Disney Readies Sequel to Last Year's Summer Box-Office Rompby
Studio’s three big releases are poised to lead ticket sales
‘Despicable,’ ‘Transformers,’ ‘Spider-Man’ may pose challenges
Walt Disney Co. looks like the summer box-office winner again.
With “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” opening in North American theaters this weekend, Disney starts the traditional blockbuster season with a movie that could top $1 billion in global ticket sales -- a feat that’s notable for most studios, but is becoming routine for the 2016 box-office king.
“Guardians” will generate $400 million in the U.S. and Canada, according to analysts at BoxOfficePro.com, including almost $160 million this weekend. Disney itself raised its prediction on Friday to $150 million after a strong showing Thursday night. Whoever’s correct, that will far surpass other major releases in the next several weeks, including Warner Bros.’ “Wonder Woman” and Paramount Pictures’ “Transformers: The Last Knight.”
Hollywood studios are betting again on the power of sequels to pull in audiences. The strategy has produced mixed results -- even for Disney, whose successful Marvel and Star Wars franchises have allowed the company to soar past rivals and prosper despite duds like “Alice Through the Looking Glass.” Warner Bros. has had a decent showing with DC Comics movies, while Sony Pictures sputtered last year with a “Ghostbusters” reboot. “Guardians Vol. 2” should top the August 2014 original, which took in $773 million worldwide.
“Last summer sequels did not get traction -- only a handful outdid their predecessors,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at ComScore Inc., said in an interview. “Sequels are the bread and butter of most studios. Hollywood sequels must do better this year.”
Disney will release three sequels this summer -- “Guardians Vol. 2,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” and “Cars 3.” That’s half its output last summer as the Burbank, California-based company produces fewer films and focuses on its biggest brands. That could be enough to ward off pretenders to the throne.
Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. has six titles this summer, including “Wonder Woman” and “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” but they probably won’t be enough to surpass Disney’s trio. Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures has “The Mummy” and “Despicable Me 3” as its biggest contenders.
The summer movie season -- from the first weekend in May through the U.S. Labor Day holiday in September -- is usually a bellwether for the year, generating almost 40 percent of annual domestic box office. In recent years, studios have spread out big releases to avoid crowding busy summer weekends with too many choices.
For that reason, the season is unlikely to set a record, according to analysts at Bloomberg Intelligence. The summer total could reach $4.7 billion, said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOfficePro, short of the 2013 record of $4.85 billion.
There’s also still some potential for releases to cannibalize each other. Summer 2017 ties for the second-highest total of wide releases and third-highest for films with budgets over $100 million, Doug Creutz, an analyst at Cowen & Co., said in a note.
“From a competitive standpoint, this year looks a lot like 2013 and 2016 to us, both of which featured a lot of failed/disappointing releases,” he wrote.
Creutz estimates that “high summer” -- the first 13 weeks of the season-- will be down 3 percent from last year. While Disney has the most bankable films, Paramount could fare well with its new “Transformers” movie and a film revival of “Baywatch,” which the analyst says could be one of the summer’s winners.