Can you believe we are now near the midpoint of August already? Summer blockbuster season is starting to wind down, and now seems as good a time as any to look at who the box office winners and losers are for the summer.
It has been a very typical summer in a lot of ways. It has been another big year for comic book heroes and for CGI animation. It also has been another feast-or-famine sort of summer. But that should be no surprise by now. There are many potential blockbusters rolled out, but only room for a select 10 movies to finish in the Top Ten for the summer.
So here is a rundown of the Top Ten movies so far this summer, with domestic totals from Box Office Mojo as of Aug. 9.
• Finding Dory: $474 million
• Captain America: Civil War: $407 million
• The Secret Life of Pets: $323 million
• Suicide Squad: $161 million
• X-Men: Apocalypse: $155 million
• Star Trek Beyond: $130 million
• Central Intelligence: $126 million
• The Legend of Tarzan: $124 million
• Ghostbusters: $118 million
• Jason Bourne: $108 million
I should caution that these numbers are still very fluid as we speak. Suicide Squad, for instance, just recently opened to an August-record $135 million weekend and should zoom even higher, possibly challenging for third place for the summer. As well, Jason Bourne is still making good money and should pass a number of other movies, currently ahead of it, soon.
Based on this listing of the top 10 movies, some trends are easy to spot as to which type of movies the public is going for. In a nutshell, the winners are (a) CGI animation such as Finding Dory and The Secret Life of Pets, and (b) Marvel and DC superheroes such as Captain America, the X-Men and Suicide Squad.
Apart from those genres, the other movies to crack the Top Ten have included science fiction (Star Trek Beyond), comedy (Ghostbusters, Central Intelligence), and adventure (The Legend of Tarzan).
But neither Ghostbusters nor The Legend of Tarzan did the kind of business their studios expected, and were actually considered box office disappointments. Tarzan, in particular, cost a fortune to make and, based on the numbers I've read, needed over $700 million in worldwide gross to just make its money back.
As for Ghostbusters, there are multiple reports now that this movie is heading for a $70 million loss for Sony, and that a sequel isn't likely. Even Star Trek Beyond's numbers were lower than what the franchise had done previously for Paramount. Its opening weekend was $59 million, which was down from $70 million for the previous Star Trek: Into Darkness.
Keep in mind, these are movies that made it into the top 10 for the entire summer! These were supposedly box office "winners." You'd think these studios would have been pleased. But the reality is far different.
For executives at Sony, or Warner Bros. (The Legend of Tarzan), seventh or eighth or ninth place finishes were not good enough. They weren't banking on their movies earning only $125 million. They were hoping for closer to $300 to $400 million! The studios were going all-in for a blockbuster hit, and instead ran into pocket aces (Finding Dory, Captain America, etc.). That's life in Hollywood, folks.
The only real surprise to me in the top 10 was how well Central Intelligence did. That movie sort of came out of nowhere, but it shows you the box office appeal of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. It bodes well for when his much-hyped Baywatch revival comes to theatres next year.
But in general, this summer really seemed a bit more feast-or-famine than usual. There were lots of losers at the box office this summer, and many are calling this summer season a big disappointment, in general, for blockbusters.
What really struck me was how few movies even made it to $200 million in domestic gross this summer. By my count, it's probably going to be only about four when it's all said and done. Five at the most.
Two movies I thought would be there but didn't make the Top Ten were Independence Day: Resurgence and Ice Age: Collision Course. The revival of the Independence Day movies only made $102 million as of last week, which is a lot lower than expected.
As for Ice Age: Collision Course, which only made $55 million, I think everyone is simply fed up with these silly animals (in their fifth Ice Age movie). Moreover, it was hurt by the glut of other CGI animation at cinemas this summer.
The biggest winner of them all this summer was of course Finding Dory, which is the sequel to Pixar's Finding Nemo from several years ago. The combination of good reviews, a voice cast that included Ellen DeGeneres, and a general desire from the public for family-friendly entertainment led to its victory.
It was also a big showing for The Secret Life of Pets, which came from the same folks who made the popular Despicable Me franchise. In general, it's been a big summer for CGI and for family friendly movies.
And once again Marvel owned the first weekend of May with Captain America: Civil War. Its worldwide gross so far has been even more impressive at $1.151 billion, ahead of $872 million for Finding Dory and $534 million for X-Men: Apocalypse.
So the takeaways from the summer of 2016: CGI and superheroes win for Hollywood, again. As usual. Like I said, it's been a typical summer at the movies, and it's not quite over yet.