Could May 2022 become the biggest month at the domestic box office since the pandemic hit?
Currently, that high water mark is held by December 2021 with $920.8M. For context, in the pre-pandemic year of 2019, five different months exceeded $1B domestic: April, May, June, July, and December.
Exceeding $1B in May could counter the remaining doubters of cinema’s viability in this post-pandemic landscape. Though Boxoffice Pro chief analyst Shawn Robbins’s most recent projections indicate it’s more likely to reach around $850-$900 million total with several high-profile titles on the calendar — including the latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe — a $1B month is by no means out of reach.
Historically, the month of May has crossed the $1B mark more often than not, doing so in seven of the 10 years prior to the pandemic, including the two immediate Mays before the shutdown: 2018 and 2019.
In chronological order, here are the wide release films of this month:
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Friday, May 6
Premise: The Disney / Marvel Studios superhero sequel explores the multiverse concept, which the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) first revealed in 2019’s Avengers: Endgame and further expanded upon in 2021’s Spider-Man: No Way Home. Benedict Cumberbatch returns as the title character Stephen Strange, alongside Rachel McAdams as love interest Christine Palmer and Elizabeth Olsen as fellow superhero Wanda Maximoff. Sam Raimi directs, marking his return to the superhero genre after helming the three 2000s-era Spider-Man movies.
Box office comparisons: 2016’s original Doctor Strange hardly seems a fair comparison—that film earned a $232.6M domestic total, a number this sequel is currently tracking to almost match in its opening weekend alone. Boxoffice PRO is currently a projecting a debut of $190M-$215M and a total of $450M-$560M.
Better comparisons may be subsequent films in which Doctor Strange has appeared, including:
- No Way Home ($804.4M total so far, as it nears the end of its theatrical run)
- 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War ($678.8M)
Friday, May 13
Premise: Zac Efron plays a father who must protect his young daughter who possesses the ability to create fires with her mind in Universal’s horror title based on both the 1980 Stephen King novel and the original 1984 film version starring a young Drew Barrymore.
Box office comparisons: 1984’s original Frestarter earned $17.0M, or about $46.5M adjusted for ticket price inflation. Current projections have the remake earning below that inflation-adjusted number theatrically, especially because it will be released day-and-date in theaters and on Peacock.
The past decade’s other Stephen King adaptations include the following; Warner Bros.’ Salem’s Lot adaptation is set to hit theaters later this year.
- 2019’s Pet Sematary ($54.7M)
- 2017’s The Dark Tower ($50.7M)
- 2013’s Carrie ($35.2M)
- 2019’s Doctor Sleep ($31.5M)
- 2017s It: Chapter 1 ($327.4M)
- 2019’s It: Chapter 2 ($211.6M)
Downton Abbey: A New Era
Friday, May 20
Premise: Focus Features’ historical drama follows the saga of Great Britain’s wealthy Crawley family, now in the late 1920s. Their second feature film is set after both the 52-episode television series (which aired on ITV in the United Kingdom and PBS in the United States) and 2019’s Downton Abbey movie. Simon Curtis (The Art of Racing in the Rain, Woman in Gold, Goodbye Christopher Robin) takes over directing duties from Michael Engler.
Box office comparisons: The original movie was a surprise hit at $96.8M, though current projections have the sequel coming in more like half that amount. This has often been the case with movie sequels to popular television shows: the audience comes out for the first installment, but not as much for the second. Though the comparisons vary wildly in terms of genre and tone, examples include:
- 2010’s Sex and the City 2 (-37% below its predecessor)
- 2003’s Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (-19%)
- 2004’s Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (-45%)
- 1993’s Wayne’s World 2 (-60%)
- 1993’s Addams Family Values (-59%)
- 1991’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (-41%)
- 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (-4%)
However, there is an occasional exception. For example, 2014’s 22 Jump Street actually came in +38% above 2012’s 21 Jump Street.
Top Gun: Maverick
Friday, May 27
Premise: Tom Cruise is back 36 years later in Paramount’s action sequel about a team of daredevil naval aviators, now adding Miles Teller and Jon Hamm to the cast. Joseph Kosinski, who directed Cruise in 2013’s Oblivion, helms this title.
Box office comparisons: 1986’s original Top Gun earned $176.7M, or about $436.4M adjusted for ticket price inflation. It was also the highest-grossing film of that year, a superlative it seems basically impossible for the sequel to match, though cracking the top ten list still seems a real possibility.
Current tracking has Maverick potentially heading towards a $100M+ opening weekend and, in the best case scenario, above $350M total.
The Bob’s Burgers Movie
Friday, May 27
Premise: Since 2011, Fox has aired (and Hulu has streamed) the animated cartoon comedy about the Belcher family’s restaurant on Sunday nights. Now, 20th Century Studios releases a feature film.
Box office comparisons: Box office comparisons to other animated show-to-film adaptations are difficult here. 2007’s The Simpsons Movie ($183.1M) seems far too high given that show’s cultural phenomenon status, while 2007’s Aqua Teen Hunger Force ($5.5M) seems too low. Current tracking is trending closer to the 2018’s Cartoon Network show adaptation Teen Titans Go! To The Movies with $29.7M.