Summer 2012 Domestic Forecast
Summer 2012 officially gets underway in the U.S. this weekend when superhero team-up The Avengers is unleashed in to over 4,000 theaters. Ahead of the season kick-off, it's worth taking a look at what Summer has to offer this year, and which movies have the most box office potential.

Assuming Prometheus qualifies as a prequel, Summer 2012 has 13 movies that fit in to the sequel, prequel, spin-off and reboot category. That's actually more than Summer 2011's 10 titles, though direct sequels dominated the chart last year in a way they probably won't this year.

A handful of comic book adaptations failed to truly break out last Summer, though that won't be the case this year with highly-anticipated movies The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers (not to mention the Spider-Man reboot). Overall box office came in at a record $4.4 billion last Summer—with those guaranteed blockbusters along with Brave, MIB 3, The Bourne Legacy and more, Summer 2012 has a legitimate chance of setting a new benchmark.

The Summer Forecast includes picks for the Top 15 movies, along with a look at some contenders on the bubble (note: this is for domestic grosses only; for overseas predictions, check out last week's Foreign Forecast).

1. The Dark Knight Rises (July 20): No, this one doesn't have Heath Ledger's Joker. And yes, the first trailers and IMAX footage evoked some negative reactions (What's with Bane's voice? Why did Hines Ward get more screen time than Batman?). While some of those concerns were alleviated with the most recent trailer (Bane's voice has clearly been fixed), the only thing that really matters is that the previews make one of most compelling pitches in history: "From Christopher Nolan… the epic conclusion to the Dark Knight legend." Definitively stating that this is the end will make this a must-see attraction for basically anyone who has ever heard of Batman, and even if it doesn't top The Dark Knight's $533.3 million total, it will still be the highest-grossing movie of Summer 2012. Forecast: $500 million

2. The Avengers (May 4): For a while, The Avengers seemed like it would merely be Iron Man and friends, with the addition of 3D. Using the two Iron Man movies ($318.4 million and $312.4 million, respectively) as a baseline, that would translate to a final gross around $350 million for the superhero team-up. Recently, though, the anticipation for The Avengers has reached a fever pitch, and ecstatic reviews (93 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes), foreign dominance ($260.5 million through its first week) and an anemic April lineup all suggest that the movie is going to be much bigger than initially expected. A total north of $400 million seems like a foregone conclusion at this point. Forecast: $420 million

3. The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3): The decision to reboot Spider-Man only five years after Spider-Man 3 made over $336 million has generated plenty of skepticism over the past year. However, by bringing in strong young actors Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, and giving the movie a tone that seems different enough from Sam Raimi's series, The Amazing Spider-Man has so far successfully combatted this criticism. More importantly, though, the title character is the second-most-popular comic book character aside from Batman, and fans will be eager to see how he fares against The Lizard (who was never a villain in Raimi's movies). The original Spider-Man earned $403.7 million—even with 3D, The Amazing Spider-Man won't get close to that level, but it should still be one of the Summer's highest-grossing movies. Forecast: $300 million

4. Brave (June 22): While a story about a Scottish princess fighting to avoid being married off to unappealing suitors isn't close to the most original idea Pixar Animation has come up with, Brave is far-and-away more unique than sequels Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted and Ice Age: Continental Drift among this Summer's major animated offerings. Pixar's streak of nine-straight $200 million grossers ended with Cars 2 last Summer, but it looks very likely that Brave will start a new streak for the popular animation studio. Forecast: $260 million

5. MIB 3 (May 25): Men in Black II earned $190.4 million in 2002, which was way off from the original's $250.7 million. That's a fine number if the movie was actually well-liked, but unfortunately it has a terrible 5.8 rating on IMDb and is frequently cited as one of the most-disappointing sequels in history. The third movie should still do respectable business, though, for a number of reasons. After over four years away from theaters, MIB 3 finds Will Smith back in his most popular role, and it's likely he still has substantial box office draw. Also, sending Smith's Agent Jay back in time is a nice way to differentiate this entry, and Memorial Day weekend is also a fantastic time to open. Forecast: $175 million

6. The Bourne Legacy (August 3): Matt Damon's portrayal of the title character in the Bourne trilogy was a driving part of its phenomenal success, and replacing him with Jeremy Renner for the fourth entry all-but-guarantees that The Bourne Legacy falls short of The Bourne Ultimatum's incredible $227.5 million series high mark. Still, Renner has established himself as a solid action presence with supporting turns in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol and The Avengers, and the first trailer reassured audiences that even without Damon, the franchise's signature thrills would be kept largely in place. This should all help the movie retain a solid percentage of The Bourne Ultimatum's grosses. Forecast: $160 million

7. G.I. Joe: Retaliation (June 29): Sequels to much-maligned originals haven't been doing so well lately—Wrath of the Titans and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance both wound up with roughly half the domestic box office haul of their predecessors. One would expect G.I. Joe: Retaliation to follow suit, given Rise of Cobra's awful 5.6 rating on IMDb. However, while Spirit of Vengeance and Wrath looked like more of the same, Retaliation is going out of its way to distance itself from its predecessor by putting in place a mostly-new cast that's led by Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis. The Rock has been a franchise savior as of late (see Journey 2 and Fast Five), and he'll likely have a similar effect on Retaliation (the first G.I. Joe movie made $150.2 million). There is one major drawback, though: Retaliation is only in theaters for four days before The Amazing Spider-Man opens. Forecast: $155 million

Continued with #8-15 and Other Contenders... >

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