Who Won and Who Lost in the Summer Movie Box Office Wars?

     September 2, 2016


What a summer. The first half was dominated by the talk of sequelitis doom. After some major sequels opened in May and early June to disappointing returns the industry and entertainment media was obsessed with the idea that audiences were looking for something new. Then The Conjuring 2 and Finding Dory opened and those naysayers quieted for a bit as clearly the quality of the sequels had something to do with their performance.

The second half of the summer season featured some major releases that dishearteningly underperformed and a few hits only a select few predicted (Bad Moms, Lights Out, Don’t Breathe). Overall though 2016 didn’t have the record setting box office we saw just a year ago with Jurassic Park, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Inside Out and Minions, among others, setting fireworks off around the world. No one was saying movies were over then, where they?

Before we take a look back at the summer of 2015 here are three important facts you should take into account when looking at theatrical receipts for a movie.

  1. In general, theater owners receive half of the box office grosses and the distributor or studio gets the other half. That’s pretty standard around the world except for China where Hollywood only earns around 25% of the receipts.
  2. Marketing movies in the summer is often inherently more expensive than other times of the year. A U.S. marketing budget for a tentpole summer movie can fall anywhere between $25-125 million per picture (some studios will spend even more). Marketing budgets for the rest of the world rarely fall below $50 million and can be substantially higher.
  3. Studios can make up losses in ancillary markets such as VOD, digital downloads, TV rights, etc. but those revenues are nowhere near where they were in the late ‘90s and early 00’s when a movie could break even or get into the black after brisk VHS or DVD sales (for example: the second Austin Powers had a substantially larger budget because of the first film’s success in the home entertainment market).

Now, keeping that in mind let’s take a deep dive into the hits and misses, shall we?

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