Predicting the Biggest Blockbusters of Fall 2016

Predicting the Biggest Blockbusters of Fall 2016

By Robert Dougherty Aug 31, 2016 01:30 PM
Photo Credit: Universal Studios/ Marvel Studios/ Walt Disney Animation

It is a given that Rogue One and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will likely tower over all the remaining blockbusters of 2016. Between the first Star Wars anthology film and the first non-Harry Potter movie from J.K. Rowling's wizarding world, little else seems to stand a chance when it comes to box office.

Then again, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice seemed predestined to dominate spring while Captain America: Civil War controlled summer, and none of that came true. Given how many seemingly unstoppable blockbusters this year have underwhelmed or dropped off due to poor reviews and backlash, and how films like Deadpool, Zootopia, The Jungle Book, Finding Dory and The Secret Life of Pets have exceeded initial expectations, there's no guarantee Rogue One, Fantastic Beasts or both will be completely untouchable.

With that in mind, these are the other potential blockbusters in the next four months that could be as big, or nearly as big, as Rogue One and Fantastic Beasts with some help or actual quality.

Moana [opening Nov. 23]

Walt Disney Animation

The two hottest things in entertainment these days are Disney animated films and the music of Lin-Manuel Miranda. As such, one can only imagine how big those forces would be combined, although the answer will come on Thanksgiving weekend.

Not only does Moana have the Disney animated banner and Miranda as one of the composers, it has Dwayne Johnson's voice to lend its box office good luck charm. It also stands to be the next step in Disney's recent progressive direction, with native Hawaiian Auli'i Cravalho voicing the first Hawaiian princess in Disney animation lore.

Nonetheless, Moana opens just five days after Fantastic Beasts on Nov. 23, so there may be an uphill box office battle against Rowling's fan base, depending on whether Beasts has solid word of mouth. Then again, Frozen opened just days after 2013's biggest movie in Catching Fire and still made over $400 million domestic, so Disney can hope history repeats itself for this latest change of pace music-driven movie opening on Thanksgiving.

Doctor Strange [opening Nov. 4]

Marvel Studios

By now, Marvel can guarantee a hit no matter what character they bring to the big screen and when. Still, Doctor Strange isn't a household name of a comic book hero, and most of the buzz around this movie so far has regarded backlash over a nearly whitewashed cast, especially in casting Tilda Swinton as a character originally written as an Asian man.

Even casting that aside, the trailers have suggested a weird, acid-like trip through a multi-verse that resembles Inception more than past MCU films, which could either be a creative shot in the arm or a confounding mess. Plus after 13 straight MCU films that weren't total creative or financial bombs, one has to misfire at some point, and having it happen right after the massive success of Captain America: Civil War may not be such a setback.

Of course, Ant-Man had similar obstacles with a rocky production and less than soaring expectations, and it turned out better than it set itself up to be. Granted, it was still one of the lowest grossing MCU films, but Ant-Man is still doing well for himself, especially after Civil War.

With a Nov. 4 release date, Doctor Strange has a two-week window to rack up big business and fans before Fantastic Beasts comes along.

Sing [opening Dec. 21]

Illumination Entertainment

Illumination Entertainment has been on a pretty big roll, thanks to the Despicable Me/Minions movies and this summer's The Secret Life of Pets. The studio already has the biggest domestic movie of the year that isn't a sequel, reboot or a comic book film, and now it has a chance to go 2-for-2 in 2016 with another original movie in Sing.

Still, just as Pets owed a lot to Toy Story, Sing likely owes its inspiration to Glee and all kinds of music competition shows, since this is literally a movie about a music competition show at a dying theater. However, those shows didn't have the voices of Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, John C. Reilly, Nick Kroll and more performing cover songs.

Illumination may have already proven this year that it doesn't need the Minions or their friends to make a hit movie. Nevertheless, this is the first time the studio is releasing a film in the holiday season and not in mid-summer, plus its past hits never had to open five days after a movie like Rogue One either.

But since Fantastic Beasts and Moana will have died down by Christmas, Sing is certain to be the biggest family alternative to Rogue One this holiday season, whether it is Minions or Pets big or not.

Passengers [opening Dec. 21]

Entertainment Weekly

The biggest live action alternative to Rogue One for Christmas may be a completely different sci-fi movie. Instead of facing an evil empire, Chris Pratt faces boredom when he is the only one in his entire spacecraft to wake up decades early in an interplanetary trip, until he wakes up Jennifer Lawrence as well.

Lawrence and Pratt have each headlined some of the biggest franchises of the decade, yet there is no franchise to boost their box office power this time. Instead, this is a completely original sci-fi romance that’s one of the few big films this fall not based on an existing property, and is helmed by The Imitation Game's Oscar nominated director Morton Tyldum.

As such, Passengers is bound to be held up as a major test that original, non-franchise and non-comic book/novel based movies can still do big business anyway. Lawrence and Pratt don’t have hunger games, dinosaurs, mutants or intergalactic criminals helping them here, but they should presumably be big enough on their own even against Rogue One and Sing.

If it and Passengers aren’t enough in more ways than one, it probably won't say much of anything good about Hollywood originality these days.

The Girl on the Train [opening Oct. 7]

Universal Pictures

The first week of October has become a prestigious weekend these days. In the last three years, major hits like The Martian, Gone Girl and Gravity have all taken off from that weekend towards big bucks and awards buzz. But naturally, most everyone is pointing to Gone Girl's success two Octobers ago as proof that another film based on a major, twisty, female-driven hit mystery novel can explode onto the big screen as well.

Instead of genre veteran David Fincher, The Help's Tate Taylor is in charge here, with Emily Blunt as an alcoholic who fears she's killed someone rather than a sociopath who fakes her kidnapping. But in this story, the missing girl played by Haley Bennett may actually be missing or worse. There is no Ben Affleck-like male lead either, with Justin Theroux and Luke Evans as the leading men here.

Whether or not The Girl on the Train follows the Gone Girl formula of success in other ways or not, following the formula of recent early October hits would still be good enough to get fall off on the right foot.

The Magnificent Seven [opening Sept. 23]

Columbia Pictures

The fall season could still have its first big hit a few weeks earlier, in a film that also stars Bennett in another key supporting role. It also happens to be Pratt's first film of the fall too, not to mention Denzel Washington's first as well before he directs and headlines Fences. Yet it is hardly Washington's first team-up with director Antoine Fuqua, to say nothing of not being the first Magnificent Seven.

2016 has been all too crowded with remakes and reboots that were completely and utterly pointless, from Ben-Hur to The Legend of Tarzan and so on and on. Therefore, it may be hoping against all logical hope that they actually made a new Magnificent Seven which has a point and a reason to exist, other than to give the story more explosions, more “modern-day’ sensibilities and more of Washington, Pratt and others like Ethan Hawke and Vincent D’Onofrio. But if there’s one of these remakes left that has a chance, it would be this one.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk [opening Nov. 11]

TriStar Pictures

This is the first movie that promises to have been filmed in 120 frames per second and with 3D and 4K technology. It isn’t for a big budget CGI/fantasy/comic book movie, but rather for an Iraq war drama directed by Ang Lee with a cast that somehow combines Vin Diesel, Steve Martin, Chris Tucker, Kristen Stewart, Garrett Hedlund, and Joe Alwyn as the titular troubled soldier honored during halftime of a big game.

If this is the next big leap forward for visual filmmaking, and if it is for a potential Oscar contender as hoped for, then Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk may demand to be taken on the big screen as much as any movie about Star Wars, fantastic beasts, mystical doctors and animated performers.

Honorable mentions: Assassin’s Creed, The Accountant, Trolls, Blair Witch

Tags: Moana (2016), Doctor Strange (2016), Sing (2016), Passengers (2016), The Girl on the Train (2016), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)
About the Author
Robert Dougherty is a longtime online freelance writer, who wrote reviews, articles & editorials on movies/TV for several years on the now defunct Yahoo Voices.
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