Tom Long: To most summer means fun, to Hollywood it means money
Like it or not — and most of us don’t — summer is on the wane.
That means fewer sunburns, less lake lounging, earlier sunsets and a far smaller sampling of sequels and superheroes in movie theaters.
Summer is when the movie business makes much of its money, the season of blockbuster upon blockbuster, peppered with the odd bomb or breakout hit. And this summer has proven to be pretty successful at the box office, even if what started with an explosion sputtered out toward the end.
That initial explosion came in the form of May’s first release, “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” which at this point has made just under $1.4 billion worldwide. That makes it the sixth-biggest box office film of all time, which would have been darn impressive if a giant dinosaur hadn’t come along and gobbled its lunch.
That dinosaur was “Jurassic World,” which absolutely no one predicted would become the year’s big monster. Released in June, it set a new opening weekend record with $208.8 million domestically and has gone on to earn $1.6 billion worldwide, making it the third biggest movie of all time (behind “Titanic” and “Avatar”). It also established Chris Pratt — who also starred in 2014’s biggest film, “Guardians of the Galaxy” — as the most bankable guy in Hollywood.
In all, 10 films (“Jurassic,” “Avengers,” “Inside Out,” “Minions,” “Pitch Perfect 2,” “Ant-Man,” “San Andreas,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” and “Spy”) have passed the $100 million mark so far this summer, and “Trainwreck” seems sure to cross the line this weekend.
All of which should add up to some $4.4 billion in total domestic box office between the first of May and Labor Day, not a summer record — that would be 2013’s $4.7 billion haul — but not bad in anybody’s book. Despite television, cable, streaming, video on demand and computer games, the movie business is doing just fine, thank you.
Still, there are lessons to be learned from every summer. Here are a few from this one:
Animation is a gold mine: “Minions” was made for $74 million. So far it has earned $962 million worldwide. “Inside Out” cost $175 million and has made $640 million. In fact, four of the top 10 domestic movies so far this year (include “Home” and “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water”) are animated. And rated PG.
Not everything is a franchise: “Ted 2” bombed. “Magic Mike XXL” bombed. “Entourage” bombed. “Terminator: Genisys” made $326 million worldwide, but that’s likely not enough to justify its $155 million production budget. Some things are great as one-offs, some big franchises simply fade.
The Marvel brand is not a guarantee: The half-hearted reboot of “Fantastic Four” — made by Fox outside the standard Marvel-Disney creative kitchen — flopped. Chances are good we’ll never see The Thing again.
Tom Cruise is alive and well, no matter what nutty cult he belongs to: The energetic “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” has already made $375 million worldwide in three weeks. The guy is 53 and he started this franchise nearly 20 years ago. That’s longevity.
Indies don’t thrive in summer: At least not this summer. Sundance hits such as “Dope,” “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” and “Infinitely Polar Bear” were all lost in the crowd. Why distributors continue to release them in the summer months is a mystery.
Over the summer months audiences want big and loud, bright and colorful. Dinosaurs, super-heroes, Tom Cruise and explosions. Summer 2015 proved it again.