With 2016 now upon us, a new year begins in box office statistics. Now, I don’t fancy myself much of a box office pundit nor do I believe that discussing the amounts of money that a movie makes is at all relevant when considering the quality or impact a film may carry. It is, however, a great barometer when looking at what the public was into at a certain time. Theatrical box office numbers capture mainstream zeitgeist like very few other statistics and I find the end results highly interesting even if I don’t give a damn about 7/10ths of the particular entries.
All this said, 2016 is going to be a very interesting year at the box office. 2015 was seen as a deathmatch between films as a large number of sure-fire hits released seemingly week after week. It certainly helped that 2015 contained quite a few absolute masterpieces in which a film’s monetary earnings were matched by its quality (sorry, Jurassic World, I’m not talking about you here). In 2016, there will not be an episodic Star Wars, no Avengers and will instead feature no fewer than 8 superhero movies tackling many characters that are mid-tier at best, expensive revivals of long-dormant franchises with very many of these not being guaranteed successes and sequels of movies that were questionably deserved in the first place. The trailers for many of these movies bring more questions than answers and I don’t mean that in an “I’m so interested I can’t freakin’ wait” kinda way.
I genuinely believe that this year is an absolute toss-up when it comes to how much money is made and which movie earns what. 2015 might have been as close as we’ve come to discovering the market threshold for moviegoing so we’ll see if 2016 suffers at all from consumers who are just tired of going to the cinemas. I certainly hope not.
So, without further ado, here come the absolute most accurate predictions for the top 10 movie grosses (US domestic) of 2016 and the money in which they’ll earn. Feel free to take this list to Vegas and make some quick cash. I only charge 15% for the usage of this list.
10) The Jungle Book $203 million
I can see Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book being the most surprising film of the year. I’ve got it at the bottom of this particular top 10 and I think $200 million is a very safe bet even if the movie is no good. The thing is, it looks wonderful. At the very least, Disney cut an excellent trailer that I’ve heard audiences go orangutan over when they’ve been generally ambivalent over trailer for movies I’m going to place higher on this list. Much has already been made of the technical prowess of the film with almost everything outside of Mowgli being CG work and performance capture. If the film turns out half as fun and good-looking as the first trailer, I wouldn’t be surprised if this film actually makes closer to $250 million in a year dry of much YA material (and yes, I think this is right in the YA alley). For now, I’m being safe and putting The Jungle Book at a reasonable $200 million take.
9) Ghostbusters $207 million
Paul Feig’s sequel/reimagining of the Ghostbusters series is sure to draw plenty of ire from mouth-breathing sexists based on its casting alone. That thing people say about no press being bad press rings sort of true here because the cast will surely bring in some folks who are interested in seeing how this familiar concept is drawn from the other side of the gender line. I think Ghostbusters cracks the top 10 because Paul Feig hasn’t yet directed a non-hit and the Ghostbusters property could certainly blow it past his currently highest-grossing film, Bridesmaids ($169 million). And if the film is really good like we hope… the sky’s the limit.
8) Suicide Squad $219 million
Here she is, the most interesting superhero movie of 2016. Like a Guardians of the Galaxy for the grim dark DC Universe, Suicide Squad is by no means a sure thing. Audiences and internet fandom have already sort of drawn their line in the sand when it comes to what the DC movies mean to them in comparing them to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But this movie does look good. Throw in Will Smith, Margot Robbie, the interesting if not insufferable Jared Leto as Joker and a true filmmaker in David Ayer and you’ve got me in a seat for sure. I don’t think Ayer has made a 100% complete film yet (4/5ths of Fury are a masterpiece) while I do greatly enjoy all of his work. It’s going to take a complete Suicide Squad movie for it to break $250 million and potentially rise on this list.
7) X-Men: Apocalypse $226 million
I think this is when we start to see the law of diminishing returns kick-in when it comes to the rebooted X franchise. X-Men: Days of Future Past, while being a pretty good movie, lit the box office world on fire, I believe, because of how damned great X-Men: First Class was. The first movie in this rebooted universe brought in Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy and let Matthew Vaughn run as wild as he wanted. Bryan Singer returned with the smash sequel that certainly feels like the cultural apex of the series. He isn’t able to bring the scope that Vaughn is capable of but I do think DoFP was the best X thing Singer has made. This is supposedly going to be the last film with the First Class cast and will likely be very light on the Wolverine front. Audiences will come, but I don’t believe (unless the movie is actually great, something I’m currently doubting) it will be enough to shoot Apocalypse past its predecessor.
6) Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them $259 million
I think Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will surely be a bigger overseas hit than a US one. This is the first film in the Harry Potter universe not based on an already established J.K. Rowling novel, though she did write the script. I think re-teaming Rowling with 4-time Harry Potter director, David Yates, will at the very least be a familiar creative collaboration that will be as good as Rowling’s material allows it to be. If audiences are hungry to re-enter this world, I can see Fantastic Beasts being a very lucrative follow-up to The Boy Who Lived.
5) Alice Through the Looking Glass $273 million
Alice in Wonderland (2010) made $334 million in the US and over a billion worldwide. Why? I honestly have no freaking clue. This movie will make money, though probably not as much as Wonderland likely because of it being Tim Burton-less. I really hope I’m wrong here and audiences have smartened up in the last five years, but I sincerely doubt it. This is the one movie on this list I won’t be donating a contribution towards. Burn, Alice, burn.
4) Finding Dory $302 million
Finding Nemo is arguably one of Disney/Pixar’s greatest achievements and it’s a wonderfully sad and funny tale of a father willing to do anything to find his son with the help of and in spite of a Blue Tang fish with memory problems named Dory. Voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, Dory is one of the best aspects of Nemo but can we expect a movie about just her character to be as engrossing? I don’t think so, but I won’t put anything past Pixar when it comes to surprises. Still, I doubt it outgrosses Nemo and will likely fall into the top quarter of 2016’s offerings.
3) Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice $341 million
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice* will make plenty of money no matter how good it is. Zack Snyder’s sorta-sequel to Man of Steel (though likely more a Warner Bros. order to put some sourpuss Batman story in with Superman’s fantastic lack of box office returns) includes Ben Affleck as the Caped Crusader who isn’t at all happy with The Great Boy Scout’s antics in Metropolis three years ago. I’ve been in packed Hollywood theaters with rabid fanboy moviegoers and heard howls of laughter each time this trailer plays. I really enjoy Zack Snyder as a director even if his work isn’t great on the whole. Warners has staked a lot of claim into this particular telling of DC’s comic Gods, so they’re really hoping this one works. I think it makes more than Man of Steel ($291 million) but might still cause a bit of Warner panic when it doesn’t hit $350 mil. I just hope it’s as sincerely goofy as it looks.
2) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story $457 million
Ok, I honestly have no idea how much money Rogue One will make. This is the first live-action Star Wars feature film that isn’t an episodic entry in the series so the question will finally be answered if audiences really care about this universe or if it’s Skywalker dependent. Coming hot off the heels of The Force Awakens I’d wager Rogue One makes at the very least $450 million US. America and the world are in awe of this universe again and I think are down for anything Star Wars related. The plot, involving the stealing of the Death Star plans, which occurs pre-Episode IV, is intriguing and includes a killer cast with Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelson, Alan Tudyk, Ben Mendohlson and Donnie Yen. Though, I must say, another movie with a Death Star is groan-worthy. Gareth Edwards (Godzilla (2014)) is sure to bring some scope to this story but I’ll wait cautiously to see if he can inject new, interesting characters into a galaxy already full with rich personalities.
1) Captain America: Civil War $508 million
Consider this The Avengers 2.5. Captain America: Civil War pits Steve Rogers and his team against Tony Stark and his in an ultimate duel of bubbling ideologies that have been aching and growing steam with each new MCU movie. This is all part of the long-term plan Marvel has been instituting and boy, does it look amazing and ripe with character tension that all feels earned. Cap 3 won’t likely make Avengers money, but I think it will greatly overtake the good-to-great box office earnings of the two previous Cap entries. The Winter Soldier made $259 million in 2014, which was much less than the unlikely hit, Guardians of the Galaxy ($333 million), but I don’t think this will be the case in 2016. Audiences rebelled a bit against the bloated, albeit fantastic Age of Ultron but I think will return in droves to see Cap and Iron Man duke it out. The Russo Brothers have now become the shepherds of the MCU after Joss Whedon’s departure and their filmic eye has been impeccable so far. I think Captain America: Civil War will be the biggest movie of 2016 and likely one of the best. Also, TEAM CAP ALL THE WAY!!! … ahem.
Honorable mentions that might have a shot at cracking the list: Kung Fu Panda 3, Doctor Strange (could be this year’s Guardians), The BFG, The Girl on the Train, Star Trek Beyond, Independence Day: Resurgence.
* Devin Faraci at Birth.Movies.Death. has mastered this joke.