By Steve Symington
Thanks to massive late-year pushes from sequels including Lionsgate's (NYSE: LGF )The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX ) The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, domestic movie-goers have spent more than $10.7 billion at the box office so far in 2013.
That's nearly a full percentage point ahead of the $10.61 billion at this point in 2012, which means 2013 could very well exceed last year's fresh $10.8 billion high mark.
But several other big-budget sequels played a large part in running up the score this year, including the likes of Disney (NYSE: DIS ) Marvel's Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World,Disney Pixar's Monster's University, and both Despicable Me 2 and Fast & Furious 6 from Comcast Universal.
Naturally, the world's most powerful studios are hard at work bringing a new round of sequels your way next year. In order of appearance, here are the seven I think will command the most attention in 2014:
1. 300: Rise of an Empire
Image source: Time Warner
On March 7, Time Warner hopes to win big with another gory, quasi-historical action flick in 300: Rise of an Empire.
And if the runaway success of its 2007 predecessor is any indication, this latest graphic-novel-turned-movie-blockbuster should do just fine. Remember, despite limiting its audience with an unsurprising "R" rating, 300 still managed to earn an impressive $456 million worldwide on a relatively modest $65 million production budget.
Time Warner hasn't released official budget numbers this time around for Rise of an Empire. But given the sheer anticipation created by the massive looming battle at the end of the first film, it seems safe to bet they upped the ante in their efforts to pick up where 300 left off.
2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Image source: Disney/Marvel
Next, Disney looks to continue its Marvel-driven box office domination with the April 4 launch of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
At first glance, it's tempting to think this sequel may not perform all that well when you remember Captain America: The First Avenger took home "just" $370.6 million globally in 2011. That's the second-lowest total of any film in the current Disney-Marvel cinematic universe, ahead of only the $263.4 million earned by 2008's The Incredible Hulk -- which was produced before Disney acquired Marvel in 2009, by the way -- and less than one quarter of the $1.52 billion achieved by Marvel's The Avengers last year.
But consider this: Thanks largely to its Avengers boost, Thor: The Dark World has already earned more than $628 million worldwide after just seven weekends in theaters, compared to $449.3 million over 16 weekends for the first Thor in 2011. If The Winter Soldier follows a similar upward trajectory a few months from now, it should easily be able to eclipse the $550 million mark when all is said and done.
3. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Image source: Sony Pictures
Speaking of potential billion-dollar comic book-based movies, you can be sure Sony (NYSE:SNE ) Pictures wants to steal the show with its May 2 debut of The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
And why not? Its risky reboot in The Amazing Spider-Man last year grabbed an impressive $752.2 million after 15 weekends on the big screen, nearly two-thirds of which came from foreign audiences. This time, the second installment should not only benefit from the ever-growing star power of leading lady Emma Stone, but also from having Jamie Foxx portraying Spidey's next supervillain antagonist, Electro.
All things considered, that's why I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see the The Amazing Spider-Man 2 near the top of 2014's highest-grossing films. ...more