The summer movie season of 2016 has come to a close and this year was pretty notable. The box office is actually up in profits, but you’d think that wouldn’t be the case given the many stories about movie disappointments. And indeed, that’s a key factor - not just several films failing to live up to expectations, but others flopped and hurt their studios badly. It’s rare to see a summer where so many “sure things” fell on their faces and showcased how rough the successes can be.
Many are writing of how it shows that budgets are out of control as once $100 million was a mega-hit. But that is barely enough to break into the budgets for many films, and sometimes they need to make $500 million to be considered a hit. A clear case is Warcraft, which managed to get $430 million thanks to a great international gross but it's still seen as a flop because of its huge budget and marketing. That’s the case with several pictures but others are full-on failures, totally sinking under their weight. Still, we had some pretty high-profile successes, monster hits that elevated those involved nicely and helping them shine more. It was up and down in many ways as the “losers” list is a bit longer but here are 16 of the most notable winners and losers of this summer’s box office.
16 WINNER: Superheroes
There may come a time when comic book adaptations aren’t big business, but it won't be this year. Captain America: Civil War kicked the summer off wonderfully, winning over fans and critics with its great story and the introduction of Black Panther and a new Spider-Man. With its early May opening spot, the film easily cruised its way to $1.15 billion globally (the highest-grossing movie of 2016 so far) and arguably the best Marvel movie yet. While they had a few losses (see elsewhere on the list), this made sure Disney could smile over the summer. While it wasn’t as huge, X-Men Apocalypse still did great business with $550 million worldwide to keep the franchise going. And despite bad reviews and slams about its reshoots and tone, Suicide Squad set a record for an August opening and closed in on $600 million worldwide. For now, super-heroes still mean major box office success for studios.
15 LOSER: Other Heroes
If you weren’t wearing a costume, things were rougher at the box office. As noted, Warcraft’s international take salvaged it from bomb status but it still wasn't enough to be called a real hit given its high budget. Alexander Skarsgard’s abs didn't bring in the audience to make The Legend of Tarzan a super-hit. The film was also salvaged by an international take of $352 million but still not as great considering its massive $180 million budget and marketing. Even Matt Damon’s return to Jason Bourne hasn’t been able to crack $300 million globally against its own big budget (bigger than the previous movies). All of these show the risks of trying to sell a non-superhero amid the busy summer season.
14 LOSER: Alice Through the Looking Glass
Talk about bad timing all you want but there were plenty of reasons why the sequel to the 2010 hit turned into one of the summer’s most high-profile flops. Opening against X-Men was a bad move as the original had done great in March but the poor reviews didn’t help. The tone was off, the performances were laughable and the massive FX overwhelming the already trite storyline. Of course, a key factor was how the very week it opened, Johnny Depp was in the press for divorcing wife Amber Heard with her allegations of him hitting her. The film had a weak $27 million opening weekend and just under $80 million total in North America. Overall, its box office of $295 million globally is puny compared to its nearly $200 million budget and may signal at long last Depp’s time as a box office draw is coming to a close.
13 WINNER: Finding Dory
For a decade, Ellen DeGeneres spent time on her talk show basically asking when the hell Pixar was going to make a sequel to its 2003 hit Finding Nemo. At long last, they did, making DeGeneres’ Dory the main character and it was one of the company’s biggest hits yet. The critics enjoyed it while families adored the storyline, characters and fantastic tone as well as boosting Ellen up in more in her popularity. Closing in on $1 billion worldwide, the movie proves that some sequels are truly worth the wait. It captured the feelings of the original wonderfully while standing on its own to be among Pixar’s most terrific efforts and the animated hit of the year.
12 LOSER: Independence Day Resurgence
20 years ago, ID4 was one of the biggest hits in summer movie history, a great sci-fi action romp that had audiences cheering. Finally, after two decades, Roland Emmerich delivered the long-awaited sequel…and audiences barely cared. The $165 million movie has only taken in $383 million worldwide, a massive comedown far lower than anyone had figured. The complaints range from the bad casting of the younger stars to the attempts to cram in mixed humor, the CGI destruction not as notable as the older model work and the reviews horrific. Also not helping was how the movie was obviously setting up a new franchise with its ending yet forgot to bring the fun for this entry. Will Smith was desperately missed from this follow-up which proves other sequels aren’t worth the wait after all.
11 WINNER: Kevin Hart
Already riding high after Ride Along 2, Hart solidified his place as a box office star this summer. The pairing of him and Dwayne Johnson contributed to Central Intelligence becoming a huge hit, the action-comedy grossing $200 million and counting. Also, Hart was a featured voice in The Secret Life of Pets, which has done far better than expected. The all-star Universal entry has made $650 million and thus becoming the highest-grossing non-Disney original animated movie ever. Together, these movies boost Hart’s standing in Hollywood even more and with a slate including a Jumanji reboot, Hart proves himself able to bring in audiences nicely.
10 LOSER: Andy Samberg
Having already set himself up as a Golden Globe winning TV star with Brooklyn Nine-Nine, this summer was going to be Samberg stepping up as a movie star as well. Popstar: Never Stop Stopping was a great send-up of the music scene boasting numerous star cameos and the reviews were mostly positive. Despite all that, audiences just didn’t show up, the film grossing an anemic $9.5 million and vanishing from theatres quickly. It was a blow given Lonely Island’s popularity and Sandberg’s own work. While some contend it will be a future cult classic, it stands now among the bigger letdowns of the summer.
9 WINNER: Magic Movies
Today’s magic in filmmaking is CGI but some magic-themed films did well this summer. Now You See Me 2 had mixed reviews but smart bringing back almost the entire cast of the original while Lizzy Caplan was hailed as a great addition. As a result of its good marketing, the $90 million movie has grossed over $320 million worldwide with the probability of a sequel to come. Meanwhile, The Conjuring 2 scored nicely, the $40 million sequel outdoing the original wonderfully by grossing $320 million worldwide, a huge profit for its studio. While it’s started slow (just under $60 million so far), it’s expected that Pete’s Dragon will see a profit once it expands globally. It goes to show with the right spin, movies can score some magic at the box office.
8 LOSER: Big Name Star Films
It used to be just slapping a huge star’s name on the marquee was enough to get audiences to come but this year seems to defeat that. Despite boasting three Oscar winners (George Clooney, Julia Roberts and director Jodie Foster), Money Monster pulled in barely over $90 million. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling actually got great reviews for the caper comedy The Nice Guys but the movie grossed only $57 million ($7 million more than its budget). Matthew McConaughey’s bearded visage wasn’t enough to salvage The Free State of Jones as the Civil War film took in just over $20 million against a $50 million budget, summer audiences not into a historical drama. Some audiences just feel that a big name isn’t enough to totally sell a film anymore.
7 WINNER: Low Budget Horror
Horror movie buffs always say that you don’t need big stars or budget to make a successful film. This summer has proven that idea right with several movies scoring well thanks to their lower budgets. As already noted, The Conjuring 2 was a great profit maker that outdid the original but it wasn’t alone. The Purge: Election year scored off its timely topic and its $100 million gross is fantastic given it was made for only $10 million. Creeping in under the radar, the thriller Lights Out was made for less than $5 million but already cracking the $100 million marker and a sequel in the works. Perhaps Hollywood should take note of how less really can be more with the right materials.
6 LOSER: Ghostbusters
For over a year, there were various concerns of this film, the very idea of rebooting a beloved hit and the all-female casting an issue. It led to slams, complaints, charges of sexism back and forth and how the movie could handle it all. The final result was that the new version of the iconic 1984 hit just wasn’t that good. While it got some good reviews (Kate McKinnon’s performance hailed as the best), the film was slammed for a bad storyline and cheap jokes. Whether due to the bad trailers or the backlash, the $150 million movie grossed a weak $208 million, far below hopes. It got to the point of Sony announcing they were taking a $70 million write-off and cancelling the planned sequel. It’s a blow to Melissa McCarthy’s box office clout and after all the yelling and screaming of a “female-centric movie,” the result is that audiences just didn’t like it enough to come, making this one of the worst-received reboots ever.
5 WINNER: Animated Films
It wasn’t just Dory and Pets that did great in the animated film category. Angry Birds overcame doubts about a movie based on a mobile phone game, only $73 million budget but grossing over $350 million worldwide with a sequel planned. The Ice Age franchise went out in style as Collision Course overcame bad reviews to gross $315 million worldwide with audiences still loving that nutty mix of characters. Most notably, Sausage Party made history as the first R-rated CGI animated film, winning huge critical raves. With its budget of just under $20 million, it’s closing in on the $100 million mark, proving a market for more adult fare in that field. Whether families or adults, animated movies proved themselves big business this year.
4 LOSER: The BFG
If any movie this summer had “can’t miss” written all over it, this was it. Steven Spielberg directing his first ever Disney movie, an adaption of a beloved Ronald Dahl classic starring newly minted Oscar winner Mark Rylance in the title role? How could this fail? That’s a question Disney is trying to answer as the film stunned everyone by opening with only $18.6 million, far below estimates for the busy 4th of July weekend. The drop-off was big as the film had a good critical reaction but just couldn’t get much traction with audiences. Many believed it suffered being crammed between Dory and Pets for the family market and that the emphasis on motion-capture CGI may have put some off. So far, it’s barely made back its $140 million budget globally, a flop by any means. But more so because of those involved and amazing how the combination of Spielberg and Disney couldn’t produce a mega-hit.
3 WINNER: Low Budget Drama
While the big-budget blockbusters battled it out, some lower indie movies did pretty well. The Lobster has been acclaimed as possibly the best movie of the year so far, its wild plot (a man must find love in 45 days or turn into the title animal) and great performances winning over critics and $15 million against a budget less than $5 million. Woody Allen shows he still has what it takes with Café Society hailed as one of his best efforts. Its $20 million take low for now but expected to get bigger with wider release. And the romance Me Before You won the hearts of female fans majorly, the “date night” movie of the summer with nearly $200 million so far. It goes to show how audiences still respond to an antidote to the bigger fare.
2 LOSER: Raunchy Comedy
Given the huge success of its predecessor, Neighbors 2 was expected to be a huge comedy hit with a female-centric plot. Instead, the film took just over $100 million, a comedown given its higher budget and more expectations. It wasn’t alone in disappointment as Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, expected to be a big comedy winner, only did about $65 million, barely over its budget and marketing. Bad Moms did a bit better with $107 million but given its star power of Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and others, it was expected to have a higher take. Worst is War Dogs as the nutty military-themed comedy has only raked in $20 million despite Jonah Hill’s star power. It’s rare to have a summer where raunchy comedy movies fail to make a huge impact but this year was it.
1 LOSER: Paramount
Already hurting after Zoolander 2 and 13 Hours disappointed, Paramount hoped to bounce back with their summer slate but sadly, have gotten the worst of any studio so far. Star Trek Beyond may be doing well with $230 million worldwide and great reviews but still barely breaking even thanks to its $180 million budget. As mentioned, TMNT: Out of the Shadows didn’t perform as expected given all its hype. But the worst has to be Ben-Hur as the remake of the classic Oscar winner is on track to be the biggest bomb of the summer. Trashed by critics, the movie had a $22 million opening against a budget over $100 million. With a so-so fall slate, Paramount is looking the big studio loser of 2016 so far thanks to some overpriced sequels/reboots that have not gone as well as hoped.