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Which Summer 2023 Movies Will Make the Most Money?
Here are my guesses. Later, you can laugh at how wrong I am.
Every year on The Filmcast, we host an annual Summer Movie Wager and this year was no different. The rules (which you can read here) are a bit ridiculous but the fundamental goal is to to rank the top 10 films of the summer by domestic box office. The closer you get to the actual final ranking, the more points you get.
Last year, I actually struggled to fill out the list with 10 titles at all; the number of movies that got theatrical releases was so spartan that it didn’t really feel like a normal summer. This year feels much more like a pre-COVID summer, with several weeks actually having more than one film release I’m interested in seeing. Will the summer finally be back this year? Only time (and the increasingly fickle American public) will tell!
Of course, one of the most fun things about the wager is how wrong our guesses turn out to be. We have no idea how good any of these movies are and I’m still old fashioned enough to think that movie quality sometimes makes an impact on box office. Inevitably there will be a handful of titles that perform wildly above or below what we possibly could’ve imagined (Top Gun Maverick, anyone?). So I’m begging you, please understand: even though I’m presenting my guesses straightforwardly, I have approximately 0% confidence that any of my rankings will be accurate. This is just for fun and you should not consider any of this to be professional advice. Or professional in any capacity, really.
Below are my picks for the top 10 movies of summer 2023 ranked by what I think their domestic box office will be. Feel free to make fun of my choices in the comments. And enter the wager yourself at thesummermoviewager.com.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (My estimate: $450MM)
Release Date: May 5 — Comp: Guardians Vol 2. (2017, $389MM)
Vol. 3 has been billed as the conclusion to the Guardians franchise. With James Gunn at the helm, I’m confident that he will deliver an emotional, heartbreaking Marvel entry that will open big and lead to repeat viewings at the theater. Number one, baby!
2. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (My estimate: $350-400MM)
Release date: June 30 — Comp: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008, $317MM)
If Top Gun Maverick showed anything, it’s that the American public is ready for another action adventure movie from an aging star heading up a sequel to a movie from the 1908s! Yes, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was trash, but I trust James Mangold and his ability to deliver a thrilling conclusion to one of the most beloved franchises of all time. If all goes well, this could be the type of adventure movie that will appeal to all audiences. If all goes well.
3. The Little Mermaid (My estimate: ~$350MM)
Release date: May 26 — Comp: Aladdin (2019, $355MM)
Every piece of marketing I’ve seen from this movie makes it look off-putting, unappealing, and artistically bankrupt. But it sounds…amazing? Hearing Halle Bailey re-perform these beloved songs is a big draw for me personally and even when these “live action” remakes aren’t good, they destroy at the box office.
4. The Flash (My Estimate: ~$300MM)
Release date: June 16 — Comp: Aquaman (2018, $335MM)
The trailer for The Flash is a barnburner and there are enough fan service-y elements here that I think it’s going to bring people out from all quadrants. James Gunn has also said it’s one of the best superhero films he’s ever seen, which is conspicuously not something he said about Shazam! Fury of the Gods. This could be a hit; it could also be one of the old DC Universe’s dying gasps. I honestly have no idea which one will happen, but I’m betting on the former.
[All this said, it’s dismaying that one of the biggest movies of the summer will financially benefit someone who has been going on a reign of terror around the country.]
5. Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part 1 (My estimate: ~$250MM)
Release date: July 14 — Comp: Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018, $220MM)
People generally regard the Mission: Impossible films as a successful franchise, but none of them have ever beat Fallout’s $220MM domestic gross. This year, though, I suspect Tom Cruise will get a Top Gun Maverick bump, with more people being willing to give Cruise’s other franchise a chance.
So why isn’t this higher on the list? I think the Part 1 of the title will actually deter people from seeing it! Most people don’t want to watch half a movie unless they are Harry Potter fans. Right? Hopefully?
6. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (My estimate: ~$225MM)
Release date: June 2 — Comp: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018, $190MM)
The first movie won an Oscar, was critically beloved, and has a massive fan base that’s only grown over time. If this sequel is even almost as good as the first one, it should beat the gross of the first film handily. But by how much? I’m going to guess: Slightly. Of all my choices, this is the one that I’m most nervous about putting so low on the list.
7. Fast X (My estimate: ~$200MM)
Release date: May 19 — Comp: F9: The Fast Saga (2021, $173MM)
I’m a big fan of this series but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that interest in this franchise is waning. F9 was release during the pandemic and didn’t do too well but even Fate of the Furious only made $226MM. The case for: People will be interested to see Jason Momoa and Brie Larson mix it up with Vin Diesel in another globe-trotting adventure. The case against: they were assembling this vehicle at the same time they were driving it and the entry might somehow be even worse than usual? We’ll see.
8. Barbie (My estimate: ~$175MM)
Release date: July 21 — Comp: ???
Initially, Barbie was much higher on the list, as the ferocity of internet fandom I’ve seen around this title is more intense than any other film here. But while I still think it will be a success, this current ranking feels a little bit more realistic. Estimates peg this opening at around $30MM but I actually think it’ll open bigger and that it’ll really have staying power. Greta Gerwig doesn’t miss.
9. Oppenheimer (My estimate: ~$150MM)
Release date: July 21 — Comp: Dunkirk (2017, $188MM)
Christopher Nolan is one of the few filmmakers that can open a film on his name alone. That said: the movie looks as depressing as hell and it’s three hours long, which I think will limit its potential. THAT said: every Christopher Nolan movie has had some kind of massive twist. I’m guessing there are some critical elements the marketing hasn’t yet revealed and that could be a decisive factor here.
10. Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (My estimate: ~$125-$150MM)
Release date: June 9 — Comp: Bumblebee (2018, $127MM)
I’m actually not convinced this is a movie that actually exists, but people like Transformers movies so here it is.
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