Now that the Dog Days of Summer have given way to the “War Dogs” of the August gloaming, the movie season’s winners and losers have come into sharper focus.
WB/DC’s “Suicide Squad” reigned over North America for the third straight weekend, with a $20.7 million take, according to studio estimates Sunday. And Sony’s “Sausage Party” ($15.3 million) stayed strong in the silver-medal slot.
Both topped the weekend’s new releases, including WB’s “War Dogs” (third, at $14.3 million), Laika/Focus Features’s critically acclaimed “Kubo and the Two Strings” (fourth, $12.6 million) and Paramount/MGM’s “Ben-Hur” (fifth, $11.35 million).
So with the Hollywood summer winding down before it gives way to the industry’s “prestige season” of autumn Oscar bait, just how did this season shake out at the box office?
-The 2016 Marvel superheroes: Because the Hollywood “summer” has expanded its elastic commercial definition to include May, “Captain America: Civil War” can be called the behemoth of the season. The massive team-up, which happened to introduce our latest Spider-Man, not only has won the battle of the year’s superhero films so far; “Civil War” is also holding strong as the biggest release of the year ($1.15 billion worldwide).
Globally, WB/DC’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” ($872.7 million), Fox’s domestic smash “Deadpool” ($782.6 million), the still-climbing “Suicide Squad” ($572.7 million) and Fox’s “X-Men: Apocalypse” ($542.7 million) pale in comparison.
-Animated animals: The Pixar sequel “Finding Dory” is one of only four releases this year to top $900 million worldwide ($915.7 million) – and perhaps more impressively, it is still the biggest film in North America, ahead of even “Civil War” ($478.5 million vs. $407.7 million). And Universal’s “The Secret Life of Pets” ($674.5 million) is now the seventh biggest film worldwide, trailing only superheroes and other CG-created animals.
Beneath those smashes, even Sony’s “The Angry Birds Movie” has managed to take in $346.6 million on a $73 million production budget, with nearly 70 percent of that gross coming in overseas receipts; and Fox’s “Ice Age: Collision Course” has managed to gross $315 million on a $105 million budget – thanks to the saving grace of a whopping 80-percent foreign take.
-The Mouse House: With “Civil War” and “Dory” both landing huge this season, Disney is simply dominating worldwide, notching the four top releases of the year – including “Zootopia” ($1.023 billion) and “The Jungle Book” ($955.5 million).
-“Ben-Hur”: The massive flop that is this MGM sword-and-sandals outing (a lowly opening on a $100-million production budget) again raises the question: Why do an updated take on a true Hollywood classic if nothing you offer on screen is revolutionary, if not superior, to the original? Just because you hold the rights in your library (even though this isn’t technically a remake of the legendary 1959 film) doesn’t mean you should greenlight a nine-figure flick, especially without a modern-day Chuck Heston as your lead.
-Paramount: The big-budget sequels “Star Trek Beyond” ($147 million) and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” ($81.9 million) have underperformed domestically – and now the studio endures the chariot-totaling wipeout that is “Ben-Hur.”
-The Brothers Hemsworth: First off, a caveat: We are fans of the Hemsworth sibs. But objectively, Chris and Liam didn’t get to enjoy the greatest box office this summer. Chris Hemsworth was the most surprising comic highlight of the new “Ghostbusters,” so it certainly wasn’t his fault that the film has managed only $208 million on a $144 million production budget; and his Thor didn’t get to participate in the box-office spoils that was Marvel’s “Civil War.” (He returns next year in “Thor: Ragnarok.”) Meanwhile, Liam Hemsworth – a year removed from his smash “Hunger Games” franchise – toplined the Fox sequel “Independence Day: Resurgence,” which grossed a mere $107.8 million domestic (and $280.8 million overseas) on a $165 million production budget.
Seems “Suicide Squad’s” Will Smith knew which summer franchise to jump onto – and which to jump off of – this season.