July 2018 Box Office Recap
By Steven Slater
August 9, 2018
Movies are doomed. I have seen the signs, reviewed the almanacs, studied the tea leaves, questioned the psychics (who knew I was coming), and prostrated myself before the wisest of sages. That, and I suddenly found I was unable to use MoviePass earlier this July when I wanted to see Mission: Impossible - Fallout on preview night. Since then they have also raised prices, cut back on what movies can be seen, lowered prices, and just recently reduced the number of movies able to be seen to three a month. Once MoviePass falls, the theatrical motion picture industry will inevitably be the next Roman Empire. (Full Disclosure, Steven Slater has a majority stake in MoviePass and is on the Board of Directors, and has a vested interest in believing MoviePass is the greatest company in the world and that without it destitution is the least of our problems).
Actually, July was a damn good cup of coffee month, even though it was missing a huge marque title. Last year we had the reboot of the reboot of Spider-Man, while this year’s Ant-Man sequel (I hate these hyphens) is inevitably a rung down the ladder. There were plenty of middle-tier films that bolstered the ranks, however, including a further return to form for Tom Cruise and the third adventure of Adam Sandler doing the one thing that will not further alienate his audience. There was also an odd abundance of sequels, such that one weekend in July had more sequels in the top ten than any other weekend on record, and some of those from the unlikeliest of franchises. As we wind down the summer movie season of 2018, let us see who won the race for the almighty dollar.
1) Ant-Man and the Wasp
Opening Weekend: $75.8 M
Monthly Total: $186.7 M
As of the end of July, Disney has had the number one film for every month except January, a trend that continues with Ant-Man and the Wasp. This includes two repeat winners, Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, as well as The Incredibles 2. This has given them five of the top ten grossing films of the year so far, with Ant-Man becoming the eighth highest. The sequel to a lesser property, perhaps *ahem* the least property Marvel has attempted so far, yet still the comic book juggernaut spins even the worst of thread into movie gold. Ant-Man numero dos was able to open almost $20 million higher, and will finish around $30 million higher than its origin, with both finishing just above half a billion worldwide. This means every superhero that has had a standalone film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe will have had a $200 million dollar film. Kind of shocking to think Ant-man has the box office prowess of Han Solo, but, uh, there it is.
2) Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Monthly Total: $153.8 M
Total Box Office: $399.8 M (through July 31st)
Speaking of Ian Malcolm, the character makes a return of sorts for the first time in over twenty years, and he’s basically the man who cried wolf at this point. If dinosaurs have not been put on the Do Not Fly list at this point, it has to be a lost cause. Because June had some massive films open in the second half of the month, and July was full of middle-tier hits, there was a lot of room left for holdovers. Jurassic World 2 fell back to earth after the massive t-rex roar of an opening the first one had, but still has the fourth largest opening and domestic total of the year. The weekend declines have also been steeper, meaning this film has earned a multiplier of about 2.7, whereas the first earned a 3.1. Still, this franchise has become nearly review-proof, and with over $1.25 billion worldwide and counting this is a huge success.
3) Incredibles 2
Monthly Total: $150.2 M
Total Box Office: $575.7 M
One day when Disney decides on a whim to buy Universal, maybe Pixar can make an Incredibles sequel where they have to stop the dinosaurs from escaping The Island once again. I mean really, how many times can they destroy the Death Sta-I mean stop greedy people from stealing dinosaurs. Then again I am sure the Incredibles are hiding the fact that Jack-Jack has inevitably killed dozens of people at this point (those laser eyes shoot for quite a distance), so they might have enough on their plate. Over $575 million, to be exact! The sequel to one of the more beloved Pixar properties has become the highest grossing animated film of all time on the domestic front, and time will tell if it can dethrone Frozen worldwide. Just as Disney pulled a few tricks to get A Wrinkle in Time over $100 million and Black Panther over $700 million, I am betting Incredibles 2 will be able to limp over $600 million, becoming the ninth film to do so, the sixth for Disney, and the third for Disney this year!
4) Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation
Opening Weekend: $44.1 M
Monthly Total: $124.1 M
Sony Animation has found a winning formula, as every three years they release a Hotel Transylvania film that opens in the 40’s and finishes around $150 million. Number 3 will fall smack in the middle of the previous two entries, with an open and ultimate finish ahead of number 1, and behind number 2. I guarantee that another entry is coming in 2021, if Sony is still around at that point. Animated films seem to last for about three entries at most, so I am actually surprised HT3 is performing this well, especially considering the alternate kids movie in theaters this month, which really must have sucked the air of the room in June, but left enough room in July for HT3. But I suppose it is kind of like Tom Cruise and Mission: Impossible; once you find your schtick, you just do it over and over again, trying to make it better. Give the people what they want.
5) Mission: Impossible - Fallout
Opening Weekend: $61.2 M
Monthly Total: $77.5 M
Color me shocked that the relatively moderate opening weekend for the sixth Mission: Impossible film is Tom Cruise’s largest opening weekend after War of the Worlds. I suppose his career was really at its zenith when opening weekends rarely cracked $50 million, but it is still interesting to think he was (is?) a massive star, and yet big success is defined as about 12 hours of an Avengers film’s opening weekend. Mr. Cruise has apparently made some kind of peace after years of awful headlines, as people love what he delivers in these films, rewarding them with slightly higher opening weekends and grosses with just about every installment. You can quite literally say he carries these movies on his back, which at 56 must require a dump truck of Icy-Hot. Production budgets for the M:I films have been creeping up, but luckily Cruise still has international appeal, as the last couple films have finished close to $700 million worldwide. After giving the smack-down to Winnie-the-Pooh this past weekend, I see MIF becoming the top grossing opener in July, just beating Ant-Man by a few million. Cruise and McQuarrie may be back yet again, just like Hotel Transylvania, in three more years.
6) Mamma Mia 2
Opening Weekend: $35 M
Monthly Total: $77 M
Mamma Mia was one of the bigger unexpected hits in 2008 (ten years ago!?), but then again movie musicals have shown a larger resiliency than may be expected. Look at The Greatest Showman earlier this year with its astronomical multiplier, and other recent hits such as Les Misérables and Into the Woods. This ABBA concert tour improves on the original’s opening weekend by about seven million, which can probably be explained by inflation alone, but something tells me it will not be able to reach the $144 million domestic or $609 million worldwide totals of the original. Although the sequel did have better reviews, and the magnificence of Cher, there are inevitable ceilings when it comes to bubbly musicals.
7) Equalizer 2
Opening Weekend: $36 M
Monthly Total: $68.1 M
Here it is, the answer to your trivia question: what is the only sequel Denzel Washington has ever acted in? While we wait for Crimsoner Tider, Denzel apparently felt enough affinity for this role that he and Antoine Fuqua returned to continue the saga of Robert McCall. Anyone who follows box office regularly knows Denzel Washington is about as clockwork as it gets, consistently bringing about the same audience for every film he is in. Four years ago The Equalizer opened with $34 million and finished just over $100 million, and after a nearly identical opening, I see the sequel finishing just above that number. This is Denzel’s third biggest opening weekend after American Gangster and Safe House, which shows he only powers above his typical open when paired with a partner (although do not doubt he is still the main draw). Given that the most recent three big films done by Washington were with Fuqua in the director’s chair, expect that trend to continue.
8) The First Purge
Opening Weekend: $17.4 M
Monthly Total: $66.3 M
The original Purge was one of those micro-budgeted horror thrillers that broke out, enough to start an entire franchise. Part of producer Jason Blum’s oeuvre, it was actually one of Ethan Hawke’s biggest hits of his career, even if it had a ludicrously small multiplier of 1.9. Fast forward five years and we have the fourth film. It has the smallest debut by far, a little more than half of the prior entry, yet somehow the domestic total will only be about $10 million less, and more than the original. Yet another reliable smaller franchise that always hits somewhere in the ballpark of $70 million, so expect another Purge (it is an annual occurrence after all).
Opening Weekend: $24.9 M
Monthly Total: $60.9 M
The writing was on the wall from my point of view when I saw the first preview for this film. It just felt wrong, and I usually give Dwayne Johnson the benefit of the doubt. Skyscraper, the one Johnson film positioned during the summer season, will be the lesser of his last few films. With an open and finish that will barely hit two-thirds of Rampage’s totals, even he is not immune to a horrible film (I still do not understand the success of Jumanji). International appeal will keep this one afloat, but again, with only about two thirds of what Rampage was able to muster, and a third of Jumanji’s worldwide total. After Baywatch and this, Johnson better be a bit more picky, although inevitably he mixes in much better and bigger hits regardless.
10) Sicario: Rise of the Soldado
Monthly Total: $35.3 M
Total Box Office: $48.9 M
I never expected Sicario to have a sequel, but if singing ABBA lovers and Denzel Washington can have one, why not this set of characters from Taylor Sheridan. Although the sequel did not receive the rapturous praise of the original, helmed by Denis Villeneuve, it actually out-earned the first by a few million. With budgets kept in the 30’s, I suppose we could always see another, perhaps helmed by Sheridan himself (who recently had his directorial debut, Wind River).
Falling just outside the top ten are a few more holdovers, starting with Uncle Drew, Ocean’s 8 and Tag. Then we get to some nice little surprises, as Sorry to Bother You, Teen Titans Go! and Won’t You Be My Neighbor fill the next slots. It has actually been a good summer for documentaries, as Neighbor joins others like RBG and Pope Francis, as well as newcomers Whitney and Three Identical Strangers. In fact, since so few films opened wide this month, Whitney actually had the tenth largest opening with just $1.27 million. I am curious how MoviePass is affecting these types of smaller films, as seeing them theatrically does not seem as vital as with other films. Oh, and Unfriended: The Dark Web was unceremoniously dumped faster than Alex Jones.
Overall, the top twenty films for the month earned well over a billion dollars, at $1.14 billion, with almost $700 million coming from new product. This makes it the second biggest month of the year so far after the record June, and just barely behind last year’s July grosses, which were led by the aforementioned Spider-Man, Planet of the Apes’ finale and Dunkirk. I very much doubt we had a best picture nominee in this July’s range of titles, although many had surprisingly good reviews. Now on to the sleepier months of the year, never mind what It did.