This will be the first of several articles, looking back at Hollywood’s Summer Season, and documenting the various hiccups and success story of the most popular movie season of the year. This article focuses on three specific genres- superheroes, horror and animation.
It’s really sad to say this, but the horror genre hasn’t really ignited much this past summer. As to what offerings moviegoers got, it’s mostly franchise fare- Poltergeist, Sinister 2 and Insidious Chapter 3. Of course, there was The Gallows, but that failed to make much of an impression anyways.
Of course, it’s worth noting that studios have been looking towards the summer frame to launch their more anticipated/more hyped up horror openings. As we can see from is year, three of the above were sequels to mainstream horror movies with varying amounts of success. They are, today, used more or less as counter programming to the more CGI heavy summer fare we typically associate with the moviegoing season.
That’s four offerings this year, a huge uptick from recent years. For instance, last year saw The Purge: Anarchy and Deliver Us From Evil. And in 2013, we had The Purge and The Conjuring. Of course, the most blowing issue here happens to be that none of the films this year met with their prior expectations. That’s bad.
Okay, here’s some context- Insidious: Chapter 3 opened with $22.7 million, Poltergeist opened with $22.6 million, Sinister 2 opened with $10.5 million, and The Gallows opened with $9.8 million. Let’s compare that with past offerings in years gone by- in 2014, The Purge: Anarchy opened with $29.8 million, and okay, Deliver Us From Evil opened to $9.7 million. In 2013, The Conjuring blew expectations out of the water with a $41.9 million opening, and The Purge opened with $34.1 million. So, yeah, we have a horror sequel/spin-off to a film which opened to $40.3 million, and yet another fan favorite, nostalgia-heavy horror film amongst this year’s mix, yet we can’t even hit the $30 million milestone. Despite having twice the output as compared to previous years.
Yeah, so the message is clear- horror was a genre which was pretty much sidelined for the entire summer moviegoing season, with no particular success stories or surprise hits. Well, Halloween’s coming soon, and we’re seeing a flood of horror movies (much more than previous years), so the jury is still out…
Three superhero movies saw the light of day this summer, all properties of Marvel. Anyways, when I say Marvel, I don’t mean Marvel Studios- confusing, yeah, but one comes from Fox’s properties. Never mind if you didn’t get that. Whatever it is, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man and Fantastic Four leads a rather lackluster season for the genre as a whole. Firstly, it’s important to note that superheroes have more or less been one of the most reliable cash cows Hollywood has seen in the past decade. Especially so for Disney’s side, where their smallest film to date (Incredible Hulk) still opened to a hulk-ingly massive $55.4 million. If it’s any other genre, or if the budget had been lower, I swear we would have been amazed. Their next smallest films’ are Ant-Man ($57.2 million), Captain America: The First Avenger ($65.1 million) and Thor ($65.7 million), but those numbers are nowhere close to being termed underwhelming. Anyways, that list only includes those films part of the official Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s hard to imagine a superhero movie flopping these days, since we have yet to officially see an example which fits firmly into that category. Well, until this year, at least.
I have previously argued that the superhero craze is dying down, especially since audience fatigue is setting in, and we are probably seeing the symptoms popping up here and there this year. Fantastic Four is probably the first flop the genre has seen in a really long time, since it barely opened to $25.7 million, despite a budget of $120 million. People just gathered and agreed, saying that bad films shouldn’t be pardoned solely because they belong the the superhero ‘clique’, resulting in horrible reviews, word of mouth and hence, repeat business. Word spread like wildfire, and this is probably one of the most despised movies of the year (thanks, Josh Trank. Or is it Fox?). Ant-Man opened to $57.2 million, which makes this the second smallest opening in Marvel’s ‘long’ history for films within their shared cinematic universe. Despite glowing reviews which are sure as hell better than Avengers: Age of Ultron. Of course, Ant-Man has always been a geek character of sorts, unknown to the mainstream, so one shouldn’t be taken aback by its underwhelming opening, but you shouldn’t blame it either, since we are talking about their smallest production to date, of a character which really doesn’t ring a bell with many. Then comes Avengers: Age of Ultron, which opened with $191.3 million, an amount which doesn’t deserve the title of ‘disappointment’. It’s the third biggest opening of all time domestically, but the main focus here? It’s behind the $207.4 million opening the first film saw. However, I’m going to go on the defensive here, and say that the first film had more of an ‘event’ status, since it’s the first time the Avengers team gathered on the big screen, the culmination of an endless throng of films which had hit theaters over the past few years. Let’s not forget that this film also paled in terms of quality as compared to the first film, and word of mouth wasn’t really that pleasant either. In fact, it is termed by some as one of Marvel’s worst films they have produced as of yet.
Okay, I understand when one says that the numbers we saw this summer is nothing short of underwhelming. I kinda agree to, especially after last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy and X-Men: Days of Future Past double combo (both critically acclaimed too). However, we shouldn’t really worry too much for now, since this doesn’t really indicate a decline in interest in this genre, at least for now. Fantastic Four was downright horrible, and people realized this far before they invested in a ticket, and lets not forget they want to save themselves from just shy of 2 hours of agony. Ant-Man really wasn’t such a renowned character, and there was a lot of conflict pre-production too, with Edgar Wright’s departure and all. And Avengers: Age of Ultron wasn’t a first in putting the team together, hence removing its ‘event’ status. We should really only worry when Avengers: Infinity War fails to hit $190 million over opening weekend. That kinda indicates that yeah, we are doomed. Especially since that’s the milestone Marvel has been working towards since day 1.
This summer had two high-profile animated films entering the gaze of our fellow moviegoers- Inside Out and Minions, alongside a couple of low-key openings, eg. Shaun the Sheep Movie. Those three pretty much summed up what the season had for little kids in terms of non-live action offerings. Of course, the former two outperformed expectations at the box office (the latter, in which I mean the third, was quite a letdown, especially after ‘vivacious’ reviews). We all know how Inside Out just entered the really crowded market on the sophomore weekend for Jurassic World and grappled Pixar’s second biggest opening to date, and the biggest original, non-IP, ‘with a brand new concept’ film opening the world has ever seen, beating what was previously deemed an ‘impossible record’, since you know, the film it beats happens to be Avatar. It opened with $90.4 million, and legged its way to a current cumulative gross of $344.8 million, or close to four times its opening weekend, and Pixar’s second biggest grosser to date on a domestic basis, just ahead of Finding Nemo’s $339.7 million, and behind Toy Story 3’s $415.0 million.
Then there was Minions, which simply destroyed all notions of a spin-off not being able to hit the heights which the original film reached. Of course, it can be argued that the Minions have always been the scene stealers of the two Despicable Me films, and definitely not Gru, and they are the ones that have spent countless toys. It opened to $115.7 million, far above the $56.4 million and $83.5 million earned by Despicable Me and its sequel respectively. Of course, this film won’t be coming close to Despicable Me 2’s $368.0 final cumulative gross, but had repeat business been better (and reviews much more friendly), this film would have had a really strong bet of beating that number, and even making a go at $400 million. Instead, what we are left with now is a current gross of $325.4 million for Minions, but compared to last year’s biggest animated film of the summer, How to Train Your Dragon 2, which earned $177.0 million in its entire domestic run, this summer has been on a whole, a big one for animation studios. Okay, Shaun the Sheep Movie opened to only $4 million, but since its stop-motion, we can’t really blame it much…
And that is about all for now. Check back really soon for recaps on various other genres, as well as a look at the top 10 films of the summer, and my 2016 summer movie preview.