Monday Morning Quarterback Part II
By BOP Staff
September 10, 2014
Kim Hollis: Now that the summer season has ended, what do you consider the biggest stories? What were the greatest triumphs? What were the failures? What was the biggest surprise of the summer box office?
Brett Ballard-Beach: Some general pithy thoughts...
- Until Labor Day weekend, the last weekend of the summer box office, the two biggest hits of the year were still from February (The LEGO Movie) and April (Captain America: Winter Soldier).
- Until Guardians of the Galaxy rode in, this summer threatened to be the first since 2000 where no film cracked $250 million.
- With Pixar sitting the summer out, animated films took a big hit. Last summer Monsters University and Despicable Me 2 alone combined for over $550 million. This summer Dragon 2 underperformed and Planes 2 did about what it was expected and together they made $220 million.
- As an example of the flameout that can happen on subpar (not even bad) word-of-mouth for $100 millions-plus-budgeted tentpoles: not one but two films (Amazing Spider Man 2 and Godzilla) opened above $90 million and barely squeaked past $200 million domestic.
- AngJo and ScarJo brought antiheroes to the multiplex for kids (Maleficent) and adults (Lucy) and were rewarded with the biggest respective hits either actress has ever anchored solo. I haven't seen Maleficent but I give Lucy all the huzzahs I can: It may be the most genre-Cuisinarted batshit concoction Luc Besson has ever assembled - no small feat - but by keeping it lean (82 minutes without credits) he never lets it get bogged down in extraneous subplots. It's "his" Gravity, I guess. By the end, I was bawling, especially when ScarJo's Lucy meets... well, I don't want to spoil that. The beginning though sets it up beautifully and the metaphor may be the most poignant I've seen this year. Plus Damon Albarn sings the closing credits song.
- Michael Bay directed a hit (Transformers: Age of Extinction) that underperformed domestically and produced another (The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot) that over-performed domestically, and the final dollar gap between them in gross will be a lot smaller than anyone making a bet could have figured back in May.
- With Boyhood, Richard Linklater has the third biggest grossing hit of his 25 year, 16 film career ($20 million and counting) with a film playing at only a quarter of the venues of his two biggest: School of Rock and Bad News Bears.
- Also from the indie world, Chef and Begin Again combined for nearly $50 million from audiences looking for more storytelling and fewer explosions.
- And Snowpiercer made money in both theaters and VOD to the tune of nearly $10 million, from just about the only foreign acquisition the Weinsteins have ever gotten their hands on and not been allowed to hack and edit to make it "easier to understand" for Americans. However Bong Joon-ho won that battle, my hat's off to him.
Summation: Looking at the trees in the forest, there were numerous individual films that were worth seeing this summer. Looking at the big picture, this may have been the shittiest summer for moviegoing in my adult life. No momentum ever built up. Audiences were tired of a lot (but not all) sequels. Comparatively speaking, unique plots and ideas seemed to sell better than the same old tired tired, but that's a blanket statement as a lesson, and Hollywood doesn't do either.
Jason Barney: Hands down the biggest story of the summer is Guardians of the Galaxy. This could be the story of the year, and its performance will likely be talked about for a long, long time.
I cannot stress enough the expectations factor with this project. The number of people who said that they had another John Carter situation or Lone Ranger bomb on their hands was very high. Now people are talking about this as the story of the summer, the story of 2014, and people will remember this for years. Disney has made a franchise out of a project almost everyone scorned from the beginning.
Edwin Davies: Relative to expectations, I feel that Lucy and Maleficent have to be considered two of the biggest winners of the summer. Both had things in their favor prior to release (both were headlined by huge stars, Lucy had the international appeal of Luc Besson and Maleficent had the might of Disney behind it), but even after they had surprisingly strong opening weekends, there was a sense that the ceiling for their success was still low compared to some of the more established franchises. That both continued to hold well over weeks and months, eclipsing films that many expected to overshadow them, says volumes about both how well they performed and how bad the rest of the summer was.
It's obvious, but Guardians of the Galaxy also ranks pretty highly. Many, myself included, assumed that it would be a fairly modest performer, and that the best it could hope for without an overt link to the Avengers films, would be a final performance similar to those of the first Thor and Captain America films. That it not only bettered those films, but also their sequels, and now looks likely to finish near to or higher than the first two Iron Man films is quite something.
In terms of failures and disappointments, I feel like you could lump pretty much everything else in to that category. Guardians was the only summer blockbuster that had even a remote chance of earning $300 million before the season was over, while most of the films that opened at a similar level or better flamed out rapidly (even ones like X-Men: Days of Future Past which were really well received). The biggest story of the summer, ultimately, might be the failure of the studios to come up with films that resonate with audiences, or that years of shitty blockbusters have made audiences a little more suspect, revealing the flaw of the huge opening weekend model.