Summer, Take Two: Forget ‘The Fall Guy,’ It Really Starts with ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’

“Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” is a more typical summer movie season-starter than last week’s disappointing “The Fall Guy” (Universal). It’s a franchise film and it’s from Disney (which usually starts things off with a Marvel film).

It’s expected to open to over $50 million this weekend and become the first to gross over $100 million domestic. Industry sources suggest that over the summer, at least eight other releases (extending to early September) will reach this mark. A week ago, that guess would gave been 10.

More from IndieWire

The same sources pegged “The Fall Guy” as likely to gross over $125 million in the U.S./Canada. This weekend will clarify its fate, but the current trajectory suggests around $80 million. That’s a disappointment for theaters as well as Universal, which spent around $140 million to make the film before marketing.

“Apes” is one of several titles now projected in the $125-$150 million range. Last year 13 films passed $100 million; that looks out of reach, as does any film coming close to “Barbie” ($636 million). Only “Deadpool & Wolverine” (Disney) seems poised to pass $300 million, something managed by four summer releases last year.

All estimates are just that, informed by the likes of franchise titles’ history, trailers, and limited advance screenings. These can be off by quite a bit — last year’s “Mission: Impossible” sequel was expected to be #1 with over $300 million, with “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” easily over $200 million. No one projected “Sound of Freedom” over $100 million. “Barbie”? Maybe $200 million. “Oppenheimer” at $150 million would have been thought optimistic.

'Deadpool and Wolverine'
‘Deadpool & Wolverine’Marvel

With that warning, here are some ranges and rankings for the upcoming titles:

Over $300 million

“Deadpool & Wolverine” (Disney – July 26)

Around $250 million

“Despicable Me 4” (Universal – July 3)

“Inside Out 2” (Disney – June 14)

$150 million – $200 million

“Beetlejuice Beetlejuice” (Warner Bros. – September 6)

“Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” (WB – May 24)

“IF” (Paramount – May 17)

“Twisters” (Universal – July 19)

$100 million – $150 million

“Bad Boys: Ride or Die” (Sony – June 7)

“Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” (Disney – May 10)

“A Quiet Place: Day One” (Paramount – June 28)

$75 million – $100 million

“Borderlands” (Lionsgate – August 9)

“The Garfield Movie” (Sony – May 24)

“Horizon: An American Saga — Chapter One” (WB – June 28)

$50 million – $75 million

“Alien Romulus” (Disney – August 16)

“Fly Me to the Moon” (Sony – July 12)

“Horizon: An American Saga — Chapter Two” (WB – August 16)

“Trap” (WB – August 9)

If those estimates are close, they’d gross around $2.3 billion. Subtract “Beetlejuice Beetlejuice” and other grosses after Labor Day and the total would be $2 billion. Add other titles (including those opened before “Apes”) and maybe it could hit $3 billion.

Last summer managed $4 billion. If one ignores the benefit of higher ticket prices, that placed it at the lower end of pre-Covid normal. By any measurement, $3 billion for the most lucrative period of the year is a scary result (even with the excuse of strikes interfering with the release schedule, which actually looks reasonably full).

Current year to date is around $500 million below 2023. Post-summer 2024 looks better than last year, but it would have to make huge strides to reach $8 billion (down from $9.1 billion).

If the positive buzz on “Apes” results in an opening at the high end of expectations, it could bode well for the rest of the sequel-heavy summer.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga
‘Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga’Warner Bros.

Unlike 2023, this year’s franchise entries come from series that might have more juice left in them, play younger, and offer fresh ideas (such as pairing Deadpool and Wolverine). And most cost less than $200 million-$300 million in production costs. George Miller’s “Furiosa” will give another early look at how strong this season’s sequels are.

As of now, John Krasinski’s “IF” is the only non-franchise release projected over $100 million. However, some films could break out.

The animated “The Garfield Movie” (a potential franchise) could easily gross higher. Kevin Costner’s epic two-part western “Horizon” is a possibility. Eli Roth’s video game-based “Borderlands,” with an ensemble that includes Cate Blanchett, looks promising.

The reality is that these and many more releases need to overachieve. That’s what makes “Apes” this weekend critical. Its performance will hardly determine future results, but after the body blow of “Fall Guy” theaters badly need better news.

Best of IndieWire

Sign up for Indiewire's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.