The summer movie season is pretty much wrapped up and once more, it’s time to see what worked and what didn’t. We had the usual slew of films that were expected to be hits and succeeded, but there were also a few high-profile disappointments. The box office wasn’t as huge as expected but it was still a great year overall as Hollywood attempts to combat piracy and other issues that make people want to say away from theaters. From super-heroes to sci-fi, heartwarming comedies to all-out action, the summer movie season has provided some great films to enjoy amid some major misfires.
While it didn’t reach some heights, summer box office is still great with 3.8 billion dollars domestically and more from overseas markets. A late addition has been Straight Outta Compton, which has done much better than expected with a $60 million opening weekend and looking ready to dominate for a while. So as we move to the Fall season, here’s a look back at what worked this summer, what didn’t and why, showing how it’s still tricky to accurately predict what can take off in the summer season but always ready to entertain movie-goers.
10 WINNER: Disney for Marvel
While it didn’t wow fans as much as the 2012 original film did, Avengers: Age of Ultron kicked the summer off in major style with $191.3 million in its opening weekend and shattering records for an IMAX opening.
Meanwhile, Ant-Man overcame some doubts for a very successful outing of $157 million domestically with that much more in international markets for a great take. Paul Rudd won raves for his leading role that showed you didn’t need an A-lister to make a Marvel movie a big winner, helping to boost Marvel's stock even more in preparation for a big 2016 with Civil War leading the way.
9 LOSER: Disney for Tomorrowland
It’s a good thing Disney has the success of Marvel as it offsets the box office disaster of this sci-fi fable. Expectations were high thanks to writer/director Brad Bird’s past successes and the star power of George Clooney. But a poor marketing campaign made it hard for moviegoers to grasp what the film was supposed to be about and the critical reaction was poor, many praising the movie’s visuals but deriding the confusing storyline.
The film’s entire international take has been barely $200 million, which is quite bad against the reported $330 million for the making and marketing of it. It’s speculated that Disney stands to lose up to $140 million off this alone, a major blow to Bird and standing, so far, as the biggest big-budget flop of the year.
8 WINNER: Female-Led Comedies
Is this the summer Hollywood finally stops underestimating how female-driven films can do great at the box office? Pitch Perfect 2 grossed the first film’s entire box office take in just five days, currently a global $284 million against a $29 million budget, one of the biggest winners out there (not to mention how its soundtrack is just as big a hit).
7 LOSER: Bromedies
On the flip side, male-driven comedies had a rougher time of it. Given the smash success of the first film, Ted 2 was expected to be one the summer’s biggest hits. Instead, it opened in third place with $33.5 million and has so far only grossed a global $174 million, nearly three times less than the first movie and another box office misfire for Seth McFarlane.
Meanwhile, despite a big promotional push, Entourage failed to be as successful on the big screen as it was on the small one as the continuation of the HBO hit was ravaged by critics and a pitifully low $44 million take. While Magic Mike XXL isn’t as bad (a $117 million take against a $15 million budget), it’s not as huge as many expected it to be either while Vacation is just a debacle with only $35 million. Given how all four movies had supposedly built-in audiences, their failures are more indication that the time of such Y-chromosone heavy films be on the downside.
6 WINNER: Mad Max: Fury Road
There was a lot going against this movie. Continuing a film saga that last appeared thirty years ago with a totally different leading man, an Oscar winner as the female lead and basically one long chase, it was a lot to sell. But George Miller pulled it off as the film has been one of the year’s biggest smashes, closing in on a global box office take of $400 million.
More importantly is the critical favor as the film has come close to nearly 100% on critic meter sites, hailed for its pace, style and storytelling and naturally, sci-fi and action fans have gone wild for it. Tom Hardy got good buzz but the biggest accolades were reserved for Charlize Theron as the stunning Furiosa stealing the movie. It truly ranks as the rare reboot that not only succeeds but also improves on the original and earns one of the top spots of the entire year.
5 LOSER: Terminator Genisys
Fans of the Terminator franchise had hopes with the idea of reworking the 1984 classic and Arnold Schwarzenegger back in his iconic role while Emilia Clarke taking on the part of Sarah Connor. But the results have been seen as terrible right from the beginning, when the big twist regarding John Connor was given away by the trailers.
The actual movie was slammed for a confusing storyline that made little sense, noting too many attempts to link up to or play with the original movies, with poor acting definitely not helping it. While some did enjoy Arnie being back, it wasn’t served by how it was so obviously setting up sequels and failing to entertain in its own right. While its global box office of $325 million seems impressive, that’s against a huge budget and in terms of quality, it is considered the worst film of the saga and far from the best for the summer season.
4 WINNER: Computer Animation
You’d think people would cease being surprised by Pixar’s ability to provide great movies. But once again, they outdid themselves as Inside Out won some of the best critical hails of any movie this year, almost universal praise for its visuals, fun story and truly heartfelt characters. Audiences agreed as not only kids but adults as well flocked to it, with the movie closing in on a global $700 million, ranking it among the biggest winners in Pixar’s long history of successes.
Meanwhile, while it didn’t get the same critical hails, Minions established its own great box office success, with it’s North American take good but truly exploding internationally. It could well pass the $1 billion dollar mark, a stunning achievement for an animated movie. It just proves that if you marry good animation with a great story, the sky is the limit.
3 LOSER: Pixels
Once upon a time, Adam Sandler’s name on a movie meant instant box office success. Today, it seems more like a hangman’s noose. To many, the tragedy of Pixels is that it had a truly fun idea (aliens attacking Earth using classic arcade game characters) but once Sandler got a hold of it, it was doomed. From making his “geek” character a tired loser still winning over hot women to barely acting himself, Sandler dragged the film down. Even the attempts of Peter Dinklage and Josh Grad weren’t enough to salvage it.
Ripped to shreds by critics (not to mention video game fans not happy with how they were being made fun of), the movie has made only $65 million against an $88 million budget, serving as further proof that Sandler’s days as a box office draw are as far gone as those video games are.
2 WINNER: Universal Studios
It’s not like people didn’t expect Jurassic World not to be a hit. But even the best expectations were never in the neighborhood of a global $524 million in its first three days, the biggest box office opening weekend in history. It also set a record for the highest grossing IMAX film, biggest June opening and is already past $1.6 billion around the world. Despite some mixed reviews, the film is truly a hit, reviving the franchise, establishing Chris Pratt as a leading man and making fans eager for a new series of films.
Combine that with the also fantastic box office successes of Furious 7, Minions, Trainwreck and Straight Outta Compton and Universal is having one of the best years in its history, with over $5 billion and counting, proving one of the oldest studios in Hollywood can still enjoy fresh success.
1 LOSER: 20th Century Fox
The bad buzz over Fantastic Four had been building for a while but it was still astounding how the reboot of the comic book franchise failed on every level: commercially, critically and fan favoritism, the new FF was a massive letdown. The worst reviewed comic book movie ever (yes, even worse than Green Lantern and Batman & Robin), the movie was trashed for its bad pacing, poor characters, short running time, terrible FX and turning Marvel’s upbeat family into a downbeat mess.
The argument over who’s responsible rages on as some put the blame on Fox for meddling with the film, demanding rewrites and reshoots and ruining the movie that could have been. But others say director Josh Trank is hardly blameless from reports of him getting into fights on set to how he told the actors not to read the comics at all and instead intent on his own “vision” that seemed completely off for the movie.
Whatever the case, the results are clear, as the film has taken only $43 million against its $130 million budget and the bad press about it has affected Fox’s stock standing. While they had the success of Spy, the studio also had the fast failure of the Poltergeist reboot over its head and the bad press regarding their work on FF and poor buzz of the upcoming Hitman reboot mean the studio has an uphill fight to avoid 2015 being one of their worst years.