What’s next for the big screen?

A year ago, I predicted that 2017 could end up being a record-breaking year at the box office with more billion-dollar earning movies than ever before and new 3D technology bringing more and more people back to the cinema once again.

Well, I was wrong, on pretty much all counts and just like studio bosses, I am left wondering why. The only revenue increase that could be found at the worldwide box office last year was from certain international markets, particularly China, Japan and South Korea which have seen a steady upswing in audience interest in Hollywood productions, culminating in a record-breaking year for those regions.

So, what about the home box office; what seems to be happening?

As I’ve stated before, the main problem for the home box office is that streaming and cable services have become so advanced at home, together with huge leaps in technology, including 3D and sound reproduction, they have made it, in many cases, more desirable to simply wait for the movie to be available for home viewing. That is most certainly bad news for the studios, especially if they are looking to make several hundred million dollars, per movie, in box office returns, to break even alone. However, having said that, the actual drop in home box office gross revenue was actually only $312 million (about 2.7 percent) down from 2016, so really that is not that much. But if the studios are worried, then it is due to the fact that it is a trend downwards — they will certainly be watching for any further drops in 2018.

This year will see its share of huge blockbusters, several guaranteed billion-dollar earners, as well as a clutch of small, independent successes too, and there will be shining stars that will emerge with stellar performances that will have everyone talking — but will it be a record-breaking year? I won’t make that prediction again, I’ll just note the movies that I think will break through the billion and, yes, there will definitely be a few.

Netflix will, yet again, feature prominently in box office releases and, having recently been referred to by the major studios as temporary players in world cinema, are going to prove themselves anything but, especially with “Mudbound” now being an Oscar contender.

Watch for some international releases too, as last year there were several surprise international box office blockbusters — “Wolf Warrior: 2” (China) made $870 million, “Your Name” (Japanese animation) made $357 million, and Jackie Chan’s “Kung Fu Yoga” (China) made $254 million. Look for some more to come this year.

The first few months of the year will see some huge box office releases: Marvel’s “Black Panther” in February, then Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” in March, with sequels “Pacific Rim: Uprising,” a re-boot of “Tomb Raider,” starring Oscar winner Alicia Vikander, and the much-anticipated “A Wrinkle in Time,” directed by Ava DuVernay, all out in March. Then in April, look for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s sci-fi blockbuster “Rampage” to round off the big releases.

Some interesting smaller releases to look for are, first, “A Quiet Place,” a thriller written and directed by John Krasinski, most famously known for his role as Jim Halpert in NBC’s “The Office” (2005-2013). Then look for the sci-fi thriller/sequel to the “Cloverfield” franchise, one that I am very intrigued by — both out in April. In March, a couple of interesting releases to watch for are “Red Sparrow,” a spy thriller starring Jennifer Lawrence, a re-make of the classic revenge/thriller “Death Wish,” starring the inimitable Bruce Willis, and finally, one that I am certainly eager to see, “Isle of Dogs,” a comedy animation from Wes Anderson, one of the most talented film-makers out there today, which will star the voices of many big names.

The summer months will bring the biggest of the big releases, as per usual, but this year there are some truly heavy-weight hitters that will be vying for that coveted billion-dollar listing. Three of the biggest to look for start with, first and foremost, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” out in June, which sees a return to the island of the dinosaurs and a brilliant continuation of one of the biggest franchises in movie history. In May, which will probably be the only one with any chance of beating “Jurassic World” to the top-grossing spot of the year, is “Avengers: Infinity War,” by far the biggest budgeted movie of the year and, for many, the very best that the Marvel Universe can offer — we shall see. Third, and one that I am looking forward to the most, is “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” Nothing else to say really — this one is most certainly heading to billion-dollar territory. The question is, can it beat the other two?

Marvel has two other releases this summer. Look for “Deadpool 2” in May to be a huge hit, no doubt, that will follow respectably in its predecessor’s footsteps, and “Ant Man and the Wasp,” which should easily repeat the success of the first, is out in July.

The summer will also see a couple of huge animation sequels — first, the much-anticipated “The Incredibles 2,” out in June, and, second, “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation,” out in July, both of which should see some big box office numbers worldwide.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has yet another huge release this year with his action/thriller “Skyscraper, out in July.

There are several more sequels hitting this summer — “Mission Impossible 6” will be leading the charge in July, along with “The Purge” sequel, “The First Purge,” also out in July. But earlier, in June, a couple of highly anticipated sequels should also do well at the box office, “Ocean’s 8,” this time seeing the ladies taking over the heist, and “Sicario 2: Soldado,” the sequel to the highly regarded “Sicario” (2015).

In August, look for a couple of intriguing re-makes. First, “The Predator” returns with an all-new cast and a completely new imagining of the classic 1987 sci-fi thriller. Second is a curious re-boot of the iconic Al Pacino classic “Scarface,” this time being touted as neither a sequel nor a remake — it shall be interesting to see how this one turns out.

Into the autumn and winter releases and, by far the biggest one of the season, will be the much-hyped and eagerly awaited sequel “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” out in November, which will see a continuation into the world of J.K. Rowling and her incredible vision. Two other of the biggest releases towards the end of the year are, first, D.C Comics’ release of “Aquaman” which sees one of the franchise’s most popular characters finally getting his own side story, then the eagerly-awaited sequel to one of the most beloved Disney musicals of all time, “Mary Poppins Returns” which will see Emily Blunt tasked with the job of filling a pair of showbiz’s biggest shoes! Both of these are due for release in December.

Speaking of beloved musicals, October sees the release of “A Star is Born,” a contemporary remake of the classic 1954 Judy Garland movie, this time, interestingly starring Lady Gaga in the lead role and directed by none other than Bradley Cooper.

In November, one of the biggest animation releases of the year should see some huge box office buzz as the sequel “Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck it Ralph II” promises family fun for sure.

Another couple of interesting movies to watch for toward the end of the year start with a new remake of “Robin Hood,” due for release in September, which sees “Kingsman’s” Taron Egerton in the starring role and promises to be a faithfully made re-working of this cinematic classic. Second, “Mortal Engines,” a fantasy/sci-fi offering from Peter Jackson, the story of a post-apocalyptic world where cities are now gigantic moving machines that devour smaller cities in their wake, will give us an interestingly fresh take on the future/sci fi genre. It is to be released in December. And finally, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a biographical story of the English rock group Queen and their career leading up to their iconic performance at Live Aid in 1985, is also due for release in December and has fans, the world over, eagerly awaiting its release.

As usual, worldwide cinema will once again be a grand mix of magic, thrills, scares and laughs, and all in the name of entertainment — some will amaze us, some will sadden us and some will certainly not impress us, but one thing is for sure, regardless of the box office woes of the major studios or the budgeting worries of the small independents just trying to get their art out there, we will be entertained and we will remain just as star-struck as when we were children. We will continue to both love and hate movies in equal measure, though I think we will love them more — movies will be a part of all of us for a very long time to come and our children too… Yes, the show will certainly go on.

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Roy Morris is a freelance writer. He can be reached by email at amorris1989@hotmail.com.

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