Monday, July 6, 2015

The American Box Office, First Half of 2015

As far as the performance of the top-grossing movies at the American box office goes, this year has been considerably better than the last. The highest earner of 2014, American Sniper ($350 million), actually got its wide release on January 16, 2015, and made its money afterward, while it has already been outgrossed by three still higher-earning movies--Furious 7 (by just a hair), Avengers: Age of Ultron ($454 million), and Jurassic World ($558 million), which is shaping up to be one of the biggest hits of all time.

Avengers, admittedly, did not do quite so well as had been hoped in light of the original's mammoth gross, but even today no one can really be too disappointed with $450 million in the bank (let alone the $1.4 billion it has taken globally), while the new Fast and Furious and Jurassic Park films both performed way, way above expectations. (Furious 7 has to date made more than the hugely successful fifth and sixth installments in the series combined, while Jurassic World has already outgrossed the original Jurassic Park, at the time the biggest ever moneymaker, in inflation-adjusted terms.)

Interestingly, it has also been a good year for the R-rated movies that, in this century, have only infrequently numbered among the big hits. Besides American Sniper, there has been Fifty Shades of Grey, which also has the distinction of being the first real sex-based blockbuster since the days when Sharon Stone and Demi Moore were headlining feature films. Max Max: Fury Road has been another kind of recent rarity, the successful R-rated action movie, and while they will almost surely not retain those places at year's end, for now they occupy the #8 and #10 positions on the BoxOfficeMojo list. Doing only slightly less well are two more R-rated films--incidentally, both of them spy-themed action-comedies, Kingsman and Spy (the #13 and #14 hits, respectively).

Still, even if this year has had its share of high earners and above-expectations performances, it has also had its disappointments. Most were relatively low-budgeted, low-profile releases (Aloha, Unfinished Business--I barely even knew they existed), but Jupiter Ascending was a nearly $200 million production that failed to gross its budget (which leaves a movie just halfway to making its budget back), killed off the prospects of the once-planned trilogy, and dealt the once celebrated Wachowski name another blow.

Less dramatic, but similarly telling, was the mediocre performance of the Entourage movie--a reminder that the phenomenon was less popular hit and more monument to Hollywood's colossal self-absorption (and in this case, Mark Wahlberg's colossal self-absorption). The result was that, rather than letting the audience live out a Hollywood fantasy, it was what Josh Krup rightly called
the most taunting show in TV history. Shallow Hollywood jagoffs can get all the free booze, drugs, and booty they want, simply because they’re either good looking or once starred in the 1988 remake of The Blob, while the rest of us Joe and Jill Student Loans have to pay for bad beer and even worse sex. "Entourage" shows us what we’re missing, and rubs our faces in their asses that have never felt the horrific touch of $.69 toilet paper.
And it was badly, obnoxiously written to boot.

Thus far, Ted 2 has not been doing as well as the original (just $58 million in the till after ten days of release, about half what the original had). And to go by this weekend's results, one also cannot expect very much for Terminator 5 (aka, Terminator: Genisys), which has just $44 million to show for the first five days, and does not seem likely to have legs. Indeed, it seems likely to be this year's answer to Die Hard 5--another classic '80s action series that hung around for at least one installment too many. Still, even if the American gross will be less than overwhelming, the foreign earnings (already about twice what it's made in the U.S.) are likely to keep the movie from being in the red when all is said and done.

On the whole, though, this is not a summer which will end with the entertainment press tearing its hair and gnashing its teeth about slow ticket sales the way they have done in so many recent years--though the quality of the films may be another matter . . .

Movie Seasons and Years in Review

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