8. Prometheus (June 8): If I were to tell you that on the second weekend of June there's a heavily-hyped sci-fi movie clouded in secrecy that's a throwback to a filmmakers' work from the late 70s and early 80s, what year would you say we're in? If you respond "I don't know, because that sounds like Super 8 and Prometheus!" then you get a high five. With the is-it-or-isn't-it-an-Alien-prequel talk, and the outstanding teaser trailer from December, Prometheus has assumed the mantle of "most anticipated non-sequel of Summer 2012" among fanboys, though that isn't enough to translate to major box office success. Super 8 topped out at $127 million—if Prometheus turns out to be as good as it looks, it will wind up higher, though probably not by much (and it will likely suffer at the box office if it gets slapped with an R rating). Forecast: $145 million
9. Rock of Ages (June 15): 2007's Hairspray ($118.9 million) and 2008's Mamma Mia! ($144.1 million) proved that Summer can be an incredibly lucrative time to release a fun musical adaptation. It's surprising it took four years to get another one of these titles to the big screen, but Rock of Ages has the kind of all-star cast (including Tom Cruise) and recognizable music (80s hair metal tunes) to turn it in to a similar hit. Forecast: $140 million
10. Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted: (June 8): The first two Madagascar movies earned $193.6 million and $180 million, respectively. Whether it's because kids are catching on, or parents are watching their wallets a bit closer, though, animated sequels have lately been seeing substantial drop-offs compared to their predecessors. Last Summer, Kung Fu Panda 2 dipped 23 percent from the original Kung Fu Panda, while Cars 2 dropped 21 percent. Marketing's best attempt at distinguishing the latest Madagascar movie is by showing the characters in funky wigs, and that probably won't not enough to prevent a similar drop. It doesn't help, either, that the first original Pixar movie in three years comes out just two weeks later. Forecast: $135 million
11. Ice Age: Continental Drift (July 13): The last two Ice Age movies were consistent at $195.3 million and $196.6 million, but maintaining that level for a fourth entry seems unlikely. The addition of dinosaurs for the third movie was a nice way to maintain the franchise's relevance, but Continental Drift drops the dinosaurs in favor of a more generic lost-at-sea story. With Brave still probably going strong, Ice Age: Continental Drift will wind up with much less than its predecessors. Forecast: $130 million
12. Dark Shadows (May 11): Opening in the shadow of The Avengers isn't an appealing position for anyone to be in, but long-time collaborators Johnny Depp and Tim Burton have as good a chance as any to defy expectations here. The last two live-action movies these two worked on were 2005's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ($206.5 million) and 2010's Alice in Wonderland ($334.2 million). Dark Shadows is more of a niche product than either of those movies, though it has a fun, retro vibe to it, and could have cross-generational appeal (younger audiences dig vampires, older ones fondly remember the soap opera). Forecast: $125 million
13. That's My Boy (June 15): In early classics like Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Waterboy and Big Daddy, Adam Sandler established a career playing grown men who behaved like children. In That's My Boy, Sandler appears to go back to his roots by playing the most irresponsible father in history. Releasing over Father's Day weekend is a stroke of genius, and Sandler fans of most ages will likely show up—the main reason this isn't in line for Waterboy and Big Daddy grosses ($161.5 million and $163.5 million, respectively) is the fact that its R-rating is going to restrict the audience a bit. Forecast: $120 million
14. Hope Springs (August 15): Women and older audiences tend to be neglected during the Summer, and there's usually a late-season offering that over-performs with this group. This year, Hope Springs seems poised to fill that void. With Mamma Mia! ($144.1 million), The Devil Wears Prada ($124.7 million), and Julie & Julia ($94.1 million), Meryl Streep has an impressive Summer track record over the past half-decade, and Steve Carell, Tommy Lee Jones and a sex-driven story should help convince male audiences to tag along. Forecast: $115 million
15. Snow White and the Huntsman (June 1): Coming off an often-busy May, it's not always a great move to open on the first weekend of June, and as a result Snow White and the Huntsman is the only major studio production to fill that slot this year. With Kristen Stewart starring as a reimagined badass version of Snow White, the movie will have substantial appeal among younger women. The key to truly breaking out is reaching men with Lord of the Rings-style action, which has only been mildly effective so far. If late May's releases wind up significantly underperforming this could be a huge hit, but as it stands now it probably won't break out. Forecast: $110 million
There's only so much money to go around, so there are going to be movies that miss the mark this Summer. Battleship (May 18) has started turning the corner from cynical cash grab to actually look like an entertaining Summer movie, but being sandwiched between The Avengers and MIB 3 pretty much guarantees this winds up being the lowest-grossing of May's alien invasion movies. Total Recall (August 3) is also a big sci-fi question mark—it looks appealing enough, but it's going to have a tough time distracting male audiences from The Bourne Legacy, which is opening on the same date.
Comedies are generally difficult to call, so there are four of them that are just missing the Top 15 in this forecast. As colleges let out in the second and third weeks of May, The Dictator (May 16) will be a nice attraction for students as they finish up finals, though reaching Borat's $128.5 million total seems out of reach. Putting Mark Wahlberg alongside a crude CGI teddy bear (voiced by MacFarlane) makes Ted (July 13) look like the sort of audacious, high-concept R-rated comedy that can hit it big in the Summer, though it's going to burn out quickly against The Dark Knight Rises on its second weekend. With Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill, Neighborhood Watch (July 27) has an incredible comedy cast, but also has The Dark Knight Rises problem, and there are a lot of question marks surrounding the prospects for an R-rated alien invasion comedy. Finally, The Campaign (August 10) finds Will Ferrell playing within his wheelhouse as a pompous, competitive buffoon, but political comedies tend to be a tough sell.
Lionsgate also has two movies that are likely to flirt with the $100 million mark. Ensemble pregnancy comedy What to Expect When You're Expecting (May 18) is nice counterprogramming against all the male-oriented fare in May, though it's had a messy marketing campaign so far and has no chance of being a Bridesmaids-style sensation. Meanwhile, The Expendables 2 (August 17) is aiming to match its predecessor's $103.1 million, though even with additional cast members the geriatric team-up gimmick may have run its course in the first movie.
• Summer 2012 Foreign Forecast
• Holiday 2011 Forecast
• Summer 2011 Foreign Forecast
• Extended Summer Forecast (2011)
• March 2012 Easily Sets Record
• 'The Vow,' 'Safe House' Lead Record-Breaking February
• January 2012 Improves on Atrocious Start to 2011
• 2012 Preview
• Franchises to Rule Again in 2012
• Mixed Bag for 2011 Sequels
• Summer 2012 Release Schedule
• 2012 Grosses (2012-only releases)
• Year-to-Date Comparison