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Entries in Box Office (3)



A traditional festive countdown, reflecting upon my 2016 movie-watching moments...

They are the big six; the studios that have shaped Hollywood history. Today, the red-&-black ink ledgers that only the likes of Louis B Mayer, the Warner brothers or Lew Wasserman were privy to are open books for all to see. And the marketplace is filled with mini-majors (like Lionsgate) and small, savvy operators (like Megan Ellison’s A24). So, in 2016, which studio heads slept easy at night and who woke every day feeling the burning glare of the stockholders…

(Combined domestic/international, in US$; as of December 18; Source: ShowBuzzDailyBox Office Mojo)

1. DISNEY: 2016 Worldwide Gross - $6.426billion; Market Share – 24.2%
HITS: Captain America: Civil War (#1; $1.153b; pictured, below); Finding Dory (#2; $1.027b); Zootopia (#3; $1.24b); The Jungle Book (#4; $966m); Doctor Strange (#10; $667m); Rogue One A Star Wars Story* (#11; $576m); Moana* (#25; $308m)
MISSES: Alice Through the Looking Glass (#26; $229m); The BFG (#39; $178m); The Finest Hours (#80; $52m) The Light Between Oceans (#102; $23m).
ANALYSIS: The studio’s red inkers (the expensive underperformance of Alice Through the Looking Glass; the non-starters like The BFG and The Finest Hours) have faded from memory in the wake of the combined box office might of the Marvel line-up, a resurgent in-house animation division (Zootopia; Moana) and smart property relaunches (The Jungle Book; Pete’s Dragon, which hit $144m). And there are still the first two weeks of Rogue One grosses to round out the year! The undisputed box office champ of 2016.

2. WARNER BROTHERS: 2016 Worldwide Gross - $4.499billion; Market Share – 17.8%
HITS: Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (#6; 873m); Suicide Squad (#7; $746m); Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them* (#9; $740m); The Legend of Tarzan (#19; $357m); The Conjuring 2 (#24; $320m); Sully (#30; $228m); Central Intelligence (#31; $217m); Lights Out (#47; $149m)
MISSES: Collateral Beauty* (#109; $20m; pictured, right); Keanu (#108; $20m); The Nice Guys (#89; $36m**); Barbershop The Next Cut (#79; $54m); War Dogs (#65; $86m)
ANALYSIS: The WB fought off a savaging by critics and fanboy backlash to post big numbers on their DC blockbusters and successfully recaptured that Potter magic to find fantastic returns on JK Rowling’s return. The big profits stemmed from mid-budget horror hits The Conjuring 2 and Lights Out; did well to position the upmarket Eastwood/Hanks pic Sully as both a prestige title and box office performer. Dropped the ball on The Nice Guys (which seemed a pre-elease sure thing); counter-programming the underwhelming (and terribly titled) Collateral Beauty against Rogue One hasn’t work.

3. 20TH CENTURY FOX: 2016 Worldwide Gross - $3.963billion; Market Share – 13.4%
HITS: Deadpool (#7; $783m; pictured, below); X-Men Apocalypse (#12; $544m); The Revenant (#13; $533m); Kung Fu Panda 3 (#14; $520m); Ice Age Collision Course (#17; $407m); Independence Day Resurgence (#18; $390m); Trolls* (#23; $328m)
MISSES: Rules Don’t Apply* (#134; $4m); Morgan (#126; $8m); The Birth of A Nation* (#117; $16m); Keeping Up with The Jones (#94; $29m); Eddie the Eagle (#81; $46m); Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (#70; $77m).
ANALYSIS: The infectious sense of fun that the marketing team clearly had with the release of Deadpool caught on with audiences. Stood by Leo with an all-or-nothing Oscar campaign for The Revenant, though Best Picture loss must have lead to head-scratching. Worked hard to counter negative buzz, pre- and post-release, on X-Men Apocalypse (“Memo from head office: Don’t choke women in your key-art”). Delivered good returns on ready-made family hits (Ice Age and Kung-Fu Panda sequels; Trolls), but couldn’t find mid-level performers. Felt like Beatty’s bomb, Rules Don’t Apply, was marked ‘ Too Hard Basket’ from early in the campaign.

4. UNIVERSAL: 2016 Worldwide Gross - $3.011billion; Market Share – 12%
HITS: The Secret Life of Pets (#5; $875m); Warcraft (#15; $433m); Jason Bourne (#16; $415m); Bridget Jones Baby (#34; $212m); The Girl on The Train (#40; $175m; pictured, below).
MISSES: Popstar Never Stop Never Stopping (#123; $9m); Kevin Hart What Now? (#104; $23m); Hail, Caesar! (#77; $63m); The Boss (#69; $79m); My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (#64; $89m); Neighbours 2 Sorority Rising (#60; $108m)
ANALYSIS: Universal’s one big, ambitious role of the dice, Duncan Jones’ Warcraft, was butchered domestically yet rose to the challenge globally; kudos to the international marketing teams, who did what their bosses couldn’t, silencing the critics and convincing the fans. Otherwise, it was a play-it-safe, steady-as-she goes slate – an animated hit, a slew of ok sequels, one surprise hit in lit-adaptation The Girl on The Train (again, despite the baying of critics). Proved with their mirthless raft of ‘funny’ films that, apparently, both dying and comedy can be easy.

5. SONY PICTURES: 2016 Worldwide Gross - $1.789billion; Market Share – 8.2%
HITS: The Angry Birds Movie (#20; $350m); Ghostbusters (#29; $229m); Inferno* (#32; $217m); The Magnificent Seven (#42; $161m); Don’t Breathe (#44; $153m); Sausage Party (#50; $140m); The Shallows (#54; $119m)
MISSES: Pride and Prejudices and Zombies (#115; $16m); The Brothers Grimsby (#97; $25m); Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk* (#96; $26m; pictured, right); Risen (#82; $46m); Money Monster (#63; $93m); The 5th Wave (#57; $110m).
ANALYSIS: It was Angry Birds then daylight for the SPE crowd. Their phone-app property made the leap to bigscreen glory (financially, at least), but the rest of the bunch proved frustratingly blah (Inferno; The Magnificent Seven) or bound by genre (Don’t Breathe; Sausage Party). Must be still shaking their collective head at what they had to overcome to give Ghostbusters a fair go; all things considered, a global gross of $229m was not too shabby. The Shallows seemed primed for bigger things, but couldn’t quite break out. Of the duds, Money Monster must’ve been the biggest letdown, with a Cannes world premiere and old-school star power (Clooney, Roberts, Foster) failing to ignite interest.

6. PARAMOUNT: 2016 Worldwide Gross - $1.338billion; Market Share – 7.7%
HITS: Star Trek Beyond (#21; $343m); Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Out of The Shadows (#28; $246m); Jack Reacher Never Look Back (#43; $160m); Arrival* (#48; $144m); 10 Cloverfield Lane (#59; $108m)
MISSES: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot** (#102; $23m; pictured, right); Florence Foster Jenkins** (#95; $27m); Zoolander 2 (#78; $56m); 13 Hours The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (#75; $69m)
ANALYSIS: Arrival is making a late run for box office glory, but in every other respect it was a year to forget for Paramount. Was relieved when the choice to let Fast & Furious guru Justin Lin liven up the Star Trek franchise worked out, but other prime properties (TMNT; Cruise’s Jack Reacher) left critics and audiences soured. Like Sony and Fox, the art of pumping up mid-level entrants into box office leaders seems to be a lost one; 10 Cloverfield Lane had buzz and opened big, but fell short of its promise. Terribly missed opportunity with Tina Fey’s terrific Whiskey Tango Foxtrot; coulda been this generation’s M*A*S*H, but turned to mush. Downbeat year had far-reaching consequences; amongst a raft of layoffs by Viacom overlords, long time Australian boss Mike Selwyn and marketing head Kate Smith were walked.

*Still in general release
**Domestic only; International release via distribution partners.



A traditional festive countdown, reflecting upon my 2016 movie-watching moments...

Hollywood’s bottom line took a beating in 2016 when audiences turned their noses up at that revered cash cow, the sequel. Not all, of course; Captain America Civil War kept the Marvel flag flying. But only a year ago, Jurassic Park, Star Wars and Fast & Furious rehashes earned mega-bucks. So which nine flaccid follow-ups stand out as part of the problem…?

The ‘Dads with sons’ crowd bolstered this rush-job follow-up to the 2014 surprise hit to the tune of US$82million, but that represents a nearly 50% drop in takings. These kinds of sequels – ‘brand abuse’ fodder used to fill seats for 10 or so days before disappearing to Netflix – are what do immeasurable damage to consumer confidence. There were too many of these shallow cash grabs in 2016. The Numbers: Opening weekend was off 46% from 2014. Represented one of producer Michael Bay’s lowest wide release launches.

This year’s Pan; a garish, charmless cash-grab, Disney shoe-horned ill-suited director James Bobin (who had already dropped the ball on another sequel, Muppets Most Wanted) when Tim Burton, who helmed the blockbuster original in 2010 (??) Everything felt manipulative and manufactured, and audiences weren’t conned. Depp’s falling star and scathing reviews (30% on Rotten Tomatoes) didn’t help. The Numbers: Alice in Wonderland opened to US$117million in 2010 vs Alice Through the Looking Glass topped out at US$27million; down 77%.

In 2012, magical elements came together to turn Snow White & The Huntsman into a sleeper hit. Leading lady Kristen Stewart was hot of Twilight; Chris Hemsworth was on the cusp; the trailer sold the film as an action fantasy epic, just as the Lord of The Ring crowd were feeling forgotten; and, director Rupert Sander’s film punched above its weight, delivering stunning visuals and exciting plotting. The sequel? It stunk. Despite pay-chequeing a trio of top actresses (Charlize Theron, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt) and securing a disinterested Chris Hemsworth to front up again, this was a tired, boring, cynical second role of the dice. The Numbers: Snow White & The Huntsman conjured US$155million after a healthy US$56million first weekend vs Winter Wars’ putrid US$19million opening salvo, on its way to a meagre US$44million; off around 65%.

Another ‘Why bother?’ sequel, too long after the original for anyone to care. Opening numbers weren’t too bad; 15 years ago, Ben Stiller’s fashion industry send-up earned US15million, while his sequel hit US$13million. But then the reviews dropped (“Agonizingly paced and bewilderingly outdated”; “The worst thing Ben Stiller has ever done”) and audiences sniffed a stinker. The Numbers: #1 found most its love on home video, its US$45million box office take in 2001 qualifying it for sleeper status at best; the sequel sputtered to US$28million.

Bringing back Matt Damon and series director Paul Greengrass in the franchise they emboldened seemed a good investment. But the script was murky, uninteresting; the small-scale intensity and human interest element of the series best episodes was gone. This fifth instalment felt undercooked and overmarketed, now resembling the soulless action sequels that past Bourne franchise entries had subverted. Not even the presence of ‘It Girl’ Alicia Vikander was enough to woo critics. The Numbers:…were good. Topped out at US$162million domestically, more again worldwide. But have you ever met anyone who liked it? Testament to Damon’s popularity in the role, but #6 (ugh) must be better.   

The crude/sweet vibe of the beloved Christmas black comedy original was always going to be nigh impossible to recreate. But did the sequel have to be so needlessly crass and heartless? Billy Bob Thornton hadn’t headlined a cinema release in God’s knows how long, and his recent support turns had been in expensive duds Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Entourage and Our Brand is Crisis. Thirteen years after the original built word-of-mouth on its way to a super-profitable US$60million, the sequel… The Numbers: …bombed from Day 1, playing to 2920 thinly patronised theatres for an anaemic opening gross of US$6million; final tally, US$17million.

It was only two years ago that Bryan Singer, returning to the franchise that he launched so spectacularly, got some of the best reviews of his career for X-Men: Days of Future Past. In 2016, everything went wrong for the filmmaker and his beloved series, with the latest edition, X-Men: Apocalypse, getting some nasty notices and opening limply in the prime May 27 summer season slot. All the actors looked over it, none more so than Michael Fassbender, who really should give all that money back. A thoughtless ad campaign that featured Jennifer Lawrence being grabbed by the neck ensured bad press; Singer’s ambitious use of next-wave effects backfired, with fanboys complaining of the ‘video game look.’ The franchise has stagnated. The Numbers: The US$65million opening was down 28% on the last instalment, suggesting the fanbase demographic were the only ones who showed. That’s not ideal when your cast boasts Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and Oscar Isaac. Still clawed it’s way to an ok US$155million, but that’s $80million down on Days of Future Past.    

Yes, it does seem ridiculous to cite this follow-up as being part of the ‘sequelitis’ problem. It topped US$1billion globally, US$486million domestically; for inflation, that’s kind of on par with the 2003 original. But what we question in the case of Finding Dory is the quality. Pixar set a high standard for themselves, and this story seemed rushed, was certainly without warmth or laughs, and lacked the visual artistry of the original (and most other Pixar pics). One theory is that the company was coming off their first real dud in The Good Dinosaur and needed a sure thing to appease shareholders, meaning this was fast-tracked for a 2016 release before it was entirely ready. The Numbers: They were fine.

Audiences decided, “Nope, don’t need it, don’t want it” from the start. The problem with lightning-strike-twice follow-ups – films that try to recapture the chemistry and dynamic of comedies, in particular - is that THEY NEVER DO! Actually, Neighbours 2 wasn’t that bad a film, but even those that liked the first film felt that once was enough. A little Seth Rogen goes a long way, and Sausage Party was getting lots of coverage, perhaps undercutting Neighbours’ pull. The Numbers: Opened a whopping 56% below the original; closed US$100million behind its predecessor. Internationally, 150+% less than #1.



What is a ‘reboot’? Some might argue that several of the films included in the list of seven below are ‘sequels’, such as Jurassic World, which references characters and settings from JP’s 1 through 3. But the ‘Jurassic Park’ brand (tellingly, not used in the reboot’s titling) was dated and damaged, as were The Terminator, Vacation and Fantastic Four franchises. True sequels, such as Magic Mike XXL, Pitch Perfect 2 and Mission Impossible-Rogue Nation, rode on the back of relatively recent, blockbuster instalments. A ‘reboot’ must regenerate interest in a moribund property; for a ‘sequel’, the hard work is already done.

So, as the US summer winds down, it is time to analyse which of the bigscreen rebrandings American moviegoers embraced and which failed the reboot test. (All figures in US$s as of 8/27; source – Box Office Mojo).

A dark cloud hung over a reboot’s theatrical prospects after Joe Johnston’s 2001 three-quel (despite its global gross of $370million). But the Jurassic Park brand has always been a cash-cow for Universal; home video, merchandising and a 2013 3D re-issue of Spielberg’s original kept that famous logo and all the associated thrills alive across a generation. Colin Trevorrow’s 2015 version garnered mixed reviews (Ed – One 2015’s worst films) but was the box office behemoth the filmmakers (and studio moneymen) anticipated.
Rebooted? Oh, yeah! Debuted at #1 in 69 international territories, earning box office records for the biggest opening weekend of all time domestically, internationally and globally; it only took a record 13 days to reach $1billion worldwide. The first sequel is slated for June 22, 2018.
Domestic - $639.6million; B.O. position - #1. 

Delayed, then delayed again; reported friction between stars Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron; industry speculation that director George Miller’s remote shoot yielded hours of plotless visuals. Then, the trailer dropped, and the Internet went wild. Warner Bros spin doctors have already started the Oscar nomination buzz, citing Mad Max Fury Road as a type of transcendent enigma – the operatic R-rated action epic so vast in scale and ambition, the Academy dare not ignore it.
Rebooted? Certainly. But Fury Road was the culmination of a career-spanning vision; it seems unlikely Miller will turn around a quickie sequel. Plus Warners will be more circumspect about budgeting next time around; despite the buzz, opened at 3702 theatres for an ok $45.5million. The week before release, the suits would have projected a late summer total closer to $200million. The $220million global revenue is what will keep Max mad.
Domestic - $152million; Summer 2015 B.O. position #9

‘What-just-happened?’ plotting, disregard for franchise canon and that ridiculous title were just some of the major miscalculations star Arnold Schwarzenegger and director Alan Taylor made in trying to breathe life and energy into the Terminator tradition. All that was lean and thrilling about James Cameron’s first instalment is all but gone in a clunky time-travel storyline that ground the film to a halt far too often. The stink spread quickly amongst Arnie’s US fanbase, who stayed away in droves…
Rebooted? …while international fans backed the Austrian Oak’s return to the Cyborg character to the tune of $263.6million (or 75% of its gross, and still counting). Whether the ageing action star will be back for a Genisys 2 may come down to foreign dollar involvement.
Domestic - $89.1million; Summer 2015 B.O. position #14

VACATION (July 29)
New Line Studios wanted us to believe that the four previous adventures of The Griswold clan were ‘beloved’ enough to warrant a reboot, and a vulgar, witless one at that. Star Ed Helms hasn’t found much love outside of The Hangover pics; here, he embodies a grown version of Anthony Michael Hall’s wise-cracking ginger Rusty from the 1983 original. Series veterans Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo are shoe-horned in. The Amy Schumer vehicle Trainwreck and Seth MacFarlane’s Ted 2 had left the R-rated comedy crowd fatigued by the time Vacation premiered.
Rebooted? These comedies are relatively cheap, so a new raft of decreasingly worthwhile sequels may eventuate.
Domestic - $52.4million; Summer 2015 B.O. position #18 

From director Josh Trank’s Twitter tirade (“A year ago I had a fantastic version of this”) to star Miles Teller’s Esquire interview backlash to the mainstream media’s bloodlust box office coverage, Fox’s Fantastic Four became the cause celebre of summer movie scandals. An expensive and troubled production makes for good copy. Yet, despite the public flaying from all quarters, it crept into the summer box-office Top 20 and clawed its way to $50million, plus $80million from overseas. (Ed. – We liked it).
Rebooted? Clearly, no. That said, should Fox turn over the negative to Trank and let him cut together the version he envisioned, perhaps give it limited engagements ahead of a home video push, it might be reassessed in a more favourable light. Frankly, what have they got to lose?
Domestic - $50.1million; Summer 2015 B.O. position #20 

Despite being heavily web-tracked throughout its development, Gil Kenan’s reboot of Tobe Hooper’s 1982 suburban haunting classic was met with a resounding ‘meh’ by patrons when it landed early in the summer. The original impacted a generation of teen moviegoers, capturing the social and cultural zeitgeist; the reboot, toned down to appease a PG13 mandate, was wan and uninvolving. (Read the SCREEN-SPACE Review)
Rebooted? Unlikely. Couldn’t crack $100million globally, suggesting only the ‘we’ll watch anything’ first-weekenders and melancholy 40-somethings were tapped. No chance the drawcard in the cast, Sam Rockwell (pictured, above), will reprise a role he seemed bored with the first time around.
Domestic - $47.4million; Summer 2015 B.O. position #22

HITMAN AGENT 47 (August 21; trailer, below)
Aleksandr Bach’s rebooting of Xavier Gens very minor 2007 vid-game adaptation landed with a thud, the core demographic of young males prefering a second helping of surprise smash Straight Outta Compton. The third DOA franchise hopeful for 20th Century Fox this summer (behind Fantastic Four and Poltergeist); the Murdoch stable couldn’t crack the US Top 10, their biggest hit being the Melissa McCarthy vehicle, Spy ($110million; #11). Canned by critics, HA47 may spawn straight-to-vid sequels but the brands theatrical pulse has flatlined.
Rebooted? No.
Domestic - $9.1million; Summer 2015 B.O. position #39