The Summer Blockbuster Challenge!

A couple of days ago while listening to a podcast on /Film I was alerted to a possibility of partaking in a challenge. And I love a good challenge. This particular one refers to the summer blockbusters and the participant’s accuracy in predicting the Top 10 highest grossing movies of the summer. Well, challenge accepted.

TLDR Note: If you can’t be bothered reading how I ended up with my list, scroll down to the end of the post. You’re welcome!

I also figured I could try and employ some logic into the way I’d pick up my favourites, because that’s just the way I roll. While my insider knowledge of the movie industry might not be my strongest suit, I always feel more comfortable when I look at data and draw conclusions. Therefore I thought I could do some number-crunching to come up with my list (it turned out that the process didn’t involve that much crunching after all… more of looking at things).

First things first: as I understood it the ground rules are as follows:

–        A participant gets to pick 10 movies that are released between the first weekend of May and the last weekend of August (inclusive)

–        A participant predicts the order of said films from highest grossing to lowest

–        The financial results taken into account refer only to the aforementioned timeframe and the American market (worldwide box office would be a tad more complicated a presume)

–        A participant gets to name 3 ‘dark horse’ entries that are not included in his original top 10, but might end up in it at the end

–        A participant gets awarded points on the basis of the accuracy of his prediction (the most points for the first and last position, and accordingly the most points for accurately pinpointing the film’s position in the chart)

Ok, so I had a quick look at this summer’s releases and managed to count 73 movies being released across 18 weekends. Some of them are released on a Wednesday, but I still glued those up with a weekend that followed. Having played around with Box Office Mojo (really cool website) I noticed that across the span of 12 years (2012-2000) there had never been a movie in the top 10 blockbusters released after August 14th. Another useful piece of information was that rarely there had been instances of movies released during the same weekend that made it into the Top 10. These two pieces of data pointed me to, quite logically, try and pick one film released every weekend from May 4th to August 9th. These are what I got:

May 3rd – “Iron Man 3”

May 10th – ”The Great Gatsby”

May 17th – ”Star Trek Into Darkness”

May 24th – ”Epic”, ”Fast And Furious 6”, ”The Hangover 3” (little crowded here, huh…)

May 31st – ”After Earth”

June 7th – ”The Internship”, ”The Purge” (slow weekend I presume)

June 14th – ”Man Of Steel”

June 21st – ”Monsters University”, ”World War Z”

June 28th – ”White House Down”

July 3rd – ”Despicable Me 2”, ”The Lone Ranger”

July 12th – ”Pacific Rim”

July 19th – ”Red 2” (”The conjuring” doesn’t stand a chance because it’s a horror)

July 26th – ”Wolverine”

August 2nd – ”300: Rise of an Empire”

August 9th – ”Elysium”, ”Planes”

Now, using only these two pointers I boiled down by list of suspects from 73 all the way down to 21, but I did leave a good couple of weekends with more than one entrant, because I think they all stand some chances in the contest. In order to set the records straight I had to tackle them individually. And so:

The May 24th weekend seems to be the toughest nut to crack, because there are three major releases hitting the screens at that time, two of which are sequels to popular franchises. The remaining one (”Epic”) is the Disney – not Pixar – animation, which is also a good pick. Looking at them separately I can say that ”Fast and Furious 6” is the weakest of them all, because it is a sixth instalment of the franchise and only the first two had made it to the Top Ten in their respective summers, whereas both previous ”Hangover” movies had made it very high. So ”Epic” and ”FF6” can be crossed off the list – 21 drops to 19.

June 7th – that was difficult to guess as well because I don’t know what to think about ”The internship” and an outside-the-box concept of ”The Purge” might be too high a risk for a solid box office revenue, but I don’t know. Just because that in the timeframe of 2000-2012 there usually is 1 or 2 comedies in the top 10, I think ”The Hangover 3” would satisfy the criteria and I can go forward with ”The Purge”. 19 down to 18.

June 21st – ”Monsters University” vs. ”World War Z”. As much as I’d like to say that I don’t know, I think the latter of the two is going to become the biggest bomb of this summer. It’s been years since this film was due and it was over-hyped whereas everyone wants to see the long-awaited sequel to ”Monsters Inc”.  Brad Pitt gets the boot. 17.

July 3rd – ”Despicable Me 2” and ”The Lone Ranger”. Just because ”The Lone Ranger” looks too much like ”Pirates of the Carribean” meets ”Wild Wild West” knock-off, I think it’s the ”Despicable Me 2” that is going to win over here. Plus, almost always the top 10 sports 2 animations. 16.

August 9th – ”Elysium” and ”Planes” – another animation vs. Neill Blomkamp’s post-”District 9” sci-fi. While that one didn’t get into the top 10 in its year, it was probably partly due to the fact it was both a debut and an original concept, but now everybody knows what to expect and it looks to be promising. ”Planes” get the boot here just because it is a ”Cars” knock-off (by the same people, right?) and we like our top 10 lists full of sequels, not knock-offs. True story. 15.

Let me reiterate: ”Iron Man 3”, ”The Great Gatsby”, ”Star Trek Into Darkness”, ”The Hangover 3”, ”After Earth”, ”The Purge”, ”Man of Steel”, ”Monsters University”, ”White House Down”, ”Despicable Me 2”, ”Pacific Rim”, ”Red 2”, ”Wolverine”, ”300: Rise of an Empire”, ”Elysium”.

Out of those 15, 9 our based on already existing concepts. The remaining 6 are ”The Great Gatsby” (based on a book, but hey…), ”After Earth”, ”The Purge”, ”White House Down”, ”Pacific Rim” and ”Elysium”. Roughly 60-70% of the Top 10’s in the past decade were sequels, reboots or remakes, so it is safe to assume that 3 original concepts need to be crossed off and hence ”The Great Gatsby” (not very summery release, albeit flashy), ”After Earth” (I sense it’s going to bomb), and ”The Purge” (too high risk) have to go. Now we’re down to 12.

Out of the remaining 9: ”Red 2” and ”300: Rise of an Empire” will have to go as the least likely to succeed simply due to lack of buzz; a summer release needs buzz. Down to 10.

Looking at my corrected list (”Iron Man 3”, ”Star Trek 2”, ”The Hangover 3”, ”Man Of Steel”, ”Monsters University”, ”White House Down”, ”Despicable Me 2”, ”Pacific Rim”, ”Wolverine”, ” Elysium”) I see holes have formed in some weekends, therefore it is theoretically possible for some of the superfluous titles crossed off in the first instance to make additional money while nothing interesting is out. So, say hello to ”Fast and Furious 6” and ”The Lone Ranger”. On second note, ”After Earth” might not do all that badly just because there’s nothing around, and Shyamalan’s name missing from the trailers and posters can only help.

Since I have the number of entrants sitting at 13, I can proceed to put them in order. If the past is any indication, most of the top 3 films in the last decade had been released before mid-June, so that’s a hint number one. The other one is the distribution of animations with one usually making it close to the top and the second one hanging out around 6-7th place. Third hint – original concepts usually close the ranks so the sequels go first. Another one – Superhero movies top the chart. Last one – ”Hangover 3” looks to be a top 4 candidate, looking at how the previous ones ended up.

Here it is:

1)    ”Man Of Steel”

2)    ”Iron Man 3”

3)    ”Monsters University”

4)    ”The Hangover 3”

5)    ”Star Trek Into Darkness”

6)    ”Pacific Rim”

7)    ”Despicable Me 2”

8)    ”Fast And Furious 6”

9)    ”Wolverine”

10) ”Elysium”

Dark Horses: ”White House Down”, ”After Earth”, ”The Lone Ranger”

I was really hesitant with putting ”Man of Steel” first, but Chris Nolan’s seal of approval might be enough to elevate it past the horrible ”Iron Man 3”, even though the latter had the best opening ever. Other than that I think ”Monsters University” will break the top 3 and ”Star Trek Into Darkness” will do worse than I’d like it to do (My dream top 3 would involve ”Star Trek” right below ”Man of Steel” with ”Pacific Rim” or maybe ”Elysium” to close it). I think ”Pacific Rim” is going to do fine, because it’s Guillermo Del Toro and it is considered a substitute for the ”Transformers” – everybody loves robots… ”FF6” might break the top 10 thanks to ”After Earth” and ”Wolverine” underperforming, but I still think ”After Earth” can surprise me, so I included it as one of my Dark Horses together with ”White House Down” (because Roland Emmerich) and ”The Lone Ranger” (because Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp). Game on!