We’ve written before about how much better Jurassic World did than anything else, and as the summer went on that article became more and more accurate. As of this writing, only two movies — Inside Out with $348.2 million and Minions with $328.6 million domestic — have joined the list of films that made more during their entire run than Jurassic World’s monstrous $208 million opening weekend. That’s the story of this blockbuster season — these movies moved significant amounts of tickets, and nothing else really did.
It’s not hard to see the common thread in this trio — they’re all children’s movies, or at least all thought of as children’s movies, and they were the only children’s movies. The only exceptions are Tomorrowland, which was horribly advertised, and possibly Pixels, which is almost deliberately offensive to the parents who would be paying to see it. Everything else was significantly adult-oriented.
Kid movies have a leg up in pretty much every way imaginable — more advertising outlets through fast food toys and other merchandise, easier minds for said advertising to sway, more money per convert as they typically have to bring their parents along — but it shouldn’t be this big of a problem. Movies should be able to make money without convincing children to beg their parents to take them. The fact that the only successful movies operated on this mechanism — or a bizarre reverse of that, in Jurassic World’s case — indicates that adults in general are simply less interested in going to the movies these days, and that conclusion is backed up by the week-to-week totals.
There are spikes when Jurassic World, Minions and Straight Outta Compton release, but every other weekly change is in the red. That’s one week per month in which the box office out-performed the previous week. From a raw numbers perspective, let’s go back to that Jurassic World benchmark — this entire summer, there are only three weekends in which the box office, all movies as a whole that were playing that weekend, made more than Jurassic World’s opening. Predictably, these were the opening weekends of our big three.
There are a lot of movies in this window that should have broken the bank. Poltergeist, remake of a beloved Spielberg classic, hasn’t even broken $50 million. The Magic Mike sequel released ahead of July 4 hasn’t broken $70 million. The Terminator reboot that also had the benefit of Independence day couldn’t break $90 million. Get Hard made more money than these movies. Even Marvel’s late summer offering, Ant-Man, suffered the worst Marvel opening in eight years and has yet to break $200 million.
It has gotten so bad that the total box office last weekend — again, this is all movies in theaters — didn’t break $100 million. They wouldn’t break that number this weekend without the benefit of Labor Day — as of this writing, the total sits at $86.2 million. It has gotten so bad that Christian propaganda flick and spousal abuse encourager War Room will probably take no. 1 on a holiday weekend.
To toot my own horn, this is exactly what we predicted in last year’s Labor Day special — audiences are tired of the barrage of remakes, sequels and franchise tie-ins, and eventually they’ll show it. But with one such movie already scheduled for literally every single weekend in June and July 2016, it will be a matter of years before Hollywood corrects itself.
May 22- Tomorrowland … Movie based on a Disneyland ride staring George Clooney and featuring Hugh Laurie, who was inexplicably absent from much of the promotional material … Turned $190 million into $93.2 million domestic … Film was expected to perform similarly to Pirates of the Caribbean given its similar nature as an adapted Disney ride, but didn’t pack any of the fun. Film contained complex themes on aging and hope wasted on its purported target audience.
Poltergeist … Remake of a 1982 Spielberg classic … Turned $35 million into $47.4 million domestic … Film opened at no. 5 and didn’t push any higher. Met with a marked lack of enthusiasm.
May 29- San Andreas … Disaster movie about The Big One, the long-predicted magnitude 9+ earthquake along the San Andreas Fault in California starring Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino and Paul Giamatti … turned $110 million into $154.3 million domestic … Movie’s $54.5 million opening affirmed Johnson’s chops as an A-list actor, which were somehow still in doubt. Movie was simply too expensive for its own good. Sitting at almost $470 million worldwide is great, but that’s barely more than four times what it cost to make. Realistically on the lower end of what’s acceptable from a return on investment perspective
June 3- Entourage … Movie of the somehow long-running, extremely popular HBO series about vanity and entitlement … Turned $30 million into $32.4 million … Supposedly the first part of a trilogy, as seemingly all movies are these days, excitement for the series had realistically waned by the end of its run. Released on a Wednesday to avoid opening against Dwayne Johnson or Paul Feig, but still didn’t make much money.
June 5- Spy … Super-spy comedy/satire starring Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Rose Byrne and Jude Law directed by Paul Feig … Turned $65 million into $110.4 million … Film did well enough, but also not as far above water as you’d want it to be. More expensive and not as profitable as Bridesmaids and The Heat, Feig’s and McCarthy’s two other collaborations.
Insidious 3 … Prequel to James Wan’s 2011 hit Insidious, this time with series writer Leigh Whannell in the director’s chair … Turned $10 million into $52.2 … On the opposite end of the spectrum as San Andreas, so expensive it would be difficult to really succeed, Insidious takes the track of many Blumhouse horror films and is so inexpensive it’s difficult not to succeed.
June 12- Jurassic World … Reboot of classic dinosaur series, still beloved despite nobody liking the sequels much, starring Chris Pratt … Turned $150 million into $646.6 million … An international phenomenon that no one saw coming and frankly still doesn’t make a ton of sense, the movie broke several records, most notably best opening weekend with $208 million and fastest film to $1 billion worldwide, a feat that took the movie just 13 days. Furious 7 reset the record earlier this year at 17 days, meaning World was making more than $20 million more per day. Immediately turned Pratt into the most sought after leading man in Hollywood.
June 19- Inside Out … Newest film from Disney Pixar starring Amy Poehler, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader and Phyllis Smith … Turned $175 million into $348.2 million … Pixar’s second highest opening ever at $91 million, but still no. 2 to Jurassic World’s second weekend, another record the dinosaur film broke. Film eventually took no. 1 spot over Independence Day weekend before losing to the next PG animated movie, Minions. Fared marvelously overseas, holding at $734.4 worldwide.
Dope … Sundance hit, one of only two films this summer targeted at a black audience … Turned $700,000 into $17.1 million and counting … Production budget does not include the $7 million Open Road paid for it and the $20 million it promised in advertising, making that gross much less impressive. Film suffered in the shadow of Jurassic World and Inside Out, and was re-released this weekend to take advantage of the dearth of quality movies in late August, but it has only made about $300,000 more so far.
June 26- Ted 2 … Sequel to the 2012 hit with Family Guy and American Dad! creator Seth MacFarlane returning to write, direct and star alongside Mark Wahlberg … Turned $68 million into $81.2 million … Film could not stand up to competition from holdovers and underperformed, opening at no. 3. His second disappointment in as many years, could spell the end of MacFarlane’s film career.
July 1- Terminator Genisys … The second reboot of the Arnold Schwarzenegger science-fiction/action franchise, this one actually starring Schwarzenegger … Turned $155 million into $89.6 million … Movie played on nostalgia, but also undid everything in the earlier films. Gave away a crucial plot twist in advertising, suffered from poor reviews and holdover competition and was generally just a gigantic mess. Made 80 percent of its money overseas, with a worldwide total of $435.9, which still isn’t nearly good enough. Sequel is scheduled for May 2017, but is in doubt.
Magic Mike XXL … Sequel to sleeper Steven Soderbergh hit about male strippers starring Channing Tatum, this time without Soderbergh at the helm … Turned $14.8 million into $65.9 million … Another victim of Inside Out’s and Jurassic World’s success.
July 10- Minions … Spinoff to the massively popular Despicable Me series … Turned $74 million into $328.6 million … Film confirmed the coming of the Antichrist.
The Gallows … Another Blumhouse found footage flick … Turned $100,000 into $22.7 million … Again, these movies have a strong built-in audience and cost a fraction of other blockbusters, almost guaranteeing their success. Gallows did so despite atrocious reviews and heavy competition from the summer’s big moneymakers, the last of which it opened against and the other two of which were still in circulation. Could have worked in the film’s favor as admirably placed counterprogramming.
July 17- Ant-Man … The 12th Marvel movie, this one starring Paul Rudd … turned $130 million into $173.2 million … Marvel’s lowest opening since 2008’s Incredible Hulk, pulling just $57.2 million on opening weekend despite any direct competition being more than a month old. Viewed as a bit of a hangover effort from Marvel, which released Age of Ultron in May. Embarrassing underperformance whose no. 1 opening was legitimately threatened by a cartoon holdover and a Comedy Central romantic comedy.
Trainwreck … Comedy Central personality Amy Schumer’s transition to the big screen as star and writer, co-starring Bill Hader and LeBron James and directed by Judd Apatow … Turned $35 million into $107.1 million … Movie affirmed Schumer’s popularity and established her as a cinema star. Her career trajectory is going up.
July 24- Pixels … Movie playing heavily on 1980’s arcade nostalgia starring Adam Sandler, Peter Dinklage and Kevin James as the President of the United States … Turned $88 million into $73.3 million … Was eviscerated by critics and old gamers who mostly didn’t appreciate the way their beloved games were portrayed. Movie is confirmed to herald the end of Sandler’s film career, as his next four features will release straight to Netflix. Netflix is making a power play and could end up as big as theaters, meaning this somehow still might not be the end of Sandler’s film career.
Southpaw … Boxing movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams and Forest Whitaker, directed by Antoine Fuqua … Turned $30 million into $51 million … Why, why, why would you name a movie after your main character’s handedness if it’s not a big deal at any point? I will never understand this.
Paper Towns … The second adaptation of the work of author John Green, this one much less popular than The Fault in Our Stars, which was adapted last year … Turned $12 million into $31.5 million … Movie was never going to be as popular as its predecessor.
July 31- Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation … The fourth sequel in Tom Cruise’s personal playground franchise … Turned $150 million into $180.4 million … Another ho-hum $100 million for Cruise. Movie seems to have suffered from general burnout on movies that overtook the box office this summer, as this is the point at which nothing really seemed good anymore.
Aug. 7- Fantastic Four … Reboot of a beloved comic franchise whose previous movies had been putrid … Turned $120 million into $54.4 … Movie is biblically awful. Rumors abound about calamitous production, and film is clearly patched together with extensive reshoots. May have ended director Josh Trank’s career before it got off the ground.
The Gift … Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut starring himself, Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall … Turned $5 million into $39.6 million and counting … Another Blumhouse too-small-to-fail film, surprised as one of the summer’s best movies. Edgerton’s otherwise lackluster career is looking up.
Aug. 14- Straight Outta Compton … Biopic about genre-defining rap group N.W.A 20 years after key member Eazy-E’s death … Turned $28 million into $147.8 million and counting … The second movie aimed at black audiences, this one far more successful as it also draws on recent nostalgia. Held at no. 1 for three straight weeks because of how bad everything that came out since has been.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E … Remake of 1960s TV series aimed at young people who couldn’t possibly remember it, starring Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki and Hugh Grant and directed by Guy Ritchie … Turned $75 million into $39.4 million … Movie catastrophically underperformed, which is a shame because it was quite fun. Obvious hopes for a sequel were likely dashed.
Aug. 21- Sinister 2 … Sequel to the 2012 kind-of hit, minus all main cast members since they died in the first movie … Turned $10 million into $23.7 million and counting … Blumhouse’s latest offering, this one was expensive enough to fail. Received horrible reviews.
American Ultra … Stoner Jason Bourne movie starring Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart … Turned $28 million into $13 million and counting … Poor advertising and unpopular actors sunk this film.
Hitman: Agent 47 … The second attempt to bring the Hitman video game series to life … Turned $35 million into $19.7 million and counting … Honestly, I don’t know why they even tried.
Aug. 26- No Escape … Action/disaster movie about trying to escape all the scary Asian people in Cambodia starring Owen Wilson and Pierce Brosnan … Turned $14.3 million into $18.4 million and counting … Wilson and Brosnan haven’t been famous in more than a decade. This movie is really racist.
Aug. 28- War Room … More evangelist propaganda from the Georgia pastors behind Fireproof and Courageous … Turned $3 million into $24.7 million and counting … It happened. It finally fucking happened. There’s been a rising tide of evangelist movies the past few years, many of which are successful on Blumhouse’s cheapness principle, but this is different. This one has had actual, meaningful success, first as the only real challenger to Straight Outta Compton’s crown, then as its eventual usurper this weekend. Labor Day weekend, the end of blockbuster season, the most watched movie in America was the one about using prayer to stop your husband from cheating on you. Better put those skills to use praying I don’t blow my brains out.
We Are Your Friends … Movie about disc jockeys starring Zac Efron … Turned $6 million into $3.2 million and counting … Movie could not overcome something with the tagline, “Prayer is a powerful weapon.” Awareness was extremely low.
Sept. 4- The Transporter Refueled … Reboot of less than popular action series starring someone called Ed Skrein replacing Jason Statham … Turned $22 million into $7.1 million and counting … Who thought this would work? Who thought this was in any way a good idea?