For the past two Januarys I have cast my eye into the murky abyss of the future in an attempt to predict what the year’s cinematic releases have in store for us. Some of my predictions have been spot on (I guessed Transformers: The Last Knight would be atrocious and it was – who would have thought???) and some less so (Ready Player One did not *quite* make the billion dollars I was expecting it to. Oops), so take anything I say with a pinch of salt. Or two.
The House of Mouse’s Global Domination
In 2016, Disney made a record $7.6 billion at the worldwide box office, the largest annual gross by any one studio in history. This year, I don’t just predict they will top that, I predict they will gross clear of $8 billion. A bold claim, until you look at the absolute mountain of sequels, reboots, adaptations, reimaginings, or ‘insert other term for franchise film here’. This year, Disney is releasing (takes a deep breath) Captain Marvel, Dumbo, Avengers: Endgame, Aladdin, Toy Story 4, Spiderman: Far From Home, The Lion King, Artemis Fowl, Frozen 2 and Star Wars: Episode IX.
Specifically, I’m placing Avengers: Endgame’s worldwide gross as ending around the $2.1 billion mark, making it the third highest grossing film ever, whilst Star Wars, Frozen, Toy Story and Lion King will all clear a billion dollars. On the other hand, I predict it will be Artemis Fowl that grosses the least, with headlines written about how it ‘underperformed’. I’m sure Disney will be super upset about this, wiping tears away with twenty dollar bills before diving into piles of money Scrooge McDuck style.
‘This year will once again prove that the franchise rules the box office’
Top Tip: Don’t not be Marvel
This year Marvel have three major movies coming out – the aforementioned Avengers and Spiderman sequels, as well as Captain Marvel, the most imaginatively named superhero. Despite being Marvel characters, the X-Men are controlled by Fox (A company which also will soon be owned by Disney. Disney won’t stop until they spread their Disney magic onto everything.). This year sees the releases of Dark Phoenix, the X-Men franchise’s second attempt at the ‘Jean Grey is bad now’ storyline they butchered in X-Men: The Last Stand, and New Mutants which is X-Men but horror. Both films have been pushed back to 2019 amid a series of reshoots, with New Mutants being delayed twice. Whilst reshoots do not necessarily equal disaster, the extent of the delays is not a positive sign, especially with New Mutants which is rumoured to be reshooting half the movie, including adding two new characters into the fold. I reckon Dark Phoenix will do fine at the box office but be less well received critically – think X-Men Apocalypse type performance – whereas New Mutants will definitely underperform, leading to the upcoming trilogy it is meant to kickstart being scrapped.
On the DC side of things, Shazam! will be a refreshing change from the grimdark DCEU and be received well by critics and fans alike, but will also underperform at the box office. Joker, a Batman-less Joaquin Phoenix-starring Joker origin story directed by the same guy who did the Hangover trilogy – perhaps the strangest pitch for a film ever – will be praised for Phoenix’s performance but receive only middling reviews.
This year will once again prove that the franchise rules the box office. Since 2015, only two truly ‘original’ movies (that is a film that is not based on a book, or another instalment in a movie series) have cracked the top twenty highest grossing films at the box office each year. Except 2016, which had five. Well done 2016, you beacon of originality. Though one of those films was The Secret Life of Pets, so you do lose some brownie points there, 2016. Expect 2019 to follow suit, with only one or two non-franchise films cracking the top twenty – and it is likely they’ll be from China.
So in a sea of franchise films, which original 2019 films are worth supporting? Get Out was a standout of 2017, and with director Jordan Peele returning to the psychological horror genre for his sophomore movie Us, the signs are good for a second must-watch movie. Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will be exactly what you expect from a Tarantino film with the added bonus that it is set in old-timey Hollywood and features the stacked cast of Leonardo Di Caprio, Brad Pitt, Al Pacino, Margot Robbie, Tim Roth and Kurt Russell, and that’s not even half of the recognisable names in it. So the stage is set for some top tier Tarantinoy-ness, which if it is your jam, will be super enjoyable. Midsommar follows a family going on holiday in Sweden and ending up at the hands of a Pagan Cult. And if that undisputedly fantastic premise has not already sold you, then it is worth noting it is directed by Hereditary’s Ari Aster. Oh and Taiki Waititi of Thor: Ragnarok and What We Do in the Shadows fame is releasing a film where a little boy in World War II has an imaginary friend and that imaginary friend is Hitler. I just wanted to throw that out there really.