“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.”
- Superhero movies are expected to dominate the box office again in 2022.
- The biggest potential blockbusters include “The Batman” and the “Black Panther” sequel.
- But the pandemic will continue to disrupt the theatrical industry.
When it came to the 2021 domestic box office, two things were certain: superhero movies dominated and everything else was largely left in the dust.
That could still be the case this year as the coronavirus pandemic will continue to disrupt the theatrical industry, both domestically and globally.
The good news for theaters is that, after experimenting with simultaneous theater and streaming releases last year, the major Hollywood studios have largely committed to exclusive windows for their theatrical releases in 2022. They include potential blockbusters like “The Batman” and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”
But as the pandemic continues, media companies will likely evaluate distribution strategies on a case-by-case basis. The situation is still fluid and the recovery for movie theaters will be slow. This could be the new normal, especially as the major studios are expected to release fewer movies to theaters than they would have before the pandemic.
With plenty of new installments in hit franchises, including “Avatar 2” and “Jurassic World: Dominion,” coming to theaters this year, exhibitors and distribution execs are still hopeful.
Insider looked at the biggest releases hitting theaters this year each month below:
Studios are set to take their chances in the early months of the year with long-delayed titles.“Scream.”
The early months of any year are typically slow at the box office (save for breakout hits in recent years like “Black Panther” or “Get Out”). That will still be the case this year, even moreso amid the pandemic. But there are still major releases coming to theaters that have yet to be postponed:
“Scream” (January 14) — As of now, Paramount is moving forward with releasing its “Scream” reboot next weekend only to theaters. The last movie in the horror franchise, “Scream 4,” earned $18 million domestically in its opening weekend. Horror movies have largely performed well during the pandemic, but no other movies are really seeing the benefits of “Spider-Man: No Way Home’s” dominance right now. And “Scream 4” ultimately earned just $38 million domestically, a sign that the franchise may have already lost its appeal more than a decade ago.
“Uncharted” (February 18) — Sony’s adaptation of the hit video-game series stars Spider-Man himself Tom Holland, but his star appeal didn’t help last year’s massive box-office flop “Chaos Walking.” “Uncharted” has the benefit of franchise recognition, but video-game movies have a long history of bombing both critically and commercially. The latest was also from Sony: “Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City” earned just $31 million worldwide.
March will see the release of the first potential box-office hit of the year: “The Batman.”Robert Pattinson in “The Batman.”
“The Batman” (March 4) — Warner Bros.’ “The Batman,” starring Robert Pattinson and directed by “War for the Planet of the Apes” director Matt Reeves, could be the year’s first big box-office hit. Batman is historically a strong draw for audiences; “The Dark Knight Trilogy” made a combined $1.2 billion domestically. But even the most successful superhero movies of 2021, save for “No Way Home,” underperformed compared to pre-pandemic figures. If “The Batman” struggles, it could be a sign that the theatrical industry’s woes won’t be ending any time soon.
“Turning Red” (March 11) — Pixar’s first theatrical release of the pandemic will be a real test for theaters. Disney has released the last two Pixar movies, “Soul” and “Luca,” exclusively to Disney+. Pixar has a strong history at the box office, but theatrically exclusive animated movies have been lacking during the pandemic, making it difficult to gauge whether families are ready to return. Disney will be hoping they are ready by March.
“Downton Abbey: A New Era” (March 18) — The first “Downton Abbey” movie was a hit, making $237 million worldwide. But older audiences are its main demographic, and they’ve been the slowest to return to theaters during the pandemic.
Sony recently moved its Marvel movie “Morbius” from January to April amid a rise in coronavirus cases.Jared Leto in “Morbius.”
“Morbius” (April 1) — Because it owns the film rights to Spider-Man, Sony owns the film rights to hundreds of Spider-Man-related Marvel characters. One of those is Morbius, a vampire being who is a villain of Spider-Man in the comics. Sony’s Marvel film universe has been a hot streak lately, with “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” grossing more than $200 million domestically amid the pandemic, one of three movies to do so last year. The first “Venom” in 2018 was a surprise hit, earning more than $800 million worldwide. And of course there’s “No Way Home,” a joint production with Marvel Studios. Sony hopes “Morbius” can continue the streak after being delayed numerous times.
“Sonic the Hedgehog 2” (April 8) — The first “Sonic” movie was one of the few box-office hits to open in early 2020 before theaters shut down due to the pandemic. It grossed $149 million domestically and $319 million worldwide off of an $85 million production budget. With its biggest movies delayed during the pandemic aside from “A Quiet Place Part II,” Paramount needs a win at the box office. Families returning to theaters could be the biggest factor in whether the studio gets one.
“Fantastic Beats: The Secrets of Dumbledore” (April 15) — Warner Bros.’ “Fantastic Beasts” franchise started out fine enough in 2016 when the first movie earned $814 million worldwide. But the sequel, 2018’s “The Crimes of Grindelwald,” grossed a less impressive $655 million. This third entry faces an uphill battle as the pandemic continues.
May and June will kick off the summer movie season with Disney brands Marvel and Pixar. Other studios will look to compete.“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.”
“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” (May 6) — The first “Doctor Strange” took in $232 million domestically and $678 million globally. This sequel has the benefit of the character growing in popularity since then, thanks to appearances in “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Endgame,” and “No Way Home.” “Multiverse of Madness” will look to ride off of the recent success of the latter.
“Top Gun: Maverick” (May 27) — This long-delayed sequel will finally see the light of day this summer. Paramount delayed it from its last release date in November after data showed that audience comfort in going to the movies had been declining. It will be another test for whether older audiences will return to theaters.
“Jurassic World: Dominion” (June 10) — The first two “Jurassic World” movies earned $1.67 billion and $1.31 billion globally, respectively. Based on those figures, there’s precedent for Universal’s “Dominion” to be successful, but as with any movie right now, it’s not a sure thing.
“Lightyear” (June 17) — Pixar’s “Toy Story” spinoff, about the “real-life” person that inspired the Buzz Lightyear toy, has the chance to be a major hit if families are ready to return to theaters this summer. The last “Toy Story” movie, “Toy Story 4,” made more than $1 billion worldwide and $400 million domestically.
Late summer will be a contest between Marvel and DC.“Black Adam.”
Warner Bros. / DC Comics
“Thor: Love and Thunder” (July 8) — 2017’s “Thor: Ragnarok” made an impressive $854 million worldwide, $200 million more than the previous “Thor” movie, “The Dark World,” in 2013. “Love and Thunder” brings back “Ragnarok” director Taika Waititi to hopefully make magic again.
“Black Adam” (July 29) — A new character to the DC film universe, “Black Adam” will be riding primarily on the star appeal of Dwayne Johnson, who plays the title role. Johnson is still one of the biggest stars in the world, but his biggest movie during the pandemic was on Netflix with “Red Notice.” His Disney movie “Jungle Cruise” failed to make a big splash in theaters last year with $220 million worldwide. It was also on Disney+ though for an additional fee, inviting piracy, while “Black Adam” is set to be exclusive to theaters. And it will have no competition throughout August, which will be a quiet month based on the current release schedule.
The next entries in top franchises will dominate the fall.Tom Cruise in “Mission: Impossible — Fallout.”
“Mission: Impossible 7” (September 30) — Paramount’s next “Mission: Impossible” movie has faced many pandemic-related delays. It’s impossible to know how the pandemic will be impacting box office by September, but the franchise is coming off of a win with 2018’s sixth entry, “Fallout.” It made $220 million and $791 million globally, the highest of the franchise.
“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse Part One” (October 7) — Sony’s animated “Into the Spider-Verse” made $375 million worldwide and won the Oscar for animated feature. This year, the sequel will try to ride the wave of “No Way Home’s” success as another multiverse-spanning Spider-Man movie.
“Halloween Ends” (October 17) — Horror movies have been more reliable than most genres at the box office during the pandemic. Last year’s “Halloween Kills” earned $92 million domestically — not bad considering its $20 million budget, but below the $159 million 2018’s “Halloween” made. “Kills,” though, was competing with rotten reviews (it has a 41% Rotten Tomatoes critic score) and was streaming simultaneously on Peacock.
November will see another contest between Marvel and DC.Danai Gurira as Okoye in “Black Panther”
“The Flash” (November 4) — DC and Warner Bros.’ “Flash” movie has been long in development, but will finally be released in November. It’s difficult to assess its box-office chances: it’s a superhero movie so it already has an advantage, and will feature the return of both Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck as their respective Batmen. But the Flash isn’t a household character and his first full live-action appearance in 2017’s “Justice League” was a commercial and critical failure. Plus, the following week will see the release of what will surely be one of the biggest movies of the year.
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (November 11) — 2018’s “Black Panther” grossed $700 million domestically and more than $1 billion worldwide. Its sequel is expected to be one of the biggest releases of 2022.
Two potential blockbusters are currently set for release on the same day in December. That will likely change.
20th Century Fox
“Avatar 2” ( December 16) — 13 years after “Avatar” debuted, the first of four sequels is set to arrive in December. The first movie is currently the highest-grossing movie of all time. It reclaimed the title from “Avengers: Endgame” with a rerelease in China in 2021, so expectations are high for the sequel, which will be released by Disney as part of its acquisition of the Fox movie studio.
“Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” (December 16) — “Aquaman” was a huge hit with more than $1 billion globally. But if either of these movies budges from its release date, it would probably be this sequel.