It’s funny that Disney is the most celebrated studio when it comes to box office success over the last few years. In 2018 alone, the Mouse House has been responsible for the gargantuan successes Black Panther ($1.3 billion worldwide) and Avengers: Infinity War ($2 billion). But what some casual industry observers may have forgotten is that Disney is also responsible for two of the biggest flops of the year with A Wrinkle in Time ($132 million) and Solo: A Star Wars Story ($354 million). Success ebbs and flows in the movie business and a few misfires are inevitable.
With that in mind and with the back half of the 2018 movie release schedule still to come, here are six major features that may end up flopping at the box office.
To be clear: I am not actively rooting for any of these movies (or any movies in general) to fail. But by examining recent trends, the history of a franchise, social media/industry chatter, production budgets and the competition a given picture is up against, we can make early educated guesses.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (Universal Pictures)—July 20
I like musicals, but there’s a reason most successful films in this genre don’t get a sequel. Save for Pitch Perfect 2, it’s really hard to entice fans for a second go-around. Look around, do you see any follow-ups to La La Land, Hairspray orThe Greatest Showman?
The 2008 Mamma Mia!—based on the 1999 musical of the same name and starring an impressive lineup of talent headlined by Meryl Streep—earned an impressive $615 million worldwide off a $52 million budget. While the upcoming sequel brings back the main cast, there really isn’t all that much demand for the story. No one is banging the drum for a continuation.
Making matters worse for Here We Go Again is the crowded summer blockbuster schedule; it’ll open against Denzel Washington’s The Equalizer 2 and one week before Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible—Fallout, the culturally relevant Sorry to Bother You (which may be the best film of 2018) and the family-friendly Teen Titans Go! To The Movies.
That’s tough sledding, but assuming Here We Go Again carries a manageable budget, a disappointing box office run isn’t a bottom-line killer for Universal.
The Meg (Warner Bros.)—August 10
Audiences friggin’ love sharks; I could have sworn Blake Lively’s The Shallows ($119 million) and Mandy Moore’s 47 Meters Down ($44 million) were going to flop hard, but both ended up turning a tidy profit. Why am I not convinced that Jason Statham’s The Meg can do the same?
The former films carried minuscule budgets, while Variety pegs Meg‘s budget at around $150 million. That’s an awful lot of money to make up at the tail end of a busy summer. Sure, August has previously provided serious legs to “the last biggie of the season,” such as when Suicide Squad opened to a robust $133 million en route to $746 million in 2016, but The Meg doesn’t have the benefit of being a part of a big shared cinematic universe.
It’s going to have to sink or swim on its own merits, and my gut tells me it’s going to be the former.
The Predator (20th Century Fox)—September 14
I desperately hope I’m wrong on this one given my never-ending love for the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger original and for writer/director Shane Black (who, fun fact, co-starred in the first film). But Fox is hoping The Predator can mop up some of that thrill-driven box office money It generated last September, and I’m not sure it can pull that off.
Though Tuesday’s full-length trailer was a step up from the teaser, online reaction is still mixed and somewhat muted (it is still early in the promotional campaign). There’s plenty of time for the studio to build buzz, but to what end?
The three most recent movies in this franchise all saw diminishing box office returns. The eight-year wait for this one may help tap into our nostalgia glands, but there’s still plenty of confusion among casual fans over whether this is a reboot or a sequel. Fox needs to paint a clearer picture as we get closer to the release date.
But the real concern is The Predator‘s budget, which Black implied was “a bunch of money” in comments to Thrillist. For an R-rated feature, that’s a dangerous tight rope to walk.
Venom (Sony)—October 5
Tom Hardy is a great actor; Venom is a great character. So why does this movie make both look the backpages of a 1960s Marvel comic?
Quality goes a long way in determining a film’s long-term box office success, especially in the superhero arena where the Rotten Tomatoes Effect seems to be most potent. Are we sure Sony has the infrastructure in place to produce a quality film based on a complex character that not every non-comics fan may get?
The studio so badly mishandled the Spider-Man property with the Andrew Garfield reboot—trying to use The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as a launching pad for its own Marvel character universe was a bad idea—that it was forced to wave the white flag and share the character with Marvel Studios.
Venom is not connected to Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, which may confuse audiences, and is also reportedly looking to reignite Sony’s shared continuity Marvel plans. If it’s too much of a backdoor pilot for what’s to come, the film will suffer. And since it’s likely going to be R-rated, its potential audience reach is somewhat limited (though that worked for Logan and the Deadpool movies).
Fingers crossed that Sony didn’t spend more than $40 million on Venom, giving it more breathing room at the box office.
Mortal Engines (Universal)—December 14
First off, the movie looks positively awful. Secondly, it reportedly cost a way-too-expensive $100 million. Thirdly, it must do battle with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (December 14), Alita: Battle Angel (December 21), Aquaman (December 21), Bumblebee (December 21), Holmes and Watson (December 21) and Mary Poppins Returns (December 25).
Outlook: Not great, Bob.
Alita: Battle Angel (20th Century Fox)—December 21
See above except juice the budget all the way to roughly $200 million. That’s just an insane amount of money to invest into a property many Western markets are unfamiliar with.
The manga that Alita is based on is actually quite popular, but Hollywood has a poor track record with these kinds of adaptations (see: Ghost in the Shell, Death Note, Dragonball Evolution) and even the good ones struggle to make a lot of noise at the box office. Throw in all the online jokes Film Twitter has lobbed Alita‘s way so far and you’ve got the makings of a major flop on your hands.