Summer Movie Preview: Predicting the Box Office Champs

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This summer movie season has the same blend of superheroes, sequels, animated fare and broad comedy that Hollywood tosses at us every year. But every summer, there's films that over-perform to everyone's surprise, others that tank relative to their budget, others that mean the deaths of whole franchises before they're even born (*cough* Green Lantern *cough*). Hollywood has predicting box office down to a science, but there's still so much the industry never sees coming. Here are five films that seem guaranteed to pull in a whole lotta dough.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Director: Marc Webb
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Sally Field, Paul Giamatti, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Chris Cooper

The first film in the rebooted Spider-Man series made $262 million in America and $750 million worldwide, which is nothing to shake a stick at. But that was a smaller take than Sam Raimi's largely reviled Spider-Man 3, suggesting a bit of audience fatigue with the web-crawler. To counter that, Webb and company are going as big as possible, lobbing villains at the screen, releasing trailer after trailer crammed with eye-melting special effects sequences, and plotting a huge Spidey-centric franchise with spinoffs like the Sinister Six on the way. Will it work? The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is right now tracking for a frontloaded $112 million weekend on the way to about the same domestic take as the last film. Sony/Columbia hopes that buzz will continue to build over the next few weeks.

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Release Date: May 2

Transformers: Age of Extinction

Director: Michael Bay
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Titus Welliver, Sophia Myles, Peter Cullen

The Transformers films make lots of money. Yes, threequel Dark of the Moon collected only $350 million domestically versus the $400 million pulled in by the second film in the franchise, Revenge of the Fallen. And yes, this is a reboot, lacking Shia LeBeouf and replacing him with Mark Wahlberg. There's DinoBots or something in this one too. No one will really care. America will go to the theater and watch the robots fight each other, as they always have. Michael Bay will continue to be a very rich and powerful man. You can complain if you want, but your complaints plink off the burnished metal frames of Optimus Prime and pals.

Release Date: June 27

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Director: Dean DeBlois
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, TJ Miller, Kristen Wiig, Cate Blanchett, Djimon Hounsou

It took four years, but DreamWorks Animation finally spat out a sequel to the lovely surprise hit How to Train Your Dragon, which made around $500 million worldwide in 2010. Fondness for this film has only grown since then, and could lead to a huge take this summer, echoing Despicable Me 2's surprisingly huge success last year. Of all the DreamWorks Animation films, this remains my favorite, so hopefully the franchise doesn't get too watered down by its sequels (another is already in the works).

Release Date: June 13


Director: Ben Falcone
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Allison Janney, Toni Collette, Sandra Oh, Dan Aykroyd, Kathy Bates

Here's a fact: Melissa McCarthy makes R-rated comedies that are very, very popular. In 2013, Identity Thief somehow made $135 million domestically (nearly four times its $35 million budget) despite being an eye-melting crapfest of odiousness. Buddy cop movie The Heat (which made The Wire's top ten movies of 2013) collected $160 million in the same year. Both those movies saw McCarthy paired with established stars (Jason Bateman and Sandra Bullock), but Tammy is a passion project that only features her on the poster. Her husband Ben Falcone directed from a script he wrote with McCarthy about a fast-food chef who has a bad day and goes on a crazy road trip with her wacky grandma (Susan Sarandon). It sounds very much in the vein of her hits, and it doesn't have much competition on its weekend. Could it clean up?

Release Date: July 2


Director: Frank Coraci
Starring: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Terry Crews, Joel McHale, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Kevin Nealon, Emma Fuhrmann, Bella Thorne

Adam Sandler, for so long one of the most reliably successful actors in the biz, has had a rocky few years. The Grown Ups movies are consistent enough earners, but Jack & Jill underperformed and That's My Boy was a genuine bomb. Reaching further back, Just Go With It, You Don't Mess With the Zohan, and Bedtime Stories just barely managed to crack $100 million and Funny People was too long and dark to cash in on its big budget. Time to get back to basics: make a zippy rom-com with Drew Barrymore! The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates are two of Sandler's better-loved efforts, and while Blended looks…a little incomprehensible (they go on a blind date and then they're stuck on a safari adventure with their kids?) it'll be full of the antics America expects from these two. Looking forward to it.

Release Date: May 23

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