At a time when the movie business is undergoing a massive disruption, an early glance at the 2018 schedule looks like there will be plenty of strong reasons for moviegoers to leave home in the next year — maybe even in August, which was a box office wasteland in 2017.
The best bets include four powerful franchise films opening in May and June — “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” and “Deadpool 2” — along with intriguing new properties such as “Red Sparrow,” “Black Panther,” “A Wrinkle in Time,” “Venom” and “Aquaman.” Franchise films abound, including “Fifty Shades Freed,” “The Incredibles 2,” “Mission: Impossible 6” and “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Gindelwald.”
Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore, said the upcoming May-June corridor is reminiscent of the same period of 2015, when “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Inside Out” and “Jurassic World” all became blockbusters.
“The early summer of 2018 is packed but having a franchise is no guarantee of success,” he added. “2017 had to be a wake-up call for the entire industry to convince them to do things differently because consumers now have access to unlimited entertainment content at home. So you have to give them a compelling reason to go to theaters rather than just presenting the same old kind of movies.”
The 2017 slate is winding up the year down about 2.5% to $11.1 billion from the record-setting total of 2016. It was a year when seemingly strong titles like “The Dark Tower,” “Justice League,” “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” and “The Mummy” fell short of expectations — particularly on the domestic front, where the summer was the worst in a decade and August box office plunged by 35%. Attendance will be off by as much as 4%.
That presents a daunting challenge to the major studios — how do they persuade customers to show up at multiplexes when customers have endless choices elsewhere? Streaming services, led by Netflix, have been effective at creating buzzy shows such as “The Crown” and “Stranger Things” as a more cost-effective alternative to moviegoing. Eventually, the number of studio releases will likely shrink as Disney absorbs 20th Century Fox.
Still, the worldwide box office managed to grow and could reach $40 billion for the first time by the end of this year. China, which had slowed its explosive growth, came back to life this year.
Patrick Corcoran, spokesman for the trade organization National Association of Theater Owners, is not overly concerned about the domestic box office. He said that studios appear to have done a better job of scheduling for the upcoming year.
“2017 showed that when the movies are there, audiences will show up in record numbers, no matter what time of year,” Corcoran said. “A more balanced schedule in 2018 should build on an otherwise solid 2017. There are some very big titles in Q1 — continuing a recent lucrative trend – and a return to a more appealing summer, with August (essentially abandoned in 2017) boasting several potential crowd-pleasers.”
In chronological order, here’s a list (by no means complete) of the top box office prospects for 2018:
Jan. 26 — Fox’s “Maze Runner: The Death Cure.” Dylan O’Brien stars in the finale of the sci-fi trilogy, delayed because of injuries he suffered in 2016. The two previous films have grossed $660 million worldwide.
Feb. 9 — Universal’s “Fifty Shades Freed,” starring Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele and Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the conclusion to the erotic drama with the duo now married. The series has grossed $950 million worldwide.
Feb. 16 — Disney-Marvel’s “Black Panther,” starring Chadwick Boseman in the 18th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has generated $13.5 billion in worldwide grosses. Ryan Coogler directed from his own screenplay, written with Joe Robert Cole. Also stars Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman and Daniel Kaluuya.
March 2 — Fox’s “Red Sparrow,” starring Jennifer Lawrence as a deadly Russian spy. She’s re-teamed with Francis Lawrence, who directed the final three Hunger Games movies. “Red Sparrow” was originally slated to open last October but was delayed.
March 9 — Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” starring Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling in a time-travel fantasy. Ava DuVernay directs after helming “Selma” and receiving an Oscar nomination for the documentary “13th.”
March 23 — Universal-Legendary’s “Pacific Rim Uprising,” starring John Boyega and Scott Eastwood in another battle between the evil Kaijus and the Jaegers. The 2013 original grossed $411 million worldwide.
March 30 — Warner Bros.’ “Ready Player One,” starring Tye Sheridan and Olivia Cooke with Steven Spielberg directing the adaptation of Ernest Cline’s dystopian novel of the same name about a virtual-reality space called OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation).
April 13 — Fox’s “The New Mutants,” a superhero horror movie and the 11th iteration of the durable X-Men franchise. Anya Taylor-Joy, Maisie Williams, Charlie Heaton, Henry Zaga and Blu Hunt star, with Josh Boone directing a story of young mutants held in a secret facility. The 10 X-Men films have grossed $4.9 billion worldwide.
April 20 — New Line’s “Rampage,” starring Dwayne Johnson in an adaptation of the videogame about giant mutant animals on the loose.
May 4 — Disney-Marvel’s “Avengers: Infinity War,” directed by Joe and Anthony Russo with a massive cast including Robert Downey, Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Chris Pratt, Chris Hemsworth, Josh Brolin and Elizabeth Olsen. Combined worldwide grosses on the two previous “Avengers” are over $2.9 billion. Biggest trailer launch ever with 230 million views in 24 hours.
May 25 — Disney-Luscasfilm’s “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” directed first by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who were replaced by Ron Howard. The second standalone “Star Wars” spinoff after 2016’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars story,” which topped $1 billion worldwide. Alden Ehrenreich stars.
June 1 — Fox’s “Deadpool 2,” with Ryan Reynolds reprising the wisecracking superhero opposite Josh Brolin as Cable. David Leitch succeeds Tim Miller as director. The 2016 original was beloved by fans and a surprise success with $783 million in worldwide grosses.
June 8 — Warner Bros.’ “Ocean’s Eight,” starring Sandra Bullock as Debbie Ocean — the sister of George Clooney’s Danny Ocean — along with Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter and Awkwafina. Gary Ross directs. The “Oceans” trilogy grossed $1.2 billion worldwide between 2001 and 2007.
June 15 — Disney-Pixar’s “The Incredibles 2,” 14 years after the original won the animation Oscar and grossed $633 million worldwide. Brad Bird returns to direct with Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson and Samuel L. Jackson reprising their voice roles.
June 22 — Universal’s “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” in the fifth iteration of the dinosaurs on the loose franchise. J.A. Bayona directs with Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard and B.D. Wong back in their roles from 2015’s “Jurassic World,” which grossed $1.6 billion world. Jeff Goldblum returns for comic relief in the form of Dr. Ian Malcolm from the first two films.
July 6 — Disney-Marvel’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” with Paul Rudd returning in a sequel to the 2015 original, which grossed $519 million worldwide.
July 13 — “The Nun,” a spinoff from “The Conjuring 2” about the death of a nun with Demian Bichir and Taissa Farmiga going to Romania to investigate. Opens on a Friday the 13th. The four Conjuring Universe films have combined for $1.2 billion in worldwide grosses for New Line.
July 13 — Universal-Legendary’s “Skyscraper,” Dwayne Johnson’s summer movie, portraying a security expert dealing with the tallest building in the world catching fire. His 2015 disaster title, “San Andreas,” grossed $474 million worldwide.
July 20 — Fox’s sci-fi tale “Alita: Battle Angel,” based on the Japanese manga and produced by James Cameron and Jon Landau. It’s directed by Robert Rodriguez and stars Rosa Salazar. Cameron’s “Avatar” and “Titanic” are the two highest grossers of all time.
July 20 — Universal’s “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” opens 10 years and two days after the original “Mamma Mia!” launched and went to on gross $609 million worldwide.
July 27 — Paramount’s “Mission: Impossible 6,” starring Tom Cruise, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg and Rebecca Ferguson with Simon McQuarrie directing. Filming was halted for two months so Cruise could heal from a broken ankle he suffered during filming. The franchise has a worldwide gross of $2.77 billion.
Aug. 8 — Sony’s “Barbie,” starring Anne Hathaway in a comedy take on the iconic doll’s life. Production has not started yet so “Barbie” may not make the date.
Aug. 10 — Warner Bros.’ “The Meg,” starring Jason Statham with Jon Turtletaub directing a story about a giant pre-historic shark called a Megadolon. The project, based on Steve Alten’s 1997 novel “Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror,” was in development for more than a decade. Its original release date was going to be March 2, 2018. The four “Jaws” movies grossed a collective $800 million worldwide between 1975 and 1987.
Aug. 17 — Warner Bros.’ “Crazy Rich Asians,” starring Constance Wu and Henry Golding with John Chu directing the story of the rich and famous in Singapore. The film is based on Kevin Kwan’s 2013 best-selling novel.
Sept. 21 — Lionsgate’s “Robin Hood,” starring Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx, Eve Hewson, Jamie Dornan and Ben Mendelsohn. Ridley Scott’s “Robin Hood,” starring Russell Crowe, grossed $321 million worldwide in 2010.
Sept. 28 — Universal’s comedy “Night School,” starring Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish, who broke out in “Girls Trip” and revived R-rated comedies. Malcolm D. Lee directs.
Oct. 5 — Warner Bros.’ “A Star is Born,” starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, who also directs. It’s the fourth version of the story of a fading male star and a rising female singer, played by Janet Gaynor in 1937, Judy Garland in 1954 and Barbra Streisand in 1976.
Oct. 5 — Sony-Marvel’s “Venom,” starring Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams. Ruben Fleischer directs an expansion of Sony’s universe of Marvel-licensed characters. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” grossed $880 million worldwide this year.
Oct. 12 — Universal’s “First Man,” starring Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon, in a re-team with “La La Land” director Damien Chazelle.
Oct. 19 — Sony’s “The Girl in the Spider’s Web,” starring Claire Foy as Lisbeth Salander. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” took in $232 million worldwide in 2011. The book franchise has sold over 86 million copies
Nov. 2 — Fox’s “Dark Phoenix,” a decade after the events of “X-Men: Apocalypse.” James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Alexandra Shipp, and Jessica Chastain star. “X-Men: Apocalypse” grossed $544 million worldwide.
Nov. 16 — Warner Bros.’ “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” starring Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Jude Law and Johnny Depp in the second of the five-film series. 2016’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” grossed $814 million worldwide.
Nov. 21 — Disney’s “Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2” with John C. Reilly back to voice the lead. The 2012 original grossed $471 million worldwide.
Dec. 14 — Universal’s dystopian “Mortal Engines,” Peter Jackson’s first movie since his “Hobbit” trilogy grossed $2.9 billion worldwide.
Dec. 21 — Warner Bros.-Marvel’s “Aquaman” in the sixth iteration of the DC Extended Universe, in which Jason Momoa gets his own movie after appearing in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Justice League,” which grossed $650 million worldwide. James Wan directs.
Dec. 21 — Paramount’s “Bumbleebee,” the first spinoff from the five-film Transformers franchise, which has grossed $4.77 billion worldwide.
Dec. 25 — Disney’s “Mary Poppins Returns,” starring Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda in a sequel to 1964 original “Mary Poppins,” set amid the Great Depression in 1935 in the U.K. Rob Marshall directs. The original was a massive success with $102 million in box office.