Spider-Man: No Way Home clobbered the December box office en route to becoming the highest-grossing film of 2021 with over $1 billion (and counting) to date. Its success can be attributed to a number of things, chief among them a nostalgia-driven narrative. More importantly, despite the slew of high profile releases throughout the year, notably No Time to Die, Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Dune, and Eternals, Spider-Man: No Way Home was the first truly must-see event film of 2021 – a movie not to be missed on the big screen, and worth attending for the rabid audience reaction alone.
So, with Spidey now firmly chiseled in the record books, we got to thinking: what upcoming film could possibly match/top its success in 2022?
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Surprisingly, 2022 has quite a few contenders, though whether they have all the ingredients to surpass Spidey is up for debate. An early favorite to dominate the box office is Matt Reeves’ The Batman, in which Robert Pattinson dons the legendary cowl to battle Paul Dano’s Riddler and Colin Farrell’s Penguin. The Batman has a sure path to $1 billion considering the popularity of the character, the positive buzz surrounding the pic, and the various TV spin-offs that will only add to audience curiosity. The question is whether general audiences are eager for yet another Batman film following Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy and Zack Snyder’s “Snyderverse.”
I imagine the film performs more like a Nolan Bat pic and hits the billion-dollar mark, but doesn’t turn any heads with its performance.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
April sees the release of the latest Harry Potter prequel, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, but considering the previous two entries failed to top $1 billion, much less generate excitement from all but the most devoted fans, one can expect J.K. Rowling’s latest foray to top out at around $600-700M worldwide — and that’s only if people actually like it.
Still, it has been a while since the last Fantastic Beasts, and given the continued popularity of the Potterverse, I wouldn’t be surprised if The Secrets of Dumbledore shocked everyone and put up big numbers this spring.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
One popular title that could generate Spidey-level buzz is Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which releases May 6 and carries the distinct title of “the next MCU film,” and seemingly picks up where No Way Home left off with Doctor Strange jumping further into the multiverse. Supposedly, reshoots added cameos from previous Marvel films, which could draw curious moviegoers, while the addition of Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) should drum up interest for those eager to see where her story leads following the events of Disney+’s WandaVision.
Captain Marvel and Spider-Man: No Way Home managed to top $1 billion at the box office following the success of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, respectively, so, it’s easy to assume Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will easily surpass that number and then some in the early part of May. The only question is whether Doctor Strange and Scarlet Witch are big enough draws to take on Spider-Man; and whether the aforementioned cameos are on the same level as Tobey and Andrew’s Spider-Men.
Still, bearing in mind its positioning as the first big film of the summer, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness should sell a lot of tickets, even if it has to contend with the anticipated sequels Top Gun: Maverick and Jurassic World: Dominion during its run.
Jurassic World: Dominion
Speaking of which, while I expect Top Gun to do decent business, Jurassic World: Dominion has a great shot at producing Spidey-sized box office returns. Lest we forget, the original Jurassic World grossed a mammoth $208.8 million in its debut weekend back in 2015 and eventually collected $652.3 million in the US and $1.670 billion worldwide. Its 2018 sequel, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, was less impressive with a $150 million opening, but still managed to hit $1.310 billion worldwide.
Fallen Kingdom ended with a massive cliffhanger (similar to Far From Home), and there is certainly a desire to see what happens when dinosaurs run amok across the world. Considering the huge gap between films, and the positive buzz surrounding that awesome prequel “The Battle at Big Rock,” as well as the prologue that showed in front of IMAX showings of F9, plus a middle-of-summer release date (June 25), there’s no reason why audiences won’t gobble up tickets for Universal’s latest dino romp.
Another factor contributing to Dominion’s success is the Netflix animated series Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous, which has successfully kept the Jurassic brand afloat amongst younger viewers in the intervening years between parts two and three. And we shouldn’t overlook the inclusions of original Jurassic Park actors Sam Neil, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum, whose appearance might be enough to push Dominion over the top.
The only thing standing in Dominion’s way is a crowded marketplace that also sees films such as Disney/Pixar’s Lightyear, Illumination’s Minions: The Rise of Guru, Thor: Love and Thunder, and Black Adam. Otherwise, this threequel certainly has all the ingredients to produce a Spidey-sized box office behemoth. At the very least, it should surpass Incredibles 2’s $182 million to become the second-highest June opener behind only Jurassic World. How high Dominion goes is anybody’s guess.
Thor: Love and Thunder
The fourth Thor film, titled Thor: Love and Thunder, is harder to predict. The pic features the first appearance of Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and the Guardians of the Galaxy following Avengers: Endgame, and also brings back Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi. Ragnarok collected a massive $854 million in November of 2017, easily surpassing the totals of Thor ($449.3 million) and Thor: The Dark World ($644.8 million) by a hefty sum. Marvel’s latest will also feature Christian Bale in a villain role and see Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster take up the God of Thunder’s mantle.
Love and Thunder releases on July 8 and has the month all to itself until Black Adam hits theaters on July 29.
Again, the key here is the Marvel brand, which, until Eternals, had proved invincible at the box office over the last decade. Will audiences grow a little weary of another MCU entry so soon after Doctor Strange and Spider-Man? Will families be up for another trip to theaters after shelling out massive moola for Top Gun, Jurassic World, Lightyear, and Minions?
My guess is, Thor tops $1 billion at the worldwide box office, but isn’t a “juggernaut” on par with Spidey. Still a massive hit for Marvel and Hemsworth.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
The Academy Award-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was the first feature to introduce the whole multiverse concept to the world and looks to go even deeper with back-to-back entries starting with Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse – Part One in October. Into the Spider-Verse grossed a decent $375.5 million worldwide in 2018, but has steadily grown in popularity with many, including yours truly, ranking it among the best superhero films ever made.
Still, I don’t think this Spidey matches No Way Home in terms of popularity, but still think Across the Spider-Verse outpaces its groundbreaking predecessor by a fair amount.
No Way Home’s success obviously has every studio turning to past IPs to see if they can conjure the same magic. Case in point: DC’s The Flash, or the latest entry in the distorted DCEU, which seemingly attempts to “course correct” following the “failures” of Zack Snyder’s flicks.
The flick’s ace in the hole is Michael Keaton’s Batman, whose inclusion should be enough to drum up interest for older audiences, whilst Ben Affleck’s Batman will likely provide an additional boost and draw curious Snyder fans.
Of course, the Bat duo are only window dressing as Warner Bros. and DC attempt to establish Sasha Calle’s Supergirl and rebrand Ezra Miller’s speedster following his last big-screen appearance in 2017’s Justice League.
I am curious to see how Keaton fares in the cowl after a 30-year absence, particularly given his role in the Batgirl film, but will younger audiences care about a 70-year old Batman? Will The Flash’s apparent reimagining of the Snyder-Verse piss off fans of the brand and/or audiences who enjoyed Zack Snyder’s Justice League? Is the Flash character popular enough to produce big-time box office numbers? Is it being released too soon after Black Adam? Will The Batman steal some of its thunder?
My guess is this one achieves around $800-900 million but could possibly go much higher if it’s actually good.
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom
In a similar vein, I’m not quite sure what to make of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. The original Aquaman arrived in 2018 following the disappointing results of Justice League and managed to hit $1.148 billion worldwide mostly on the back of its terrific special effects and Jason Mamoa’s star power. The character featured prominently in Zack Snyder’s Justice League early this year but has otherwise been absent from the big screen. Will that lengthy drought help or hinder Aquaman’s performance?
Oddly, Aquaman’s success seemingly doesn’t hinge on either Black Adam or The Flash, since it’s likely being produced as a standalone film, and is buoyed more by Mamoa’s charisma than its inclusion in the DCEU. Again, if the original managed to produce big numbers following the Justice League disaster, Aquaman 2 should manage similar numbers in December.
However, there is one giant obstacle standing in the big guy’s path …
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I’ve lived long enough to know you never count out James Cameron. The Academy Award-winning director has been working on Avatar 2 for over a decade, meaning kids who saw the original in theaters are all grown up with kids of their own. Yeah, it’s been that long.
Avatar was a groundbreaking motion picture event when it was released in 2009 and grossed over $2 billion at the worldwide box office during a time when China had less than 2,000 theaters. That’s insane, especially now that China has nearly 12,000 theaters and churns out enormous blockbusters on a seemingly weekly basis. When the original Avatar re-released earlier this year, the pic collected over $40 million, which helped place Cameron’s sci-fi blockbuster atop Avengers: Endgame at the worldwide box office.
Considering the pedigree of the filmmaker, whose last two films, Avatar and Titanic, became the highest grossers of all time, not to mention the lengthy time gap that adds a level of nostalgia, mixed with the cluster of mostly mediocre big-budget fare we’ve seen over the last decade, plus the added benefit of being a must-see-on-the-big-screen event pic, and it’d be an enormous letdown if Avatar 2 didn’t blast past the likes of Spider-Man: No Way Home and the Avengers.
Still, as many will likely point out, Avatar hasn’t lingered in the public conscience that much. Following its massive success, the pic all but vanished and endured quite the backlash from (mostly) online outlets who stuck their nose up at the film’s relatively simple story. Will audiences care about Avatar 2 after so many years?
My guess is yes. A creative force like James Cameron doesn’t spend over a decade producing a mediocre sequel. And the mere fact that he has even more Avatar films lined up leads me to believe he has something truly sensational up his sleeve.
Time will tell, but I’m guessing next year at this time we’ll be talking about how James Cameron became king of the world once more.
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