Box Office Brasserie: Movie News For Movie Lovers
With the end of Labor Day, the curtains are closing on the summer box office experience of 2016–one that will forever be remembered as the Great Sequel Slump of 2016.
Never before have so many sequels faltered week in and week out, failing to live up to their predecessors in quality, and, where it really hurts Hollywood, by the numbers.
Still, if you’re swilling down on the cinematic Kool-Aid that a lot of the media is propagating, you’d think that the $4.4-$4.5 billion that Tinseltown made in the U.S. and Canada this summer is something to cheer about, something to stomp your feet about, something to plant your flag in and declare dominion over.
Don’t do those things just yet.
But do prepare yourself for the hype-laden headlines that are imminent:
“Hollywood Shakes Off Sequel Slump, Stays on Course”
“Summer 2016 Rewrites Box Office Record Books”
“Despite Movie Malaise, Hollywood Triumphs Again”
It’s not to say those headlines aren’t true; however, they are extremely misleading. There should be an asterisk next to them letting everyone know that something much more sinister lurks just below the subtext of this woe begotten summer of slacker sequels.
Here are the facts: the average movie price in now $8.66, whereas last year it cost $8.43 per ticket punched.
So when you factor in actual ticket sales, we’ll hit around 500 million, otherwise known as—THE SECOND WORST TICKET SALES IN OVER 20 YEARS.
That’s not good, folks, in fact, it’s worthy of one gigantic asterisk, bolded and with several accompanying exclamation points. Heck, maybe even an underline—anything that points out that all is not what it seems.
Hollywood should be shaking in their boots right now; the safety net of sequels was not only breached, but also shredded, this summer. And the fallout will have long-lasting consequences…especially when the most talked about filmed experience of the summer, was Netflix’s “Stranger Things.” Strange times indeed at the old cineplex.
Since 1993, when “Jurassic Park” ushered in an entire new era of blockbuster filmmaking and sold 525 million tickets, only the summer of 2014 has sold fewer admissions (495 million), when “Guardians of the Galaxy” led the charge.
So, what the blazes happened?
SEQUEL POWER OUTAGE
#1 Alice Through the Looking Glass (Disney) – $77M domestic, $295M WW
Tim Burton’s original trip down the rabbit hole revealed riches beyond Scrooge McDuck’s wildest dreams, hitting $1 billion globally. That’s a cataclysmic difference of over $700M, folks. That’s a franchise slayer. Time’s up. As the Mad Hatter told Alice: “You used to be much more…muchier. You’ve lost your muchness.” Indeed.
#2 Independence Day: Resurgence (Fox) – $102M domestic, $382M WW
20 years was apparently too long between installments as it grossed $200M less than the original in North America, and a difference of $400M globally. Yes, Big Willy was in his prime two decades ago and he was absent on this mission, but even with the addition of 3D, this crash-landed badly. No trilogy here.
#3 Ice Age: Collision Course (Fox) – $61M domestic, $367M WW
Like the loveable yet annoying squirrel, Scrat, Fox just can’t give up this big-ass nut. The fifth installment of the $3B animated franchise dropped off considerably in North America—down $100M from “Continental Drift”—becoming the first of the franchise not to nut-up $100M. And overseas, while still in release in many territories, it’s not going to help the film come anywhere close to achieving $877M globally like the last installment. Might hit upwards of $500M at the end of its run, and produce another sequel, but that’s still down over $350M from “Ice Age 4.”
#4 TMNT: Out of the Shadows (Paramount) – $81M domestic, $242M WW
Ow-abunga, dude. The pizza-loving quartet couldn’t deliver with their second slice, as turtle power spun out, grossing $100M+ less domestically and down $250M globally. Maybe they can team up with G.I. Joe and squeeze out a mash-up sequel. Operation: Pizza Supreme, Yo.
#5 X-Men: Apocalypse (Fox) – $155M domestic, $545M WW
Oh yes, there will be more sequels; however, director Bryan Singer may be listed as the fall guy here, and MCU may take control as they did with Sony’s “Spider-Man.” This turned out to be the lowest grossing X-Men movie since “First Class” in North America, and $200M less than “Days of Future Past” worldwide is just unacceptable, especially after what “Deadpool” was able to do…with a team of just two X-Men castoffs.
“Star Trek: Beyond” ($243M* WW) “Star Trek: Into Darkness ($467M WW)
“Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” ($107M WW) “Neighbors” ($270M WW)
*Still set to debut in significant territories
#1 FINDING DORY (Disney) $479M domestic, $930M WW
The #1 movie in North America this summer, and the #2 movie worldwide…this could really be interchangeable with “Captain America: Civil War.” Thirteen years later, and profits increased by $100M in North America. Also, for Labor Day weekend, it’s swimming into 2,000+ theaters again—a well deserved victory lap.
#2 CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (Disney) $407M domestic, $1.15B WW
If you count this as a straight sequel to “Captain America: Winter Soldier” it’s the best sequel bump of the summer, running up $300M more than the last installment. But let’s call this what it is: “Avengers 2.5,” and with that, a slight dip from the “Age of Ultron.” But what’s $300M, when you’re in the Billion Dollar Club, right? Light ’em up.
#3 JASON BOURNE (Universal) $149M* domestic, $347M* WW
Having Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass return made all the difference here as the previous effort, “The Bourne Legacy,” starring Jeremy Renner, nearly signaled the end of the franchise as it topped out with $276M worldwide. Not sure Damon would do another, but teaming up with Renner might be fun.
#4 THE CONJURING 2 (WB) $102M domestic, $319M WW
There were 5 chill pills from major studios this summer and they all made serious bank. And unlike the great sequel slump of 2016, “The Conjuring 2” and “The Purge: Election Year” both solidified their stakes in the franchise game, matching grosses step for step, and “The Conjuring 2” actually topping the worldwide gross of the original.
#5 NOW YOU SEE ME 2 (Lionsgate) $65M domestic, $324M WW
Sure, $65M domestic isn’t even close to the original’s $117M, but overseas, specifically China, it grossed nearly $100M, which is quite an uptick from the $23M of the first one. How’d they pull off this magical box office trick? Simple. Book your tickets to China and film half your movie there. You can bet the third episode will try a similar stunt.
TOP 5 SUMMER SURPRISES
#1 The Angry Birds Movie (Sony) This seemed like a cruel joke, and late by a couple years; however, it broke through like gangbusters. Much like Universal of late, Sony has been consistently churning out moneymakers in the animation department. “Angry Birds” cost just $74M to produce and flew off with $347M worldwide. That’s how you knock it down and build up a sequel, which this will no doubt have. Add merch and licensing deals and this is the gift that keeps on giving.
#2 Me Before You (WB) One of the only romance films of the summer, and Warner’s spent just $20M on it. Guess how much it’s made worldwide? Close to $200M. That’s a lot of love.
#3 Bad Moms (STX) These gals were more talked about than the Ghostbuster girls and are now flirting with $100M. One of the only real female-centric flicks of the summer, this became the new “Bridesmaids” and cost just $20M.
#4 Sausage Party (Sony) Seth Rogen’s R-rated animated project might actually grill up $100M–to be frank, that’s a big time weiner for a film that cost just $19M. Every time Rogen does something questionable—like an uninspired sequel or a road trip comedy with Barbara Streisand—he pushes the envelope and comes back with something equally inspired. That’s what great comic minds do; they don’t stop dishing it out until they get another laugh.
#5 The Legend of Tarzan (WB) Despite “Tarzan” being labeled as the next “Lone Ranger,” Warner’s throwback action flick from director David Yates broke through with $126M domestic and $354M globally. Unfortunately, they shelled out $180M to make it, so it looks like the next iteration is “Tarzan and the Lost City of Sequels.”
TOP 5 BELLY FLOPS
#1 Ben-Hur (Paramount) The poster for the Best Picture-winning, 1959 version, called it “the entertainment experience of a lifetime.” They should have said: of all time. Paramount’s $100M folly wiped out in its debut with just $11M domestic and overseas it’s grossed just $21M. This is a big-time bust, as the Charlton Heston version scored a massive $848M when adjusted for inflation. Note to potential producers of Oscar winning films: Don’t reboot “Titanic” anytime soon.
#2 Ghostbusters (Sony) Director Paul Feig assembled a gifted group of performers and by all means made a movie that entertained multiplex masses…however, it turned out to be more of a rip-off than a reboot. Sony recently rebooted their studio too, and needed this to be a huge, huge hit and more than that, a solid foundation for a new regime.
As it stands now, last summer’s “Pixels,” with $244M, has grossed more than “Ghostbusters.” Put your jaw back in place. That’s pretty much the end of the argument about whether or not this was successful, folks.
With just $124M domestic and $217M worldwide, a sequel is not gonna happen. Who ya gonna call? 9-1-1. Especially when you adjust the original for inflation and you find out it grossed the equivalent of $589M. That was without mass merchandising and 3D, mind you. So that’s the big loss, especially considering the potential of the merchandising and cross-promotional support with sequels that won’t materialize. Sony knows what it’s like to be ghosted now.
#3 Warcraft (Universal) If not for China rolling up $220M, this would have been a major disaster for Universal. The video game adaption grossed just $41M in North America, but since it hit $423M worldwide, it might actually get a sequel—one that may not even be released domestically. That’s a game-changer right there, folks.
#4 The BFG (Disney) Spielberg’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book should have been a slam-dunk for Disney. Instead it was a giant disaster. Despite great reviews, the $140M flick grossed an embarrassing $54M in North America, and just $160M worldwide. To put that into perspective, even the Jaws-ripoff, “The Shallows,” grossed more domestically. This may find an audience some day; however, family films, in this day and age, are “Captain America: Civil War,” “Suicide Squad,” and animated fare.
#5 Free State of Jones (STX) Trying to release a drama in the middle of summer these days is like trying to find a worthy presidential candidate to vote for. STX’s $50M period piece fell flat over Independence Day weekend and as Matthew McConaughey took one to the chops. Total gross: $20M.
Dishonorable Mention: The Nice Guys, Pete’s Dragon
TOP 10 DOMESTIC
#1 Finding Dory – $479M
#2 Captain America: Civil War – $407M
#3 The Secret Lives of Pets – $354M
#4 Suicide Squad – $285M*
#5 X-Men: Apocalypse – $155M
#6 Star Trek: Beyond – $151M*
#7 Jason Bourne – $150M*
#8 Central Intelligence – $127M
#9 The Legend of Tarzan – $126M
#10 Ghostbusters – $125M
TOP 10 WORLDWIDE
#1 Captain America: Civil War – $1.15B
#2 Finding Dory – $931M
#3 The Secret Lives of Pets – $725M
#4 Suicide Squad – $639M*
#5 X-Men: Apocalypse – $542M
#6 Independence Day: Resurgence – $382M
#7 Ice Age: Collision Course – $373M*
#8 The Legend of Tarzan – $354M
#9 Jason Bourne – $348M*
#10 The Angry Birds Movie – $347M
#?? Star Trek: Beyond – $244M*
*Still in significant release and/or not released yet in some markets.
TOP 5 SEQUELIZERS
#1 The Secret Life of Pets (Universal) The only film that actually has a confirmed date on the calendar is Universal’s “The Secret Life of Pets 2” which is set to lift its leg again July 13, 2018. No surprise there, as Uni’s animated flick was one of the biggest hits of the summer rousing up $725M around the world so far.
#2 Suicide Squad (WB) Sure, DC doesn’t have the reviews that Marvel does, but lavish critical response isn’t really necessary when you have boffo box office. Sure, DC Films would likely have better legs, but that gives them something to shoot for next go-round. Top 5 domestic and worldwide–they’ll take it, and hopefully build on it.
#3 Central Intelligence (WB) Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart could easily do another comedy-caper flick, as it has earned over $200M+ globally with a bargain-basement $50M price tag. That said, both of their schedules are already extremely packed.
#4 Lights Out (WB) Bang up summer for Warner Bros. as they dished out a number of original properties that likely could support sequels. This one is perhaps the most obvious as their chill pill cost just $5M and has already made $125M worldwide. That’s scary good.
#5 STAR TREK: BEYOND (Paramount) The studio already announced another “Star Trek” film, bringing back Chris Hemsworth, before “Beyond” even debuted. However, considering its lackluster performance compared to “Into Darkness,” will they alter course? No date has been confirmed yet.
SUMMER REHASH, WRAP-UP
We all know sequels and reboots aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, as every year end Top 10 box office tally lists at least seven brand name titles these days. Also, when you glance at the 5-year release calendar window, you’ll see that every summer from now until the end of the decade is going to look a lot like this one.
However, if this drop off continues, Hollywood is going to find new ways to prop up their tentpoles, and as the horror genre showed this summer, a good scare goes a long way. There were a lot more chills and spills than thrills this summer.
Still, despite independent films not being able to break out yet again, there was a lot of excitement in the air over a handful of films, and hopefully Hollywood will be a bit more gun shy when greenlighting sequels, focusing on STORY, STORY, STORY…instead of MERCH, MERCH, MERCH. We can dream, can’t we?
See you next summer when “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” “Barbie,” “Annabelle 2,” “Baywatch,” Pirates of the Caribbean 5,” “Wonder Woman,” “The Mummy,” “Cars 3,” Kingsman 2,” Transformers: The Last Knight,” “Despicable Me 3,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” “War For the Planet of the Apes,” “Dunkirk,” “Jumanji,” “Alien: Covenant,” “CHiPs,” and “Emojimovie” will be setting up shop in multiplexes. I told you it seems a lot like summer’s past…that’s right, 16 sequels/reboots are on tap.