2016 summer movies: From The Rock to Spielberg, all the winners and losers
It was the hottest summer on record. And yet, the venues with the most reliable air conditioning – movie theatres – went largely unfilled.
How bad was it? You’d think the studios were serving hot soup instead of would-be blockbusters. Analysts are predicting the final box office tally will be at least 20% lower than last year’s summer movie season.
Supposed “sure things” like Ice Age and X-Men, Steven Spielberg and a long, long-awaited sequel to Independence Day were greeted by the movie-going public with a relative yawn.
There was no upside to controversy, as the rebooted, all-female Ghostbusters took what’s expected to be a $70 million loss (and saw its sequel plans put on hold) – possibly the biggest disconnect between pre-release awareness and post-release box office since Snakes on a Plane.
Critical acclaim/disdain seemed to be irrelevant, as recommended movies did well and flopped in equal measure.
So here’s a list of the hits, misses and underperformers. Might as well start with the big list first – bombs away!
– THE BFG: Spielberg is the man who INVENTED the summer blockbuster with Jaws. He returned to ET territory with a Roald Dahl-based family-film about a boy and his giant. Advance word is thumbs-up. The $140 million movie has a meager $20 mil opening.
– BEN HUR: Gosh, it worked with Charlton Heston back in the ‘50s, what could go wrong? How about everything? The sword-and-sandals saga with the fast-and-furious chariot races was in and out of theatres practically unnoticed.
– ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS: It took in about a fifth of the original’s box office. Who knows? Maybe the $7 mil divorce Amber Heard got from Johnny Depp IS half of everything he owns at this point.
– ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE: Well, the fifth time’s a… um, what’s the opposite of “charm?” For once critics and audiences agreed. 13% on Rotten Tomatoes, $25 mil opening.
– THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR: A Snow White sequel without Snow White, or more importantly without Kristen Stewart. Apparently, she was the reason everyone went to Twilight movies all along.
– TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS: Cowabungle! Made about half what the previous reboot did.
-WARCRAFT: Everybody’s played the game. But do you know anybody who’s seen the movie? If so, are they Chinese? Because almost two-thirds of the movie’s (believe it or not) break-even $430 mil worldwide box office came from there. The video-game movie curse continues.
– GHOSTBUSTERS: An unfunny movie with a lot of baggage. Not sure who won the arguments, but it may be that people were just tired of the whole thing by the time it opened.
– NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING: Actually got some good reviews, but turned into another case of a sequel getting only half the audience of its predecessor. Chloe Grace Moretz may not be ready for her close-up, or Seth Rogen is on a down-swing.
– THE NICE GUYS: Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as buddy comedy guys may sound counterintuitive, but 90% on Rotten Tomatoes says the chemistry worked. And then an $11 mil opening says, “Who cares what you guys think?”
– PETE’S DRAGON: Disney promoted the heck out of this boy-and-his-monster tale (inspired, inexplicably, on a not-really-beloved ‘70s Disney flick), starring grown-ups Robert Redford and Bryce Dallas Howard. Took in about the same money as Spielberg’s BFG, though it cost less than half as much. Still a lot of red ink there.
– NINE LIVES: Kevin Spacey’s mind is in the body of a cat. How could that not work? The combination of Spacey, Jennifer Garner and Christopher Walken was good for a $6 mil opening. You could raise more auctioning off dinner with them.
In the olden days, this would just be a euphemism for “Bomb.” But today, a movie like Independence Day: Resurgence can attract crickets in North America, but make enough money overseas for everybody to get paid. In the case of the Star Trek and X-Men films, enough came in to justify further sequel plans, even if nobody was popping champagne corks.
-X-MEN APOCALYPSE: Apparently, at the Xavier Academy, attention is paid to what critics say. The previous film, Days of Future Past got great advance reviews and made about a third more in its first 10 days than the badly-reviewed Apocalypse. The feeling there is that the franchise needs a shakeup.
-STAR TREK BEYOND: Well received by Trekkers and critics (a Venn diagram that admittedly overlaps), the first Star Trek reboot not directed by J.J. Abrams had a $60 mil opening weekend, which Forbes pronounced, “just okay.”
-INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE: Proof that there is no movie so bad that it can’t be saved by the apparently less-discriminating overseas market.
– CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR: It may be impossible to totally fail with a superhero movie these days. But Civil War already had buzz as being nothing less than a new Avengers movie. Awash in iconic heroes and smartly executed, it made more than $1.1 billion worldwide in an as-noted dismal summer.
– SUICIDE SQUAD: The most truly critic-proof film since the last Transformers, the made-in-Toronto anti-hero saga with Will Smith, Jared Leto and Margot Robbie has taken the slings-and-arrows to the bank. Suicide Squad’s box office is already double its budget and it’s been #1 for three weeks. Like the similarly-reviled-but-profitable Batman v Superman, there’s been a sizable drop-off week-to-week.
– CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE: Not a sequel and not based on anything except the popularity of Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson and Kevin Hart. Result: $200 mil. Whatever buddy-comedy chemistry they’ve got, Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling would like to know what it is.
– THE JUNGLE BOOK: Sure, you expected Captain America: Civil War to gross $1 billion. But a reboot of The Jungle Book using motion capture CGI a la the bear in The Revenant? Grossing just under a bil, Jon Favreau’s labour of love for Disney was THE family movie this summer. Okay, there was another.
– FINDING DORY: Proof that the public’s love for Ellen DeGeneres is bottomless, and that her ditzy, forgetful blue tang fish character is adorable beyond measure (okay, we measure it at about $900 mil).
– BAD MOMS: Forget the Ghostbusters brouhaha. There WAS a hilarious all-female sleeper hit in the theatres this summer, and it starred Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn. That’s $100 mil worth of “underrated” and counting.
– THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE: Not quite as big in China as Warcraft, it did four times the business in North America, lofting it past the marks set by Prince of Egypt and other terrific movies-based-on-video games.
Other “Profitable Performers”: Lights Out, Conjuring 2, Jason Bourne, The Legend Of Tarzan, The Purge 3: Anarchy.