Summer 2016 Box Office: A Post Mortem


It was feast or famine at the Summer Box Office in 2016. Mostly famine.

There’s a steep drop-off after the Top 4 movies that opened and played between May 1st and Labor Day, and even the last one in that top ranking is still deemed a mixed bag in terms of its success (in other words, a sequel is not guaranteed).

All numbers here are domestic – aka North America – not global.

Leading the way were two films under the Walt Disney banner, from the two most reliable brands in the business, Pixar and Marvel:

  1. Finding Dory – $482 million
  2. Captain America: Civil War – $408 million

Right below those were another animated (and original) hit from Illumination Studios, and a DC comic book movie that overcame horrid reviews and generally bad impressions about the direction of the DC Extended Cinematic Universe.

  1. The Secret Life of Pets – $383 million
  2. Suicide Squad – $300 million

From there, the would-be tentpoles faired much more poorly than their expectations, not hauling in desired takes comparable to their $100+ million budget and marketing costs. The most profitable of the bunch is at #8, which benefited from a reasonable $50 million budget.

  1. Jason Bourne – $156 million
  2. X-Men: Apocalypse – $155 million
  3. Star Trek Beyond – $154 million
  4. Central Intelligence – $127 million
  5. Ghostbusters – $126.2 million
  6. The Legend Of Tarzan – $126 million

Interestingly, if you included the $124 million box office that mid-April opener The Jungle Book took in after May 1, when it had already made the bulk of its gross, it’d still have nearly matched the entire run of those at the bottom of the summer’s Top 10.

The horror genre continued to enjoy great financial success. While none made the Top 10, these mid-to-low budget thrillers reaped high financial rewards.

  • The Conjuring 2 – $102 million ($40 million budget)
  • The Purge: Election Year – $79 million ($10 million budget)
  • Lights Out – $65.6 million ($4.9 million budget)
  • Don’t Breathe – $55 million, so far ($9.9 million budget)

The biggest financial busts? Those would have to be Independence Day: Resurgence, Alice Through The Looking Glass, The BFG, and Ben-Hur.

ID4 could not match the nostalgia craze of Jurassic World’s $652 million from a summer ago. Resurgence didn’t live up to its subtitle with a paltry $103 million to its $165 million budget.

Worse yet was Steven Spielberg’s The BFG. Its anemic $55 million domestic gross came in way under its $140 million budget, making for the biggest flop of the iconic director’s career (even if it was, by my estimation, easily one of this mediocre summer’s best). Alice Through The Looking Glass was a complete disaster, eking out $27 million while costing $170 million. Both of these movies were released by Disney, a Hollywood titan so gargantuan it’s the only studio that could weather such huge losses and still be happy about how their summer went.

As far as Ben-Hur goes, it was essentially crucified for not having a star in its cast (something that’s still clearly needed when so much money is on the line). The remake with the no-name lineup (save for Morgan Freeman in a supporting role) crashed at $24.3 million, just 1/4 of its $100 million budget.

Technically, one could also throw in Ice Age: Collision Course onto the bomb pile. Taking in a measly $63 million on a $105 million budget, American audiences have definitely cooled to the franchise. Nevertheless, the studio is making these sequels for international audiences at this point. It pulled in a mammoth $326.6 million overseas, which is why it’s likely we haven’t seen the last of this money-making series.

The same could be said for Warcraft, a $160 million budgeted blockbuster based on the popular video game. It tanked in North America with $47 million, but its $386 million overseas (with China in the lead) means a sequel is on the way.

Finally, other certifiable successes that didn’t crack the Top 10:

  • The Angry Birds Movie – $107 million ($73 million budget)
  • Sausage Party – $90 million ($19 million budget)
  • The Shallows – $55 million ($17 million budget)

On the whole, what looked to be an embarrassing summer run for Hollywood ended up rebounding thanks to a record August. The $4.5 billion total from May to Labor Day is the 2nd best ever, trailing only the Summer of 2013 (in which Iron Man 3 and Despicable Me 2 dominated).

3 thoughts on “Summer 2016 Box Office: A Post Mortem

  1. I don’t know that there’ll be any more Ice Age movies. The last two films made almost $900 million each worldwide; the current film will be lucky to make even half that. At this point, it’s only made a few million bucks more than the original 2002 film.

    1. Well that would be a welcome relief. It’s not like I even sit through them, but their mere existence compounds the general state of franchise fatigue. 🙂

      1. Heh. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the studio lost any money on the current film — not if it really cost $105 million to make, as Box Office Mojo claims — but a worldwide drop in revenues that sharp is the sort of thing that might convince a studio to leave the franchise alone for now. It’s not worth taking the risk to see how much further the revenues could fall if they made a sixth film.

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