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Summer Box Office: Five Weekends to Watch

Popcorn season is upon us, and it’ll be up to comic-book heroes, a wise-cracking genie, and a lion who would be king to ensure movie theaters are still the hottest place to spend the summer.

Last summer, blockbusters like “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” Ocean’s 8,” and “The Meg” drove moviegoers to their local multiplex in record numbers. This year could be equally impressive. At the very least, Disney will be a force to be reckoned with as the studio unveils highly anticipated titles, including “Avengers: Endgame,” “The Lion King,” and “Toy Story 4.”

As the dog days approach, Variety took a look five weekends that should have the summer box office sizzling.

April 26: “Avengers: Endgame”

Summer is getting off to an earlier start with “Avengers: Endgame” debuting at the end of April, and Marvel’s epic superhero mashup couldn’t arrive at a better time. Ticket sales are dwindling at the domestic box office, and with “Game of Thrones” back on the air, it’s only getting more competitive to earn the attention of audiences. Lucky for theater owners, help is on the way in the form of a bevy of masked crusaders. The 21st installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is on track for an epic launch between $200 million and $260 million. Can “Avengers: Endgame” save the domestic box office and pull off the biggest opening weekend of all time?

May 24: “Aladdin,” “Booksmart,” “Ad Astra,” “Brightburn”

Memorial Day Weekend, the official summer kickoff, marks one of the busiest weekend’s of the year for moviegoing. Disney is hoping to entice family crowds with its live-action remake of “Aladdin.” The Magic Kingdom has revisited its animated classics to mixed success. “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Jungle Book” were massive hits, but darker adaptations like “Dumbo” and “Christopher Robin” struggled to find their footing with customers. Audiences seem split on “Aladdin” after trailers showcased an alarmingly blue Will Smith as the Genie, so it’s still a question if fans will embrace the Arabian musical. Disney execs will be doing double duty that weekend, if the studio keeps the release date for “Ad Astra,” a sci-fi drama it acquired after closing its $71 billion merger with Fox. So far, there has been little to no promotion for “Ad Astra,” which stars Brad Pitt as an astronaut who sets out to find his missing father. Meanwhile, Olivia Wilde’s “Booksmart” is looking to prove that funny films can still be a box office draw. The coming-of-age comedy starring Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein has many critics predicting it could be the next “Superbad.” Also debuting that weekend is Sony and Screen Gem’s “Brightburn,” a James Gunn-produced superhero thriller starring Elizabeth Banks. Heroes and horrors have been two reliable genres — could combining the two pay off big?

May 31: “Rocketman,” “Ma,” “Godzilla: King of the Monsters”

May will close out an especially competitive month at multiplexes. The three newcomers won’t just be facing off against each other, they will be contending with holdovers including “Aladdin,” “Booksmart,” and Ryan Reynolds’ “Detective Pikachu.” Fox’s recent smash “Bohemian Rhapsody” confirmed audiences will rally behind musical films, though “Rocketman” brings a fantasy approach to the biopic genre. That same weekend, Universal and Blumhouse could continue horror’s box office hot streak with “Ma,” an R-rated psychological thriller starring Octavia Spencer. However, it could clash with another terrifying title, Warner Bros. and Legendary Entertainment’s “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” a sequel to 2014’s “Godzilla.”

June 21: “Toy Story 4,” “Child’s Play”

Disney will dominate this popcorn season — there’s no question about that. Despite hailing from a decades-old franchise, “Toy Story 4” is poised to become another animated sensation. Its biggest battle on the family front will be Universal’s “Secret Life of Pets 2,” which opens two weeks earlier. One title “Toy Story 4” should have virtually no overlap with? “Child’s Play,” a slasher film that brings Chucky back to the big screen. If this remake of the horror franchise about a creepy voodoo doll connects with a whole new generation, Chucky could find many more lives in theaters.

July 19: “The Lion King”

“The Lion King” might not pull of the same opening weekend numbers as, say, “Avengers: Endgame,” but box office sages are bullish that “The Lion King” could become the biggest movie of all time at the domestic box office. It seems that other studios would agree, considering the rest of Hollywood opted not to release a film that weekend. Just about every person on the planet is familiar with Simba’s coming-of-age story, and adding Donald Glover and Beyonce into the mix is only intensifying anticipation for the live-action remake of Disney’s crown jewel. Director Jon Favreau, who re-imagined “The Jungle Book” to critical praise, captured a stunning, hyper-realistic version of Prides Land. There’s little doubt that audiences will be stampeding to theaters for a long time to hear “Hakuna Matata” and “The Circle of Life.”

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