Without a doubt, 2013 is shaping up to be a banner year at the box office so far. Led by Disney's (NYSE:DIS) Marvel-inspired Iron Man 3, which brought in $1.21 billion in gross ticket sales worldwide, audiences around the globe have spent a whopping $7.81 billion at the movies year-to-date.
In fact, this summer, consumers have set a new record by spending an incredible $4.76 billion at the box office, which bought them an estimated 583 million tickets. For those of you keeping track, that's also the highest number of tickets sold since the summer of 2007.
But that certainly doesn't mean the film industry is ready to roll the credits on 2013 just yet. So hold onto your hats, moviegoers, because it's time to take a look at five of the biggest movies coming out this fall.
1. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Image source: thehobbit.com.
On Dec. 13, Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) Warner Brothers Studios is betting The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug will be able to repeat the success of its predecessor in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Considering the first film was released on Dec. 14, 2012, and took in a mammoth $1.017 billion worldwide -- with more than 70% of that total coming from international markets -- that's a bet I'd be happy to take.
What's more, while it hasn't provided official production budget numbers for either film, the fact that Warner Brothers is already planning to release the third installment in December 2014 leaves little doubt that its adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's most famous book are proving hugely profitable.
2. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Image source: thehungergamesmovie.com.
A few weeks before Smaug lights up the big screen, Lions Gate (NYSE:LGF-A) hopes audiences will flock to another best selling book-inspired sequel in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which is set to make its global debut on Nov. 22.
Like The Hobbit, Catching Fire has some big shoes to fill after the first Hunger Games movie crushed its competition at the box office last March, earning more than $691 million worldwide on a relatively low production budget of just $78 million.
That said, rumors have swirled over the past few months saying Catching Fire may have cost around $150 million to make, or nearly twice as much as the first film. As a result, its performance could be held to a much higher standard by Wall Street analysts this time around, some of whom even went on record earlier this year to predict Catching Fire could be the biggest film of 2013.
With the bar already set incredibly high, I'm not convinced I agree at this point -- but may the odds be ever in its favor.
3. Thor: The Dark World
Image source: marvel.com.
On Nov. 8, Disney will be looking to Thor: The Dark World to pick up where Iron Man 3 left off.
Of course, it's no mystery that Disney absolutely loves making ridiculously profitable sequels, but the intertwined stories of the Marvel-centric variety could arguably stand as the company's crowning cinematic achievement, especially when you consider the collective take between Marvel Studios' first seven films has already exceeded $5 billion worldwide.
The first Thor, for its part, was "only" responsible for around $449 million of that total, but even if Thor: The Dark World can't stand up to the popularity of the other films in this list, I still think it's safe to assume it'll not only prove a box office success for the House of Mouse, but also serve as a fun intermission to tide the time until the next two Avengers sequels are released down the road.
4. Ender's Game
Image source: lionsgate.com .
On Nov. 1, Lions Gate is also set to unleash Ender's Game, which is based on the wildly popular 1985 novel of the same name written by Orson Scott Card.
To build anticipation for the movie's launch, the Ender's Game crew has released roughly a dozen in-character propaganda posters and videos promoting the film over the past few months, including a few new ones made available just earlier this week.
While the jury's still out with regard to whether Ender's Game will truly resonate with audiences, I definitely wouldn't rule out the possibility of seeing it become a bonafide blockbuster.
5. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2
Image source: cloudy-movie.com.
Before everything else, however, comes Sony (NYSE:SNE) Pictures Animations' quirky sequel on Sept. 27, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2.
Now I'll admit Sony hasn't exactly figured out how to replicate the unrivaled animation success of some of the more dominant players in the field, such as Disney Pixar, but several of its recent efforts have paid off handsomely, including 2011's The Smurfs and 2012's Hotel Transylvania, which brought in impressive grosses of $563.7 million and $346.9 million, respectively.
And while the first Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs earned a less brag-worthy (albeit still solid) total of $243 million back in 2009, it did receive an impressive CinemaScore of A-, showing audiences were suitably entertained by its witty antics.
Does Cloudy 2 have any realistic chance of exceeding the totals of these other movies? Probably not. But that won't make it any less fun to watch. In fact, that's also probably the very reason it launches with little competition less than two weeks from today.
Remember that these five films certainly don't represent a comprehensive list of every title hitting theaters this fall, so there's always a chance an unforeseen underdog could usurp their dominance.
That said, if I were to choose any five films to watch in the coming season, these would more than suffice.
Fool contributor Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.