Can This Summer’s Sad Box Office Be Saved?

“Bourne” sequel, “Suicide Squad” part of strong summer back stack

Last Updated: July 6, 2016 @ 11:21 AM

This summer’s box office has had a slow start — thanks in part to disappointing performances from films like Warner Bros.’ “The Legend of Tarzan” and big-budget flops like Disney’s “Alice Through the Looking Glass” and “The BFG.”

While Disney-Pixar’s “Finding Dory” and Disney-Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” have been major money makers, those two blockbusters have been the exception and not the rule during a summer that is so far down nearly five percent from last year, according to comScore.

But things may be picking up.

This summer’s year-over-year percentage has improved dramatically thanks to the swimming success of “Dory,” which has earned $381 million domestically (and $173.8 million abroad). And the late-summer slate includes many movies expected to be strong contenders.

“As we’ve seen in summer’s past, one or two movies success or failure can affect box office within the relatively small 18-week ecosystem of the summer movie season profoundly,” comScore senior analyst Paul Dergarabedian told TheWrap.

The films that could save summer include Matt Damon‘s “Jason Bourne,” which marks his return to the Universal franchise; Warner Bros.’ highly anticipated “Suicide Squad”; and Paramount’s “Star Trek Beyond.” All three big-budget movies are expected to easily and quickly bring in grosses in the triple digits.

“The early summer months were never expected to live up to 2015’s, which had several huge blockbuster titles,” said BoxOffice.com senior analyst Shawn Robbins. He cited last year’s early summer blockbusters “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Jurassic World.”

There are other signs of hope. Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures’ “The Secret Life of Pets” is tracking in the $80 million range for its opening this weekend. And Fox’s “Ice Age: Collision Course” is the fifth film in a franchise in which all four of its predecessors made more than $160 million domestically. And let’s not forget Disney’s live-action remake of “Pete’s Dragon,” Warner Bros. war dramedy “War Dogs,” with Bradley Cooper and Jonah Hill, and the possibility of an R-rated hit in Columbia-Sony’s animated “Sausage Party.”

“‘Ghostbusters’ is still something of a wild card,” said Robbins. He also thinks the STX comedy “Bad Moms,” starring Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell, has a shot at sleeper hit status along with Warner Bros. horror movie “Lights Out.”

A lot depends on whether “Suicide Squad” is the runaway success it seems capable of becoming.

“The biggest variable there will be how reviews pan out,” said Robbins. “Audiences are looking for something special right now when it comes to comic book adaptations after enduring a glut of them in the first half of the year.”

As of now, at the halfway point of summer, Hollywood studios have collectively exceeded $2.2 billion in grosses — just shy of the overall domestic box office take last year at this time.

The late-summer offerings this year seem stronger than those in 2015, which included bombs like “Terminator: Genisys” and “Fantastic Four.”

The big bright spot at the end of summer last year was “Minions,” which earned $336 million. And “Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation,” “Pitch Perfect 2” and “Ant-Man” all made more than $180 million.

“Imagine if last year ‘Age of Ultron’ had not infused the summer box office with nearly half a billion dollars or if ‘Jurassic World’ had not delivered its massive $652.3 million jackpot?” Dergarabedian posed. “The industry would have been looking at  $4 billion or less for the period instead of the $4.5 billion that made it the second biggest summer ever.”

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