The Walt Disney Studios’ most exciting slate of films in recent memory arrives in 2015. Despite a few films shifting release dates from when I first considered this to be Disney’s most major year ever back in May 2013, the line-up of movies can excite anyone. Whether you adore Disney’s standard fare (sports, sci-fi, fantasy, and animation) or even anything under the Pixar, Lucasfilm, or Marvel banners, Disney will surely dominate the box office and perhaps even critical hits, too.
This second part (be sure to check out Part 1 right here if you missed it) will focus on each of the theatrical films to debut from The Walt Disney Studios during the latter part of this year.
Note: Domestic release dates accurate as of January 15, 2015.
INSIDE OUT (June 19)
The details: Pixar Animation Studios returns on the big screen after taking a break in 2014. Inside Out will explore the emotions that exist in 11-year-old Riley’s mind after the adolescent moves to San Francisco. Helping her navigate this new experience are “little voices” Joy (Amy Poehler), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). Of course, John Ratzenberger will voice one of the film’s characters, as he does with every theatrical Pixar film. Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc., Up) directs his third feature for the animation powerhouse.
Box office predictions: Though hampered by films some would view to have set Pixar on a negative trajectory (Cars 2, Brave, Monsters University), Inside Out should hopefully lift it back up to its place on the peak of the animation mountain — alongside Disney, no doubt. Inside Out will most likely lead the box office on its opening weekend, though it follows Jurassic World, which opens June 12. Consider a $60 million domestic opening as conservative for this Pixar project from The Walt Disney Studios. More likely, expect closer to $70 million. Its total U.S. earnings should align with many of its Pixar contemporaries in the $250 million range.
ANT-MAN (July 17)
The details: “Bug off, why don’t you?” While Paul Rudd is unlikely to use this line in this Marvel story about a thief who can shrink down to insect size, he should make it big in this production. The Walt Disney Studios has successfully marketed the recent Marvel Studios projects, and Ant-Man‘s mysterious nature should allure many comic book fans. A fine cast accompanies Rudd, including Lost‘s Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll, and Bobby Cannavale. Peyton Reed makes for an interesting choice to take over directing duties from Edgar Wright, as Reed’s earliest film projects included television movie remakes of The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes and The Love Bug. At least he knows something about crafting stories featuring people and objects with unique abilities.
Box office predictions: Marvel shall prevail once again! Opening against Pan, the reimagining of Peter Pan, the “boy who never grows up” tale — not by Disney, interestingly enough — Ant-Man should premiere in first place. It’s a familiar property, but akin to its fellow Marvel Studios films featuring characters in their first appearances, will need to gain awareness. I suspect this can make $65 million in its first three days here in the United States. Grossing $200 million domestically total should not challenge this superhero.
THE FINEST HOURS (October 9)
The details: Get ready for another movie based on a true story. Craig Gillespie, director of Million Dollar Arm, heads this project that centers on the Coast Guard rescue of oil tanker crewmen during a rough storm off of Cape Cod in 1952. Chris Pine takes the helm, along with a solid cast that includes Eric Bana, Ben Foster and Casey Affleck. The movie follows a 2009 book that chronicled these incredible events.
Box office predictions: The Finest Hours just recently had its release date flipped with Jon Favreau’s Jungle Book production. The Chris Pine vehicle could perform moderately well in October compared to its previously scheduled April 2016 slot. However, Gillespie’s last effort (Arm) could not even swim. It quickly sunk. Expect a modest opening of around $15 million and the potential for this to top $50 million if positive reviews rush in.
UNTITLED COLD WAR SPY THRILLER* (October 16)
*UPDATE: The official title is St. James Place.
The details: The Walt Disney Studios is also responsible for distributing those live-action DreamWorks productions. The trend continues with a Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg collaboration bound to garner some Oscar notice. This Cold Era-set piece finds Hanks playing James Donovan, a lawyer who works to have a pilot released from the Soviet Union.
Box office predictions: Premiering against Guillermo del Toro’s horror flick Crimson Peak should work as suitable counterprogramming. This thriller from The Walt Disney Studios should appeal more to older audiences, but this same crowd can account for a film having legs. They typically do not check out movies on opening weekend, but instead wait over the course of several weeks. Its mid-October opening mirrors that of Captain Phillips, also starring Hanks, which grossed more than $100 million domestically. View that mark as possible, but only if this earns stellar reviews and generates interest from not just the senior crowd, but also those in their thirties and forties.
THE GOOD DINOSAUR (November 25)
The details: The much-delayed Pixar project will finally have its day this Thanksgiving. Lucas Neff, John Lithgow, Bill Hader, Neil Patrick Harris, Judy Greer, and Frances McDormand voice these prehistoric creatures. Not much is known about the movie, other than that it will focus on the relationship between young Apatosaurus Arlo (Neff) and a little human boy named Spot in a situation where dinosaurs did not meet their doom. Color me fascinated.
Box office predictions: This could be the first Disney-Pixar film to not open at the top of the pack in its opening weekend domestically, for five days before the final installment of The Hunger Games hits theaters. Additionally, three other major films open over the Thanksgiving holiday. However, it should not experience any trouble in earning at least $50 million and eventually accrue $200 million domestically.
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (December 18)
The details: “I wonder what Luke, Leia, and Han have been up to in the past several decades” only crossed the minds of millions of Star Wars aficionados — many of whom did not find the prequels as fulfilling ventures. Now we have our opportunity to see our space-traveling pals once again. This time, The Walt Disney Studios enters the picture as distributor and supporter of Lucasfilm’s most anticipated release since The Phantom Menace. I’m sure every Star Wars proponent is praying the outcome will not resemble that of the 1999 critical disappointment. J.J. Abrams directs and leads this film, which stars a bunch of up-and-comers like Adam Driver, John Boyega, and Daisy Ridley.
Box office predictions: How huge will this film become? Marvel’s The Avengers level? Can it reach Avatar‘s heights? The cynical part of me says it will earn at least $160 million during its opening weekend and then end up earning a total of around $450 million domestically. Then again, Star Wars has its legions of fans who return to the theaters multiple times. $600 million could happen. Even more than that is realistic. The Walt Disney Studios will carefully market this project, so as to intrigue its loyal supporters without spoiling too much.
This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Follow me on Twitter for alerts of new editions of Disney In Depth, Thursdays on Geeks of Doom.