Summer movies expected to heat up box office
The weather is heating up and so are the movies at the local cineplex — what new summer releases are expected to draw a crowd and what new movies might fizzle instead of sizzle.
BAXTER — New summer movies featuring fighter pilots, dinosaurs and a Norse demigod are just some of the major motion pictures battling each other for box office supremacy.
Big-budget, summer tentpole releases are a mainstay this time of year. But which ones will attract moviegoers following a pandemic that shuttered some cineplexes is anyone’s guess.
“We've got a great array of film this summer — better than I've seen for many years — pre-COVID or otherwise,” said Stephen Mann, CEO of Mann Theatres.
The much-delayed and highly-anticipated “Top Gun: Maverick” opens Memorial Day weekend. But other sequels such as “Jurassic World: Dominion” and “Thor: Love and Thunder,” and family films like “Lightyear” and “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” will be coming soon to a theater near you.
“We're only as good as what we have on the screen,” Mann said of Mann Theatres, which owns the Lakes 12 Theatre in Baxter.
The summer movie season has already received a big boost from Marvel’s “Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.” The crowd-pleasing sequel stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the Sorcerer Supreme in a horror-tinged movie by director Sam Raimi that was a hit with critics.
Mann said early showings of “Top Gun: Maverick” in two of his Twin Cities theaters were sold out even though tickets cost $20 each to see Tom Cruise return to the cockpit in the sequel to his 1986 blockbuster.
“It's not a premiere but for a special engagement … so that's a great sign — what the weekend is going to bring up,” he said of the “premium, large-format” auditoriums in his Twin Cities theaters.
Before the pandemic, the summer movie season could reliably produce over $4 billion in ticket sales, or about 40% of the year’s grosses, according to Comscore. With theaters closed for most of the season in 2020 and new releases delayed, that total plummeted to $176 million.
“Spider-Man: No Way Home” was released just in time for Christmas, and the Sony picture wildly exceeded box office expectations, grossing $253 million from 4,336 theaters in North America just a few days after its debut solely in theaters.
“Well, COVID hasn’t gone away, that's for sure. But we've kind of got back to our normal way of life, if you will,” Mann said.
Mann said “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” an Illumination computer-animated prequel of sorts to “Despicable Me,” and “Lightyear,” a Pixar spin-off of the “Toy Story” franchise, are expected to gross $275 million and $360 million, respectively, in the United States after they are released.
“Those are our two highlights when it comes to family films,” Mann said. “In the Midwest, we’re family-oriented.”
“Jurassic World: Dominion” reunites many of the stars of the original Steven Spielberg franchise about dinosaurs running amok, such as Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill and BD Wong.
“That should be the No. 1 picture this summer. … The experts are saying ‘Jurassic World: Dominion’ is gonna be No. 1, so I guess time will tell,” Mann said of the expected $425 million gross from the sixth installment in the “Jurassic Park” franchise.
“Elvis,” a biographical musical by Baz Luhrmann about the king of rock ‘n’ roll, will also be released this summer in a bit of counterprogramming of special effects-laden summer fare.
“We’ve got ‘Elvis’ coming out with Tom Hanks in it that’s expected to be a big picture, so there’s a little bit for everybody,” Mann said of the film about the relationship between Presley and his manager Col. Tom Parker.
Studios and exhibitors are still making up for losses incurred during the pandemic and adjusting to new ways of doing business, including shortened release windows, competition from streaming and the need to feed their own services, according to The Associated Press.
“Our biggest problem was streaming. And we've been fighting the streaming wars for two years now,” Mann said. “Tom Cruise is a big believer of theatrical as opposed to streaming, and he said not one of my pictures will ever stream prior to playing theatrically.”
“A Quiet Place Part II” scared up some big numbers for a sequel released last May following the height of the coronavirus pandemic. The post-apocalyptic horror film was a bellwether of sorts for the movie industry.
There’s hope this summer for other surprise successes to emerge.
“As far as a sleeper hit, there's a lot of questions as far as what ‘Elvis’ is going to do. Elvis Presley has been gone a lot of years already. … Young people today, sure they've heard of him, but will they want to see it,” Mann said of “Elvis” the motion picture.
Last year, Warner Bros. rolled out its movies simultaneously on HBO Max and in theaters, a measure it took because of the pandemic. But the summer movie slate looks stronger this year.
“Well, they realized that wasn't feasible for them economically, so in 2022 all their films are going to theaters first and streaming second,” Mann said of Warner Bros.
The computer-animated adventure “DC League of Super-Pets,” for example, will be a big summer release for the studio. The family-friendly film features the voices of bankable actors Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart.
“It just seems that Dwayne, whether he does an action movie or whether he does a comedy, he's kind of like gold,” Mann said. “People really, really can relate to him and really like him, so anytime we see a title coming out that's got Dwayne Johnson in it we get pretty excited about it.”
The movie industry has already had several notable hits in the past six months, too, according to The Associated Press, including “ Spider-Man: No Way Home,” the third-highest-grossing film in history, “The Batman” and “The Lost City.”
“I think you're gonna see a big summer for the industry,” Mann said. “I think theaters are back.”
Select summer movie releases
- “Jurassic World: Dominion” (June 10)
- “Lightyear” (June 17)
- “The Black Phone” (June 24)
- “Elvis” (June 24)
- “Minions: The Rise of Gru” (July 1)
- “Thor: Love and Thunder” (July 8)
- “Nope” (July 22)
- “Bullet Train” (July 29)
- “DC League of Super-Pets” (July 29)