A feeble July 4 weekend has left the domestic box office down by nearly 20 percent from last season, but the sky isn’t falling in Hollywood. As a matter of fact, most of the studios are doing just fine this summer.
No one likes to make less money, and this season’s overall grosses are at $2.3 billion so far, down 19.3 percent from $2.8 billion over the same stretch last year, according to Rentrak. But there’s not a lot of teeth gnashing and no one is panicking, and it’s not a matter of “what, me worry?”
The short story is that while no film has matched the $400 million success of “Iron Man 3,” there have been far more hits than misses. There also hasn’t been a mega-budget bomb — last summer there were four — and some of the high-profile movies that have under-performed domestically will wind up in the black thanks to overseas returns.
Remember that last summer was the biggest in history with $4.8 billion in grosses, so it was always going to be a tough act to follow and the industry knew that. It was clear that this summer’s biggest sequels were going to be hard-pressed to match the grosses of Tony Stark and his pals, “Man of Steel,” “Monsters University” and “Fast & Furious 6.”
There was one animated films with major potential –“How to Train Your Dragon 2” — instead of two in “Despicable Me 2” and “Monsters U.” And the summer’s prospects took a major hit when Universal was forced to push “Fast & Furious 7” in the wake of Paul Walker‘s death.
“X-Men: Days of Future Past” ($227 million), “Maleficent” ($213 million) and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” ($200 million) are the summer’s biggest movies to date, and “Godzilla” ($197 million) and “Transformers: Age of Extinction” ($174 million and counting) are close. But their grosses don’t compare with last year’s leaders at the half-way point: “Iron Man 3” ($406 million), “Man of Steel” ($267 million), “Fast & Furious 6” ($235 million), “Star Trek Into Darkness ($222 million) and “Monsters University” ($210 million).
Fox is having a terrific summer that stands to get better this week when “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” opens. It scored big-time with the teen drama “The Fault In Our Stars.” But while that film’s $12 million budget makes its $112 million total all the more impressive, it doesn’t raise the roof in terms of the overall box office.
With the success of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” and “22 Jump Street,” Sony is a much better place than it was last summer when “After Earth” and “White House Down” were two of the season’s biggest disappointments. The domestic total for Spidey was the lowest in franchise history and half of the “Iron Man 3” haul, but it has grossed more than $500 million overseas, second-best in the series.
Disney may not have “Iron Man 3” this summer, but “Maleficent” has been very strong, especially overseas, and it has Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” coming on Aug. 1. Paramount has Michael Bay‘s morphing robots epic “Age of Extinction,” which will take a run at $1 billion in grosses worldwide, driven by its success overseas and especially in China. Universal has largely sat the summer out, but “Neighbors” was a pleasant surprise.
Melissa McCarthy‘s R-rated “Tammy” may not have matched the opening grosses of her earlier hits “Identity Thief” or “The Heat,” but its budget didn’t, either. The $20 million R-rated comedy will be profitable by the weekend and could still hit $80 million — or four times its budget, so financially it will be a win. Even the studio’s pricey Tom Cruise sci-fi epic “Edge of Tomorrow” has chugged to $90 million domestically, and brought in $250 million from overseas. That may not put it in the black, but it’s not a disaster.
“I think that the studios know better than anyone that this business is cyclical,” BoxOffice.com vice-president and senior analyst Phil Contrino told TheWrap. “I’m sure they are assuaging any panic with daydreams about how massive summer 2015 is going to be.”
The summer of 2015 is already jammed with Marvel’s “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” (May 15), “Jurassic World” (June 12), “The Terminator” reboot (July 1), “Despicable Me” spinoff “Minions” (July 10), The “Man of Steel” sequel (July 17) and a movie adaptation of the hugely popular video game, “Assassin’s Creed” (Aug. 7). As “Captain America: Winter Soldier” did this year, “Fast & Furious 7” will provide a preseason spark when it rolls out on April 3.