Who sank and who swam at the summer box office?
From dinosaur epics to cute-and-cuddly canine rom-coms, moviegoers had plenty of creature fare, action-heavy spectacles, and specialty Oscar hopefuls to choose from at the summer 2018 box office. But not every multiplex offering found its way to a fresh patch of green this season. Check out who soared and who flopped (hard) in the gallery ahead.
LOSER: The Star Wars expanded universe
It’s difficult to imagine a world where a $213.6 million domestic haul is considered a major disappointment, but in the Star Wars universe, it ranks ninth among 10 franchise entries — just one spot higher than The Empire Strikes Back’s 1980 gross of $209.4 million (unadjusted for inflation, to boot). With a budget reportedly close to $275 million and a global take of just under $400 million, Solo’s gross reflects major series fatigue for Disney, which has distributed four Star Wars films in two and a half years.
Whether they’re true-to-life house pets (Dog Days), mechanical warriors (A.X.L.), or prehistoric wolves (Alpha), 2018’s movie canines have served their human companions faithfully — but audiences have stayed away, with each of the aforementioned titles fetching measly returns. When comparing budget-to-gross ratio, Dog Days’ $6.6 million leads the pack, while Alpha struggled to make back its $51 million budget with a paltry $22.5 million, and A.X.L. will close its theatrical run well below recouping its $10 million production costs.
LOSER: The Rock
A time-tested box office draw, Dwayne Johnson has flexed his bankable biceps across franchise heavy-hitters (The Fate of the Furious) and standalone, high-concept comedies (Central Intelligence). But the 46-year-old hit a rough patch this year across two effects-driven tentpoles: Rampage ($99.3 million) and Skyscraper ($67.2 million), both of which failed to match the domestic successes of Johnson’s previous outings. Overseas, however, both pictures fared better, banking a sturdy $426.2 million and $293 million, respectively.
Though movies often provide an escape from the doom and gloom of real life, audiences responded to nonfiction masterpieces en masse in 2018, lifting the grosses (and Oscar prospects) of films like the Mister Rogers-focused hit Won’t You Be My Neighbor? ($22.4 million), the Ruth Bader Ginsburg chronicle RBG ($13.9 million, distributor Magnolia’s highest-ever gross), and the twisty Sundance doc Three Identical Strangers ($11.2 million and counting).
LOSER: Dinesh D’Souza
Given the past popularity of his controversial right-leaning documentaries (2016: Obama’s America bagged $33.4 million in 2012, while America and Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party more than doubled their roughly $5 million budgets in 2014 and 2016), conservative filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza’s latest offering should have been a slam dunk with his target audience. But with a Republican in the White House, D’Souza’s base has less to rail against in mainstream politics, as the receipts for his latest effort, Death of a Nation ($5.7 million on a $6 million budget), attest.
WINNER: Mid-range comedies
Tight budgets and simple concepts kept these star-studded genre affairs afloat. Anna Faris’ Overboard remake tallied a handsome $50.3 million on a tiny $12 million budget, and its fellow female-centric comedy Life of the Party saw Melissa McCarthy going back to college to the tune of $52.9 million ($65.7 million worldwide) against a $30 million price tag. Meanwhile, Tag ($54.4 million) and Uncle Drew ($42.3 million) didn’t exactly light the box office on fire, but they still laughed all the way to the bank on budgets in the $18 million-$28 million range.
WINNER: Early Oscar contenders
With the glint of gold in their eyes, several potential Oscar contenders made an early case for awards season glory. Money talks in Hollywood, and the grosses for Glenn Close’s The Wife ($27,071 per-screen average on opening weekend), Toni Collette’s horror hit Hereditary ($44 million), and Spike Lee’s historical drama BlacKkKlansman ($33.6 million and counting on a small $15 million budget) speak volumes about these films’ potential to stick around for the conversation when the Academy reflects on the year’s standout films.
LOSER: Oddball comedies
With moderate budgets and popular stars such as Melissa McCarthy and Mila Kunis bolstering their zany concepts, films like the violent, raunchy muppet romp The Happytime Murders and the colorful caper The Spy Who Dumped Me tried but failed to connect with North American audiences. Both films remain on course to finish their run with less than $35 million, perhaps due to lackluster reviews and an oversaturated market chock full of mid-range genre entries.
WINNER: Women (especially ladies over 40)
Women of a certain age turned Hollywood standards upside down this summer, as Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen’s comedy Book Club earned a cool $68.6 million at the North American box office, making it one of the season’s surprise hits. Cate Blanchett, 49, and Sandra Bullock, 54, also pounded the patriarchy with Ocean’s 8 ($139 million) and its all-female cast, as did Crazy Rich Asians ($86.2 million after only two weekends and counting), led by Constance Wu and Michelle Yeoh. On a smaller scale, Debra Granik’s latest directorial outing, Leave No Trace, lit up movie critics’ reviews and the specialty box office to the tune of $6 million, and Toni Collette’s Hereditary flexed its girl power to scare up an impressive $44 million, becoming distributor A24’s second-highest-grossing release to date.
In an age of sequels and reboots, remakes seem like a safe bet for an influx of Hollywood green. But Director X’s Superfly ($20.5 million) and the Charlie Hunnam-starring Papillon ($1.5 million and counting) aren’t making a strong case for the popular trend.
WINNER: Specialty stunners with buzzy concepts
This summer, moviegoers enjoyed venturing back to Eighth Grade ($65,949 per-theater opening, the highest of the May-August summer stretch) with Bo Burnham and Searching ($43,197 per-screen average debut) for John Cho’s daughter amid a plot told entirely through webcams and social media videos. Boots Riley’s bold directorial debut, Sorry to Bother You, also turned heads with its timely, topical story and subsequent $16.7 million gross — nearly six times its $3 million budget.
If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it (and keep doing it again and again and again). Hollywood has long subscribed to this golden rule, and 2018 was no exception. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom proved the 25-year-old series still has dino-sized legs, grossing a massive $413.2 million, while Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible — Fallout added $196.6 million (and counting, plus $353 million overseas) to the series’ ballooning combined total. Disney-Pixar’s Incredibles 2 also earned a heroic $597.7 million (more than doubling the original’s $261 million take to become the highest-grossing animated release of all time). Smaller-scale sequels held their own too, as Denzel Washington’s Equalizer 2 posted just under $100 million, The First Purge cleared $68.9 million four films into the series, and Super Troopers 2 amassed a surprising $15.2 million on its opening weekend en route to a $30 million total (on a $15 million budget).