April 28, 2014

SHOWBUZZDAILY’s Studio Summer Movie Guide: Universal


This week, as the clock ticks toward the start of the summer movie season, we’re taking a studio-by-studio look at each company’s line-up and prospects.  Last time we covered Sony, and today we’ll examine Universal.

LAST SUMMER:  Universal’s 2013 summer was anchored by two gigantic sequels:  Fast & Furious 6 ($239M US/$789M worldwide) and Despicable Me 2 ($368M US/$971M worldwide), the latter of which was said by studio heads–and there’s no reason to doubt them–to be the single most profitable movie in Universal’s history.  Two Guns ($76M US/$132M worldwide) was softer than expected, but still a decent performer.  The studio even had a surprise sleeper hit with the micro-budged The Purge ($64M US/$89M worldwide), now a franchise.  With that much success, the big-budget failure of R.I.P.D. ($34M US/$78M worldwide) and the smaller flop of Kick-Ass 2 ($29M US/$61M worldwide) could be excused.  The original plan for 2014 was to again speed through summer with a Fast & Furious sequel, but Paul Walker’s untimely death made that impossible (it’s been pushed to 2015), and as a result, Universal’s summer schedule this year aims for doubles and triples rather than home runs.

MAY:  The studio is loading up on comedy for the early stretch of summer.  There’s good buzz on NEIGHBORS (May 9), which could solidify Seth Rogen’s claim to the Will Ferrell/Adam Sandler King of Comedy throne, and give Zac Efron his first post-teen hit.  A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST (May 30) is more of a challenge, since western satires haven’t exactly been hot in the 40 years since Blazing Saddles, but after the hundreds of millions Seth McFarlane earned for Universal with Ted, he’s getting his shot, and will hope his own appeal as a leading man equals that of Mark Wahlberg and a foul-mouthed CG teddy bear.  West will have to root against sizable success for Sandler’s Blended, which opens the week before, and then it has 1 more week before the arrival of 22 Jump Street.

JUNE:  The studio is taking the month off and going to the hypothetical beach.

JULY:  THE PURGE: ANARCHY (July 18) will be more of a profit play on low investment than a big-time moneymaker, but it should sell some tickets.

AUGUST:  The big opening is LUCY (August 8), which gives Scarlett Johansson her first solo action-movie gig.  It won’t be in the box office league of the superhero spectacles of the summer, and it’ll be competing with the 2d weekend of Guardians of the Galaxy, but it could find moderate success.  Universal will hope that GET ON UP (August 1), a James Brown biography, will have the same August success as recent African-American themed dramas like The Help and The Butler, especially if it can get Ray-level reviews.  The late summer will feature two smaller pieces of business:  horror movie AS ABOVE, SO BELOW (August 15) and thriller THE LOFT (August 29).

EARLY ODDS:  It’s going to be a slow summer for Universal compared to last year, but of course the studio already knows that.  It will hope to get as much mileage out of Neighbors as it can, and then cross its fingers for A Million Ways To Die In the West and/or Get On Up to become sleeper hits.


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."