May 1, 2014

SHOWBUZZDAILY’S Studio Summer Movie Guide: Disney


The summer movie season will be underway momentarily on the east coast, as 7PM screenings commence for The Amazing Spider-Man–which isn’t exactly riding a rave of critical support (56% positive at Rotten Tomatoes, and 35% among “top critics”).  At Sony tonight, uneasy lie the heads that wear a crown.  But meanwhile, our survey of the summer releases and each studio’s prospects continues:  we’ve covered Sony, Universal, Warner Bros, and 20th Century Fox, and today it’s the turn of Marvel Central, aka Disney.

LAST SUMMER:  Disney owned summer with IRON MAN 3 ($409M US/$1.215B worldwide), which rode the spectacular success of The Avengers to almost double the earnings from the previous Iron Man sequel.  MONSTERS UNIVERSITY ($268M US/$744M worldwide) wasn’t a return to Pixar’s glory days (and was completely eclipsed later in the year by Disney Animation’s Frozen), but it was still a very big hit.  Those 2 giant franchises were enough, and that was a good thing, because they were all Disney had.  The not-quite-direct-to-video PLANES ($90M US/$220M worldwide) did well enough on its modest budget to engender an equally modest sequel, but THE LONE RANGER ($89M US/$261M worldwide) was an expensive disaster that’s become a cautionary tale for studios spending hundreds of millions on unproven material.

MAY:  Disney is easing its way into summer with the moderately budgeted MILLION DOLLAR ARM (May 16), the kind of inspirational sports movie that the studio has ridden to considerable success with hits like Remember the Titans and Miracle.  Disney will use it to counterprogram Godzilla, and is showing some belief in the project (and spending some extra marketing dollars) with a nationwide preview on the previous Saturday night.  In a rare summer when Disney doesn’t have a A-list animation movie in its line-up, fairy tale spectacle MALEFICENT (May 30) is starting to feel like a tougher sell than it had at first:  Disney is aiming younger than Snow White and the Huntsman (Maleficent carries a PG rating), and it’s not clear from the marketing whether the studio has found a sweet spot between child-friendly Sleeping Beauty fans and those who prefer their fantasy dark, and although Angelina Jolie is an unquestionable star, she’s never anchored a project like this before.

JUNE:  No openings from the studio, although of course with its May 30 start, the hope will be that Maleficent will play through the month.

JULY:  PLANES: FIRE AND RESCUE (July 18) is the follow-up to last year’s minor success, and unlikely to do much more than the first.  In its favor, though, is the fact that when it opens, it will be the first kids’ movie to arrive in over a month (since How To Train Your Dragon 2).

AUGUST:  GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (August 1) is a new extension of the Marvel Avengers universe, and a little riskier than most of the Marvel efforts because it’s the first to take place entirely in outer space, features an all-new set of characters who aren’t familiar to non-comics geeks, and to judge from its trailers, will have a more off-beat, comic tone.  Despite all that, the Avengers brand is red-hot (let’s not talk about Agents of SHIELD), so the only question is how big it will be.  Its scheduling will help, since the only action movies opening in the preceding 2 weeks are the uncertain Jupiter Ascending and The Legend of Hercules–and Disney will certainly feature an Avengers 2 promo in the end credits coda to liven things up.  The studio ends summer quietly, with the foodie comedy THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY (August 8).

EARLY ODDS:  A surprisingly uncertain summer for the franchise behemoth, with both Maleficent and Guardians of the Galaxy less than sure things.  Of course, even if things go sideways this year, 2015 brings Avengers 2 (and later in the year the new Star Wars), so the Mouse House has nothing serious to worry about.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."