This year’s summer movie season is drawing to a close, with no more studio tentpoles waiting anxiously in the wings. Unlike last year, there were relatively few major disasters at the box office, with many of the least-successful films bringing in just enough to be classed as underperformers rather than outright flops.
Keeping that in mind, there are three categories in this retrospective: winners (films that were unequivocal smash-hits), survivors (films that saw some success but missed the mark in a particular way) and losers (a good old fashioned flop).
This is based on the well-known rule of thumb that a film needs to make roughly two-and-a-half times its production budget in order to break even, due to cinema chains taking a cut of a movie’s box office takings, and the marketing budget of a major release typically costing around fifty per cent of its production budget.
Avengers: Infinity War
Unsurprisingly, Marvel Studios’ mega-crossover is shaping up to be not only the most successful film of the summer, but also of the entire year. With over two billion dollars in the bank, Infinity War is the fourth highest-grossing film of all time (not adjusted for inflation), placing behind Avatar, Titanic and fellow Disney flick Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Previously, it looked as if the Marvel Cinematic Universe may have peaked with the first Avengers movie, after both Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War failed to match its worldwide total of $1.5 billion. Those fears have been well and truly put to rest by this remarkable performance, but the question remains over whether 2019’s untitled Avengers 4 will be able to match (or even surpass) this gargantuan haul.
Hereditary isn’t the most successful horror movie of the year so far; that title goes to Insidious: The Last Key, one of the many low-budget horror movies churned out by the assembly line that is Blumhouse Productions. However, Ari Aster’s feature-length debut was still a significant and surprising win at the summer box office.
Hereditary made just under $80 million worldwide to become the highest-grossing film yet released by independent distributor A24, edging out Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird which remained their biggest domestic hit. The film bares relatively few characteristics typical of commercially successful horror fare, only adding to this impressive achievement. A24 have already agreed to distribute Aster’s next feature which is currently filming.
The Incredibles 2
Pixar’s long-awaited sequel to their 2004 hit was a box office powerhouse, recently surpassing Toy Story 3 to become the studio’s highest-grossing film to date, with a worldwide total just under $1.1 billion. It’s not a surprising result given Pixar’s consistent commercial track record, the current super-hero craze and the potent nostalgia surrounding the first film.
While many have bemoaned Pixar’s recent reliance on sequels, results like this don’t give them much incentive to change their current business model. Their next release will be Toy Story 4, set to hit theaters on 21st June 2019, but the studio has said that they also have four original films in varying stages of development.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Despite a lukewarm reception from critics, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was able to rake in almost $1.3 billion over the summer, making it the third highest-grossing film of the year so far (behind Marvel’s Infinity War and Black Panther). That’s a significant decline from the $1.67 billion brought in by the 2015 original, but a huge success regardless.
A third Jurassic World movie is already in the works, hoping to deliver on the intriguing premise set-up by Fallen Kingdom. Colin Trevorrow, who directed the first film in the new series, will return to finish off the trilogy promising a film closer in tone to 1993’s Jurassic Park. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard are expected to reprise their respective roles as the memorable and beloved characters, muscly dude and red-haired lady.
Ant-Man and the Wasp
In all fairness to Ant-Man and the Wasp, it had two tough acts to follow. Black Panther was a critically acclaimed smash-hit back in February, not to mention a historic moment for African-American representation on film. Meanwhile, Infinity War was the culmination of a decade of storytelling, so densely packed with super-hero action that it may have diminished audiences appetite for more.
Enter Ant-Man and the Wasp, a small-scale story centered around Marvel’s least-popular characters which failed to get even die-hard fans excited. At the time of writing, the film sits at a worldwide total of $465 million, roughly $55 million less than the first movie made back in 2015. Fortunately, the film finally opens in China on 24th August, which could give it enough of a boost to close that gap.
Still though, even in the best case scenario the film will end its run significantly lower than any recent MCU installments, unlikely to surpass the likes of Iron Man 2 ($623m) or Thor: The Dark World ($644 million).
It can’t be understated just how much The Meg has benefited from how little people expected from it. The Jason Statham giant shark movie looked like the result of someone mistakenly giving $150 million to the Syfy Channel, causing most industry analysts to brush it off as another ridiculous studio decision akin to Gods of Egypt and Geostorm.
Much to their surprise, the film opened to solid business around the world. In the United States, The Meg‘s opening weekend wrapped up with $45 million in the bank (more than double what some outlets had predicted for it), while another $50 million came from Chinese audiences. One week later, the film is currently at a global total of more than $315 million.
Due to its substantial budget pegged to be in the region of $150 million, it’s too soon to call The Meg a huge success. However, if it can keep even a fraction of this momentum in the forthcoming weeks, it should be able to break even and could be a big earner when it’s released on DVD, Blu-ray and rental services at the end of the year.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
It’s certainly a borderline case, but the latest entry in the long-running Mission: Impossible series isn’t a slam dunk just yet. Fallout has recently crossed a respectable worldwide total of $500 million, but with a hefty $180 million production budget and a sizable advertising campaign, the film has likely only just broken even.
Fallout is outpacing the previous Mission: Impossible film domestically, but its $60 million opening weekend was still rather soft when compared to similarly budgeted films. That being said, its domestic run is far from over and the end of August will see an all-important China release, where Rogue Nation made $135 million back in 2015.
A similar performance for Fallout would see it finish its run with a worldwide haul around $690 million, almost identical to where the fourth and fifth films wrapped up. That wouldn’t be a disaster by any means, but Paramount may be left wondering why the series is stagnating at the box office, particularly when rival franchises are earning more with each installment.
This all-female entry in the Ocean’s series faced a grimly predictable backlash when its first trailer was released late last year. Unfavourable comparisons to 2016’s infamous Ghostbusters reboot were rife, with the official YouTube upload seeing 61,000 dislikes (roughly 33 per cent of the total number of reactions).
Naturally, there was some concern that the film would have similarly dire box office results, but Ocean’s 8 overcame the hate to do solid (if not spectacular) business worldwide. With a haul of $287 million, not only did the movie outperform Ghostbusters, it did so on a budget less than half the size.
Given that this total is slightly behind what the previous three Ocean’s movies brought in, it may not be enough to secure the sequel that was initially on the cards. Nonetheless, this is a decent result for Warner Bros. and the film should only become more profitable once it hits the ancillary market.
Disney’s recent habit of adapting animated characters into live action has proved very rewarding indeed, but their formula didn’t quite work when applied to A. A. Milne’s iconic creations. Critics gave Christopher Robin a frosty reception and audiences proceeded to do the same with a lackluster $24 million opening weekend.
The film currently sits at a domestic total of $66 million, a disappointing result for the picture which is rumoured to have cost around $70 million to make. In a nightmare move for Disney, Christopher Robin was denied a release in China due to Winnie the Pooh characters being used by native bloggers to mock the country’s leadership.
Where might the film be saved? The United Kingdom. The home of A. A. Milne occasionally flexes some major box office muscle, most recently contributing a whopping $59 million to Paddington 2’s worldwide total, a film which failed to find an audience in the States. Christopher Robin lacks the all ages appeal of Paddington, but with U.K talent Ewan McGregor and Hayley Atwell in the lead roles it could well hit gold regardless.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado
The sequel to Denis Villeneuve’s 2015 thriller fell short of expectations. Intended as the launching pad for a new franchise, Soldado struggled to a worldwide total of $72 million, roughly $12 million less than the first film scraped together. With a modest budget of $35 million, this is hardly a catastrophe on the scale of certain other entries on this list, but it demonstrates with little room for doubt that audience interest in the Sicario brand is insufficient to warrant further theatrical ventures.
After Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle made it seem as if Dwayne Johnson’s solo career was finally about to take off, Skyscraper was a stern reminder that the actor’s box office track record is inconsistent at best. The film opened domestically to a paltry $24 million, well below even Johnson’s underwhelming average, before clocking out weeks later with a total of just $66 million.
As is so often the case these days, it was China that prevented Skyscraper from being a total flop, contributing $97 million to its global total. This is the second Johnson film to be saved by Chinese audiences this year, after Rampage tanked stateside only to do huge business in the Middle Kingdom back in April.
Ultimately, Skyscraper finished with a worldwide haul of $292 million, unlikely to have turned a profit on its $125 million budget plus advertising costs. Of course, this result won’t be surprising to anyone who has been paying attention to Johnson’s career thus far. Outside of the ensemble Fast and Furious series, the actor has consistently delivered disappointing box office results, with the notable exceptions being 2015’s San Andreas and the aforementioned Jumanji. Need more convincing? You can read our 2017 article on Johnson’s career here.
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Back when Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm was first announced, nobody expected to be typing this sentence just six years later: the biggest box office flop of the summer (and quite possibly the year) is a Star Wars movie.
Solo‘s troubled production was well documented prior to release, with the ousting of directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller discussed ad nauseam by fans across the world. The idea of a Han Solo origin story was greeted with ambivalence from Star Wars fans straight out of the gate, and the tidal wave of bad publicity only dampened that enthusiasm further.
As a result, Solo needed to be something very special indeed to justify its existence. Needless to say, it wasn’t. As a result, the film has spectacularly failed to recoup its enormous $275 million budget (not including advertising costs), resulting in Disney putting the brakes on its plans for more Star Wars anthology films.