Thanks to a handful of major blockbusters like The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and The Hunger Games, 2012 set a new domestic box office record; the 2013 release schedule is similarly stacked with plenty of guaranteed blockbusters, and should at least come close to matching 2012's overall gross.
The box office is usually very reliant on franchise fare—seven of the Top 10 movies of 2012 were sequels, off from a high point of nine out of 10 in 2011. In 2013, there are 27 sequels or prequels on the schedule, which is a fairly standard number. What's different this year, though, is how many of these are follow-ups to major blockbusters—for nine of the 27 titles, the predecessor earned over $200 million at the domestic box office (that number improves to 10 if you count Thor 2 as a sequel to The Avengers).
Among all of these sequels, the 2013 movie most-likely-to-succeed is The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which opens in the pre-Thanksgiving spot vacated by the departed Twilight franchise. The first movie made an unbelievable $408 million at the box office, and continues to attract new fans following its DVD/Blu-ray release. Catching Fire's story is a logical follow-up, but still manages to up the ante and provide something new, and it's impossible to imagine this being anything but a massive hit.
Not far behind in the "guaranteed blockbuster" category are The Avengers follow-ups Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World, both of which should improve on their previous solo outings ($312.4 million and $181 million, respectively). Also, J.J. Abrams's Star Trek is universally beloved, so its sequel Star Trek Into Darkness should at least wind up close to that movie's $257.7 million.
Of course, the industry can't thrive exclusively on established franchises—it also needs to try and create a few as well. Some of the biggest entries come from Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures, who are delivering Superman reboot Man of Steel (June 14) and Pacific Rim (July 12) this Summer. Disney is also getting in on the game with Lone Ranger (July 3), which they surely hope will turn in to another Pirates of the Caribbean for them. There's also major sci-fi movies like After Earth (June 7), Oblivion (April 12) and Elysium (August 9), but it's hard to tell at this point whether these are meant to be one-off stories or not.
Another major category of prospective franchises are the book adaptations that are clearly trying to be the next Twilight/Hunger Games. There are three obvious entries in to this category in 2013—Beautiful Creatures (Feb. 13), The Host (March 29), Mortal Instruments (August 23) and Ender's Game (Nov. 1)—while Warm Bodies (Feb. 1) also seems like a relative. It's hard to gauge the prospects here, though Beautiful Creatures has an early lead thanks to its nice blend of romance and mythology, while Ender's Game is an extremely popular book and could do good business as well.
Keep an eye out for a full breakdown of 2013 sequels, prequels, and prospective franchises, which should publish on Box Office Mojo in the next week or two.
Animation is also one of the biggest contributors to overall box office each year: in 2012, for example, new animated movies took in around $1.4 billion in domestic revenue. There are currently at least 10 major animated movies on the schedule for 2013, which is about on par with 2012 (11 titles). The biggest titles should be two of the sequels—Despicable Me 2 and Monsters University—though there are a handful of other appealing offerings.
Between its new distribution output with DreamWorks Animation and its Blue Sky products, 20th Century Fox is distributing four animated movies in 2013: The Croods (March 22), Epic (May 24), Turbo (July 19) and Mr. Peabody & Sherman (Nov. 1). Disney has three—Monsters University, Cars spin-off Planes (August 9) and Frozen (Nov. 27)—while Sony's only completely animated title is Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (Sept. 27). Sony Animation also has CG/live-action hybrid The Smurfs 2 on the schedule, which should do great business overseas even if it underperforms domestically.
It's going to be another big year for 3D, at least as far as number of options goes. As of now, there are 35 3D releases scheduled, including four re-releases (Jurassic Park, The Little Mermaid, and the last two Star Wars prequels). In comparison, there were 37 on the schedule going in to 2012—the slight decrease lines up with the notion that the 3D market is basically saturated, and studios don't see a lot of room for growth here.