Universal Pictures is having a banner year. They set some pretty big industry records, wrecking the box office with their franchise sequels and one very sly biopic that no one saw coming. Now, they are ready to unleash their fall and holiday slate, which runs from September to November. They're going to tap out early, with nothing set for release in December. That's okay. They've already done better than any other studio in 2015. They could take the rest of the year off, and it still wouldn't matter.
But they're not going to do that. Traditionally, fall movies are all about Oscar. It's the awards season, and most studios are ready to flaunt their drama-heavy fare. Universal is taking a slightly different approach. While they have a few Academy Award contenders coming our way over the course of the next three months, they seem more interested in keeping the big blockbuster train moving. They have seven movies awaiting release, and they include horror, drama, suspense and a little teenage magic.
What will be Universal's next big blockbuster at the box office? Do they even have anything that can compete with what they've already released this year? So far, the studio has surpassed $2.113 billion in domestic grosses. This just passed the record set by Warner Bros. in 2009, which finished that year with $2.105 billion. Universal currently houses five of the top 10 grossing movies of the year, including the biggest movie of 2015, Jurassic World. The other four are Furious 7, Minions, Pitch Perfect 2 and Fifty Shades of Grey. Universal distribution president Nick Carpou had this to say about the immense success being enjoyed by the company.
"This continues to be an extraordinary year for our studio, and our success is a result of every division working cohesively to bring the best possible version of our films into theaters. We work alongside inspired filmmakers with a passion for telling great stories, and with this year's diverse slate we were fortunate to identify release dates that maximized theatrical grosses. We share this success with our partners in exhibition and look forward to the remainder of the year."
Universal is going to kick off the 2015 fall / holiday season with a low budget indie about two children who discover their grandparents aren't exactly what they say they are. Coming from Blumhouse Productions and fully financed by it's director, M. Night Shyamalan, the film can't be anything but a success, as it was made for mere pennies on the dollar. Most are positioning it as Shyamalan's comeback film. And it helps that it will have to pull in hardly any ticket sales to turn a profit. Despite that fact, box office spectators are predicting a big opening day for The Visit. Though, it's opening a little too early to enjoy any Halloween fun, and will probably be out of theaters by the time that fall Holiday rolls around.
Universal's next two releases are tittering on that fine line between being Oscar fodder and true blue popcorn blockbusters. Everest follows an expedition to the summit of the world's highest mountain, led by Jake Gyllenhaal and Josh Brolin. It contains harrowing thrills, plenty of action and enough tense moments to make you squirm around in your seat. But its all-star cast is also bringing the drama, positioning this film as an animal of many colors. It's the kind of crowd-pleasing triumph of the spirit that gets nominated, but never wins.
October's Legend is a little darker, and has a lot more meat on its bones. It could certainly garner Tom Hardy an Oscar nod as he sets out to play two real-life twin gangsters. It's the kind of classic crime drama that fares well in cold weather. Though, its international setting might be a drawback for some folks who'd rather see the American gangster tale Black Mass, which is coming from Warner Bros. a few weeks earlier. Johnny Depp will, without a doubt, grab his fourth Oscar nomination for his role as James 'Whitey' Bulger. But it looks like Tom Hardy might be able to give him a run for his money.
Another movie straddling the line between Oscar bait and crowd-pleasing blockbuster is Steve Jobs, which positions Michael Fassbender as the former co-founder of Apple. It, too, could afford the actor another chance at Oscar glory, making it a tough race to call this early out. One thing is for certain, Universal stands a good chance of bringing more than one statue home. Though, its next release is purely for lovers of Gothic horror, and probably won't garner much Academy consideration.
That's okay. The fanboys have Guillermo del Toro's back as he returns with his first directorial effort since 2013's Pacific Rim. This time, he's inviting audiences into a very scary haunted house that is sure to leave everyone shaking with fright. Also on the opposite end of the Oscar spectrum is the live-action adaptation of the popular animated series Jem and the Holograms. Though, it's going to have to try really hard to win over its longtime fan base. Jem fanatics weren't happy with the first trailer. But perhaps this teen rock fantasy will surprises us all yet.
That leaves one last movie for the year. And Universal is going out with a bang. Yes, By the Sea will finish off 2015 for the winning studio, and it has Oscar written all over it. The film marks Angelina Jolie's third film as a director. And pairs her with husband Brad Pitt on-screen for the first time since 2005's Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Are audiences as excited to see them reunite now as they were to see them unite the first time ten years ago? We'll have to wait a few months and see. For now, take a look at the seven big releases coming our way from Universal Pictures this year.
The Visit September 11
M. Night Shyamalan returns to his roots with the terrifying story of a brother and sister who are sent to their grandparents' remote Pennsylvania farm for a weeklong trip. Once the children discover that the elderly couple is involved in something deeply disturbing, they see their chances of getting back home are growing smaller every day.
Everest September 18
Inspired by the incredible events surrounding an attempt to reach the summit of the world's highest mountain, Everest documents the awe-inspiring journey of two different expeditions challenged beyond their limits by one of the fiercest snowstorms ever encountered by mankind. Their mettle tested by the harshest elements found on the planet, the climbers will face nearly impossible obstacles as a lifelong obsession becomes a breathtaking struggle for survival.
Legend October 2
From Academy Award winner Brian Helgeland comes the true story of the rise and fall of London's most notorious gangsters, Reggie and Ron Kray, both portrayed by Tom Hardy in an amazing double performance. Legend is a classic crime thriller taking us into the secret history of the 1960s and the extraordinary events that secured the infamy of the Kray twins.
Steve Jobs October 9
Set backstage at three iconic product launches and ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac, Steve Jobs takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution to paint an intimate portrait of the brilliant man at its epicenter. Michael Fassbender plays Steve Jobs, the pioneering founder of Apple, with Academy Award-winning actress Kate Winslet starring as Joanna Hoffman, former marketing chief of Macintosh. Steve Wozniak, who co-founded Apple, is played by Seth Rogen, and Jeff Daniels stars as former Apple CEO John Sculley. The film also stars Katherine Waterston as Chrisann Brennan, Jobs' ex-girlfriend, and Michael Stuhlbarg as Andy Hertzfeld, one of the original members of the Apple Macintosh development team.
Crimson Peak October 16
When her heart is stolen by a seductive stranger, a young woman is swept away to a house atop a mountain of blood-red clay: a place filled with secrets that will haunt her forever. Between desire and darkness, between mystery and madness, lies the truth behind Crimson Peak. From the imagination of director Guillermo del Toro comes a gothic romance starring Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska and Charlie Hunnam.
Jem and the Holograms October 23
As a small-town girl catapults from underground video sensation to global superstar, she and her three sisters begin a one-in-a-million journey of discovering that some talents are too special to keep hidden. In Universal Pictures' Jem and the Holograms, four aspiring musicians will take the world by storm when they see that the key to creating your own destiny lies in finding your own voice.
By the Sea November 13
By the Sea follows an American writer named Roland (Brad Pitt) and his wife, Vanessa (Angelina Jolie), who arrive in a tranquil and picturesque seaside resort in 1970s France, their marriage in apparent crisis. As they spend time with fellow travelers, including young newlyweds Lea and François, and village locals Michel and Patrice, the couple begins to come to terms with unresolved issues in their own lives. In its style, and its treatment of themes of the human experience, By the Sea is inspired by European cinema and theater of the '60s and '70s. Written, directed and produced by Academy Award winner Angelina Jolie, By the Sea serves as her directorial follow-up to Universal Pictures' epic Unbroken.
What do you think? Will some of them take home Oscar gold? Are there ones you can't wait to see? What are you passing on? Let us know which Universal Pictures releases you'll be standing in line for this Holiday season, which ones you'll wait to watch at home. And which ones you are passing on all together!