Even with 24 Titles, 10 Sequels, and Tom Cruise, the Performance of BARBIE and OPPENHEIMER May Determine the Fate of the Quarter
The third quarter of 2023 began on Friday, July 7th, and will run through Thursday, October 5th, including the 13 films weeks numbered 27 through 39. As it begins, the industry is coming off solid back-to-back quarters with the first half of the year generating a domestic box office that is 107% compared with the first half of 2022.
Even with a series of disappointing openings at the end of the second quarter such as THE FLASH, NO HARD FEELINGS, RUBY GILLMAN: TEENAGE KRAKEN, and INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY, there are good reasons to be optimistic about the start of the third quarter.
To start, a bountiful 24 titles are scheduled for wide release during the quarter compared with only 16 in last year’s third quarter. At least one new wide-release movie is scheduled for every week in the quarter, whereas last year there were two weekends lacking a new wide-release – August 12th and September 2nd. Last year’s August and September were particularly weak, with only 11 titles of marginal strength remaining to be released after studios had brought out their highest-profile movies earlier in the year.
This year, August and September will have 17 new wide releases, including three with the potential to earn $100M at the box office. Here is a month-by-month rundown of these new titles, including estimates for their total domestic gross.
INSIDIOUS: THE RED DOOR (Sony, $50M) – The storyline of this fifth outing in the horror series picks up ten years after the last installment ended. Dalton, the teenage son in the Lambert family, is getting ready to head off to college but is haunted by the presence of a lurking evil spirit. The most recent movie INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY opened on January 3, 2018, and earned $68M in North America and $168M worldwide. Taken together, the four previous movies have grossed more than $500M worldwide.
JOY RIDE (Lionsgate, $35M) – A story of four Asian-American friends who go on an international trip to discover themselves. The movie has a “Hard R” rating and uses several red band trailers in its marketing. It seeks to tap into some of the success that CRAZY RICH ASIANS enjoyed in 2018, which earned $175M domestic and $239M worldwide. However, CRAZY RICH ASIANS was rated PG-13 and had a wider appeal, whereas JOY RIDE is likely to reach a more limited audience.
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – DEAD RECKONING PART ONE (PARAMOUNT, $230M) In this seventh outing for Tom Cruise in the famous movie series, Ethan Hunt tries to take out a horrific new weapon threatening humanity. Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg assist him once again, with Hayley Atwell as the female lead.
Cruise will have to collect most of his money fast, as Christopher Nolan will likely take over most of the Premium Large Format screens with OPPENHEIMER when it opens on July 21st. The most recent MI film MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT generated $220M domestically and $792M worldwide in 2018. We expect that Tom will pull it out once again, despite the added competition.
BARBIE (Warner Bros., $200M) This movie adaptation of the iconic Mattel doll stars Margot Robbie as Barbie and Ryan Gossling as Ken. The comedy tells the story of a “perfect Barbie and Ken” having to deal with real-life situations. Warner Bros. has high hopes that BARBIE will live on as a multi-sequel franchise. It is rumored that Warner Bros. took this date in order to go head-to-head with Christopher Nolan’s OPPENHEIMER after the director ended his 20-year partnership with the studio.
OPPENHEIMER (UNIVERSAL, $130M) This is Christopher Nolan’s telling of the story of the Manhattan Project, the race during WWII to build the atomic bomb. The movie has Oscar nominations written all over it, with Cillian Murphy in the title role supported by performances from Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Rami Malek, and Robert Downey Jr. While it may not rise to the top of the box office charts, it is certain to receive much critical acclaim.
HAUNTED MANSION (Disney, $100M) Inspired by the classic theme park ride, this story revolves around a mother and her son enlisting the help of a strange crew of so-called spiritual experts to rid their home of supernatural beings. The movie stars Owen Wilson, Tiffany Haddish, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Danny DeVito.
TALK TO ME (A24, $20M) This is the next major horror flick of the summer, following INSIDIOUS: THE RED DOOR (Sony, $80M). While A24 has spun much gold from smaller films, this one is not EVERYTHING, EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE.
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: MUTANT MAYHEM (Paramount, $70M) Seth Rogan reboots the highly successful series in animated form. This will be the seventh version of the turtles, which began in 1990 and has produced almost $2B in worldwide sales. With the recent success of animated features SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE and THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE, this one could surpass everyone’s expectations.
MEG 2: THE TRENCH (Warner Bros., $85M) Jason Statham circles back to the same shark-infested waters that produced a solid box office in 2018, when THE MEG grossed $330.2M worldwide.
GRAN TURISMO (Sony, $80M) This sports drama tells the story of a teenager who is an expert at playing the Gran Turismo video game, but who aspires to become a real-life race car driver. The film stars David Harbour and Orlando Bloom. While the video game has developed a massive worldwide following, we’ll see if this translates into movie ticket sales.
THE LAST VOYAGE OF THE DEMETER (Universal, $25M) A supernatural horror film that is an adaptation of “The Captain’s Log,” a chapter from the original 1897 gothic horror novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. A doomed crew must survive a treacherous ocean voyage while being stalked by the iconic vampire.
BLUE BEETLE (Warner Bros., $100M) This is DC’s latest effort to launch a new superhero. Jaime Reyes is a symbiotic host to “The Scarab”, an ancient relic that turns him into the superhero Blue Beetle with a powerful exoskeleton. Warner Bros. and DC are hungry for success, coming soon after the disappointment of THE FLASH. The studio has given itself much more room to maneuver, with BLUE BEETLE costing only $120M to produce which is less than half the $250M it spent on THE FLASH.
STRAYS (Universal, $35M) A Border Terrier named Reggie (Will Ferrell) is abandoned on the streets by his selfish owner Doug (Will Forte), an animal–hating drug addict. Reggie is helped by Bug (Jaimie Foxx), Maggie (Isa Fisher), and Hunter (Randall Park) to get revenge on Doug. Angling to appeal to the TED demo, this film has been promoted by a series of red-band trailers.
WHITE BIRD (Lionsgate, $15M) A spinoff, prequel, and companion piece to WONDER (2017), which grossed $306M worldwide. While this chapter does not include Julia Roberts or Owen Wilson, it does add Helen Mirren as the boy Julian’s grandmother, who tells him stories of her own childhood as a Jewish girl living in France under Nazi occupation during World War II.
THE EQUALIZER 3 (Sony, $80M) The sequel is directed by Antoine Fuqua and brings back Denzel Washington to complete the trilogy that began in 2014. This time Denzel turns up in Italy where he has moved to escape his past. He now must rescue his new friends from the clutches of the Sicilian mob.
THE NUN 2 (Warner Bros., $40M) This is a direct sequel to THE NUN and the ninth movie out of THE CONJURING universe. Once again, Sister Irene takes on demonic forces. THE NUN opened on September 7, 2018, and tallied $117M domestically and $366M worldwide.
MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 3 (Universal, $35M) The family goes to Greece for a reunion in this third installment in the comedy series, directed once again by Nia Vardalos and bringing back most of the original cast. The first two films have grossed $460M worldwide. The film is dedicated to Michael Constantine who died on August 31, 2021, at the age of 94. He played Gus Portakalos, the patriarch of the family.
A HAUNTING IN VENICE (20th Century Studios, $40M) An adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel “Halloween Party”, directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh who plays detective Hercule Poirot, who also appeared in DEATH ON THE NILE (2022) and MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (2017).
CHALLENGERS (MGM, $20M) A love triangle in which a tennis coach (Zendaya) puts her pro-player husband who is struggling with his game in direct competition with his former best friend and her former boyfriend, the challenger.
EXPENDABLES 4 (Lionsgate, $30M) The fourth movie in a series whose first three chapters have grossed $227M domestic and $802M worldwide. Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham return as they are called on to step into a conflict that could lead to a nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia. Yet another sequel in a summer full of them, this one may well be the last edition in a tired franchise on its last legs.
DRIVE AWAY DOLLS (Focus Features, $15M) Ethan Coen writes and directs this road trip movie featuring Jamie, a free spirit recovering from yet another breakup, and her uptight and demure friend Marian. They decide to take a trip to Tallahassee, which goes off the rails when they cross paths with a group of inept criminals. The quirky cast includes Margaret Qualley, Geraldine Viswanathan, Pedro Pascal, and Matt Damon.
DUMB MONEY (Sony, $30M) The film chronicles the financial short squeeze experienced by Gamestop stock at the height of the pandemic in January 2021. It features an all-star cast led by Paul Dano, Vincent D’Onofrio, America Ferrara, Nick Offerman, Shailene Woodley, and Seth Rogan who do their best to broaden the appeal of its highly technical Wall Street storyline.
PAW PATROL: THE MIGHTY MOVIE (Paramount, $20M/$35M) This is only the second wide-release animated film of the quarter, the sequel to PAW PATROL: THE MOVIE from 2021 that grossed $40M in the U.S. and Canada and $144M worldwide. A meteor crash lands in Adventure City and gives the Paw Patrol pups superpowers. The cast is led by Taraji P. Henson, James Marsden, and Kristen Bell.
THE CREATOR (20th Century Studios, $30M/$50M) A science-fiction action thriller directed by Gareth Edwards who also directed ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY in 2016. It stars John David Washington in a story set in the future about a war between the human race and an enemy with artificial intelligence.
Here is our forecast of the Top Ten movies for Q3 2023 compared with the actual Top Ten from Q3 2022.
COMPARING TOP TEN MOVIES – Q3 2023 vs. Q3 2022
We project that the top ten third-quarter movies in 2023 will generate 89% of box office earned by the top ten third-quarter movies from last year. Last year, the second and third-highest-earning movies of the third quarter were carryovers from the second quarter, and no such momentum exists this year after a slow end to June.
We estimate that the total box office for this year’s third quarter will come in at $1.72B, virtually the same number as last year. While ten sequels will be released during the quarter, the two movies having the biggest impact on results may be BARBIE and OPPENHEIMER, which debut together on July 21st.