Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Summer 2014 Box Office: An Early Assessment

Time and time again this summer movie industry watchers have spoken of disappointing commercial performances by the season's most heavily hyped films.

Spiderman 2 and Transformers 4, no flops, didn't reach the highs for which the producers hoped either, while the latest attempt to launch an American Godzilla franchise opened strong but faded fast to wind up not all that much more impressive than the previous effort in '98 (though the foreign grosses took some of the sting out of the disappointment). X-Men: Days of Future Past was a solid performer, but not more than that (unsurprisingly, given that the X-Men movies have never been moneymakers on a level with Spiderman, Batman and the Avengers). Indeed, no movie this summer has yet got to the $300 million mark, or even the quarter-billion dollar mark, an atypical result for recent years, which has also been reflected in depressed revenues for the industry overall.1

Late summer, however, has seen a string of robust hits that often exceeded expectations, namely Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Lucy, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The success of Apes may seem predictable enough given the well-received preceding film in the series (which, at the time, had its own share of skeptics). But Lucy represents quirkier material, the Turtles too, and certainly Guardians, which had earlier been regarded as a risky project (such that io9 actually speculated about its being Marvel's first flop), but is now on track to be the summer's biggest hit.

That does not make them "game-changing" movies--far from it--but, along with Maleficent, and Edge of Tomorrow, they did play it a little less safe than most of the "disappointing" early summer releases, and that may have stood them in better stead with audiences eager for even a little more variety in their cinematic diet.

1. In 2013, Iron Man 3 and Despicable Me 2 blazed past the $300 million mark, while Man of Steel fell just a little short of it (with $291 million). Last year's Monsters University also outgrossed any of this year's summer films as of August 2014, pulling in some $268 million (versus Transformers 4's $242 million at the time of this writing).

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