With 55 films slated, Hollywood looks to beat the $9.5 billion collected during May-through-Labor Day 2015.
Expect another summer of surprises — and wipeouts — at the global box office. The big question is whether summer 2016 can match 2015, when revenue during the May-to-Labor Day corridor came in at $9.5 billion, including $4.5 billion in North America, second only to 2013's $4.9 billion. Last year's boon was led by Jurassic World, which stomped to an unexpected $652.3 million domestically and $1.67 billion globally. But there were also high-profile bombs (remember Tomorrowland, Terminator: Genisys and Fantastic Four?).
Captain America: Civil War, kicking off summer in high style May 6, already has grossed $296 million domestically and $943 million globally as of May 16. And Jodie Foster's adult-skewing Money Monster, starring George Clooney, opened to a better-than-expected $14.9 million over the May 13-15 weekend after a splashy debut in Cannes. "In reality, there is no way to know how each movie will perform, and all it takes is one or two overperformers to be the difference between a massive, record-breaking summer and a lackluster one at the box office," says comScore's Paul Dergarabedian.
All told, there will be 55 wide releases, compared with 49 last year, from the six majors, new studio STX Entertainment, Lionsgate and independent distributors (insiders agree Disney will be the big winner with Civil War, Alice Through the Looking Glass, The BFG and Finding Dory). And then there's the healthy menu of indie films that will launch in limited runs including Maggie's Plan, starring Greta Gerwig, Bill Hader and Ethan Hawke (Sony Classics, May 20); Nicolas Winding Refn's The Neon Demon (Amazon/Broad Green, June 24); Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (Fox Searchlight, July 22); and exec turned first-time director James Schamus' Indignation (Roadside, July 29). And Focus Features/Laika could whip up strong family business with Kubo and the Two Strings (Aug. 19).
Among tentpoles, box-office analyst Jeff Bock says no film arrives with more baggage than Sony's Ghostbusters (already under scrutiny for its lackluster trailer). "The largest hurdle to overcome with reboots of well-liked films is this: If it's not better than the original, why should audiences bother?"
Captain America: Civil War (Disney)
The Marvel tentpole could end its run at $1.3B, far outpacing Captain America: The Winter Soldier ($714.4M) and coming close to Avengers: Age of Ultron's gaudy cume ($1.4B).
X-Men: Apocalypse (Fox)
Bryan Singer's fourth X-Men offering is tracking great but is getting poor reviews compared to his 2014 film Days of Future Past ($747.9M).
Finding Dory (Disney/Pixar)
Footage of the long-awaited sequel to Finding Nemo wowed at CinemaCon, and analysts project earnings north of $1B worldwide.
The Secret Life of Pets (Universal/Illumination)
The Illumination film is one of summer's few originals. Judging by Zootopia's $970.8M, expect big grosses.
Jason Bourne (Universal)
They're back! Director Paul Greengrass and star Matt Damon should elevate this fifth installment to near The Bourne Ultimatum's $442.8M.
Suicide Squad (Warner Bros.)
David Ayer's film is another key test for Warners' DC Universe. The studio likely hopes it will surpass the earnings of superhero film Deadpool ($762.4M).
The Angry Birds Movie (Sony)
Kids hooked on the games will persuade their parents to take them. It already has banked $43M overseas.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (Universal)
The filmmakers should laugh all the way to the bank: The first film earned $270.7M on an $18M budget.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (Paramount)
The first TMNT reboot surprised in earning $493.3M worldwide in August 2014.
Now You See Me 2 (Lionsgate)
Jon M. Chu's sequel to the 2013 hit ($351.7M worldwide) mixes magic, comedy and action.
Central Intelligence (Warner Bros.)
Teaming Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson, the comedy could be a surprise megahit if it delivers.
The BFG (Disney/Amblin)
Steven Spielberg's film drew mixed reaction at Cannes but should do solid July Fourth family business.
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (Fox)
Zac Efron's second raunchy summer comedy after Neighbors 2 is tipped to be a sleeper hit.
Cafe Society (limited) (Amazon/Lionsgate)
Woody Allen's latest should out-earn his Irrational Man ($27.4M) and Magic in the Moonlight ($51M).
Ice Age: Collision Course (Fox)
The Secret Life of Pets will be in theaters, but don't count out Manny and his cronies.
Bad Moms (STX)
The Christina Applegate, Kristen Bell and Mila Kunis pic is one of few mainstreamers catering to females.
Sausage Party (Sony)
The 3D animated survival movie from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg could surprise, much like This Is the End ($126M).
Alice Through the Looking Glass (Disney)
It remains to be seen whether the sequel to the 2010 smash hit ($1.03B) can withstand withering reviews.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (Universal)
Andy Samberg stars in the mockumentary about a singer who tries to reclaim his fame.
Independence Day: Resurgence (Fox)
The reboot, opening 20 years after Independence Day ($817.4M worldwide), won't have Will Smith.
Free State of Jones (STX)
The Civil War drama starring Matthew McConaughey hopes to be an awards player.
Star Trek Beyond (Paramount)
Justin Lin, who replaces J.J. Abrams as director of the rebooted franchise, has plenty riding on the line.
The Founder (The Weinstein Co.)
The movie about McDonald's impresario Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) is expected to be controversial.
Pete's Dragon (Disney)
Opinion is divided as to whether the live-action remake of the 1977 Disney film will perform like Cinderella and The Jungle Book.
Florence Foster Jenkins (Paramount)
Meryl Streep stars opposite Hugh Grant in this real-life tale of a New York heiress turned opera singer.
War Dogs (Warner Bros.)
Todd Phillips' comedy starring Miles Teller and Jonah Hill is his first film since 2013's The Hangover Part III.
Southside With You (limited) (Roadside)
This fictionalized account of the courtship of a young Barack and Michelle Obama premiered at Sundance.
The Light Between Oceans (Disney/DreamWorks)
The moody drama starring Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander and Rachel Weisz is based on a book.
The Nice Guys (Warner Bros.)
Hopes are high that Shane Black can recapture the magic of his defining buddy cop franchise (Lethal Weapon), but tracking shows the film is in trouble.
The video game adaptation cost Legendary $160M to make (net) but is a huge question mark in North America. The hope is for a strong overseas performance.
The Legend of Tarzan (Warner Bros.)
The live-action remake of the classic tale reportedly sports a production budget of $180M. Can it launch a new franchise?
Never mind the all-female cast: The real question is whether the storyline will do justice to the beloved 1984 film ($295.2M worldwide).
Ancient epics haven't exactly lit up the box office in recent years. Timur Bekmambetov directs this remake of the iconic 1959 Charlton Heston film.