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Summer Movie Sequels May Have Trouble Breaking Box Office Records

"Jurassic World" and "Incredibles 2" face steep competition if they're going to make history at the box office this summer.

EVERYTHING’S FINE – In “Incredibles 2,” Bob navigates life at home while Helen is tackling a new mission to bring back Supers. But life at home gets complicated when Bob discovers that Jack-Jack has powers. Directed by Brad Bird and produced by John Walker and Nicole Paradis Grindle, “Incredibles 2” opens in U.S. theaters on June 15, 2018. ©2018 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

“Incredibles 2”

Pixar

Over the next two weeks, we’ll see the much-vaunted releases of “Incredibles 2” (Disney) and “Jurassic World: The Fallen Kingdom” (Universal). Both anticipate opening weekends over $100 million; industry claims that these numbers are a sign of strength within the industry will surely follow.

That could be true. However, it’s easy to get excited about numbers in the heat of the moment; more meaningful — and accurate — is looking at those figures in context of past performance and the year to date.

Ocean's 8 Rihanna

“Ocean’s 8”

Barry Wetcher

Historical figures, adjusted for inflation, are key. Last weekend brought claims that “Ocean’s 8” had the best opening weekend of the Steven Soderbergh productions, but while it beat expectations it actually ranked fourth and last. And of course “Solo” opened to $84 million while falling far short of its goal.

Grosses for the year so far are up 4.4 percent (ticket sales, around one percent). But by this time last year, nine films opened to $50 million or more; by the end of the summer, we had a total of 14. In 2018 to date, we have five $50 million-plus openers: “Black Panther,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” and “Deadpool 2,” “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” and “A Quiet Place.” By that measure, there’s no chance we’ll catch up with 2017.

That said: This summer looks more promising for $100-million openings. Last year, from mid-June forward, only one film — “Spider-Man: Homecoming” — opened to over $100 million.

"Avengers: Infinity War"

“Avengers: Infinity War”

Disney/Marvel

What follows are not the only big titles of the summer, but they are likely the biggest. (Also upcoming are entries in the “Hotel Transylvania,” “Mamma Mia,” and “Mission: Impossible” franchises, among others. We’ll assess those as we get closer.)

“Incredibles 2” (June 15/Disney)

SUPER FAMILY -- In Disney Pixar’s “Incredibles 2,” Helen (voice of Holly Hunter) is in the spotlight, while Bob (voice of Craig T. Nelson) navigates the day-to-day heroics of “normal” life at home when a new villain hatches a brilliant and dangerous plot that only the Incredibles can overcome together. Also featuring the voices of Sarah Vowell as Violet and Huck Milner as Dash, “Incredibles 2” opens in U.S. theaters on June 15, 2018. ©2017 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

“Incredibles 2”

Pixar

The first of three films with a shot of a $100-million opening also has the best shot at setting a record. Exactly two years ago, Pixar saw its best-ever opening with “Finding Dory,” which made $141.7 million adjusted on its way to becoming the biggest film of summer 2016. In adjusted totals, it falls only $2 million short of “Finding Nemo” as the best Pixar title ever.

Since then, Pixar released the “Cars 3” and  “Coco” with totals in the $150 million-$200 million range. “Incredibles 2” is the relatively rare Pixar sequel: Adjusted, the 2004 “Incredibles” made $384 million. It was an early-November release that opened to $103 million adjusted.

“Incredibles 2” has the asset of timing: Not only has it been more than a decade since the original, there’s also been an absence of strong cartoon releases. “Peter Rabbit” was the last major one, with a $115 million total coming after its February debut.

An opening to rival “Finding Dory” shouldn’t be presumed; “Finding Nemo” was bigger than “Incredibles.” Anything over $125 million would be excellent, but if it falls a little short that’s still respectable. Since “Dory,” the only animated title to open over $100 million was “The Secret Life of Pets” that same summer. In fact, none since has opened above $75 million.

Universal Pictures

“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” (June 22/Universal)

The domestic debut the fourth “Jurassic” film comes two weeks after its very strong international release. The earlier dates reflect competitive fear of the World Cup, but that also let it avoid competition from “Solo” and “Incredibles 2.”

However, a film that opens after foreign dates can suffer. Social media — and in this case, mediocre advance reviews — can mean building unwanted audience wariness.

It will be tough for “Fallen Kingdom” to come close to 2015’s “Jurassic World,” which opened to $232 million. By the time it opens here, it should have made close to $300 million overseas. (It grossed $151 million in its first weekend.) At $170 million in production costs, the film will be a success.

That said, it wouldn’t be surprising if “Fallen Kingdom” opens $100 million short of the last entry. That would lead to some “Solo” comparisons — although those should come with the significant caveat that “Solo” is not remotely the foreign draw of the “Jurassic” films.

“Incredibles 2” may have the stronger start, but consider “Fallen Kingdom” in good shape if it crosses a $125 million opening.

“Ant-Man and the Wasp” (July 6/Disney)

Here’s Marvel release that’s also a wild card: It’s the fourth film from the studio this year, and it’s a sequel to a relatively modest performer.

The release slot is similar to “Ant-Man” in 2015, which opened a few weeks after “Jurassic World.” Its initial weekend was $63.5 million adjusted, far below top-end Marvel openings. Still, with Marvel momentum this is positioned as the most-likely franchise film to show an increase over its predecessor. It could be a litmus test for the breadth of the brand’s appeal.

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