news Here’s How August Box Office Can Take This Summer to $4 Billion

Domestic box office could be down a third from July. If so, that’s really good news.

Fueled by “Barbie” (Warner Bros.) and “Oppenheimer” (Universal), July’s total of about $1.36 billion came just short for our absolute best-case scenario of $1.4 billion. That beats last July by about 230 million for the biggest signal to date that theaters are more than viable: Not only can they throw off impressive grosses, but they’re still capable of driving the cultural conversation.

Still, what a strange July. Our preview suggested that the possibility that the gross could be this high — however, no one could have predicted that “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One” (Paramount) wouldn’t be in the top three.

L to R: Cillian Murphy is J. Robert Oppenheimer and Emily Blunt is Kitty Oppenheimer in OPPENHEIMER, written, produced, and directed by Christopher Nolan.

“Oppenheimer”Melinda Sue Gordon

However, the top three are “Barbie” ($351 million), “Oppenheimer” ($175 million), and Angel Studio’s “Sound of Freedom” ($149 million). “Mission” is in fourth place at $141 million. There remains some minor uncertainty about the “Sound” total based on possible double inclusion of some advance purchases, but even in a worst-case scenario it would account for only a small part of its reported gross.

In other weirdness, the rising tide ignored some of the boats. Beyond “Mission,” July didn’t favor “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” or “Haunted Mansion” (both Disney).

Pre-July, with the disappointments of multiple franchises, the odds of summer hitting $4 billion were no better than one in 100. Today, with $3.060 billion by the end of July, we have a real chance of crossing that finish line.

That leaves August and a few days of September responsible for accruing $960 million. Here’s how that could happen.

Start with some combination of “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” adding another $380 million. “Sound of Freedom” could do another $50 million during the month. That’s $430 million, with arguably more up than downside.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem”Courtesy Paramount Pictures

The likely top new entries for the month open this week with “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (Paramount) and “The Meg 2” (Warner Bros.) and each have a shot at $100 million.

Other wide studio releases include “The Last Voyage of the Demeter” (Universal) on August 11, DC title “Blue Beetle” (Warner Bros.) August 18 , R-rated animation with “Strays” (Universal) on August 26, and the just-delayed “Gran Turismo” (Sony). Results may vary, but by the end of this month these should add at least another $100 million combined.

Add in other pre-August holdovers, along with other films that open in August, and $900 million seems doable. It would also be nearly double of last August, which saw $467 million. It would also leave 2023 at $7.66 billion. That performance translated across the year would mean $10.7 billion, far closer to the $11.4 billion of 2019 than anyone imagined.

All this prognosticating can’t account for the possibility that studios respond to the ongoing writers and actors’ strikes by delaying highly anticipated late-year releases. Still, even in a worst-case scenario, 2023 should hit a minimum of $9 billion for the year.