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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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Ryan Reynolds R.I.P.D. Set Photo
"R.I.P.D." (July 19th)
The Cost: Rumors are that it came in over $200 million, and that was before the recent decision to convert the film to 3D.
The Risk: Actually, we may have jumped the gun when we said that "Pacific Rim" might have the chance to be the summer's most high profile flop, we may have jumped the gun a bit. Ryan Reynolds had two summer misses in 2011 with "Green Lantern" and "The Change-Up," but by that time, he'd already been cast in this Universal production, which teams him with Jeff Bridges in a "Men In Black"-style effects-packed action comedy. The film shot at the end of 2011, and has been in lengthy post-production ever since, but five months out from release, not a single still or piece of footage has been unveiled. Perhaps of more concern, the studio made a last minute decision to convert the movie to 3D, which suggests that they think they could probably use the subsidized ticket sales ("Pacific Rim" did the same, but with a year to go). The public essentially have no idea that the film exists at this point, so Universal have a lot of work to do to get the word out, assuming that they don't end up pushing it back (which is entirely possible at this point).
The Reward: It should be mentioned that Reynolds had a solid hit with "Safe House," which like this, paired him with an older co-star, to the sum of $200 million worldwide. And last summer reminded us of the appeal of the "Men In Black" movies to worldwide moviegoers. But this is a new property, based on a comic no one knows, and Reynolds and Bridges don't equal Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. If the bad buzz is wrong, and the film's a crowd-pleaser, it could turn out to be a surprise and end up around the $400-500 million mark, but much more likely (given stiff competition) is that it ends up doing about the same as "Safe House," which would mean that Universal will be writing off a lot of money. Either way, they should probably start selling the thing. 

Matt Damon Elysium Header
"Elysium" (Aug 9th)
The Cost: Significantly more than the $30 million cost of "District 9," the film was originally intended to be made for around $90 million, but we'd wager it came in over $100 million by the time reshoots were completed.
The Risk: Four years ago, "District 9" proved to be a pleasant surprise -- a low-budget sci-fi (that looked like it cost four or five time as much as it really did) with no names, sold mostly on the name of executive producer Peter Jackson, that proved to be a solid late-summer hit. This time around, expectations are higher, not least thanks to a bigger budget, and the presence of movie stars Matt Damon and Jodie Foster as the hero and villain of the piece. But will the takings rise with the budget? The film's set to be very much a continuation of its predecessor, mixing socio-political themes, sci-fi and ultraviolence. But will those who caught up with "District 9" at home flock to theaters for this? They'll have to, because the film probably won't break even if it makes the same $210 million that its predecessor did. Sony pushed the film back from its original March 1st date, which is also a little concerning, particularly because August is so overloaded with older-skewing action pictures. And it's worth remembering that outside the "Bourne" movies, Matt Damon's hasn't been a consistent draw, although this does at least see him back on ass-kicking territory.
The Reward: Again, outside of a Comic-Con presentation (which was, it should be said, rapturously received), no trailer or footage has been seen from the film yet, though a few stills and virals have arrived. But "District 9" was a late starter too, and still played well. Like we said, if it matches that film's total (or that of last summer's "Total Recall" remake), it'll be disappointing, but if it can make it to the $300 million mark, it'll be a little more respectable.

Also out: Generally speaking, sequels to established franchises are safer bets, and the main question with "Iron Man 3," "Star Trek Into Darkness," "Fast & Furious 6," "The Hangover Part 3," "Despicable Me 2," "Monsters University," "Grown Ups 2" and "The Wolverine" isn't if they'll make money, but how much they'll take. August brings some slightly dicier prospects in "300: Rise Of An Empire" (which doesn't retain the original director or most of the cast), "Red 2" and "Kick-Ass 2." The former two were sleepers that now have to stand their ground against more competition, the latter wasn't a huge hit in the first place, and was only greenlit on the basis of strong home video performance.

Elsewhere, "Epic" and "Turbo" mark new animated properties, and unless one tanks like "Rise of the Guardians" did last year, they should be fine. Horror flick "The Conjuring" looks to have the potential to be a sleeper hit (don't be surprised if it outgrosses the more expensive "R.I.P.D" when they open on the same weekend), while as "2 Guns" stars two of the most reliable box-office draws in North America, Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, and we expect it'll do fine. Finally, "Man Of Steel" is an interesting question: it'll have to outperform "Superman Returns" to be seen as a success, but with the goodwill of Christopher Nolan's name (and the strong buzz we're hearing around the film), that shouldn't be a problem. 


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


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