Summer 2014 Box Office Wrap-up!
Every year powering up in May and grinding down on Labor Day weekend comes the multiplex onslaught of detonations, thrills, beautiful people and computer-generated creatures. Of sequels, reboots, and sequels of reboots. Of prepackaged blockbusters and pleasant surprises. All for your viewing enjoyment... or occasionally not.
Here's how things shook out for the Summer of 2014:
|1. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY||$274.6 M|
|2. TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION||$244.3 M|
|3. MALEFICENT||$238.5 M|
|4. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST||$233.2 M|
|5. DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES||$205.2 M|
|6. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2||$202.8 M|
|7. GODZILLA||$200.6 M|
|8. 22 JUMP STREET||$190.2 M|
|9. HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2||$173.4 M|
|10. TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES||$162.4 M|
Things look a bit different when you account for international business, as is now the case for blockbuster season. Let's take a look at the worldwide totals:
|1. TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION||$1.07 B|
|2. MALEFICENT||$748.5 M|
|3. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST||$745.4 M|
|4. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2||$708.3 M|
|5. DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES||$611.2 M|
|6. HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2||$592 M|
|7. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY||$547.7 M|
|8. GODZILLA||$508 M|
|9. EDGE OF TOMORROW||$364.1 M|
|10. 22 JUMP STREET||$314.4 M|
THE UPS & DOWNS
Summer. Might as well get this out of the way: 2014 was the worst summer for ticket sales in ages. Unlike every year since 1997, nothing made it past $300 million at the domestic box office. Just compare the top of 2014's chart to last year's winner IRON MAN 3, which finished with $409 million domestic (and $1.2 billion globally). Expect panic in Hollywood... and then more of the exact same stuff.
Wise Investments. Some of the summer's best budget-to-box office ratios included:
NEIGHBORS ($266 million worldwide, $18 million reported cost) - Seth Rogen's dad vs. frat comedy was the first R-rated laugh-attack out of the gate, and one of the most profitable movies of the summer.
THE FAULT IN OUR STARS ($280 million worldwide, $12 million reported cost) - The young-adult adaptation showed that a teen cancer romance can crush at the box office even in the middle of explosion season.
THE PURGE: ANARCHY ($103 million worldwide, $9 million reported cost) - The follow-up to last year's thrifty home-invasion hit took the annual violence to the streets but still kept cost at a minimum to maximize its success.
And nobody really seemed entertained by Melissa McCarthy's TAMMY, but it still ended up with nearly $100 million worldwide on a $20 million reported budget.
If we're talking strictly about investment of time, Richard Linklater spent a dozen years making one particular film, resulting in the summer's acclaimed indie BOYHOOD.
22 JUMP STREET - They were explicitly instructed to do it "exactly like last time". In this case, sticking to formula was precisely what audiences wanted from undercover cops Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, as the sequel's $190.8 million domestic/$308 million worldwide totals blew away 21 JUMP STREET's $138.4 million domestic/$201 million worldwide in 2012. And they didn't even have Cate Blanchett with the budget -- the sequel carried a $50 million price tag, not much higher than the first. Something cool!
Other comedies. Even unclothed Cameron Diaz and a titillating title like SEX TAPE couldn't generate interest. THINK LIKE A MAN TOO came up $26 million short of its predecessor. Seth MacFarlane couldn't translate his TED success to the Old West, and his A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST got gunned down like a greenhorn. And without Adam Sandler bringing his GROWN UPS chums along, BLENDED got dumped.
EDGE OF TOMORROW. Tom Cruise's new sci-fi/action movie had an inventive concept and an ample $178 million budget to realize it on screen. It ended with just over twice its cost at the worldwide box office, but even after being kept in theaters for three months it still barely clawed its way to $100 million domestically, leaving its proponents scratching their heads.
Damn dirty apes. The conflict between primates and mankind escalated in the post-apocalyptic DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, and the sequel climbed far higher than both the domestic and international totals of RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Welcome, simian overlords!
Reptiles. The success of TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES and GODZILLA showed that audiences are interested in familiar scaled and shelled beings of varying size and speaking ability, and further demonstrated the enduring pop-culture relevance of both the sewer-dwelling crimefighters and the King of Monsters.
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 - The Dreamworks Animation sequel sure seemed like a safe bet to soar near the top of the domestic chart after the first movie's $217 million, but instead it's likely to be topped by the relaunched TMNT. While HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON was a theatrical hit in 2010, it later gained a following big enough to justify a TV series and live-action arena tour, so the sequel landing lower than the first is definitely a surprise (although to be fair, its worldwide total has reached $592.5 million versus the first's $494 million finish).
THE EXPENDABLES 3 - The third time out, Sylvester Stallone collected even more familiar faces and lowered the violence quotient for an ostensibly more commercial PG-13 rating, but the box office shows the franchise ready for retirement. The online leak of the movie a full three weeks before theatrical release will be blamed for the creaky performance, but it honestly seems more like audiences are simply exhausted by the novelty of the concept.
Powerful ladies. Disney wound back the clock to depict what exactly put the wicked in their iconic Sleeping Beauty villainess MALEFICENT, and the fairy tale fantasy and star Angelina Jolie's appeal turned the origin story into a global smash. And filmmaker Luc Besson gave Scarlett Johannson a drug overdose that unlocked her physical potential beyond imaginable limits, transforming LUCY into a summer sleeper hit ($269.4 million worldwide on $40 million reported cost).
The Rock. Everyone seems to like Dwayne Johnson, but he just can't make a hit by himself. His mythological action-fantasy HERCULES couldn't crack nine digits domestically and only ended with $174.6 million worldwide, compared to when he's is part of an ensemble (G.I. JOE: RETALIATION - $375 million worldwide, FAST & FURIOUS 6 - $788 million worldwide). It's somehow both inconceivable and perfectly logical that the best use of that muscular physique is for support.
Rusty robots. Yes, TRANSFORMER: AGE OF EXTINCTION made over a billion dollars worldwide. But even with brawny inventor Mark Wahlberg taking over as the new human lead of the franchise, director Michael Bay's fourth cacophonous clash of CGI vehicular warriors made less at the domestic box office than any of the three movies in the Witwicky Era.
CHEF. Director/star Jon Favreau's low-budget food-truck journey captured the appetites of hungry moviegoers, who passed on positive word-of-mouth from their salivating tongues. Though it only closed the kitchen with $30 million, CHEF made its way around theaters (popping in and out of the Top 10) for nearly four months.
Mutants. Gathering up almost all of Marvel's leather-clad chromosomal champions and villains (sometimes in two versions) and tying them together with a time-tripping Wolverine was a costly gambit (pun acknowledged) that paid off in spectacular fashion. Director Bryan Singer returned to the series to make X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST the most financially and critically successful movie in the X-franchise by a huge margin.
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2. Technically, the comic superhero's reboot-sequel can’t be labeled a “loser” after netting over $700 million worldwide. But it’s also the worst performer in the wall-crawler’s movie history and reportedly the most expensive so far, including Sam Raimi’s high-cost disappointment SPIDER-MAN 3. And in general, webhead's latest outing didn’t seem to satisfy the crowds that did show up, but that (or the diminishing returns) isn't stopping Sony from trying to fabricate an entire movie universe out of the Spidey property.
And last but most importantly:
Marvel. In hindsight, it's hard to believe GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY was considered a "risk" by box office prognosticators (including JoBlo.com's own internal Summer Box Office poll -- nobody at all had it pegged for #1). But whether it was purely trust in the Marvel brand or just audiences discovering a fun new sci-fi adventure, James Gunn's sundry space heroes obliterated the August box office record and even surpassed some of Marvel's other popular and more familiar comic book stars.
Marvel clearly wasn't concerned -- they announced the sequel before GUARDIANS was even released. So is Marvel basically the new Pixar, where the name itself carries the indicator of quality regardless of the subject matter? We'll find out next summer when another "risk" arrives in theaters... but even with the behind-the-scenes shuffling on ANT-MAN, maybe we shouldn't worry about how it will perform after all.