lose their jobs. We can also see a world where it gets over a billion. The truth is likely somewhere in between.

Pacific Rim Idris Elba Rinko Kikuchi
"Pacific Rim" (July 12th)
The Cost: No stars keeps the overheads relatively low, but reports vary as to how much the whole shebang costs, from $150 million to $250 million.
The Risk: Like "Oblivion" and "After Earth," "Pacific Rim" is a sci-fi action epic that isn't based on pre-existing comics/video games/etc, but unlike those films, it doesn't have a Will Smith or a Tom Cruise (though the latter was briefly in talks for Idris Elba's role, as it happens). What it does have is an acclaimed and beloved director, one who studios are happy to give major sums to to make something like this. But unlike, say, James Cameron and Christopher Nolan, Del Toro is an unproven force at the box-office: "Hellboy II" is his top-grosser, but even that only took $160 million. He might draw in the cinephiles, but he's not really a name that registers with the general public. And while the concept is fairly irresistible, the trailer didn't do much to sell it to the general public (comparisons to "Transformers" got out there, which as "Battleship" proved, doesn't help you much unless you're actually a "Transformers" movie). Another clip, with more finished effects and a clearer sense of narrative, could yet pull it back though.
The Return: Of everything this summer, this is the one that feels like it could go either way. When we read the script, we thought to ourselves, "This is going to make a billion dollars." But we don't sense a lot of buzz out there for this amongst the general public, as yet, and while it's early, July is creeping closer. We're still confident than Del Toro can deliver the goods, but Warners can't make the same mistake that many have before, and just sell it to the geek crowds who'll turn up to anything with a giant robot and a cool monster (and there is a lot more to the script beyond that). This might end up doing "Inception" type numbers if it works and word of mouth is strong, or it could still be the summer's most high profile flop.

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  • Daniel J | April 1, 2013 1:47 PMReply

    Movies have been as stale as three day old popcorn. Glad to see the summer movie season is upon us. Check out our summer preview over at Not spam, just a suggestion.

  • Nope | March 18, 2013 11:03 PMReply

    As usual, the fanboys are obsessed with numbers and their pet actors or directors. Here's the deal: it's all about the writing. The best actors and directors can't save a crappy script.

  • bapi | March 5, 2013 4:38 AMReply

    Oblivion - Some leaked e-mails from one production company said it has 165M production budget. I think it could make around 380M WW so nothing special but after DVD/BR sales etc. they could make some money.

    The Great Gatsby - with rumored 150M production budget... I can't see more than 260M WW. Not good at all for WB.

    After Earth - looks so bad so I believe it won't cross 250M WW.

    Now You See Me - looks good and I heard the script is fun so something around 180M WW is possible.

    World War Z - I think WWZ could finish around 400M. Woudl be a good result after so many problems.

    White House Down - the hottest actor under 35 + Emmerich + super-entertaining script = 320M WW

    Lone Ranger - 270M production budget and trailers look like another disaster, John Carter 2.0. But overseas markets should help Johnny again - 440M WW.

    Pacific Rim - GdT didn't make a really big movie yet and some fanboys are expecting 1 Billion or more - not possible! But something around 630M WW would be a fantastic result!

    R.I.P.D. - filming was completed in January '12 but I know they were still reshooting two weeks ago! This movie will be a complete disaster and won't cross 150M WW!

    Elysium - impossible to predict right now but I believe Elysium will make 310M WW!

  • Topy | March 5, 2013 12:15 AMReply

    I'd say The Lone Ranger won't bomb completely but they won't make a profit out of it...others don't really seem like they're gonna tank.

    Got a referral from Rope of Silicon. :)

  • Liam | March 4, 2013 6:02 PMReply

    My most anticipated movie here is definitely Now You See Me. It looks awesomely original & fun. I will see Oblivion, Fast & Furious 6, 300:Rise of an Empire, Sin City 2 & Man of steal in theater but for the others I don't know, maybe if my friends recommend some of them to me.

  • Jax | March 4, 2013 4:44 PMReply

    Jack Reacher out grossed Safehouse and had a 25 mil lesser budget!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • LordJiggy | March 4, 2013 4:43 PMReply

    "Pacific Rim" looks like wretched indulgent crap, "Godzilla Meets Transformers (run by guys in body suits!)," the kind of garbage fanboys who've spent too much time in the basement go into geek-gasms about. Attempting to slip in a little Lovecraftian lore isn't going to be enough.

  • Alan B | March 5, 2013 3:20 AM

    "The same brilliant mind that brought us Pan's Labyrinth." I don't understand this reasoning. Yes, 'Pan's Labyrinth' is a brilliant film. Yes, 'The Devil's Backbone' is also very good and weirdly underrated. However, there is a strong disconnect in terms of quality between his smaller films and his blockbusters. You can see in the second 'Blade' film that Del Toro is far more interested in the ancient vampire family and their tragedies than the generic superhero antics of the hero. 'Hellboy 2' is much better than the first film, mainly because Del Toro realize that, hey, maybe Hellboy should be the lead character in a Hellboy film. And 'Mimic' is just a stupid mess (though that's not entirely his fault). Now, he's doing a 'Transformers' knock-off where not only are the audiences disconnected from the action, but the characters are, too.

  • Efren | March 4, 2013 7:08 PM

    You could not be more wrong. Its directed by Guillermo Del Toro. The same brilliant mind that brought us Pan's Labyrinth. I doubt its going to be anything but a huge hit. The CGi looks top-notch. You're acting like an ignorant idiot. This is a fantastic idea for a summer blockbuster.

  • vincent | March 4, 2013 4:42 PMReply

    Jack Reacher made 213 mil, is getting a sequel and has a budget of only 60 mil. While u called Safehouse a hit, it has a budget of 85 mil and only made 207 mil.

  • cirkusfolk | March 4, 2013 4:30 PMReply

    I just saw a trailer for a film called Olympus Has Fallen that comes out March 22nd. I have never heard of this film and thought it was the similarly themed White House Down which comes out this summer at first. I guess we have another Mirror Moirror/Snow White and the Huntsman situation here but when I saw the budget for this Olympus film was 80 mil, I knew they had a flop on their hands. 3 weeks away and no marketing yet?

  • cirkusfolk | March 4, 2013 5:00 PM

    Well I guess I should've read the article first as u mention both films, ha.

  • j bone | March 4, 2013 4:27 PMReply

    i hope RIPD bombs, so we can finally put an end to the ryan reynolds is a movie star experiment

  • kindred spirit | March 4, 2013 8:15 PM

    Totally agree. He should take a few steps out of the newly written Blake Lively playbook and just take a breather and not do movies for a long time. Also, Gatsby will be a success- and have Oscar noms to boot.

  • NOPE | March 4, 2013 4:08 PMReply

    If RIPD costs 200 million it's going to fucking flop hard. Has anyone even heard about this movie? I thought this was some little 40 million dollar movie, why does this cost so much?

  • Nope | March 18, 2013 10:58 PM

    Of course you would totally agree. You gave yourself away with that Gatsby comment. Take off your Leo goggles and smell the coffee. If Gatsby was Oscar bait, it would have a better release date.

  • PRESIDENT MAO | March 4, 2013 3:37 PMReply

    'Pacific Rim' seems to be the next 'John Carter'. Wait and see.

  • Efren | March 4, 2013 7:09 PM

    Nah, it won't. It doesn't have Taylor Kitch. It has Guillermo Del Toro!

  • Will | March 4, 2013 4:26 PM

    'Pacific Rim' is going to make a killing overseas.

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