‘Captain America: Civil War,” Walt Disney Co.’s latest Marvel Studios superhero film, will blast into theaters on Friday, kick-starting the summer blockbuster battle for box-office dollars.
The highly competitive summer moviegoing season looks to be particularly volatile this year, with at least four films projected to break the $200 million mark in domestic box office as rival studios strive to put viewers in theater seats amid an increasingly challenging entertainment marketplace.
Disney has a running start heading into the summer, leading all studios in 2016 takings. Advance sales suggest “Civil War” is on track to have the biggest opening of any Marvel movie yet, allowing Disney to stretch its lead.
“Expectations are high in terms of continued growth both at the theaters and in merchandise sales,” said Michael Erstad, a senior consumer analyst at ITG Investment Research Inc. in New York.
This year’s summer season is kicking off early and will stretch through August, allowing studios an opportunity to surpass last year’s huge $4.5 billion season – the second highest ever in box-office history behind 2013’s total of $4.7 billion.
Summer 2015: Part 2
Universal Pictures’ “Jurassic World” led the charge last summer with a record-breaking opening weekend that led to a total of $652 million at the global box office. Disney and Universal alone took 60 percent of last summer’s box-office receipts.
This year, the other major studios are more than eager to share in the blockbuster box-office wealth, and they’re willing to crowd together in the coveted July calendar to do so.
Disney currently holds the largest percentage of the market share of domestic box-office receipts, thanks in no small part to the astronomical success of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the Disney Animation record-breaking giant “Zootopia,” and Jon Favreau’s live-action revival of “The Jungle Book.”
But 20th Century Fox follows closely behind, largely thanks to its own superhero runaway hit, “Deadpool” – which alone has grossed more than $361 million domestically.
This summer’s cinematic shootout is all about familiar characters – and safe bets for the studios – across all genres. While Disney looks to hold its lead in the box-office race ahead of Fox and Warner Bros., it might be Paramount that has the most to gain or lose. Chief Executive Philippe Dauman at Viacom, parent company of the iconic Hollywood studio, announced in February that it would likely sell a majority stake by next month.
Pinning down Paramount’s valuation has been hard – estimates range from $4 billion to $10 billion – but a strong summer showing would certainly offer a boost. It has lagged far behind the other major studios so far this year in revenue, however, and would need to make a splash this summer with sequels in the “Star Trek” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” franchises and its remake of the sword-and-sandal classic “Ben-Hur.”
Meanwhile, Universal, trying to play catch-up from its current fifth spot among the studios in box-office receipts this year, has big expectations for its animated “The Secret Life of Pets” as well as video-game adaptation “Warcraft” and the eponymous return of secret agent “Jason Bourne.”
While superheroes battle for box-office supremacy, a single fish could swim in and steal the show.
Fandango, a West L.A. digital movie ticket network, reported that 60 percent of moviegoers plan to see more films this summer than last year based on its latest survey. While “Captain America” was voted the most anticipated title overall by Fandango customers, Sony Pictures Entertainment’s “Ghostbusters” reboot and “Finding Dory,” a sequel to “Finding Nemo” from Disney’s Pixar Animation Studios, were selected as the top choices by fans in the comedy and family genres, respectively.
“We think ‘Captain America: Civil War’ can have a spectacular opening of $200 million based on early critical praise and a relatively clear calendar in the release schedule,” said Daniel Loria, editorial director at Boxofficepro.com. “‘Finding Dory’ should be Disney’s other big earner for the summer, while its other summer titles such as ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass,’ ‘BFG,’ and ‘Pete’s Dragon’ should all be steady earners despite not having that $200 million-plus potential during their respective theatrical runs.”
“Civil War” was released in 15 international markets last week and opened at No. 1 in each one, giving Disney a great start to the summer.
The feud will heat up when Warner releases the much anticipated “Suicide Squad” on Aug. 5, which Loria said would likely be its big hit of the summer as the only title on its summer slate that can top $200 million domestically. Produced by “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” director Zack Snyder, the film features an all-star cast, including Will Smith, Jared Leto, and Margot Robbie.
Fox’s returning superheroes in “X-Men: Apocalypse” are not expected to prove as strong competitors in the crowded space.
So who is Sony gonna call to get back in the box-office game? The “Ghostbusters,” of course.
“It’s expected to be a big domestic hit, with the potential of hitting $200 million,” said Loria of the all-female revival, led by Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, of the 1984 blockbuster hit comedy.
A side show to the box-office earnings battle will be the competition among toy tie-ins.
Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn, who reports directly to Disney Chairman and Chief Executive Bob Iger, would like to sustain the momentum gained by the overwhelming global box-office success of “Jungle Book” with strong earnings from the start of summer for its fiscal third quarter, which began on April 3.
The December release of “Force Awakens” helped Disney deliver earnings of $2.9 billion for the quarter that ended Jan. 2, its highest quarterly earnings ever, according to Iger. ITG is forecasting an estimated $1.39 billion in revenue growth for the studio’s consumer products and interactive media segment in the second quarter ended April 2. Disney will report its earnings for the quarter on May 10.
Disney acquired Marvel Entertainment in 2009 for a reported $4 billion, and the superhero stable has been one of its most lucrative media acquisitions yet, driving sales in comic books, games, and other consumer products. The 2012 acquisition for a similar sum of “Star Wars” production company Lucasfilm has also been paying off big.
Mattel Inc. which licensed the toys for Warner’s “Batman v Superman,” launched a multiverse line in January, as did the Lego Group to support that film’s March release.
Largely out of toy tie-in game this summer, Paramount is looking to future possibilities in that space and recently announced a new partnership with Hasbro to work on upcoming film projects.
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