Box Office 2015: Summer of Slams

By Kay, Jeremy | Screen International, October 13, 2015 | Go to article overview

Box Office 2015: Summer of Slams


Kay, Jeremy, Screen International


Universal experienced an extraordinary summer in which the studio claimed three of the top five releases and powered the industry to its second biggest summer of all time. Dinosaurs, superheroes and Inside Out generated $4.48bn from May 3 through September 7, trailing the $4.75bn record in 2013 but improving on last year by 10.4%.

Avengers: Age Of Ultron kicked offthe season in style on May 1 and burst out of the gates on $191.3m for what was, at the time, the second biggest opening weekend ever, behind only the 2012 original's $207.4m. Six weeks later, Universal unleashed Jurassic World and changed all that. The $208.8m launch set a new benchmark at the North American box office, as well as complementary international and global records, and established a potentially record-breaking pace for summer. By the time the season was over Universal and Disney together would account for 60% of the box office, with 35 cents from every dollar the industry grossed coming from Universal films.

Hits and misses

It's safe to say that while Jurassic World and Inside Out played their part in summer 2015, several films did not. "I thought we would have a record-breaking summer and even that we would hit $5bn because, on paper, it looked monumental," says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at film research company Rentrak. "But in order to get that number you have to have every wide-release film performing to expectations or over-performing. All it takes is one or two not exceeding expectations."

The first of the two major summer flops was Tomorrowland, Disney's high-concept sci-fiwrite-down starring George Clooney and Britt Robertson that never really took offover the weekend of May 22-24. "That was the movie Hollywood was banking on because of the Memorial Day launch," says Dergarabedian. "It's an important weekend in terms of the economic well-being of the summer."

Clooney et al delivered $33m and overall this year's Memorial Day weekend session trailed 2014 by 16%, when X-Men: Days Of Future Past arrived on $90.8m. In August, Fantastic Four tanked despite belonging to a well-known franchise. After savage reviews and bad blood with director Josh Trank over artistic expression, Fox executives must be sorely tempted to let the property revert to Marvel Studios.

2015 was a top-heavy summer that saw Avengers: Age Of Ultron, Jurassic World, Inside Out and Minions emerge in the first half and trade on their franchise credentials or brand recognition. This is in contrast to 2014, which saved the best until last when Guardians Of The Galaxy debuted in August and powered that month to more than $1bn. Hollywood did not repeat that singular feat this year.

"It's still all about sequels," says Dergarabedian. Yet indies in the shape of Amy Winehouse documentary Amy and Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy prospered too, doing respectable business on $8.2m through A24 and $12.5m via Roadside Attractions, respectively. "When you look at the best five or 10 summers, they're dominated by franchise movies. Known commodities, known brands that give the customer comfort. They don't rely on great reviews and audiences don't use [reviews] - if they know that brand, that's enough," Dergarabedian observes.

Bite of the box office

Crowds of all ages answered the call of Jurassic World, which would finish the summer as the hit of the blockbuster season on $649. …

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