Now that the kids are back to school and the dog days of summer are behind us, now would be a great time to gloss over some of the biggest highs and lows in cinema of the past few months (May to August) as we gear up for another strong Fall movie season. While not meeting financial expectations (with July being the only summer month to exceed 2015 earnings according to Box Office Mojo) by movie company standards, there were still plenty of films that had people buzzing via social media and the internet in way or another. So with that said, let’s give out some grades in this year’s version of “Summer School for Movie Goers” which unless otherwise noted will reflect numbers representing a worldwide gross as of 8/21/16 (which were also provided by BOM ):
Captain America: Civil War/ Disney/Buena Vista
Disney dictates the box office– When it comes to judging how a movie season went, usually your first gauge has to start with the house Mickey Mouse built. With count ’em Three movies grossing 900 million dollars+ in this period (Captain America: Civil War, Finding Dory and The Jungle Book) not to mention the success of Zootopia (1.02 billion) still raking in the dough before May even started, it’s easy to say that Disney (aka Buena Vista) had itself one heck of a summer. Their fun in the sun wasn’t flawless however as some of their big budget tries such as The BFG (141 million), Pete’s Dragon (57 million) and Alice Through The Looking Glass (292 million a movie which could only garner roughly 30% of its 2010 predecessor) failed to connect with audiences. Still, the belief is strong that any of their other competitors would gladly take their place and hit four out of seven and go home with that kind of win percentage. With Doctor Strange and Star Wars: Rogue One around the corner for the holidays, it definitely looks like 2016 box office-wise will provide a “good view” for Disney going forward. GRADE: A-
X-Men: Apocalypse/ 20th Century Fox
Superheroes are alive and well…sort of– Superhero movies quite often deliver one of two things: big dollars or big headaches and this year’s offerings so far have proven to continue that trend. While Civil War (1.1 billion) set the pace this summer fellow Marvel mainstays were not so fortunate as 20th Century Fox’s X-Men: Apocalypse (542 million) fell almost 28% below its 2014 predecessor. Making matters more convoluted is the saga of Suicide Squad (572 million), a film with huge advanced buzz which got drubbed by the critics (26% rating on Rotten Tomatoes) had an almost 70% drop in its second weekend (much like the beleaguered Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) but was still endeared by fans as it stayed #1 domestically for three straight weekends. The dilemma conjured up by the past two DC films has created a cloudy and uncertain future for Warner Bros. which if not corrected on a cohesive and artistic level may ultimately speed up the demise of the superhero genre on film. Grade: B
The Jungle Book/ Disney/Buena Vista
“Ho Hum” for reboots and long-awaited sequels– Signs for the summer for many of the upcoming movies were not that promising if that film was from a franchise that had laid dormant for many years. Failed outings such as My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 and Zoolander 2 earlier this year gave a hint that maybe there is a point in time where audiences care not to revisit familiar scenarios. So when Sony’s big plans of reviving the Ghostbusters brand fell on hard times with a 208 million dollar world wide take, the thought process in Hollywood of bringing old cinematic icons to life may now be a little more guarded. Compounding onto that financial mess the disappointing numbers for long away series such as Independence Day: Resurgence (383 million), The Legend of Tarzan (380 million), Jason Bourne (278 million with Matt Damon returning to the lead role after ten years), Ben-Hur (21 million), Pete’s Dragon and Alice filling the ledgers with red ink instead of reigniting the passion fans had at one time for these franchises. While the struggles were plentiful, the unmitigated success of The Jungle Book (955 million) shows that at least some resurrection ideas can be a hit with audiences. Grade: C
Star Trek Beyond/ Paramount Pictures
Too much choice=sub par results– Seemingly every weekend this summer, a bevy of films debuted all vying for the continued attention of audiences. After the dust settled it was plain to see that only a select few were able to have enough “legs” to consistently garner box office success after its initial first run weekend. This war of attrition put upon movie fans caused many well-received and/or familiar titles to not see the type of success they may have gotten had they been placed in another time period this year. This “feast or famine” environment perhaps caused movies such as Bourne and Star Trek Beyond (231 million) in particular to fade into obscurity a lot faster than they would have had they been released in March or April leaving the fate of both these franchises in the future firmly into question. Grade: C-
The Conjuring 2/ Warner Bros.
Success is still being scared up in the summer– Low budget horror movies continue to buck the trend of many film industry genres proving that “fright flicks” are still a virtual guarantee to pack them in on short term runs. With mostly minuscule production budgets that are constantly dwarfed by their weekly competition, the success of movies such as The Conjuring 2 (318 million) , Lights Out (110 million), The Purge: Election Year (102 million) and The Shallows (84 million) that earned in some cases ten times what they cost prove there is still a strong market for those wanting to scare the life out of audiences. Grade: A
The Angry Birds Movie/ Sony Pictures
Video game movies high scores and epic fails– Still without a true breakout hit beyond the collective Resident Evil franchise, video game movies this summer at least proved finally that a box office smash COULD be possible given the right gaming film concept. Yes, the much-maligned Warcraft performed miserably everywhere else but was a huge enough smash in China (over 220 million in that market alone) to possibly warrant a sequel. But the biggest reason for hope stems from one of the few bright spots for Sony this summer with The Angry Birds Movie which collected 346 million off a modest budget for an animated feature. If properties like these that no longer have the huge player base they once had can still see good fortune at the box office, there is hope for the future that Hollywood can actually press the right buttons and turn a successful video game franchise into a hit movie adaptation. Suffice to say all is not “game over” for gaming films. Grade: C+
While this summer may not not be remembered with audiences or the movie industry itself (unless you’re Disney) as being one of the best on record, audiences were still treated to some solid cinematic fare among the sea of blockbusters, indie darlings and box office bombs. With a Fall season fast approaching with titles such as Inferno, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Strange, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Moana , Rogue One and more on the way there is still time for movie fans to feel like they got their money’s worth from the movie industry in 2016. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen but here’s hoping it will be a cool ride.