Susan Sarandon, left, and Melissa McCarthy star in 'Tammy.' (Saeed Adyan / Warner Bros.)
So far, so mediocre when it comes to 2014’s domestic box office.
Despite the seeming parade of hits this summer – “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” “Godzilla,” “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” “Maleficent,” “Neighbors,” “22 Jump Street” — this summer’s box office was actually down about 13 percent last week from the previous summer.
It’s true, last summer’s box office was the biggest ever, with $4.8 billion, but still ...
It’s not that this year’s movies haven’t been hits. They mostly have. They just haven’t been mega-hits. Last year’s summer started out with “Iron Man 3,” which ended up with $409 million domestically (and $1.2 billion worldwide). As of last weekend only one summer movie, “X-Men,” had even crossed the $200 million mark, although Spidey and “Godzilla” should inch over any minute. Still that’s a long way from $400 million.
In fact, the two biggest movies of the year so far weren’t even summer releases. The unexpected blockbuster “The LEGO Movie” came out in early February and is pretty much tied at the top with “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” which came out in early April. Each has earned some $256 million.
That’s no small potatoes, but again, it’s far, far short of $400 million.
True, things should improve this weekend as the lemming march of audiences commences with “Transformers: Age of Extinction.” Giant robots battling giant robots has traditionally meant giant money.
But after that, things look a bit grim. The long July 4 weekend usually has major firepower, but this year Hollywood is almost completely depending on a Melissa McCarthy comedy, “Tammy.” No giant robots or superheroes or apocalyptic zombies will be introduced into theaters, and that just seems odd since there’s hardly a shortage of such.
Thanks to a strong spring, as of June 23, the year’s domestic box office total was $4.96 billion, just a bit behind last year’s $4.99 billion. But if the summer continues to wane, Hollywood’s going to end up craving some holiday season hits. “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1” will feel the pressure.
Still, anytime you earn $4.96 billion in six months, somebody’s doing something right. Here are some lessons from the first half of 2016:
■Tears sell — “The Fault in Our Stars” has passed the $100 million mark, showing there’s still some sentiment for sentiment out there. And here’s the kicker: It only cost $12 million to make. Compare that to a film like “Noah,” which has made about the same amount of money ($101 million) but cost $125 million to make.
■Laughter is reliable — Raunch and silliness remain profitable. Seth Rogen’s “Neighbors” cost $18 million to make and has so far taken in $146 million. “Jump Street” costs $50 million (spent on what, exactly?), and it pulled in $118 million in less than two weeks.
■Marvel rules (again) — OK, nothing’s done “Iron Man 3” numbers, but three of the top four films so far in 2014 are members of the Marvel universe. And their strength is even more amazing when you figure in worldwide numbers. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” has made $256 domestically, but $710 million worldwide. “X-Men” is at $218 million and $696 million, and “Amazing Spider-Man 2” has $199 million and $703 million. Marvel has become a phenomenon like no other in box office history.
■Stay away from Westerns — Seth MacFarlane invented a foul-mouthed Teddy bear and “Ted” made $218 million in 2012. Then he decided to try “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” which has made a bit over $40 million.
■Big names offer no guarantees — Tom Cruise couldn’t triumph with the critically praised “Edge of Tomorrow.” Clint Eastwood’s “Jersey Boys” is dead in the water. George Clooney’s star-studded “Monuments Men” stalled.
Meanwhile “The LEGO Movie,” starring a bunch of plastic blocks, with Chris Pratt as the lead voice, is the top movie of the year.
Top 10 domestic movies so far in 2014
(as of 6/24)
“The LEGO Movie” $256 million
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” $256 million
“X-Men: Days of Future Past” $218 million
“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” $199 million
“Godzilla” $195 million
“Maleficent” $189 million
“Divergent” $150 million
“Neighbors” $146 million
“Ride Along” $134 million
“Rio 2” $127