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Led By 'Iron Man 3,' Disney Set to Dominate 2013 Summer Box Office


'Man of Steel,' from Warner Bros., is likely to be the closest challenger to Tony Stark and company.

It was fitting that Robert Downey Jr., otherwise known as Tony Stark, rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange yesterday morning.

Downey's new film, Iron Man 3, which unofficially kicks off the traditionally lucrative summer blockbuster season, is set to provide Disney (NYSE:DIS) with a substantial revenue boost. While not likely to be the astounding breakout hit domestically that last summer's The Avengers was, Iron Man 3 is projected by box office sites like to gross some $400 million, which would probably make it the top-grossing film of 2013.
Robert Downey Jr. ringing the opening bell at the NYSE. Source: Screencap of video taken from

Thanks to the popularity of the Marvel superhero, Disney is likely to be the top-performing movie studio of the six major players this summer. The company is also releasing another much-anticipated sequel, Monsters University, which is likely to earn close to $300 million.

UBS is also positive about Disney's Marvel investments, upgrading the stock to Buy from Neutral earlier this week and lifting its price target to $72 from $55.

The biggest risk of the Mouse House this summer is its re-imagination of The Lone Ranger, starring Johnny Depp. With little buzz so far and an estimated budget of $250 million, the Western will find it hard to match its price tag domestically. Disney will have to hope that Depp's star power can boost the movie's international take.

And just as the 2012 summer box office battle was about The Avengers versus The Dark Knight Rises, the strongest challenger to Iron Man 3 will be the other marquee DC Comic character, Superman. Warner Bros.' (NYSE:TWX) reboot of the iconic character, Man of Steel, has gotten strong advance press and is forecast to gross about $300 million.

Based on the strength of Man of Steel, Warner Bros. should comfortably become the No. 2 studio of the summer after Disney. Warner also has another guaranteed hit in the comedy The Hangover 3, which should gross at least $140 million.

Also garnering a lot of buzz for Warner is Baz Luhrmann's flashy adaption of The Great Gatsby, whose striking visuals and so-hip-it-hurts soundtrack could push the film past the coveted $100 million mark.

With fewer high-profile franchise properties, Fox (NASDAQ:NWSA) and Sony (NYSE:SNE) will be battling for third place in the summer box office fight. The former should just about edge out the latter, thanks to another Marvel character, The Wolverine, which could gross up to $150 million.

Fox is also releasing one of the rare summer movies targeted at the underserved female demographic: the Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy buddy cop comedy The Heat. The female audience could power The Heat to $150 million domestically as well.

Sony, meanwhile, will be counting on the star power of Will Smith in After Earth, Matt Damon in Elysium, and Adam Sandler in Grown Ups 2 to bring home the box office bacon. All three movies are expected to gross between $100 million and $120 million.

With fewer films on their slates, Universal (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and Paramount Pictures (NASDAQ:VIAB) will likely bring up the rear this summer. Universal should take the fifth spot with two red-hot franchise properties, Fast and Furious 6 and Despicable Me 2. Paramount has one surefire hit, Star Trek Into Darkness, but Brad Pitt's expensive adaptation of the popular zombie novel World War Z could be a bust if reviews are unkind.

Regardless of how well each individual studio does, however, experts expect a new box office record to be set this summer, surpassing the record total of $4.4 billion in 2011. Last year, the summer movie season yielded a disappointing $4.29 billion in total.

Twitter: @sterlingwong
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