‘Furious 7’ Driving for $1 Billion at Box Office: 5 More Movies Gunning for the Milestone

“Avengers” sequel, “Hunger Games” finale, first “Star Wars” movie in a decade, “Spectre” and “Minions” all good bets

The odds that ““Furious 7” would become the first 2015 movie to hit $1 billion at the worldwide box office seemed pretty good going into the weekend. And after the action sequel’s muscular $392 million global opening, they look even better.

China will have a lot to do with whether Universal’s “Furious 7” gets to the milestone, and on Monday BoxOffice.com senior analyst Phil Contrino issued a bullish $125 million projection for the Great Wall haul of “Furious 7,” which opens there on Sunday.

“It will be bigger in China than the last two films in the series combined,” Contrino said. “The growth of the Chinese market and the growth of the franchise make a very powerful combination.”

“Fast & Furious 6” brought in $66.4 million in 2013, and “Fast Five” delivered $40 million in 2011. The Chinese box office grew 36 percent in 2012, 27 percent in 2013 and by 34 percent last year. You can do your own math, but by any calculation, “Furious 7” should be huge.

Vin Diesel, who stars along with Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jason Statham and the late Paul Walker in “Furious 7,” recently returned from a promotional trip to Beijing. Robert Downey Jr. made a similar trip before “Iron Man 3”debuted there and that one took in $121 million in China.

If “Furious 7” does join the $1 billion worldwide box office club, it shouldn’t be alone for long.

With 2015 pacing to be the biggest box office year in history, there are at least five other movies that have a good shot. Four movies made it in 2012 — “The Avengers,” “Skyfall,” “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” and “The Dark Knight” — but last year, only “Transformers: The Age of Extinction” made the grade.

See this year’s best bets.

avengers ultron scarlett witch“Avengers: Age of Ultron” (May 1)
They say nothing is a lock, but the first “Avengers” movie took in $1.25 billion in 2012, and subsequent films featuring the Marvel mash-up’s superheroes in spin-off films got a major boost from momentum generated by the original. That creates more momentum, like the kind that powered Disney’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” last summer. Foreign returns represented less than half the global total for Joss Whedon’s original “Avengers,” and that figure is sure to grow. “It’s a lock,” said Contrino.

minions

“Minions”
Before “Furious 7” and “Fifty Shades of Grey” came along, the box office record book at Universal was filled with the chirpy little yellow guys in Illumination Entertainment’s animated “Despicable Me” movies. In 2013, the sequel’s global haul grew by 40 percent over “Despicable Me” to $970 million globally. If “Minions,” a prequel to those movies, can manage half that big a spurt, they’ll be there.

spectre“Spectre” (Nov. 6)
The last James Bond movie “Skyfall” took the venerable MGM and Sony spy franchise from reliably potent to positively rocking at the box office, nearly doubling the global take of the preceding 007 film “Quantum of Solace” with $1.1 billion. There won’t be any Olympics this time, but the global market has grown since then and Daniel Craig’s Bond remains suavely bankable.

hunger games mockingjay 2“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” (Nov. 20)
Lionsgate will launch the farewell tour for Katniss and Co. just two weeks after 007, but count on the Thanksgiving marketplace accommodating both — in a big way. The third film, ”Mockingjay – Part 1,” brought in $753 million, more than the 2012 original, but less than 2013’s “Catching Fire” ($864 million). Here’s betting lots of Jennifer Lawrence fans were saving themselves for the finale.

star wars force

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (Dec. 18)
Moviegoers have waited a decade for a “Star Wars” movie and they can open their Christmas present a week early this year. With writer-director J.J. Abrams taking over the reins from George Lucas, the buzz is almost palpable. Imagine The Force combining with an even more awesome force — the Disney marketing machine — and you’ll see why some think it might even approach $2 billion.

There are several sequels that could hit the milestone and few would be shocked. Among them: “Jurassic World” (June 12), “Terminator: Genisys” (July 1), and Tom Cruise’s “Mission:  Impossible – Rogue: Nation” (July 31). Two animated films from Pixar, “Inside Out” (June 19) and “The Good Dinosaur”(Nov. 25), have to be considered as well.

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