24 August 2016

That's a Wrap! A Smelly Terrible Wrap. Summer 2016 in Review Part 1: WINNING

With the abject failure of Ben-Hur (2016) at last upon us, acting as if it's a big surprise, the Summer 2016 Blockbuster Season is finally over. The common story this summer is that we had a major amount of bombs, although there are certainly a lot of success stories. In fact, it seemed as if all the cash was tied up in a few, mostly Disney-hits. And animated films. And quite a bit of both this year. Now, not every film had to gross a billion dollars to be considered a winner this season, but hell, there were a couple that really needed to. So let's make a clean separation between Winners and Losers. Spoiler - there's a shitload more of the latter. So, with our grandest Post #750 ever, let's dive in:


Finding Dory
Gaze into the torrid eyes of Summer.

Budget: $175 million (est)
Domestic Gross: $478 million
Worldwide Gross: $914 million

It's no easy feat to become the #1 movie of the summer and the highest-grossing domestic Pixar film of all time. It's still got $100 million to go to beat Toy Story 3 (2010) on the worldwide chart, but it's still got a shot to do that as well. This is a fearsome bounce back from The Good Dinosaur (2015) and re-cemented the Pixar brand. It's also notable for being a rare sequel success in the Summer of 2016, which shows that sequels still can be viable - if there's actually interest in the original AND something unique enough about the successor.

Captain America: CIVIL WAR

Budget: $250 million
Domestic Gross: $407 million
Worldwide Gross: $1.15 billion

Only CIVIL WAR and Zootopia (2016) have cracked the billion mark this year, and so far CIVIL WAR has the critters beat by about $100 million. Either way, that's a damn good showing by Disney. It's another exception to the rule this summer that sequels were failures, but it's also a genuinely good film, really only losing to its predecessor The Winter Soldier (2014) in the Marvel movie quality index. It wrangled a ton of characters and yeah, Spider-Man was a bit forced, but those are also what made it fit in well with its universe, create the necessary audience investment and put asses in seats.

The Secret Life of Pets

Budget: $75 million
Domestic Gross: $347 million
Worldwide Gross: $674 million

I really don't know why Finding Dory cost $100 million more than The Secret Life of Pets. It's not really there on screen, at least in any way that significant impacts the narrative. I suppose it's all development costs since Finding Dory is quite a few upticks in quality from Pets. But Illumination has a good racket going on - one that worked gangbusters for Dreamworks in years past: churn out shit that kids eat up and roll in the bank. It also gave us the biggest opening weekend for an original property ever. That it sits at #35 overall is kind of nuts. The previous winner, Inside Out (2015) is currently at #52. Our best live action is American Sniper (2014) at #55, although that's technically based off a memoir. Next is AVABAR (2009) if we can count that, at #75. I actually fell into a bit of  rabbit hole with this one - next in line (for live action only, because we were curious here at NMW) we have The Day After Tomorrow (2004) and 2012 (2009), which were both Roland Emmerich films extremely loosely based on books. If we forego those, we wind up with Inception at #122. So, kudos to Pets because that's tough to do.

Central Intelligence

Budget: $50 million
Domestic Gross: $127 million
Worldwide Gross: $210 million

I thought this was going to be a really great summer for comedies, but it turned out to be not really that great for most of them, especially in the early season. Central Intelligence didn't quite hit the heights it probably should have, but it's the #1 live action comedy of the summer and #8 overall domestically. It also turned out to be Kevin Hart's highest grossing film outside of the original Ride Along (2014). This is also the Rock's 6th-highest grossing film, but to be fair, three of those were Fast and Furious films, and one was Get Smart (2008), which people didn't really see to see the Rock. All in all this was a good outing.

The Conjuring 2

Budget: $40 million
Domestic Gross: $102 million
Worldwide Gross: $319 million

The Conjuring (2013) made a decent and surprising splash when it debuted a few summers ago, and the sequel was notable for mostly living up to that standard. It grossed about $30 million shy of its predecessor, but actually made $1.5 million more worldwide. Good job, little buddy! This is a really impressive hold for a horror film, which don't typically increase their worldwide gross as much as a big flashy action sequel would. It's weird that our standards are "meeting the success of its predecessor" but The Conjuring 2 did a nice job of that.

Bad Moms

Budget: $20 million
Domestic Gross: $86 million
Worldwide Gross: $107 million

Did you see Bad Moms? No? I sure as hell didn't. Someone did though - to the tune of $86 million domestic. That's good enough to make it the #3 live action comedy of the Summer, beating Seth Rogen, Zach Efron, Adam DeVine, Ryan Gosling, and Andy Samberg. Fancy that. For a film that a lot of pundits wrote off and didn't have a super stellar opening weekend (opening at #3), it's held on fantastically well. And quintupled its budget. Why don't studios crank out films like these? Who knows. I suppose increased production of small-budget films would clog weekends and limit gross profits due to their low ceiling, but c'mon. This was a better idea than Warcraft (2016).

The Purge: Election Year

Budget: $10 million
Domestic Gross: $79 million
Worldwide Gross: $102 million

Here's another film that works because it made its budget back ten times over. It's also the highest grossing Purge movie stateside, so there really ought to be no shortage of these things for a while. I'm game. I love the whole purge thing and its goal of getting looser and wackier, yet more expansive with each installment. It's hard to argue with a $10 million budget.

Sausage Party

Budget: $19 million
Domestic Gross: $67 million
Worldwide Gross: $73 million

Sausage Party certainly has the chance to make quite a bit more money, but it can already be considered a success. How did this outgross Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016)? It's amazing. This is the most niche, oddball movie idea...probably ever, but these assholes pulled it off, like they seemingly always do. Except for The Night Before (2015) and the aforementioned Sorority Rising. That this film did well at all is bonkers, but here we are.

Lights Out

Budget: $5 million
Domestic Gross: $64 million
Worldwide Gross: $110 million

Are you noticing a pattern here, yet? Three horror films with tiny budgets that all did fucking great this summer. All were actually reviewed and received decently and even though there seemed to be a glut of animation that everyone was talking about (one that really didn't cannibalize itself), there was also a huge glut of horror that did absolutely fine! How did audiences get sick of giant smash 'em thriller blockbusters and doofy man-child comedies but ate up horror flicks all summer? Maybe because they were all pretty different kind of movies. Ghosts, maniacs, sharks. It's a diverse portfolio.

Me Before You

Budget: $20 million
Domestic Gross: $56 million
Worldwide Gross: $196 million

Okay, so you haven't heard of this movie, I haven't heard of this movie. It came out June 3rd where I have an extensive rundown of TMNT Out of the Shadows (2016) and POPSTAR: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016), and relegated the film to this single sentence: "Oh, and also Me Before You (2016), some romantic drama bout Emilia Clarke falling in love with a cripple dude." It ended up #3 that weekend with $18 million and then made about as much money as 21 Jump Street (2012) and Straight Outta Compton (2015) did worldwide. No one's still talking about that. Sure, it's not a huge money winner stateside, but it made its budget back and then crushed it internationally. For some reason.

The Shallows

Budget: $17 million
Domestic Gross: $54 million
Worldwide Gross: $84 million

We finally come full circle with the horror films. The Shallows was a great bit of horror that seemed to drop at the last possible moment. "Hey, what's this Blake Lively shark movie coming out this weekend?" said everyone when standing in line not really wanting to watch Independence Day: Resurgence (2016). It crushed its budget, and even though doing so with low budget horror is a really easy way to make a buck, what's more telling is looking back at this film with more fond memories than Resurgence.

That's it for now. Stay tuned later this week as we'll take on the LOSERS and those films that sorta fall somewhere in the Great Land of Meh. There's a lot of them.


  1. This is a fascinating breakdown of what worked for audiences this summer. And yeah, I don't think I called a single one of these except "Civil War". Studios are going to be looking long and hard at these numbers. But what does it all mean for us movie fans?

  2. I had mooost called (http://www.norwegianmorningwood.com/2016/05/norwegian-morning-woods-official-summer.html), although I said Secret Life of Pets was "totally doomed", had never heard of The Shallows, and thought audiences would be horror'd out by Lights Out


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