Total 2019 box office might have seen a dip since the heights of 2018, but with the likes of Avengers: Endgame, The Lion King, Joker, and Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker hitting big, there were still plenty of successes to keep theaters busy. 2020 looks to be no different, with one notable exception: There will be no Star Wars film to give the box office that end of year bump. (As you’ll see below, there is a film looking to step into that gap.)
Even with the Skywalkers out of the picture, Disney can be expected to provide several high-profile hits across both animation and live-action. Popular franchises from Universal, Warner Bros., and UA boast new installments, and two hit films—released more than 30 years apart—get highly anticipated sequels. And box office stalwart Christopher Nolan returns with another film hoping to draw audiences in with the promise of an original, non-franchise story.
Disney | March 6
Pixar has had a stellar run at the box office recently thanks to a string of hit sequels like Toy Story 4, Incredibles 2, and Finding Dory. This year the animation studio will release two original IPs to breathe new life to its slate. The first of the two, Onward, hits theaters this March and is poised to be one of Q1’s biggest hits. The fairy tale focuses on two elf siblings who live in a suburban version of a fantasy world—embarking on an adventure together on a sweet-looking van.
A Quiet Place Part II
Paramount | March 20
The sequel to 2018 sleeper hit A Quiet Place should give Paramount a boost in its Q1 box office. The original was Paramount’s second-highest grossing film of 2018 with $188 million, only trailing Mission: Impossible – Fallout. The sequel could very well have a similar result in 2020, potentially becoming the studio’s second-biggest hit of the year behind another Tom Cruise sequel, Top Gun: Maverick.
No Time to Die
United Artists | April 10
Daniel Craig’s (likely) last outing as James Bond comes during the franchise’s biggest transition in years, as United Artists takes over domestic theatrical distribution from Sony. (Universal will be taking over international distribution). Danny Boyle was originally tapped to direct the 25th installment in the Bond franchise before being replaced by Beasts of No Nation director Cary Joji Fukunaga last year. A lot is riding for this installment to perform well at the box office, and early tracking suggests it will certainly not disappoint.
Disney | May 1
Ten years after making her feature film debut in Iron Man 2, Scarlet Johansson’s superhero super-spy Black Widow gets her own solo film. You may have heard that Marvel films make a ton of money, and fans have been waiting on this particular film for a while. Joining Johansson are “Stranger Things” star David Harbour, up-and-coming “it girl” Florence Pugh (Little Women), and Oscar winner Rachel Weisz. Black Widow hits theaters the first weekend in May, which has proven a lucrative release window for eight previous Marvel films, among them the first Avengers.
Fast & Furious 9
Universal | May 22
Universal’s surprisingly enduring franchise returns for its ninth chapter, not counting last year’s spin-off, Hobbs & Shaw. While we don’t expect this entry to hit the same peaks earlier episodes reached at the domestic box office, it should still be a solid earner for Universal—particularly overseas. An increased presence of immersive seating theaters in the United States might also give this title an extra boost in premium ticket sales.
Wonder Woman 1984
Warner Bros. | June 5
Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins and stars Gal Gadot and Chris Pine reunite for Wonder Woman 1984. Despite an opening weekend gross ($103.2 million) that put it solidly in the middle of the DC Extended Universe pack, Wonder Woman‘s strong hold eventually made it the highest-grossing DCEU film to date and the third highest-grossing film of 2017 with $412.5 million. Hopes for 1984, then, are high, especially considering how early glimpses of the film have been burning it up on social media.
Disney | June 19
Pixar’s second original film of the year is this musically-inspired release set, at least partially, in New York City’s jazz scene. Jamie Foxx voices the animated lead, which also co-stars Tina Fey, Questlove, Phylicia Rashad, and Daveed Diggs. Curiously, the film’s original score will be composed by Nine Inch Nails members (and celebrated film composers) Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
Top Gun: Maverick
Paramount | June 26
Paramount is bringing back another iconic 80s film for a new chapter with Top Gun: Maverick. Although we’ve seen IP struggles at other studios (Fox’s Independence Day: Resurgence, Sony’s Charlies Angels, Paramount’s Terminator: Dark Fate), we’re expecting the long-awaited Top Gun sequel to deliver at the box office with a new generation of fans. If successful, Tom Cruise’s run of hits with Paramount’s Mission: Impossible franchise might have company heading into the new decade.
Minions: The Rise of Gru
Universal | July 3
Animation stalwart Illumination returns to the big screen in 2020 with Minions: The Rise of Gru, the latest entry in their billion-dollar Despicable Me franchise. The last two Illlumination films, Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch (2018) and The Secret Life of Pets 2 (2019) earned domestic totals of $270.6 million and $158.2 million, respectively. Minions, to which Rise of Gru is a direct sequel, earned $336 million domestically and a mind-boggling $823.3 million internationally, making it the fifth-highest worldwide grosser of 2015.
Warner Bros. | July 17
Director Christopher Nolan reteams with regular collaborator Warner Bros. for Tenet, starring BlacKkKlansman’s John David Washington. As is typical with Nolan films, details on Tenet are scarce in the months leading up to release. From the trailer, there appear to be time travel and espionage components. The film comes out mid-July, which in the past has served as a lucrative date for Nolan films. His Batman trilogy hit theaters then, as did 2010’s Inception (domestic total $292.5 million) and 2017’s Dunkirk (domestic total $190 million), both of which, like Tenet, are original stories that appear to be skewed toward a more adult audience.
Disney | July 24
It looks like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson will be putting his presidential ambitions on hold this summer to instead promote Disney’s Jungle Cruise. The film, co-starring Emily Blunt, brings an action-adventure flavor that brings to mind fellow Disney theme-park IP Pirates of the Caribbean. Star power and Disney’s theatrical muscle should help launch this original title in an off-year for Disney’s major franchises.
Disney | November 6
The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues its Stage Four—kicked off by May release Black Widow—with Eternals. Like The Avengers, Eternals sees a superhero ensemble unite to save the world. Unlike The Avengers, none of the characters in Eternals have yet to prove their money-making power with solo films. Still, that didn’t prove a problem for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which got past some wacky characters (…a talking raccoon?) to earn $333.1 million domestically. Like Guardians, Eternals enjoys some recognizable names among its cast, including Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, and two “Game of Thrones” alumni (Kit Harington and Richard Madden).
Godzilla vs. Kong
Warner Bros. | November 20
Godzilla vs. Kong is the fourth film in Legendary Pictures’ MonsterVerse, which has enjoyed diminishing returns since its first film, Godzilla, grossed $200.6 domestically in 2014. Kong: Skull Island’s domestic cume dipped to $168 million three years later, and in 2019 Godzilla: King of the Monsters drew in $110.5 million. (Adding in international cumes, all three films landed in the $500-$600 million range worldwide.) There’s been limited publicity for the November release, so it’s tough to gauge social media interest, but there are some big names in the cast, among them Millie Bobby Brown (returning from King of the Monsters) and Alexander Skarsgård.
Raya and the Last Dragon
Disney |November 25
2019 saw Frozen 2 become Walt Disney Animation Studio’s highest-grossing film of all time. It’s a lot for fellow WDAS release Raya and the Last Dragon to live up to… but it’s not like their recent titles—including Moana, Zootopia, Big Hero 6, Wreck-It Ralph, Ralph Breaks the Internet, and the first Frozen—didn’t make a combined $4.5 billon worldwide. Like Moana, Raya is a fantasy adventure about a young woman tasked with saving the world. The film’s directors have animation and story credits on a number of previous Disney hits, including Frozen and Big Hero 6.
Warner Bros. | December 18
Oscar-nominated Arrival ($100.5 million domestically) and Blade Runner 2049 ($92.million) director Denis Villeneuve (pictured) returns to the world of sci-fi with an adaptation of Frank Herbert’s seminal 1965 novel Dune. The book—about a young nobleman (Timothy Chalamet) who gets involved in interplanetary intrigue involving the galaxy’s most valuable substance—was previously adapted by David Lynch, whose 1984 version of the story put Sting in a metal bikini bottom. Somehow, that movie flopped. Villeneuve’s Dune is slated for release on December 18, the “big-budget sci-fi epic” slot that in previous years would have belonged to an installment in the (now-finished) Star Wars sequel trilogy.