Even as far back as 2012, when I got into this movie writing game, people discussed 2015 like it would be the movie industry's version of the Battle of Armageddon, a time in which the big studios would clash head-to-head in a cinematic conflagration of dollars, euros, sterling and yuan.
In many ways, the box office sooth-sayers were correct, and 2015 was certainly a standout year in terms of box office takings, with four new additions to the global Top 10 and four new members of the billion dollar club.
Many analysts believe 2016 will not quite match the scale of the preceding year – a kind of the calm after the storm. However, that doesn't mean there are not some impressive players arriving this year. With the helps of Forbes, let's take a look at some of potential big hitters for 2016.
Independence Day: Resurgence
Forbes Estimate: $700 million plus
Jurassic World proved that the reboot/sequel hybrid is still capable of emptying cinema-goers' wallets worldwide, and there's no reason to suggest Independence Day: Resurgence cannot follow this formula.
Both Jurassic World, which garnered $1.6 billion at the box office, and Resurgence are long awaited sequels to highly successful 1990s action science fiction classics that set the basis of entire genres. Some have suggested the absence of Will Smith from Resurgence could undermine its chances, however this might not be so. Jurassic World featured none of the cast of its predecessors, while the bankability of Smith has arguably dropped after a series of lackluster blockbusters.
For one thing, the initial trailer certainly took the Earth by storm, with the official Fox Youtube channel boasting 19 million views.
The Jungle Book
Forbes Estimate: $700 million plus
Another reboot of a beloved classic, Disney's live action The Jungle Book is also likely to pull families into cinemas both at home and internationally. Although news of a Disney reboot may have initially put off some cynics of the reboot trend, the first trailer and footage shown at various Disney expos has acted to mostly placate many nay-sayers. Furthermore, the hiring of established talent such as Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Idris Elba and Christopher Walken will also act to reassure those reticent about the project that it is in good hands.
If you had any doubts about the lucrative nature of the concept, you only need to remember that Warner Bros. have their own live-action Jungle Book adaptation (although derived from the original Rudyard Kipling book, not the animated Disney film) in production - suggesting both these experienced studios think there's money to be made in this classic.
Disney made over $500 million off the back of their last live-action reboot, Cinderella, and an April Spring Break opening and wider appeal will probably push The Jungle Book beyond this.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Forbes Estimate: $1 billion plus
Come on, you knew this one was going to be on the list. Although not part of the main Star Wars renewed trilogy, Rogue One is still expected to be one of the top movies of 2016, with Forbes suggesting it could be sitting on the 2016 throne when 2017 rolls round.
Few expect this Star Wars spin-off to eclipse the record-breaking success of Star Wars: Episode VII - A Force Awakens, but is likely to sate the appetite of audiences clamoring for their hit of the galaxy far, far away.
Furthermore, its more original 'gritty war movie' vibe and talented director, Gareth Edwards, means it could also arguably be better received than Episode VII, which although widely praised, has been criticized by some as 'A New Hope rehash'.
Captain America: Civil War
Forbes Estimate: "Marvel's biggest film yet"
According to Forbes's box office predictor, Captain America: Civil War could be the Marvel movie Avengers: Age of Ultron could have been. That movie, although performing well in an objective sense, failed to make more money than its predecessor, which is something of a disappointment for a sequel in a cinematic universe.
Civil War, however, is looking extremely healthy and is really an Avengers movie in everything but name. Added to this is the fact Captain America himself is the winner of the "Most Improved Marvel Hero" award, with a box office jump of $344 million (a 92% increase) between his first and second outings.
Furthermore, although the response to Avengers: Age of Ultron may have indicated viewers are becoming slightly fatigued with the superhero troupe, Civil War will shake up the formula a bit. The introduction of Spider-Man and Black Panther will be big draws, while the hero vs. hero storyline is also sure to revitalize the franchise.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Forbes Estimate: $800 million - $1 billion
If we mention Marvel, it only seems fair to include DC's 2016 blockbuster too. Indeed, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice could potentially end up being the top superhero movie of 2016.
Generally speaking, Dawn of Justice is also following Civil War in slightly subverting that same old superhero movie format, introducing new characters and featuring the titular heroes facing off against each other – if at least for a while.
It would be wrong to say Batman v Superman has had an easy ride. First, there was the controversial Ben Affleck casting, and the pushing back of its release to 2016. However, for the most part, the fury over 'Batfleck' has now died down, and its March release date means it does not have any major competition. But most importantly, the film has Batman, and as The Dark Knight Trilogy demonstrably shows, people will simply pay to see that.
Forbes Estimate: $700 million
Despite establishing the modern superhero movie with 2000's X-Men, the fortunes of Fox's band of mutants have fluctuated over the years, with X-Men: The Last Stand arguably representing the low point of the franchise.
However, new life was blown into the series thanks to 2011's prequel/reboot X-Men: First Class, while X-Men: Days of Future Past further capitalized on this new turn, cleverly blending the fresher elements of the new films with the more venerable characters of the older series. The result was the X-Men's most successful movie yet, with Days of Future Past making $748 million at the box office.
There's no reason to suggest the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse cannot follow this success, with a larger fanbase now potentially signalling an even bigger haul of cash for the sequel. X-Men: Apocalypse may arguably be the most generic – or perhaps we should say 'traditional' – superhero movie this year (with the possible exception of a Doctor Strange origin story), however the seemingly successful Deadpool also shows the studio is not afraid to take their characters and properties to some interesting places.
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
Forbes Estimate: $1 billion plus
Star Wars and superheroes won't have the entire year to themselves though. Indeed, they might all be pipped at the post by David Yates's Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.
In case you haven't noticed, the interest around Harry Potter has hardly died down since the final movie in 2011, and in fact, it may have actually increased. We've got a new play and book on the way, while Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them will no doubt satisfy fans who miss seeing the Wizarding World on the big screen.
All told, the Harry Potter franchise has made over $7.7 billion at the box office, and when you throw in merchandising and licensing it is clearly one of the most successful properties in the cinema history. With this in mind, Fantastic Beasts is certainly coming from a great pedigree and will no doubt do well initially at the box office. What heights it reaches will likely depend on how good the actual movie is. With the untested (in a screen-writing sense) J. K. Rowling writing the script there could be an unpleasant surprise, although that seems unlikely at the moment. For example, star Eddie Redmayne has stated:
When I read J.K. Rowling’s script, I just had my mind blown. I was so excited by it. The amazing thing was that I found it funny, I found it a thriller, I found it romantic. At the end, I was deeply moved by it.
The above movies are, for the most part, sure fire hits. However, let's look at a couple of movies, which although not expected to top the all-time charts, could potentially do extremely well.
Statistically speaking, video game movies are a risky endeavor. Most flop, and even if they do make money, they're usually critically derided. UbiSoft's 2016 adaptation, Assassin's Creed could be about to change this.
From the start, the project was approached differently from previous video game movies, which are usually developed on the cheap to make a quick buck off an established franchise. Assassin's Creed, however, has a healthy budget (reportedly around $200 million) and was developed in tandem with the game studio and talented filmmakers. Michael Fassbender joined the film before a script was even penned, while Macbeth director Justin Kurzel has also shown he has a flair for approaching action in an interesting and innovative way – which could make Assassin's Creed stand out among more generic action movies. Check out an example from Macbeth below:
With this in mind, Assassin's Creed could perhaps be the first 'great' video game movie, and surprise audiences akin to last year's Mad Max: Fury Road.
Despite missing out on the opportunity to name the fifth Bourne movie and quasi-reboot Bourne Again – a terrible oversight in my books – Paul Greengrass's return to the franchise could also bode well for Universal.
Most importantly, Matt Damon is back on board, and after riding high from critical and commercial success in The Martian, he's proven he's still capable to headlining a movie and putting booties on seats.
This 'return of the prodigal son' vibe could potentially help Jason Bourne at the box office and draw in an audience who are both interested in re-living the greatness of the originals and perhaps also eager to forget the cooly received Jeremy Renner headed fourth movie.
It's unlikely to break the bank like some of the more bombastic actioners on this list, but its likely to generate a healthy and respectable box office.
Which movie on this list are you most excited to see?