Film & Movies

Thursday, 28 July 2016 18:16

Analysis Of The 2016 Box Office So Far

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Twenty years ago this month, Independence Day (or ID4 as it came to be known) was well on it's way to becoming the biggest movie of the summer. By the following January, it went on to become the highest grossing movie of the year and Hollywood's first billion dollar blockbuster. This month,  the sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence is not drawing nearly the same number of audience members. Could it have anything to do with the fact that while an original idea at the time, it doesn't play so well with audiences today? You could argue that point although the very first Mission: Impossible movie opened a month and a half before ID4 in early summer '96 and last year, the fifth Mission movie still killed at the box office. One could argue that ID4 actually never even needed a sequel. Since the summer of '96 we've had War of the Worlds and several other aliens invading Earth movies (bet'cha forgot about 2000's What Planet Are You From? That's okay. Most people do.) Plus, there is the terrible fact that 9/11 possibly changed attitudes about audiences not exactly jumping up and down in anticipation to see U.S. landmarks crumbled by laser blasts from the skies anymore. At least in those Avengers movies, they all throw themselves into buildings which then turn to bits of rubble, but then the govt. made the Avengers clean everything up afterwards. Try getting an alien creature to do that. Nope. Not happening.

Box office this year is a lot different than it was two decades ago. This year, four movies in the top 10 list of box-office earners so far, include animated or family adventure movies (Jungle Book, Zootopia). Can you name an animated movie from 1996? I believe there was the Hunchback of Notre Dame and that was about it. I also remember it kinda flopping.The previous fall, Pixar's Toy Story ushered in a new, joyous and cutting-edge style of animated movie so by the time Hunchback came out, young audiences were all "What's this old looking thing? Ew!" This year, the biggest box-office money maker is Pixar's Finding Dory, the sequel to 2004's Finding Nemo. I believe these Pixar people might know what they're doing.

The second biggest money maker of 2016 is Captain America: Civil War which opened back in April. Man, if they had waited a few months they could have filmed this at either of this season's political conventions. These types of movies do little for me so I was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed this year's No #3 money earner - Deadpool - a fresh, entertaining take on comic-book movies which somehow manages to successfully skewer the genre while at the same time, embracing their silly cartoon-ish outrageous-ness. Deadpool was the Scream of comic-book movies in that they both attacked and celebrated the genre they were lumping themselves into. The result was actually smart, snarky and fun. Which brings us to Batman V Superman which wasn't any of those things and the longer the movie stayed in theaters, the scuzziness of it became more apparent. While BVS was nowhere near the flop some were predicting, it did fall well below expectations. Anything resembling Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, this movie was not.

So as of this last weekend in July, 2016, of the top-ten highest grossing movies this year, four are comic book movies, four are animated features (Dory, Zootopia, Secret Life of Pets, Kung Fu Panda 3) one is a remake (Jungle Book) and the only non-comic book, non-animated movie to earn a spot in the top ten is a movie starring Kevin Hart and The Rock. Oh, good lord. That's where we are now.

This weekend sees Matt Damon return as Jason Bourne and Mila Kunis and her pals getting their party on in Bad Moms. Bourne will most likely end up the winner this weekend while Star Trek: Beyond slips. This is now officially the weakest Trek movie in the re-booted franchise. At this point ID42 is not even a thought in most movie-goers minds.

So, while audiences are saying "hell naw,"to Independence Day 2, they are letting out a jungle yell for The Legend of Tarzan which is doing remarkably well at the summer box-office  ($116,873,349 domestic as of July 25.) This, despite not having a major star as the lead and negative Waterworld-like press leading up to the movie's release regarding it's nearly $200 million budget. However, the ads featuring a shirtless, six-pack baring Alexander Skarsgarrd and Morgot Robbie romping around the jungle in damp, clingy dresses, did it's job and got audience members in seats.

Not doing so good as Tarzan is Paul Feig's female starring Ghostbusters ($88,815,450 to date). The idea of making this movie pissed people off the minute it was announced one year ago with some nerds vowing to boycott this movie before it even opened. Losers! I think I even read one dweeb claiming he would rather stare at a painting than go see this movie - which is actually funny when you remember that the bad guy in 1989's Ghostbusters 2 - actually came out from a DAMN PAINTING! Ha! I guess the joke's on that dork.  

I guess I should say something about Steven Spielberg's well-intentioned but ultimately costly flop, The BFG. After four weeks in theaters it has only earned around $69 million. That's not good for a movie which cost over $200 million to make and market. This is not E.T. for a new generation. Instead of "E.T. phone home," it was E.T. uses his iPhone to call NASA to come get him and that really wouldn't make for so great a movie. Maybe Spielberg should refrain from making movies with acronyms as the titles (that includes you also A.I.)  and numbers too (hiya 1941). Speaking of the bearded one, I understand that new Winona Ryder Netflix series, Stranger Things is a nostalgic throwback to the classic Spielberg invasion movies of the early 80's that captured audiences wonder and imaginations. Maybe instead of going to the movies where originality is severely lacking this summer, stay home and binge watch Winona's show. I guarantee it is 100% superhero and animated singing-animal free. Sounds good to me. Too bad the guy who made The BFG never thought of that. He'll probably never work again. Too bad. He could have maybe become famous or something one day.

So how does the rest of the summer look? Well next week's Suicide Squad should easily put some sizzle back in the box-office. Like Deadpool, this is a movie which turns it's genre on it's head and smacks it hard with a Harley Quinn baseball bat. A killer marketing campaign (trailers featuring classic rock songs, Jared Leto's caffeinated Joker, Batman riding atop a car and Margot Robbie kicking ass in shiny booty shorts) probably means a very good late summer for Warner Bros. (who scored a major hit with The Fugitive in 1993 which opened on the exact same release date as Suicide Squad does this year).

So when Warners celebrates their win, Paramount executives will probably all be running to the nearest church to pray for audiences to flock to theaters as early tracking suggests that studio's Ben-Hur will open in the terrible $14 million to $15 million range over the Aug. 19-21 weekend. Timur Bekmambetov's re-telling of the faith-based epic cost over $100 million (I believe Paramount is attempting to keep the budget secret because I can't find details of it anywhere) and was originally set to open back in February but was moved to late August. Sword and sandal epics have not done well over the past few years and there probably just aren't enough bussed-in churchgoers left to help this movie turn any kind of profit. I don't believe even Jesus can make this movie divine.

Of course there will probably still be a late summer surprise. Small, independent, out-of-nowhere horror movies (such as the upcoming Blair Witch 3) tend to do well in late August. Will Woody Allen's Cafe Society become his next Midnight In Paris (not likely) or will moviegoers just say "screw it" and wait until Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens at Christmas? I'm not a Jedi so I dunno.

So what can we expect next summer? Well, we can look forward to  Pirates of the Caribbean 5 (blech), Wonder Woman, Spielberg's Ready Player One and the just announced Rocketeer reboot for starters. What am I most looking forward to seeing? None of these. I plan on surrendering myself  100% wholly and complete to Showtime's Twin Peaks. Until then, it's my brothers birthday this weekend so we got our tickets to Star Trek: Beyond. Crazy thing, I don't even like Star Trek but hey, what are ya gonna do? We all gotta do our part.


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