As is tradition here at Box Office Mojo, we're starting the season off with a list of predictions for the highest-grossing movies. Titles are ranked based on their domestic box office forecast, though foreign predictions are included as well.
Overall, though, the crop doesn't seem as strong as in years past. Ultimately, it would be very surprising if this Summer topped last year's record $4.75 billion haul.
Without further ado, here are Box Office Mojo's predictions for Summer 2014. After reading, please make sure to share your own predictions on Facebook.
Top 20 Predictions
1. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (June 13): The first How to Train Your Dragon earned $217.6 million in early 2010, and remains one of the most popular animated movies in recent memory (it ranks in the all-time Top 250 on IMDb). In a Summer lacking any serious animated competition, it's a foregone conclusion that How to Train Your Dragon 2 will improve upon its predecessor. If it follows the same pattern as Despicable Me 2, it will earn $320 million at the domestic box office. (Domestic: $325 million, Foreign: $505 million).
2. X-Men: Days of Future Past (May 23): The X-Men franchise is coming off its two lowest-grossing outings at the domestic box office (X-Men: First Class and The Wolverine). In an effort to reinvigorate the series, Days of Future Past brings back many members of the original cast, and matches Wolverine up with the First Class group (some of whom have seen their star power rise substantially in the past three years). Early trailers sold the high-stakes story, while recent material has positioned it as a fun, exciting team-up movie akin to The Avengers. Adjusted for inflation, the third X-Men movie earned the equivalent of $285 million; with the addition of 3D ticket pricing, that's a reasonable expectation for Days of Future Past. (Domestic: $290 million, Foreign: $470 million)
3. Transformers: Age of Extinction (June 27): The first three Transformers movies all earned over $300 million at the domestic box office, and the last one reached $1.1 billion worldwide. The fourth installment subs out Shia LaBeouf for Mark Wahlberg, though that might not be enough to make up for the fact that the last two movies aren't held in high esteem (fool me once… etc.). A decrease on par with the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean would put Age of Extinction at $275 million; the movie should mostly make up for this overseas, where it's sure to be a huge hit. (Domestic: $285 million, Foreign: $750 million)
4. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (July 11): In 2011, Rise of the Planet of the Apes became a surprise late-Summer hit with $176.8 million. The sequel brings back Andy Serkis as Caesar, and takes the story in an exciting new direction (apes vs. humans in a post-apocalyptic wasteland). With goodwill from the first installment and a strong mid-July release date, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes should top its predecessor's domestic gross. Thanks to the addition of 3D, look for big gains overseas as well. (Domestic: $240 million, Foreign: $460 million)
5. Godzilla (May 16): The bad taste from 1998's Godzilla movie has been washed away by strong trailers that show off the human impact of large-scale destruction while only providing brief glimpses of the monster. This calls to mind the marketing strategy for last year's World War Z, which kept its zombies obscured for the most part. While Godzilla doesn't have Brad Pitt, the giant lizard should make up for that. Adjusting for inflation, the 1998 movie earned around $230 million, which is a fair target for this movie. Also, look for huge international returns. (Domestic: $230 million, Foreign: $440 million)
6. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (May 2): Five years after the Sam Raimi/Tobey MaguireSpider-Man franchise ended, Sony rebooted the popular superhero in 2012's The Amazing Spider-Man. The movie was the lowest-grossing entry yet at the domestic box office ($262 million), but was still a strong player worldwide. Less than two years later, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has the webcrawler facing an assortment of villains including Electro and the Green Goblin in what's billed as his "greatest battle" yet. It also returns Spidey to the prime first weekend of May, which is where the franchise set opening weekend box office records twice (in 2002 and 2007). Still, as the fifth movie in 12 years, it can't help but feel a bit redundant. With franchise fatigue in full effect, another decrease in domestic box office is likely. (Domestic: $225 million. Foreign: $480 million)
7. Guardians of the Galaxy (August 1): This is the first original Marvel Cinematic Universe movie since Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011, and is probably the riskiest of any of the MCU movies so far. The eclectic band of characters has no cultural cache yet, and there's no clear tie-in with the rest of the universe. The attention-grabbing first trailer directly addressed this issue by spending an inordinate amount of time introducing each member, including a gun-toting raccoon and a human man who goes by Star Lord (played by Chris Pratt). There's a possibility that Guardians winds up being this Summer's Pacific Rim—the online hype outweighing general interest—though we're betting it winds up on par with the original Thor. (Domestic: $180 million, Foreign: $250 million)
8. Maleficent (May 30): Based on Disney's animated classic Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent is the latest live-action fantasy from the studio that found success with similar movies Alice in Wonderland and (to a lesser extent) Oz The Great and Powerful. A better comparison here may be 2012 fantasy Snow White and the Huntsman, which opened on the same weekend and also focused its marketing on an iconic villain (in this case, its Angelina Jolie's Maleficent). That movie earned $155.3 million at the domestic box office; with a family-friendly "PG" rating, Maleficent has a good chance of matching that. (Domestic: $150 million, Foreign: $300 million)
9. Neighbors (May 9): Seth Rogen is coming off one of his biggest hits yet in This is the End, and that well-received comedy has been highlighted in Neighbors marketing. More importantly, though, Neighbors has a great comedic set-up that's front-and-center in all of Universal's advertising ("Family Vs. Frat"). It's also well-positioned as the first R-rated comedy in a Summer that's full of them. Finally, positive early reviews suggest the kind of word-of-mouth that can take a comedy hit to the next level. (Domestic: $140 million, Foreign: $65 million)
10. 22 Jump Street (June 13): Like any other kind of sequel, comedy follow-ups are a mixed bag: for every Meet the Fockers (+68%), there's a Sex and the City 2 (-38%). 22 Jump Street will likely wind up somewhere in the middle. The first movie is well-liked, and previews have enough strong gags to suggest that this one delivers as well. Unfortunately, it also opens in the more-competitive Summer season, and comes on the heels of three original May comedies that should all do solid business. Ultimately, expect 22 Jump Street to wind up in the same range as the original. (Domestic: $135 million, Foreign: $75 million)
11. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (August 8): With the potential to add to already impressive toy sales, it makes financial sense to bring the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles back to the big screen. The first teaser left something to be desired, though, and the mid-August release date is tricky (with Guardians a week before, can this really break out?). It's possible that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles performs on par with 2009 toy adaptation G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra ($150.2 million), but for now we're betting lower on it. (Domestic: $130 million, Foreign: $255 million)
12. A Million Ways to Die in the West (May 30): Writer/director Seth MacFarlane is coming off debut feature Ted, which was a worldwide sensation with nearly $550 million. It's unreasonable to expect Million Ways to come anywhere close to that—MacFarlane is untested in front of the camera, and Westerns only have a so-so track record. Still, the trailer is laugh-out-loud funny, and the Ted brand definitely broadens its appeal. (Domestic: $125 million, Foreign: $170 million)