There goes another blockbuster season, and as usual, the hits and flops were out for all to see, and in the latter’s case, avoid. So far the summer period, defined as falling between the 1st weekend in May and the August-end/September-start Labor Day holiday (sorry, ‘Endgame’), has grossed just over $4bn, a far cry from the record $4.9bn earned in 2013, and the $4.4bn from last year.
The seemingly sluggish U.S. Box Office receipts showcase a cinema industry in transition. Whilst the temptations of streaming services, the allure of golden age of TV, and the salary-depleting cost of 2 tickets and a large popcorn are rightfully causes for concern, we’ve also seen the biggest movie of all time this year knock back any notion of a Box Office in decline, as studios begin adapting their strategies to fit the rapid shift in consumer habits. In the process, we’ve had a summer full of shocks, surprises, misfires, and masterpieces, and we’re here to discuss our favourites.
Performance of the Summer
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (Domestic Opening: $56.8m – Domestic Total: $170.9m and counting – Budget: $55m)
Yesterday – ($17m – $73.1m and counting – $26m)
Aladdin ($91.5m – $354.5m and counting – $183m).
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood’ ($41.1m – $131m and counting – $41.1m)
Rocketman ($25.7m – $96.4m and counting – $40m)
Winner:The Lion King
(Domestic Opening: $191.8m – Domestic Total: $523.5m and counting – Worldwide Total: $1.56bn and counting – Budget: $250m+).
It was one of the 3 most anticipated films of the year, and it didn’t disappoint – commercially, anyway. Jon Favreau’s ‘The Lion King’ had the 47th biggest global opening of all time, and within a few months became the 7th biggest movie the world has ever seen, giving Disney 13 spots (including ‘Avatar’) within the top 20 worldwide.
It was a domestic behemoth too, reaching half-a-billion in August off of the 9th largest domestic opening ever. Whether you liked it or loathed it, you most likely saw it, as Disney banked on the nostalgia, their Mr. Dependable in Favreau, as well as star power from Beyoncé and Donald Glover, to deliver an absolute bombshell at the Box Office.
Flop of the Summer
Uglydolls (Domestic Opening: $8.6m – Domestic Total: $20.2m – Budget: $45m)
Godzilla: King of the Monsters ($47.8m – $110.5m – $170m)
Anna ($3.6m – $7.7m – $30m)
Men in Black International’ ($30m – $79.7m – $110m)
The Kitchen ($5.5m – $11.8m – $38m)
Winner: X-Men Dark Phoenix
(Domestic Opening: $32.8m – Domestic Total: $65.8m – Worldwide Total: $252.4m – Budget: $200m).
We don’t like to revel in Box Office bombs, especially ones that sink beloved franchises such as ‘X-Men’. However, you’ll be hard-pressed to find many like this; a $200m superhero tentpole that the general public had virtually no interest in, mere weeks after another in the same genre became the highest grossing film in history.
Many of us grew up with Professor X and co (Stewart and/or McAvoy) so for the fans, who dwindle with each movie, it’s unnerving to witness ‘Dark Phoenix’ earn just $66m domestically – the same total that previous instalment ‘Apocalypse’ landed on after just 3 days. A single glimmer of hope lies in Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox, as now they’ll be able to incorporate the ‘X-Men’ into ‘The Avengers’, and hopefully restore the team to their former glory.
Crawl (Domestic Opening: $12m – Domestic Total: $39m and counting – Budget: $13.5m)
Rocketman ($25.7m – $96.4m and counting – $40m)
The Farewell ($355.7k – $15.9m and counting – $3m)
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark ($20.9m – $58.9m and counting – $25m)
Yesterday – ($17m – $73.1m and counting – $26m)
(Domestic opening: $91.5m – Domestic total: $354.5m and counting – Worldwide Total: $1.04bn and counting – Budget: $183m).
Remember the backlash when ‘Aladdin’ trailer first dropped? The weird genie and the comparisons to Tobias Fünke in the Blue Man Group? What about the director, Guy Ritchie, and how his last 2 films had been complete disasters at the Box Office? Remember when ‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’ in particular barely scraped $150m off of a $175m budget?
Remember the collective deflation surrounding yet another Disney live-action remake?
Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ had a myriad of issues in the lead up to the release, yet once audiences got a glimpse of Princess Jasmine, Jafar, and the rest, they were immediately smitten, awarding an impressive A on Cinemascore. A 4-day Memorial weekend opening of $117m (the 5th biggest ever) followed, and soon, ‘Aladdin’ had outgrossed over half of the MCU both domestically and worldwide, and became the 5th biggest film of 2019 (so far). Bravo, Disney, you did it again.
The Unfortunate Bomb
Late Night (Domestic Opening – $249.6k Domestic total: $15.5m – Budget: $4m)
Dora and the Lost City of Gold ($17.4m – $51.2m and counting – $49m)
Tolkien ($2.2m – $4.5m – $20m)
The Sun is Also a Star ($2.5m – $5m – $9m)
Booksmart ($6.9m – $22.7m – $6m)
Winner: Blinded by the Light
You could blame a few things for this picture’s demise at the U.S. Box Office: its crowded release date, the similarity between itself and hit ‘Yesterday’ released a month before, no major A-listers. What can’t be contested however, is the quality.
Frequently referred to as one of the best films of the summer, the film premiered to much acclaim at Sundance, before being picked up by Warner Bros in the States. Unfortunately, this was to be yet another red mark on the distributor’s summer balance sheet, as ‘Blinded By the Light’ scraped a 10th place finish in its opening weekend. Now coming to the end of its run, the Springsteen-based comedy-drama couldn’t even earn back its $15m budget worldwide (let alone stateside), leaving only one clear winner for the unfavourable prize.
Ultimate Summer Moment
Winner: Avengers: Endgame becoming the biggest film in global history
On the afternoon of the 20th July at the San Diego Comic-Con, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige officially announced the news that many had been expecting – especially after the film’s theatrical expansion. ‘Endgame’, with a (then) worldwide gross of $2.79bn, had overtaken ‘Avatar’ as the highest earning film in history.
Granted, ‘Endgame’s release came a mere week before the official Box Office summer period started, however the season will go down in memory for ‘Endgame’s (and Disney’s) triumph. The film’s $858.3m domestic total also stands as the 2nd biggest in U.S. history (behind ‘The Force Awakens’), and will likely stay that way by the end of the year (unless ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ over-performs).
That’s not to say that this summer didn’t have its moments. ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ became Sony’s biggest ever movie, and the Keanu Reeves love-in was infectious as ‘John Wick 3’ grew to an astounding $321m worldwide, but it was always going to be ‘Endgame’ taking the crown. It was, you could say, inevitable.
Summer Moment to Forget
Winner: Marvel-Sony break-up
It was the best of times for Disney, it was the worst of times for Disney.
With both studios fresh off the success of their respective MCU hits ‘Endgame’ and ‘Far From Home’, negotiations over the future of the partnership came to a grinding halt in August, as the two companies couldn’t come to an agreement about the handling of star asset Spider-Man.
The end result was a bitter divorce between Sony, who owns the movie rights for all things web-slinger, and Marvel, who currently receive only marginal revenues from the movies (but much of the profits from merchandising). While Disney wanted more money for their consulting and addition into the MCU (reports state up to 50% of theatrical revenue), Sony, whose confidence in handling superhero movies has only grown since ‘Venom’ earned over $850m last year, refused to play along.
Whoever you side with, we can all agree that it’s something no fan truly wants, especially now that Disney just onboarded the X-Men and offer the chance for a full comic-book teamup. A glimmer of hope remains; talks may re-open, with both parties willing to reach some sort of resolution, but this nonetheless puts a dampener on an MCU franchise that seemed to be untouchable.
Disney were untouchable, earning over $2bn domestically for a near-50% grip of the Box Office mark this summer. It was marked a jump of 21% from last year’s total, and stands at a whopping $1.5bn over the nearest competitor Sony, whose respectable $705m was a 75% increase itself.
While ‘Endgame’ earned $384.4m in the summer period, and ‘Captain Marvel’ added an extra $10m for the MCU, Disney’s true heroes were found in their live-action remakes. Both ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Aladdin’ earned a combined $870m – more than any studio in the same time period. Both sit in 13th and 51st place in the all-time domestic charts, and were released a mere month apart. Who’d have foreseen this level of success earlier in the year, especially after ‘Dumbo’ poor showing in March?
These weren’t the only summer hits Disney had up their sleeves, as ‘Toy Story 4’ opened to $120m before legging out to a $428m running total – the 5th largest for an animated film in U.S. history. The studio had the ability to call upon their range of franchises and IPs to deliver crowd-pleasing content, and while some may have flattered to deceive with the critics, it’s the audiences who matter, with their wallets showcasing a preference for the tried-and-tested.
They’re not done yet, either. ‘Frozen 2’ (sequel to the the biggest animated film in global history) and ‘Malificent 2’ are set to enter cinemas by November, while December holds the final instalment in the Skywalker Star Wars arc, as ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ looks to potentially become the 2nd Disney film to earn $2bn in the space of a year. Add to that the official launch of the Disney+ streaming service and, their infinity gauntlet of output is almost complete.
Winner: Warner Bros
Remember when they were our studio of the year for 2018?
Unlike Disney, who rightly went for 3 major cinematic tentpole sequels and remakes to mark their blockbuster summer, Warner Bros aimed for sheer scale, releasing 7 films over the period, with none even reaching the $150m domestic mark. Absolute bombs like ‘Godzilla 2’, ‘Blinded by the Light’, ‘Shaft’, ‘The Kitchen’ and ‘The Sun is Also a Star’ (earning under $160m domestically when combined) were barely offset by the mediocre performance of ‘Annabelle Comes Home’, one of only 2 films in the Conjurverse to not break the $100m mark in the U.S., with just $72.7m.
Even Pokemon Detective Pikachu, based off of the highest earning media franchise of all time, made only $144.1m stateside (and $432m worldwide) off a $150m budget. Although still larger than any of their summer hits from last year, WB were able to find success with a consistent flow of quality from small/medium budgets (think ‘Ocean’s 8’, ‘Crazy Rich Asians’, ‘Tag’), while their tentpole ‘The Meg’ was a solid earner. The studio got things wrong this time around, inflating their budgets while suffering drops in critical reception and Box Office revenue. The result? A 30% fall from last summer’s receipts, meaning all hopes now lie on the upcoming ‘It: Chapter Two’ for any chance of redemption.