2016 box office: Disney and Star Wars franchise the big winners

John Cairns

Welcome to the Cairns on Cinema 2016 box office year in review, in which we look at how the top movies of the previous year performed at the box office.

The year 2016 will be remembered for many things at the movies, but the one thing it will be notorious for will be for all the celebrity deaths, including a number in the past month alone. I am writing this column on the same day the funeral is scheduled for Carrie Fisher (of Star Wars fame) and her mother Debbie Reynolds. 

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There have been other deaths including Zsa Zsa Gabor, Alan Rickman, Gene Wilder, Garry Marshall, Patty Duke, George Kennedy, Abe Vigoda and many more. The “in memoriam” segment of the Oscar telecast promises to be jam-packed this year. 

In general, 2016 saw lots of misery across the globe. That might explain why so many movies in the top 10 box office were, yet again, either CGI cartoons or superheroes or science fiction of one kind or another. Anything to get peoples’ minds off the world’s troubles, or, for that matter, the U.S. election. 

The problem is it’s impossible now to go to the movies and not be reminded about what a miserable year 2016 was for celebrity deaths. All you need to do is see a Star Wars poster in the movie theatre, and you’ll be reminded of Carrie Fisher.

All this morbidity aside, it was otherwise an outstanding year for the entire movie industry. 

The overall domestic box office was the biggest of all time this year, at $11.3 billion, but there are mixed opinions as to what this means. The talk out there is that this is not the result of better attendance at the cinemas, but increased ticket prices. 

That wouldn’t surprise me. The cost of 3D is through the roof. And overpriced luxury cinemas are opening, selling beer and gourmet food. Still, it doesn’t take away from what a great year it was for Hollywood. At the major studios, the name of the game is money, and they sure made it.

It was particularly a big year for one studio: Disney. They grossed $3 billion in domestic box office and another $4.6 billion internationally, and are assured of the top three box-office movies of the year in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Finding Dory and Captain America: Civil War.

We will run through the current box office numbers as they stand as of Jan. 5, and I must say, they are pretty impressive. Nine movies topped the $300 million domestic mark in 2016. Also interesting is that only four of the top-ten movies for the year were “summer -season” releases.

Box office numbers continue to be tallied for all 2016 releases still in the cinemas, so the numbers will continue to change in the coming days. But we have a good idea of how the final top 10 will look like. The numbers below come from the website Box Office Mojo: 

10. Doctor Strange, from Disney and Marvel Studios, made $230,436,806 since it opened Nov. 4.

9. Suicide Squad made $325,100,054 for Warner Bros. including an opening weekend of $133,682,248.

8. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opened March 14 and made $330,360,194 for Warner Bros. Its opening weekend was $166,007,347, the second highest of the whole year.

7. Zootopia, from Disney, opened March 4 and has made $341,268,248. 

6. Deadpool, from Fox, opened Feb. 12 to $132,434,639 and has made $363,070,709.

5. The Jungle Book (2016), also from Disney, opened to $103,261,464 on April 15 and has grossed $364,001,123 overall. 

4. The Secret Life of Pets, a huge hit for Universal grossing $368,384,330. Its opening weekend from July 7 was $104,352,905.

3. Captain America: Civil War, from Disney and Marvel, set the early summer-season pace with a $408,084,349 domestic gross, including an opening weekend of $179,139,142 on the May 6 weekend, the biggest opening weekend haul of 2016.

We finally come to the two movies at the top of the list:

2. Finding Dory, from Disney/Pixar, looks like it will finish in the number two spot for the year at $486,295,561. Its opening June 17 weekend saw a haul of $135,060,273. 

1. Our projected number one box office movie of the year is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, securing Disney’s one-two-three box office finish for 2016. 

Its opening weekend on Dec. 16-18 brought in $155,081,681, which is the second-highest December ever and 12th highest of all time. 

However, as of this writing its final numbers are not yet in. As of Jan. 5 its domestic haul overall was $447,170,302, which was still some $39 million behind Finding Dory. 

But Rogue One was still earning big dollars from the domestic cinemas, bringing in over $6 million last Tuesday alone. The previous weekend it made $49 million. Even with the expected drop off in box office numbers, Rogue One is on track to pass Finding Dory within only a few days to become the box office champion of 2016. 

So that’s it: the Cairns on Cinema “decision desk” is calling the 2016 box office race for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. This means it will be two years in a row that the Star Wars franchise has won the domestic box office for the year and also the seventh time overall, going back to the original Star Wars in 1977. 

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