When it comes to going to the movies, it’s a Disney world, and we’re all just living in it.
That’s the No. 1 lesson of the latest summer-movie period, especially for other movie studios that found it difficult to put out a No. 1 film at the box office so long as Disney is putting out new movies.
New movies being a relative term, of course; the Mouse House is dominating with its sequels and reboots.
These lessons are at the top of the list, but they are only a couple of the things we learned during the 2019 summer-movie season.
Disney sequels = $1 billion worldwide
Disney is setting a box-office record in 2019 among studios that may not be broken for years to come: Five films making more than $1 billion at the worldwide box office in a single year, and they’re not done. Disney had one in the spring (“Captain Marvel”) and four this summer, with the sequels “Avengers: Endgame” (approaching $2.8 billion, a new record) and “Toy Story 4” among them.
Disney reboots = $1 billion, too
The other two Disney summer hits blowing past $1 billion in global box office are “The Lion King” and “Aladdin,” a pair of reboots of Disney animated titles. The company isn’t known for its originality this year in its movies — outside of its quality of filmmaking, like the exceptional “Endgame” — but for its billion-dollar movies, with two more likely this year in November’s “Frozen 2” and December’s “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”
Spider-Man is the only other billionaire, but what happens next?
Audiences are not tiring of superheroes, as evidenced by “Spider-Man: Far From Home” being the only other summer movie to cross $1 billion globally. But even this Sony Pictures film owes much to Disney’s Kevin Feige, the president of Marvel Pictures, who worked with Sony to revive Spider-Man first in “Captain America: Civil War.” But last week, Sony and Disney couldn’t make a new deal, so Feige — a producer on Tom Holland’s Spidey movies — will have no future involvement. That could be huge.
Quentin Tarantino can still get adults into theaters
There aren’t many dependable names that attract adults to movie theaters anymore, but Quentin Tarantino is one of the few. So are Leonardo DiCaprio (“Django Unchained”) and Brad Pitt (“Inglourious Basterds”), and they starred in the new Tarantino hit “Once Upon a Time... In Hollywood” because they’ve worked with him before and wanted to do so again. The result is a movie that may become the filmmaker’s biggest worldwide hit to date.
Keanu Reeves is John Wick, and people like that
Every time he makes a new “John Wick” movie, more people show up. Good characters, great stunts and action help, but people just like the guy. He turns 55 next week, and he’s plotting a new “Bill and Ted” movie and a new “Matrix” film. As Reeves might tell us: Whoa.
Multiplex audiences want sequels, but not all of them
Sequels have ruled summer movies for decades, and it’s always interesting to see which ones failed, and why. “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” was lousy. “Dark Phoenix” was worse. A pair of animated movies — “The Secret Life of Pets 2” and “The Angry Birds Movie 2” — will make less than half of their first hit movies because the story was told the first time.
Kids will watch Disney and superheroes, but not much else
Movies are aimed at children in the summer because they’re out of school, and the hits proved that parents trust the Disney brand and are wary of others. The box office for “Uglydolls” wasn’t pretty, and even “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” (which audiences loved with an “A” Cinemascore) is finding it hard to attract families without the Disney seal of approval.
The movie comedy is on life-support
Nobody knows what’s happening with comedy movies, except that people are watching new ones on Netflix more than at theaters. Even Will Ferrell is making a Netflix comedy. “Late Night,” “Poms,” “The Hustle,” “Stuber” — all bombs. “Long Shot” and “Booksmart” are two of the year’s best movies and found little audience support. One did well recently: “Good Boys,” a raunchy romp involving 12-year-old boys. Who knew? Nobody.
‘The Farewell’ is this summer’s art-house Asian hit
It’s no “Crazy Rich Asians,” last summer’s smash that cost $30 million to make and grossed $238 million worldwide, but “The Farewell” is a similar winner. It’s also a very good comedy about the embrace and the clash of cultures, and with a $3 million price tag, its $13 million box office in the U.S. alone qualifies as an art-house summer hit.
Almost any time of year is better for horror than summer
A “Child’s Play” reboot ($29 million) was thought to be the start of a new franchise. Think again, dummy. The “Hereditary” filmmaker returned with another art-house horror movie in “Midsommar” ($25 million), and audiences didn’t like it. The genres of horror and superhero were mixed for “Brightburn,” and it burned out fast at $17 million. Even the new “Annabelle Comes Home,” at $72 million, was the lowest in the “Conjuring” universe of movies.
Marketing, good and bad, matters
People didn’t even realize that Melissa McCarthy and Tiffany Haddish were starring in a drama (“The Kitchen”). Sequel “47 Meters: Uncaged” looked like the same movie as the first one. Samuel L. Jackson starred in “Shaft” in 2000, and this summer, he’s playing the same character in a movie called “Shaft.” Who thought that was a good idea? On the other hand, good marketing: Disney was shaken by initial reactions to Will Smith’s weird shade of blue in an “Aladdin” trailer, so they went to work on the genie and let people know it was fixed. Wish granted, a huge hit.
The top 10 movies released this summer
As of Aug. 25 (all in millions of dollars):
1. “Avengers: Endgame”: $858.2
2. “The Lion King”: $509.0
3. “Toy Story 4”: $425.6
4. “Spider-Man: Far From Home”: $378.2
5. “Aladdin”: $353.7
6. “John Wick: Chapter 3”: $170.7
7. “The Secret Life of Pets 2”: $157.2
8. “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw”: $147.0
9. “Pokemon Detective Pikachu”: $144.1
10. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”: $122.7
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