August 2018 Box Office Recap
By Steven Slater
September 6, 2018
The sun begins to set a little sooner each evening, a slight chill pervades the air. Screaming children at the pool are suddenly a faint memory, and the first few leaves turn shades of yellow and red. Such is the end of the summer movie season, a time when big time box office executives fret about dumping their wasteful properties, and how to turn yet another quarterly profit. If movie studios could have their way, I don’t think kids would ever go back to school! And yet, do small humans still have the attention span for a ninety minute film anymore?
August continues a trend of 2018 being better than 2017, with this month’s top twenty films bringing in $784 million, way ahead of last year’s $600 million. August is a fickle month, where big marquee titles from earlier in the summer tend to stay in theaters and draw in extra business. But ever since Guardians of the Galaxy showed up, some Augusts have been outsized. This year, while there are no huge titles, there have been some decent middle-tier releases, as well as good holdovers from July.
1) Mission: Impossible - Fallout
Monthly Total: $121.4 M
Total Box Office: $198.9 M (as of August 31st)
The biggest earner for this month was, perhaps, the biggest opener of July (it is closing in on Ant-Man and the Wasp as we speak). The sixth installment in this twenty-year-plus franchise is going strong, with good holds that will lead to it being the largest grossing of the bunch, not counting for inflation. The bigger story, however, may be that this film opened almost twice as large in China as the previous entry, and could easily earn more in that country alone compared to North America. This will allow it to surpass the record $694 million the fourth entry, Ghost Protocol, earned worldwide. All in all, the numbers say that this is a healthy franchise that is growing slowly. The question is simply how long Tom Cruise can stand performing his own stunts.
2) The Meg
Opening Weekend: $45.4 M
Monthly Total: $112.3 M
The Meg, a movie that details the inner workings of Meg Ryan’s movie star persona, used the magic formula, well hidden by sages throughout the ages, of MONSTER EAT PEOPLE = MONEY. Now, this monster may well be a type of shark that went extinct a few million years ago, but still, when I heard Jason Statham state the name of this mythic beast in the trailer, my mind immediately thought “Wait, is that the monster from Godzilla?” Turns out my mental trivia bank is not far off, as there was a monster known as Megalon, whereas this mega-shark is Megaladon. So instead of a surprise Godzilla film starring Jason Statham, this is instead a throwback cheeseball thriller, where apparently sharks and tornadoes do not mix (another well hidden magic formula). Seriously, the offspring of Jaws are getting weird, and I wonder if Spielberg or Peter Benchley get any royalties from these things.
Also, movies follow nothing if not trends; China looks to be big for The Meg, which seems to have been planned seeing as the film is partly set around the South China Sea. The worldwide total is approaching half a billion, which seems halfway ridiculous when you look at this movie from afar. Plus, it is now the second highest grossing shark movie. Guess what number one is.
3) Crazy Rich Asians
Opening Weekend: $26.5 M
Monthly Total: $94.6 M
Though Crazy Rich Asians is only the third largest film of August, it will inevitably be the biggest story to come from this past month. Part of that is due to it being, as widely reported, the first all-Asian movie to come from a big Hollywood Studio since The Joy Luck Club back in 1993. I must admit to being skeptical of that claim, but then again I see cinema from all over the world. An average person from middle America has not seen a mainstream film with talents from Asia in front and behind the camera since 1993. Another big part of the story is the fact that the weekend holds have been phenomenal, especially considering that up until Labor Day, there was nothing special about any of the weekends. The weekend drops have averaged less than 10%, the biggest single day gross was it’s eleventh day in theaters, and on the Sunday before Labor Day it earned more than on the Friday of its opening weekend two weeks prior. That means it is not only a huge success, but will ultimately be the biggest film of the month. The Meg had a budget somewhere in the neighborhood of $150 million, whereas this film had a budget of $30 million. The heads of studio executives truly have no idea how to properly forecast box office these days (although both titles are from Warner Bros. and both will earn their money back).
Also, you know, it had good reviews, and was apparently a good film. Not important, of course, just something I thought you would want to know. Who knew non-white people could make good movies! Wake up, sheeple!
4) Christopher Robin
Opening Weekend: $24.6 M
Monthly Total: $81.7 M
Number four is a Christopher Robin movie, which happens to be the second in recent memory. Why do they always do that? With the financial backing of Disney, however, this is a much bigger success, albeit still a moderate one. Ewan McGregor stars as the older version of the kid from the hundred-acre wood, finding his old fuzzy buddies in later years to rekindle some nostalgic feelings. Unfortunately, it does not appear this is the live action Winnie-the-Pooh movie everyone was waiting for, though neither was it like other live-action horror shows we have seen recently. I mean, if I was an adult and saw real-life Winnie-the-Pooh coming at me, I’d be high as a kite, man. Instead this was something that will likely be forgotten soon enough, oh bother. In the sleepy month of August and beyond that still means it could ultimately make enough to cross the century mark, which would give it a decent multiplier just above 4.0. Ewan must be bummed that there does not appear to be an Obi Wan movie on the horizon.
5) Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
Monthly Total: $39.8 M
Total Box Office: $116.8 M
The second biggest holdover from July is this newly minted franchise, practically half as old as Mission: Impossible! Also, we finally got the semi-reunion of Cher and Meryl Streep everyone has been waiting for since Silkwood. Why does Meryl always...oops, almost spoiled it! The ABBA musical Part Deux, directed by a guy named Ol, has not been able to repeat the success of the original film either domestically or internationally. Then again, it still has earned back it’s costs, and done pretty well for a musical, not to mention having the best cast this side of Book Club (older thespians represent!). The first film earned a huge $600 million worldwide back in 2008, and this one will likely finish with about two-thirds of that total.
6) Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation
Monthly Total: $36.2 M
Total Box Office: $160.3 M
In context, HT3 has done about as well as expected, if perhaps a bit better, with a box office total that is stretching to reach the heights of the second entry. However, in the grand scheme of things, I am pretty shocked how well this film has done, especially looking at other lesser animated franchises such as the Smurfs. A multiplier of 4.5 is a fine result, and Sony must be happy that one of their animation franchises has continually been successful. Their next film will likely be their biggest animation hit, as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse bows in December.
Opening Weekend: $10.8 M
Monthly Total: $35.2 M
Even though they are two completely different films, I believe Spike Lee’s latest has been overshadowed by Crazy Rich Asians. But nothing should take away from this remarkable film. Remarkable because of the story it tells, remarkable as it will be Lee’s second biggest film of his career, and by far his biggest since Inside Man, and remarkable because, again, success where people of color are both in front and behind the camera is all too rare. Luckily, 2018 seems to be proving some old trends are ending, and BlacKkKlansman is a very timely reminder of what age we are living in, and how close we are to days when it was even worse. Made for a svelte $15 million, BKkK could continue to earn some dough for another month or so, and will likely get some awards buzz at year’s end.
8) The Spy Who Dumped Me
Opening Weekend: $12.1 M
Monthly Total: $32.8 M
When I play word association with this title, I keep getting Leslie Nelson. Anyway, Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon star in this film that seems derivative of other recent titles, like Spy and perhaps even The Man from U.N.C.L.E. With a Mission: Impossible movie in theaters, maybe now was the wrong time for another spy-based premise, if even a spoof of one? Either way, this film will struggle to earn back it’s $40 million budget, and be yet another setback for Kunis outside of her Bad Moms’ films.
9) The Equalizer 2
Monthly Total: $31.1 M
Total Box Office: $99.2 M
It was a good month to be a Washington. Denzel cedes this month to his son John, but the overall total belongs to the father. Like clockwork, Denzel opens a movie and the box office responds appropriately, and here his one and only sequel will earn almost exactly what the first film did four years ago, right down to the thousands. I truly believe you can set your watch by the box office of Denzel’s movies. Unlike the following pairing of director and star, this one seems to be paying dividends.
10) Mile 22
Opening Weekend: $13.7 M
Monthly Total: $29.1 M
Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg are like peas and carrots again, although this time it appears to be leftovers. After two moderate hits, this looks to be the duo’s second dud as both this and Patriots Day have failed to earn their budgets back. Unlike Patriots Day, however, this one also has dismal reviews, which is another strike against this star and director. They do ostensibly have another film planned, titled Wonderland, and it is not based on a true story. Plus it is coming out on Netflix, so maybe they found a way to jumpstart their efforts. Like Mila Kunis, Wahlberg has been starved for hits outside of Daddy’s Home (call it the curse of Ted?), so maybe it’s about time Quentin Tarantino cast them in his next film.
August was a mix of new films and holdovers up and down the charts, with Slenderman just outside the top ten, followed by Ant-Man and the Wasp, Alpha, The Incredibles 2, and Teen Titans: Go to the Movies! To get the top ten openers in August, add The Happytime Murders and The Darkest Minds to that list. In fact, after Kin opened Labor Day weekend, there must be some kind of record broken about how many potential YA adaptations can fail in so little time. The month as a whole was still above average for August, and adds to 2018 being a record year, barring any huge catastrophes down the road. For once, Disney also did not have the top film, although their modestly budgeted Christopher Robin was still a relative success compared to their other middle-tier hits such as A Wrinkle in Time. With two decent hits, Warner Bros. is making moves to be the biggest studio for the year outside of the Mouse House, using sharks and southeast Asians to beat Universal. Paramount must also be breathing a sigh of relief, as they have had two rare hits this year in A Quiet Place and the latest Mission: Impossible film. Speaking of quiet places, September has often been the second smallest month after January, with little promise of a change this year. Predators and Smallfoots, beware...(That’s Smallfeet!)