Worst: Some franchises are not
Then again, sometimes audiences may have had enough. Three new installments of from three different franchise floundered this year beginning with “Pacific Rim: Uprising.” John Boyega was the film’s new hero, but without Guillermo del Toro in the mix it simply felt too “same old, same old.” “Rim” earned just $59 million in the U.S. and $290 million globally (which was really more like $245 million when you consider China’s return rate). Considering its $150 million cost it’s gonna be years before it breaks even, if ever. There was a lot of hope around Shane Black’s “The Predator,” but when 20th Century Fox moved its release to the middle of September something was clearly up. The film ended up earning just $51 million domestic and $160 million worldwide. That’s tough when you’re production cost was $88 million. Not a disaster, but don’t expect a sequel to this storyline anytime soon. The biggest blunder of them all was “The Girl in the Spider’s Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story.” It turned out not having David Fincher, Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig mattered to moviegoers. Sony tried to keep the production cost low at just $43 million (the 2011 installment cost $90 million), but it didn’t matter. Claire Foy‘s incarnation took in just $14 million in the U.S. and $34 million around the world, effectively a disaster based on sunk costs and one of the biggest bombs of the year.
Best: “A Star is Born” is a massive hit
It’s hard to believe Warner Bros. was concerned if audiences would buy tickets to see Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in the fourth version of this classic Hollywood tale, but they shouldn’t have been. Almost a year of hype, stellar reviews, and fantastic music fueled this potential Best Picture winner to a stunning $200 million domestic and $382 million global. Amazing considering Cooper shot on and off for months and pulled favors here and there to keep the production cost down to an insanely reasonable $36 million. And if you can somehow think of a sequel, Warner Bros is likely all ears.
Best: Old favorites give Universal the no. 2 slot after Disney
When you think of 2018 and Universal Pictures, it doesn’t scream like their year, especially with only one billion-dollar grosser in the worldwide, top 10. But that film, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” ($1.3 billion) and several other heavy hitters, “The Grinch” ($430M worldwide), “Mammia Mia! Here We Go Again” (nearly $400M worldwide), “Fifty Shades Freed” collectively made for a strong year for Uni landing them as the second highest grossing studio at the 2018 box office. – Rodrigo Perez
Worst: Third time isn’t the charm for Damien Chazelle
Director Damien Chazelle has had a hell of a run so far with his Hollywood films (his debut was a micro-indie). “Whiplash” won three Oscars and made $50 million (excellent for a small Sundance indie) and “La La Land” was obviously a huge global phenomenon (nearly $450 million globally). The third time was not the charm for Chazelle’s excellent, but overlooked, astronaut drama “First Man.” The Ryan Gosling-starring film failed to launch properly and stalled with less than $50 million domestically (just over $100M worldwide). It’s sure to earn some Oscar nominations which should goose its numbers a little, but given the rapturous reception during the fall film festival circuit, Universal is probably feeling deeply disappointed, though through no one’s fault other than audiences that just didn’t connect with the movie. – RP
Worst/Mixed: Live-Action Fantasy Doesn’t Always Fly For Disney
Look, Disney had an insane year, topping $7 billion worldwide, and yes, they bested every studio out there—which is what’ll happen when you own Marvel, Lucasfilm and seemingly everything else. And Disney has made a crazy mint with their live-action adaptations of their animated films; billion-dollar earners like “Beauty & The Beast,” and “Alice In Wonderland,” and a killing made on films like “The Jungle Book,” “Maleficent” and dozens more to come (including three coming in 2019, “The Lion King” remake, “Aladdin” and more). But Disney stumbled with live-action adaptations this year, though granted, not all of them were straight up adaptations of animated classics. With a $20 million opening weekend, “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” suffered Disney’s worst opening weekend since “The BFG” in 2016. The film was a flop, $166 million worldwide off a $120 million budget (that doesn’t include promotion and advertising) and domestically, a movie that couldn’t even crack $55 million—a rare black eye for Disney and perhaps an (unfortunate) reminder to the studio that they should prolly stick to adapting I.P. that audiences already have a pre-existing Disney relationship with (ugh). Ava DuVernay’s “A Wrinkle In Time” was another that fit this bill, not based on one of their animated films, but a beloved sci-fi novel they believed they could turn into a fantasy film for families. The first film to be directed by a Black woman with a budget over $100 million ($100-$130 million is the purported budget), this as a nice milestone to finally reach. Unfortunately, ‘Wrinkle’ just barely cracked $100 million domestically and did about $130 million worldwide, it certainly lost money. “Disney’s Christopher Robin” was a bit more traditional; taking the animated “Winnie The Pooh” feature film and turning them into a live-action tale about Christopher Robin as an adult. This one fared much better: nearly $200 million worldwide from a $75 million budget. That said, it couldn’t crack $100 million domestically and that feels like chump change to Disney. Lastly, another sideways redo was “Mary Poppins Returns” a sequel to the beloved “Mary Poppins.” It’s a little too early to tell as its just getting started at the box office and could have long legs, but it’s off to a relatively slow start so far and doesn’t seem to be connecting internationally.
Worst: Fourth Quarter Becomes The New August Studio Dumping Ground
It’s almost like every season is blockbuster season, but this year, the fourth quarter ended up being a place where four quadrant hopes went to die. Universal had two releases they didn’t really know what to do with, the ambitious, Peter Jackson-produced would-be blockbuster “Mortal Engines” and the maybe-we-can-fool-them-into-thinking-its-Oscar-bait? drama “Welcome to Marwen.” With nothing else for December, Uni slotted them both at the end of the month and they proved to be massive flops and money losers. Lionsgate’s “Robin Hood,” and Sony’s “Holmes and Watson” arguably should have been August dumping ground film and Sony, who tried to sell their lame duck comedy to Netflix, knew they had a turd on their hands. Both studios persisted with masquerading the pictures as fourth quarter winners and paid the price, though the Will Ferrell-comedy is off to a decent start and could still end up being one of those lame mainstream money makers. – RP
Best: “Aquaman” and Superhero Movies
The hegemony of superhero movies at the box office did not abate this year. Six of the top 10 highest grossing films of the year were superhero films, and seven if you include “Incredibles 2.” Marvel had an astonishing year: nearly $4 billion made just from three films (‘Infinity War,’ “Black Panther” and “Ant-Man & The Wasp”) and there was nary a kind of superhero movie flop released all year (“Teen Titans Go! To The Movies” didn’t make a ton of splashy money, but it only cost $10 million). And even the films that many predicted would be flops, “Venom” and “Aquaman” were massive hits. “Venom” hit $855 million and outgrossed all of the “Amazing Spider-Man” era Spidey films. Save, “Wonder Woman,” Warner Bros. has been taking on the chin with all their superhero movies, but “Aquaman” is an astonishing hit and will soon go on to become the DCEU’s highest grossing film. In theaters for all of all of eight days (though it was released in China and some international territories early), “Aquaman” has already smashed a tsunami wave of $630 million worldwide. That means, “Aquaman” is the ninth highest grossing film of 2018 globally and it has already outgrossed the entire run of Marvel’s “Ant-Man & The Wasp.” By the weekend it will outgross the full worldwide run of “Justice League” which amassed $750 million in 2017. Domestically, “Aquaman” is at $137 million, is expected to make another $53 million and that’s going to make for an amazing -22% hold from its previous opening weekend, a staggeringly good number for superhero blockbusters (and keep an eye on China, the movie has already done $250 million in that country alone). “Aquaman” is definitely on its way to making $1 billion at this rate and barring any unseen circumstances, nothing should be able to slow it down which is a nice turn around on the DCEU narrative. Should “Aquaman” hit $1 billion, it’ll become the fifth highest grossing film of 2018. Not too shabby. – RP