After the box office generated a bit of momentum in April and May, there's some serious pressure on the June releases to continue the upward swing. Though that might be tough: last June generated a huge $1.054 billion with 10 nationwide releases, while this June only has seven (the June gross record is $1.087 billion, set in June 2009). Four out of those seven movies have blockbuster aspirations, though there are major question marks surrounding each one. Still, with holdover grosses from Kung Fu Panda 2 and The Hangover Part II, along with inevitably solid performances from X-Men: First Class, Super 8, Green Lantern and Cars 2, June 2011 should at least come close to the billion dollar mark. June 3
After a monster Memorial Day weekend, X-Men: First Class is the only nationwide release scheduled for June 3. The movie hits theaters a little over two years after the first X-Men prequel, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, made just under $180 million with the lowest attendance for the series so far. A historical perspective suggests that, after Wolverine's reception, another X-Men prequel should fare worse. However, First Class brings back the ensemble nature of the first three X-Men, and also appears to have a more compelling story than the utterly redundant Wolverine movie. It also feels fresher than some of the other franchise material that's rolled out so far this Summer (and its outstanding initial reviews appear to reaffirm that), and it will provide relief for the cost-conscious moviegoer trying to avoid 3D ticket prices. Bottom Line: The X-Men will likely exceed the second weekend tallies of The Hangover Part II and Kung Fu Panda 2 and could even end up being a major hit. June 10
The Summer's biggest wild card hits theaters on June 10. At the beginning of 2011, Super 8 felt like this year's Inception: a mysterious, risky, original sci-fi movie from a blockbuster director, in this case J.J. Abrams instead of Christopher Nolan. While Inception built on this throughout its campaign by gradually revealing more and more, Super 8 remains a bit of an enigma. A good comparison is another Abrams-branded monster movie, Cloverfield, which opened to over $40 million in January 2008. A similar debut followed by inevitably stronger word-of-mouth should lead to a solid overall performance.
The weekend's other new movie, Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer, may settle for scraps. It's based off a popular children's book series, but, aside from Diary of a Wimpy Kid, non-fantasy adaptations rarely score at the box office. With a young female protagonist getting involved in various hijinks, Judy Moody brings to mind fellow adaptation Ramona and Beezus, which tanked last summer with $26.2 million. Sandwiched between family fare like Kung Fu Panda 2, Mr. Popper's Penguins and Cars 2, Judy Moody could be another whiff for upstart distributor Relativity. Bottom Line: Unless the X-Men turn out to be much bigger than expected, Super 8 should claim the weekend. June 17
The long-awaited big screen adaptation of Green Lantern goes head-to-head with the less-anticipated adaptation of Mr. Popper's Penguins on June 17. Green Lantern has become a bit of a punch line lately thanks to a disastrous marketing campaign. Initial previews failed to dazzle audiences, then more recent ones overcompensated by focusing on the alien planet Oa, the significance of which is lost on casual comic book fans. In the latest sign of desperation, Warner Bros. just released a "3D" trailer that features a lengthy explanatory monologue from Geoffrey Rush. Ultimately, the awkward effects and planet devouring villain call to mind Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, which opened on the same weekend in 2007 on its way to just under $132 million. It's reasonable to expect a similar tally for Green Lantern, which is not an impressive result for a mega-budget comic book adaptation. Mr. Popper's Penguins is obviously shooting lower than Green Lantern, though it has a very solid chance of being successful in its own right. The animal hijinks and the alienated father bring to mind Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Liar Liar, two of star Jim Carrey's most successful movies. It's also the only major non-animated, non-3D family offering in June, which is a huge advantage. There are big questions surrounding the movie, specifically whether or not Carrey and penguins remain popular. Still, this should put up decent numbers and could even flirt with $100 million. Bottom Line: Warner Bros.'s relentless marketing should ensure that Green Lantern wins the weekend, though it's going to take a lot more than that for the movie to avoid being dubbed a disappointment. June 24
For the second year in a row, Pixar is releasing a sequel in June. Last year, it was Toy Story 3, which felt like an organic expansion of a beloved franchise and therefore went on to earn $415 million. Cars 2, on the other hand, is a more blatant attempt to milk an incredibly lucrative brand. The first movie made $244.1 million in 2006 and has since sold billions of dollars of merchandise. The sequel ditches Nascar and the small-town America setting and opts instead for a globe-trotting espionage tale. During a year where an abundance of 3D animated fare has muted individual grosses a bit, Cars 2 may not be able to significantly out-gross its predecessor domestically, though it's sure to generate major traction overseas.
R-rated comedy Bad Teacher serves as counter-programming to Cars 2, and, so far, it has given off a Bad Santa-in-the-classroom vibe. While star Cameron Diaz has her detractors, her comedies are typically solid box office performers (the last one, What Happens in Vegas, earned $80.3 million in May 2008). Add in appealing co-stars Justin Timberlake and Jason Segel, along with a nice cushion between The Hangover Part II and Horrible Bosses, and Bad Teacher has the makings of a minor hit. Bottom Line:Cars 2 will drive off with a big win here, and should end up as one of the highest-grossing movies of the Summer.