The Disney films of 2015 will revolutionize the direction of the studio. Grand statement, yes. True statement, most likely. This will mark the first year Disney will release a mix of two Pixar features, two Marvel pictures, the long-awaited seventh Star Wars, and a handful of other big-budget movies. This edition of Disney In Depth previews these projects and others that may make 2015 the most financially-successful year in not only the studio’s history, but also that of all film studios.
2015 could very well be the first year Disney reaches the $2 billion mark at the domestic box office. Only one other studio (Warner Bros) has claimed that honor, so will Disney be the second? Let’s take a peek at those odds.
We will start by looking at the five films that already have release dates in place, and later explore the others that have been announced and will possibly fall into that twelve-month framework.
MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS 2
Production will begin in early 2014 for The Avengers 2, the much-anticipated sequel to one of the biggest blockbusters in Hollywood history. Joss Whedon will once again direct, and assumedly, many members of the original cast will return in their respective superhero suits. How many, that remains to be seen. What is undeniable, though, is that audiences will flock to see this flick, even if it fails to contain the same ingenuity and spectacle of the first. The release date mirrors the original, starting off the summer in fine heroic fashion, and likely luring viewers who have not caught a film in the theaters for months.
Release date: May 1, 2015
Projected domestic gross: At least $450 million
Pixar’s sixteenth feature, Inside Out, will take moviegoers into the mind of a young girl. Intriguing premise. Pete Docter returns to the director seat for the first time since 2009’s Up. Details remain limited on this film two years prior to its release, but based on what a recent press release suggests, elements of previous Pixar films may surface in Inside Out. The statement references both Monstropolis, the ocean and outer space as places that will be visited. Hmmm. Will WALL-E or Sulley make cameos? The film’s mid-June release date, akin to Toy Story 3, will allow it to take advantage of the July 4 movie weekend and have a less front-loaded weekend. Additionally, this innovative, though vague storyline may draw viewers who may be tired of watching sequels.
Release date: June 19, 2015
Projected domestic gross: At least $250 million
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 5
Johnny Depp will once again don his Captain Jack Sparrow attire for Pirates of the Caribbean 5. Disney certainly desires sustaining the Pirates brand and returning it to its glory days of 2006/2007. That two-year period included: the releases of Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End, which grossed hundreds of millions of dollars in the United States alone; the openings of the re-themed attraction at Disneyland and Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom; and increased Pirates merchandise and themed parties at the parks. But that time has gone. On Stranger Tides, while successful internationally, did not meet estimated figures domestically and put a questionable end to this franchise. But Disney knows Pirates holds value, thus reasoning why we will be seeing a fifth film. I, for one, enjoyed On Stranger Tides more than the previous two, but I am in the minority. I appreciated the new direction of the movie, even if it lacked the CGI grandeur. Let us hope this new Pirates will take some risks and amaze audiences in the same way the first one accomplished some 10 years ago now. I doubt this installment will make over $300 million domestically, due to its later release date and waning interest in the series, but who knows how audiences will respond.
Release date: July 10, 2015
Projected domestic gross: At least $200 million
It is too early to know what Ant-Man will focus on, but this much remains clear: Ant-Man will start phase three of the Marvel cinematic universe. This origin story by Edgar Wright will take viewers into an exciting world featuring a character few outside the comic book fandom are familiar with. This will only be the second November holiday season release within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, following this year’s Thor: The Dark World. The early November date could help in building curiosity for the first few weeks, helping earnings around Thanksgiving, but I must wonder if this project possesses the same potential of previous cinematic universe entries.
Release date: November 6, 2015
Projected domestic gross: At least $175 million
Everyone loves Dory. Years in the works and much to many viewers’ content – and to some resistance by Pixar purists – a Finding Nemo sequel has officially been announced in Finding Dory. This time, Dory swims into the spotlight, and this sequel set one year after Nemo will follow the Royal Blue Tang exploring her family roots. Ellen DeGeneres and Albert Brooks return to voice Dory and Marlin, respectively, and Andrew Stanton will direct his first film after John Carter. This must be a much safer bet for Stanton, though he faces the challenge in alienating Finding Nemo aficionados if this does not connect with viewers in the same heartwarming way as the original. I feel confident in the direction of this picture, and I am excited to see a Pixar film arriving in theaters over the holiday season – for the first time since 2004’s The Incredibles. Its Thanksgiving release date secures its box office dominance, which could remain relatively stable through Christmastime. I would guess that earnings will be more front-loaded, but the sequel should have no problem in matching the 2003 movie’s domestic grosses.
Release date: November 25, 2015
Projected domestic gross: At least $300 million
STAR WARS EPISODE VII
I cannot add much novelty to the Star Wars discussion at this point, but I do question Disney and Lucasfilm’s ability to release this film in two years. If previous films are any indication, a mid/late May 2015 release date would be likely, though I wonder if the Mouse House would want to premiere Star Wars Episode VII two or three mere weeks after The Avengers 2. It would make more sense to spread out its juggernauts, but June and July are already taken by Inside Out and Pirates. Unless Disney would take a risk in opening Star Wars during early March – or push it to Christmastime – I cannot see a May 2015 opening happening. If Wars does open just weeks after Avengers, I think it could hinder the former release’s earnings. Thoughts?
Projected domestic gross: At least $400 million
Films in development, lacking release dates
The films listed below may or may not debut in 2015, though I would imagine many – if not all – will help fill up Disney’s 2015 schedule if production for each works out efficiently.
Lily James of Downton Abbey fame has been tapped as the title character in this Kenneth Branagh-directed live-action remake, also starring Cate Blanchett as Lady Tremaine. I must believe that a late 2014 release is doubtful – unless it could finish post-production in time for a Thanksgiving 2014 date – so my bet is on March 2015. This could resonate well with audiences, especially since they are familiar with the material.
ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY
Jennifer Garner and Steve Carell should headline this film adaptation of a 1972 book. The fantasy-like content lends to the Disney banner, and both Garner and Carell are likeable film figures who have previously starred in Disney movies. Should everything work out, I would project a February 2015 date. I don’t eye this as a blockbuster by any means, but it could garner some notice for its strong writing, directing and acting team.
UNTITLED DISNEY IMAX 3D SPACE FILM
Disney will return to the very big screen in 2015. The studio has previously distributed space-themed films for the IMAX format, including Roving Mars, and this represents another powerful partnership. Its release date holds little value in terms of competition, since this picture would be in limited release anyway.
What are your thoughts on Disney’s announced film schedule, as well as those lacking release dates at this point? How do you believe these films will perform? If my estimates prove true, Pirates, Inside Out, Ant-Man, Avengers, Dory and Star Wars would pull at least $1.8 billion in the United States. That doesn’t even count the extra films sure to accompany them in the 2015 line-up, thus making a $2 billion total figure extremely likely. Share your thoughts!
This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Follow me on Twitter for alerts of new editions of Disney In Depth, Thursdays on Geeks of Doom. Have a good week!