If the Summer 2023 box office has a chance to meet its optimistic $4 billion projection, June’s lineup of movies needs to step up. Since May 5, when the season kicked off with the release of Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” revenue has dropped more than five percent from last year. To hit $4 billion, returns now through on Labor Day are expected to be up 26% from 2022, when the box office was just under $3.4 billion.
It’s still doable, but the variables are… more variable after May failed to meet its optimistic expectations. “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” hasn’t held up as well as hoped, and anything beyond the top three releases has turned out to be only a modest contribution.
Despite three lucrative franchises in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, ‘The Little Mermaid’ and ‘Fast X’, May will total around $760 million. That’s down from the $785 million in 2022, which only had two franchises with ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ and ‘Top Gun: Maverick’.
“Guardians” held up well after a subpar start, but grossed $65 million less than “Guardians 2” last May. “Fast X” and “Little Mermaid” came close to their moderate domestic expectations. More than ever, business is feast or famine that leaves theaters with little margin for error.
By this point last year, summer had already had its two biggest releases; they also proved to be the only ones to cross the domestic $400 million mark. “Guardians” crossed $300 million this weekend, and “Mermaid” has an outside shot at hitting that mark; neither have any chance of scoring $400 million.
The good news is that while “Guardians” alone had a three-day opening weekend exceeding $100 million, with nine wide releases in June, many have an outside shot.
Between 2008 and 2019, it grossed more than $1 billion each June, needing no adjustments. Despite substantially higher ticket costs, just one month has grossed over $1 billion since 2019. (This was July 2022).
Now it’s possible: led by “The Little Mermaid” and with “Guardians” and “Fast X” still offering some cash, it’s likely to be between $250 million and $300 million. (By comparison, “Maverick” alone added $362 million in June and was No. 1 for the month).
“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” (Sony, 6/2) is the first of the most important news. Increased tracking and now very positive reviews suggest an opening of $80 million to $100 million. With nearly the entire month to play, it’s looming as the month’s top-grosser.
Initial projections call for “The Flash” (Warner Bros. Discovery, 6/16) to open about $70 million, though it has the potential to explode within 15 game days of the month. $150 million for the period seems like a good place to start.
In between, Paramount has “The Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” (6/9). The latest in the Hasbro toy film franchise is more of an international play, but one positioned to add $100 million domestic to June’s haul.
With its reported cost of $300 million, Disney’s Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny has little room for error. (“The Flash: and “Transformers” are both closer to $200 million.) Only one day’s gross will be included with the June 30 opening, but a strong start could mean $60 million or more.
Like “Indiana Jones,” Disney is betting on Cannes to boost Pixar’s “Elemental” (6/16). It also received a tepid critical response, and suggests Pixar’s recent issues with audience appeal remain outstanding. Expect $80 million in June. (It cost $175 million).
Among small-budget, non-franchise films, none are expected to make more than $50 million during the month. “The Boogeyman” (Disney) comes out this Friday. Universal has “The Blackening” (6/16) and animation “Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken” (6/30), with Sony introducing the rare comedy with Jennifer Lawrence vehicle “No Hard Feelings” (6 /23). A couple of sleepers within this group would be helpful.
The month will also see at least two significant specialist entries. Celine Song’s “Past Lives” (A24), so far the best-reviewed film of the year, begins its run on the platform on Friday. Her performance will be a significant barometer of life in this struggling industry. Wes Anderson’s “Asteroid City” (Focus) is released June 16, then airs the following week.
Plenty of options to choose from, but are they enough to bring in $1.2 billion this month? That’s the number needed if the summer had a chance at $4 billion. We’ll go with not impossible, but also not likely: At this point, a $3.7 billion estate is closer to reality.