Tomorrow's Theater ... Today
To celebrate the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, let's look at trailers for some of the biggest movies scheduled for each of the next several months (keeping in mind that some movies don't have trailers yet).
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (12/20/2019)
Only in a year that had the final film in Marvel's 20+ movie "Infinity Stones" epic ("Avengers: Endgame") could the box office domination of the final "Star Wars" in the nine film cycle be in question. That both Marvel and "Star Wars" are now owned by Disney, which also had this year, "The Lion King," "Toy Story 4," and "Frozen II" only cements Disney's runaway position this year against their competition. As of this writing, many opening weekend screenings for "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" are already sold out, but that's hardly a surprise given the legacy and emotional connections that millions of fans have to the franchise and its characters. And this trailer really goes for that tearjerking vibe, with C-3PO saying good-bye (or whatever he's actually doing) to his friends. But, where's Baby Yoda?
Admittedly, January is one of the months (along with August, most notably) described as a "dump month," when studios release the movies that are considered box office challenges that would suffer too much against stiffer competition. Every once in a while, though, studios will trick us by actually releasing movies that would do just fine any time of the year. Bradley Cooper's "American Sniper," for example, was released in January, 2014, and ended up earning $350 million domestically alone. Originally titled "The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle," this remake starring Robert Downey Jr as his first major film since "Avengers: Endgame" was first scheduled for May 24, 2019, which would have meant both movies would have been in theaters at the same time. That right there could be why "Dolittle" was scheduled for January instead, and not because it's some sort of dumpster fire of a talking animal adventure.
Birds of Prey (2/7/2020)
Now that "Joker" has topped the $1 billion mark worldwide, this spinoff for Joker's girlfriend Harley Quinn (as played by Margot Robbie in "Suicide Squad") really does have to be seen as one of the biggest potential blockbusters of the first few months of 2020. Of course, the irony here is that "Joker" and "Birds of Prey" are otherwise unconnected narratively, as Joaquin Phoenix's Joker was quite different from Jared Leto's in "Suicide Squad." Another odd thing about "Birds of Prey" is that, despite the team title, the trailer and posters really do seem to sell it more like a straight up Harley Quinn movie. The full title really back that up, as it's "Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)." If you know to look for them, though, you can spot in this trailer adaptations of other female DC Comics characters like Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and the Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).
When Pixar first got its start with movies like "Toy Story, ""The Incredibles," and "Cars," they seemed to be avoiding the more traditional sort of "fantasy" stories that their future owners Walt Disney Pictures specialized in. That's still mostly true, although movies like "Monsters, Inc" and "Brave" did get closer to the fantasy genre. Next year's "Onward" might be the closest yet, as the characters voiced by Chris Pratt and Tom Holland are teenaged elves attempting to bring back their missing father using a magical spell. In this trailer and the others you can find online, we can also see other magical creatures like unicorns, mermaids, and trolls, but all within a modern setting.
Trolls World Tour (4/17/2020) (No Time to Die)
Speaking of magical creatures, the troll dolls of the original "Trolls" return in this sequel which introduces tribes of trolls that represent other musical genres than the pop music of the first film. The trailer doesn't really make a big deal about pointing out who voices whom, but the extensive new voice cast includes Ozzy Osbourne (representing rock), George Clinton and Mary J. Blige (funk), Kelly Clarkson and Sam Rockwell (country), Jamie Dornan (jazz), and Kenan Thompson (hip hop). We should note that the movie that we actually think will be the top box office hit of April next year will be the James Bond movie, "No Time to Die," but it doesn't have an official trailer yet.
Scoob! (5/15/2020) (Black Widow)
One has to figure that the biggest contender at the box office next May is going to be Marvel Studios' "Black Widow," which promises to finally give Scarlett Johansson's super spy her long-awaited solo movie. We don't have that trailer yet (or "Fast & Furious 9"), so picking the top trailer for May came down to either "Scoob!" or "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run." I'd make a mild case between those two for "Scoob!" because it's an attempt to genuinely reboot a cherished franchise that might tie in nicely with "Ghostbusters 2020" which comes out a few weeks later. We don't see them in this first teaser trailer, but "Scoob!" will also feature other Hanna Barbera characters like Captain Caveman (voiced by Tracy Morgan), Blue Falcon (voiced by Mark Wahlberg), and Dick Dastardly (voiced by Jason Isaacs of the "Harry Potter" movies).
Top Gun: Maverick (6/26/2020) (Wonder Woman 1984)
Again, we don't have a trailer for the obvious pick for the top box office movie for June (probably "Wonder Woman 1984"). Another choice might be "Ghostbusters 2020," but if that film suffers the same rejection that the other recent "Ghostbusters" did, then the long-awaited sequel to Tom Cruise's classic pilot movie might be another hit in June. It feels like there's a lot not specified here (like what the premise for the sequel actually is), but we do get to see Tom Cruise being Tom Cruise. There's also the suggestion that Cruise might actually do some of his own stuntwork, depending upon how well you think Tom Cruise might be able to pilot a fighter jet.