Dueling Top Fives: What Summer Movies Will Make the Most Money at the U.S. Box Office?

There’s nothing quite like summer at the movies. Like a high-stakes poker game, the big studios strategize to play their best hands—and, hopefully, rake in some big dough. It’s a game that’s both relatively predictable and wildly unpredictable.

While you can make educated guesses about what movies are going to perform based on things like target audience, release date, marketing push, online buzz, potential for repeat business, and expected quality, there’s still always an element of surprise involved.

Just take last summer’s list of top five money makers:

  1. Jurassic World
  2. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  3. Inside Out
  4. Minions
  5. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

Prior to last summer, many box office analysts would have probably safely predicted numbers 2-4. But number five and especially number one were pretty surprising.

Jurassic World actually ended up becoming the fourth highest grossing domestic movie of all time—bringing in $652 million at the U.S. box office. Like a prehistoric sea creature, no one really saw that one coming.

So that’s what we mean when we say the top summer money earners are both predictable and unpredictable. And judging by the variation in top five predictions from the MONSTERS team, this summer may lean more toward the unpredictable…

MONSTER Box Office Predictions for Summer 2016

Three team members from MONSTERS Unlimited share the five movies they think will make the most money at the box office this summer. One includes family films; one leaves them out; and one cheats by making two separate lists (family & non-family).

One final note: We designated the summer movie season to be from the beginning of Memorial Day weekend to the end of Labor Day weekend. So only movies released within that window qualify for our lists. Sorry, Captain America, Neighbors 2 and Angry Birds, but you’re out of the running.

Now onto our picks!

Indepence Day Resurgence

Godzilla (AKA Patrick): Banking on Franchise Films

Here’s my top five…

1. Jason Bourne

Here’s my pick for cash cow of the summer. The originals were all great. And I think people will go see this one for the sheer fact it brings back the original character played by Matt Damon, who everyone loved as Jason Bourne. But here’s the key: The box office records for the original trilogy just kept getting better and better. It went from a $27 million opening weekend for the first one (Identity) to $52 million for the second one (Supremacy) to $69 million for the third one (Ultimatum). Even the offshoot with Hawkeye did $38 million opening weekend. To me those, numbers add up to this summer’s box office champion.

2. Star Trek Beyond

Just like the rest of the franchises on my list, I think Star Trek: Beyond is going to bank off the success of the ones that came before it. These movies have a built-in audience, along with a lot of summer action and star power. That’s what people go to see in the summer—cinematic marvels (no pun intended, Captain America). And moviegoers like to see the expansion of these big cinematic universes.

3. Independence: Day Resurgence

Aliens invade and almost destroy humanity. Sure, we’ve seen it before. But I think people will go see it again. The first Independence Day was a big summer hit, remembered fondly by many. And it still gets a lot of cable replay. Could this experience Jurassic World-like success? I don’t have it quite that high, but I think it will do big business.

4. X-Men: Apocalypse

The restart of this franchise using the younger versions of their iconic superhero counterparts have done pretty well at the box office so far, which is one of the reasons I picked this to be on the list. The first two movies since that reboot pulled in $55 million and $91 million on their opening weekends, so I think they just keep getting bigger as that built-in audience grows.

5. Ghostbusters

Lifetime, the first Ghostbusters grossed $248 domestically. So it’s got a big following. Love for the original film and the brand recognition is what will elevate this one. The end product might not live up to its predecessor, but how many do? I’m hoping the new characters will have the same chemistry as the original did.

Finding Dory

Bigfoot (AKA Shad): Kids & Teens = Box Office Gold!

Check out this list…

1. Suicide Squad 

Despite it’s August release date, I think this will be the movie with the biggest opening of the summer. There’s a lot of buzz for this one, the marketing has been great, and with a PG-13 rating it should kill it with the teen/pre-teen crowd that drives repeat summer business. Expect this to be the only movie of the summer to cross the $400 million mark.

2. Finding Dory 

The family film that should own the summer thanks to much love for the first film and Pixar in general. Also has a plum June 17 release date—three weeks before The Secret Life of Pets and a month after Angry Birds. So it should own the kids movie market.

3. The Secret Life of Pets

Family films always do well in the summer. This one comes from the studio that made Despicable Me and last summer’s #4 movie, Minions. Expect this movie to perform similarly ($300 million).

4. Jason Bourne 

People love these movies and will be excited to see Damon and director Paul Greengrass back in the saddle. The Bourne Ultimatum made $227 million back in 2007. This movie should exceed that.

5. X-Men: Apocalypse

These films always perform solid (around $200-230 million domestic) with a clear ceiling. And this one’s got my boy Oscar Issac!

A few other random thoughts…

  • Stephen Spielberg’s The BFG is a movie I haven’t heard a lot about that I’m sort of dismissing. But you can never really dismiss Steve in the summer.
  • I also think a comedy with the right buzz could crack the edge of the top five—particularly Central Intelligence, which comes out early in the summer and has the Rock and Kevin Hart.
  • Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates and Bad Moms also seem like they could become surprise summer comedy hits, banking around $150 million and cracking the top ten.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Out of the Shadows

The Blob (AKA Bob): All In on the TMNT Sequel (Seriously)

I have placed my hands on my magical crystal ball, closed my eyes tightly, waited for the Peyote to kick in, and discovered that Roger Ebert is my spirit animal…

BEST AT THE BOX OFFICE

1. Suicide Squad (Aug. 5)

After the absolute GRAND SLAM that was the R-Rated craziness of Deadpool ($760.3 Million Box Office), I believe that nerds worldwide will be chomping at the bit to see if DC can actually have a sense of humor again. You can’t go wrong with bad guys with great one-liners. Wasn’t that what DC was known for a long, long time ago? Did we forget Arnold Schwartzenegger as Mr. Freeze??? I’d love to see that character against bummed and bitter Black Knight Batman. 

2. Ghostbusters (July 15)

Can Ghostbusters be REMADE?!?! This beloved movie is finally getting a reboot. But should it? I think that this movie will do EXTREMELY WELL based off the merits of its original. Hopefully the new all female cast and the writing can live up to all the hype and bring us back to the ghost-zapping fun from the 80’s.

3. X-Men: Apocalypse (May 27)

Two words: X and Men. Take my money now. Enough said… When I say X and Men, I don’t mean The Danish Girl (or The Crying Game for that matter).

4. Star Trek Beyond (July 22)

Two words: Star Trek. Take my money now. Enough said… So continues the Trek For More Movies. All you have to do is say the words Star Trek and nerds (like myself) will immediately throw their money at it. I know I WILL!!!

5. Independence Day: Resurgence (June 24)

Wait! NO WILL SMITH!!!! But… but…. EVERYBODY SING: “Now, this is a story all about how. My life got flipped-turned upside down. And I’d like to take a minute. And just say. How this prince from Bel-Air, wasn’t in the next Independence Day.” Luckily Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman are back and should be able bring back the alien boom in this reboot.

KIDS MOVIES THAT WILL MAKE A TON OF MONEY 

More than likely any of these kids movies will probably make more money than all of the ones above. But let’s just put these in their own little category just to be fair…

1. The Secret Life of Pets (July 8)

How can you go wrong with pets. My wife binge watches dog videos all day. She will kill a man just to see MORE cuteness. Cute Overload Addiction (COA) should be listed as a disease at the CDC. I believe that is how the apocalypse will really start. 

2. Finding Dory (June 17)

Originally I thought this had something to do with Dory-a The Explorery-a. Finding Nemo made $936.7 Million at the Box Office. That is ALMOST A BILLION DOLLARS! I guess people really like fish.

3. Sausage Party (Aug. 12)

This super cute animation about food that comes to life is adorable and should… OH MY GOD!!! WAIT!!! THIS IS NOT FOR KIDS!!!! THE HUMANITY!!!! Hahahaha… looks hysterical. And NOT for kids. Not even close. Can’t wait to see this one. Hopefully the R-Rated Raunch is balanced with a well written comedy that plays off the rather odd combination with talking vegetables.

MOVIES I WOULD LIKE TO SEE BUT WILL PROBABLY DO CRAP AT THE BOX OFFICE 

1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (June 3)

The 2014 reboot of the Turtles that are Mutants and Ninjas and Teenagers was shockingly good. Both my wife and I watched it on New Year’s Eve (yes, we are party animals). If this sequel is anywhere near as funny and as well written as the last one, then it is a must-see.

2. Swiss Army Man (June 17)

I just like saying “Farting Corpse”.

3. The Shallows (June 24)

Jaws tries to eat Blake Lively in a bikini. Yes please. 

4. The Purge: Election Year (July 1)

Who doesn’t want to PURGE this election year.

5. WarCraft (June 10)

The movie looks like it will be CRAPTASTIC! Banking on big bucks, Blizzard hopes that people smoothly transition from Avatar Blue over to Orc Green in this CG-enormous epic. Hey, it has the guy who plays Ragnar Lothbrok on Vikings basically playing… ummm… what looks to be Ragnar Lothbrok with orcs.

6. Jason Bourne (July 29)

MATT DAMON!!! MATT DAMON!!! MATT DAMON!!!

What Are Your Summer 2016 Box Office Predictions?

What does your top five look like for summer 2016 at the box office? Share your picks by commenting below.

You can also listen to our podcast where we discuss our picks in detail: