The summer movie season starts with Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy 3” (Disney) opening on May 2, expected to be among the top domestic hits for the season. It should be high on the list of a dozen titles that we expect to gross more than $100 million — three more than in summer 2022. However, there’s nothing this year that’s projected to perform at the level of last summer’s “Top Gun: Maverick” ($719 million total).
Advance projections tend to favor known brands, but they can be way off. The guess for “Maverick” was around $200 million. “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” currently at $340 million domestic after two weeks, initially hoped for $300 million across its entire run.
Our top 12 titles are based on input from industry sources, including films buyers and executives, as well as comparisons with past summers. There are key differences between our analysis of summer 2023 and the results of a recent survey from ticketing app Fandango, which asked 6,000 people what they planned to see among summer releases.
The Fandango top 10, in ranked order (but without box-office estimates), are: “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-verse,” “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One,” “The Flash,” “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Fast X,” “Barbie,” “Oppenheimer,” “Haunted Mansion,” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem.”
A Fandango survey published last December for the most-anticipated films of 2023 listed “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” (Disney) as the top choice and placed “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” (Paramount) at #5. In the new summer survey, “Indiana Jones” doesn’t make the top 10.
The 2022 summer Fandango survey had “Maverick” as #4, with Disney’s Marvel movies “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” #1 and “Thor: Love and Thunder” #2. The films placed #2 and #5, respectively, in actual domestic gross.
As always, standalone titles (“Oppenheimer”) and would-be franchise kickstarters (“Barbie”) have more modest expectations. If we see 12 titles gross over $100 million, that would be two more than 2019 and the same as 2018 (not adjusted for higher ticket prices). Both 2022 and 2o19 had four, not three over $350 million.
To date, 2023 box-office performance stands at a 37 percent improvement over 2022. For summer to contribute at that level, most of the 12 titles need to reach or exceed expectations — and some sleeper titles, currently not identified, will also need to break through.
These are the 12 films likely to gross over $100 million in the U.S./Canada. We break them into three performance tiers of four each. Films in each category are listed alphabetically.
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” (May 5, Disney)
“Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” (June 30, Disney)
“The Little Mermaid” (May 26, Disney)
“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-verse” (June 2, Sony)
Three are Disney titles; easy guess is “Guardians” scores big, even after the disappointing “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.”
“The Little Mermaid” as a live-action remake of the 1989 animated favorite comes four years after the “The Lion King” grossed $543 million. This time the gross is likely lower, but the potential is still strong.
While “Indiana Jones” failed to make the Fandango list, exhibitors felt the precedent of the “Jurassic” reboots plus the success of “Maverick” indicate sustained interest in iconic ’80s action characters. The last film in the franchise, in 2008, grossed around $500 million adjusted.
The first “Spider-Verse” in 2018 surprised with almost $200 million. This time it comes after the huge live-action “No Way Home” and all audience quadrants racing to “SMB.”
“Elemental” (June 16, Disney)
“Fast X” (May 19, Universal)
“The Flash” (June 16, Warner Bros. Discovery)
“Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning, Part One” (July 14, Paramount)
Disney animation has lagged behind other studios of late, but “Elemental” was just chosen as closing-night film at the Cannes Film Festival, a sure sign of faith in the film.
Totals for the last two “M:I” installments grossed in the range of $200 million — and then there’s the “Maverick” factor to consider.
The “Fast” franchise is heavily weighted toward foreign performance — as much as 80 percent — and recent entries gross around $200 million domestic.
“The Flash” has good early word of mouth — but it also has its Ezra Miller issue, and the questions surrounding the DC Comics brand.
“Barbie” (July 21, Warner Bros. Discovery)
“Haunted Mansion” (July 28, Disney)
“Oppenheimer” (July 21, Universal)
“Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” (July 9, Paramount)
Will some viewers’ intense interest in Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” override possible resistance in others? A broader concern: Can a comedy really work? This might be the film most likely to exceed expectations.
“Haunted Mansion” is based on the Disney ride, with Justin Simien (“Dear White People”) a creative choice as director.
The “Transformer” series has seen declining grosses, and also is top-heavy foreign.
“Oppenheimer” is 3 hours long, but it has IMAX appeal with director Christopher Nolan and the prospect of spectacularly photographed nuclear tests.
On the bubble is “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” (August 2, Paramount): Some of our sources put it just over $100 million, others just under. However, the “SMB” response suggests it could have strength in reserve.