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2016 Box Office Report: Superheroes Dominate, but Horror and Animated Over-Perform

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Since August I’ve been doing weekly box office weekend predictions, and one huge link between what audiences enjoy and what the studios do next is decided on one thing: box office.  If a film has a huge box office intake, it’s a sign to the studio that the audience wants more of this, and vise-versa.  If a film is a huge box office bomb, it’s a sign the audience isn’t interested.  So we’ll take a look at the domestic top ten films of the year and some of the highlights by genre, quarter, and trends in the box office.

First we’ll get the top domestic totals through the New Year’s Holiday weekend.  Number ten was Doctor Strange with $230.2 million.  Next up Suicide Squad with $325.1 million.  Quite a jump there.  Number eight, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice with $330.3 million.  Zootopia took number seven with $341.2 million.  And at number six, Deadpool with $363 million.  Now onto the top five: The Jungle Book took $364 million for fifth.  In number four, The Secret Life of Pets with $368.3 million.  So these three were pretty close.  Next up Captain America: Civil War with $408 million.  For number two, Star Wars: Rogue One with $439.7 million, and number one is Finding Dory with $486.2 million.  Keep in mind, this is not the final tally for the domestic year.  Any more money made by Rogue One and other newer releases will be tacked onto this, not starting over for 2017.

So just to analyze this quickly, we can see the big trends: three animated films and five superhero films.  Also six of these are from Disney with two others each from 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros.  So all three studios had a great year, and of course superheroes being popular at the box office ain’t going away anytime soon.  Also animated fare did really well.  Especially comparing to 2015, we had one superhero movie, two animated movies, and and four Disney films in the domestic top ten.  Universal had three in the top ten with no huge players in 2016 getting that far.  And Fox only had one in 2015, The Martian.

So yes, clearly audiences were all over superhero films at the box office, and these five films were also joined by X-Men: Apocalypse, which did okay at $155.4 million.  For the other animated fare, we look to Kung Fu Panda 3 with $143.5 million back in January, The Angry Birds Movie hitting $107.5 million in May, Ice Age: Collision Course with $64 million, Sausage Party with $97.6 million in August, Storks gaining earning $72 million in September, with three big hitters in the Holiday season: Moana with $213.3 million, Sing with $180 million, and Trolls with $150.5 million.  Outside of these two big winners, its was also a great year for sci-fi.  We had 10 Cloverfield Lane making $72 million in March, Independence Day: Resurgence getting $103.1 million in June, Star Trek Beyond with $158.8 million in July, Arrival being a huge hit in November with $92.6 million, and Passengers is off to an okay start with $66 million in December.  One genre we didn’t think would have a great year is horror, but The Conjuring 2 ($102.4 million), The Shallows ($55.1 million), Don’t Breathe ($89.2 million), The Purge: Election Year ($79 million), and Lights Out ($67.2 million) would beg to differ.  Comedies weren’t the biggest draw of 2016, though: Ride Along 2 got $90.8 million, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 made $59.6 million, Central Intelligence was a big winner with $127.4 million, The Boss earned $63 million, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising did fine with $55.3 million, Barbershop: The Next Cut got $54 million, Ghostbusters despite word of mouth earned $128.3 million, Bad Moms surprised with $113.2 million, Boo! A Madea Halloween earned $73.2 million, and Office Christmas Party did fine with $52 million.  One more genre worth mentioning this year is the action genre, which look to London has Fallen ($62.5 million), 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi ($52.8 million), Jason Bourne ($162.1 million), Deepwater Horizon ($61.4 million), Jack Reacher: Never go Back ($58.5 million) and Hacksaw Ridge ($64.7 million) as the big winners.

Breaking it down by quarter, Jan-Mar was dominated by Deadpool, Zootopia, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, with Kung Fu Panda 3 and Ride Along 2 finishing out the top five.  The second quarter, Apr-June belonged to Disney with Finding DoryCaptain America: Civil War and The Jungle Book in the top three, and X-Men: Apocalypse and Central Intelligence finishing out the top five.  For the third quarter, July-Sep, the big winners were The Secret Life of Pets and Suicide Squad, then Jason BourneStar Trek Beyond, and Ghostbusters.  Quarter four, Oct-Dec, sees Star Wars: Rogue OneDoctor StrangeFantastic Beasts and Where to Find ThemMoana, and Sing in the top five.

One more fun thing to look at is tracking and how accurate it is.  We’ll also break this down by quarter.  In the first quarter, the five biggest over-performances at the domestic box office were Deadpool ($363 million versus $185 million), The Forest ($26.5 million versus $17 million), Zootopia ($341.2 million versus $230 million), The Boy ($35.8 million versus $28 million), and 10 Cloverfield Lane ($72 million versus $58 million).  The five weakest were Young Messiah ($6.4 million versus $25 million), Triple 9 ($12.6 million versus $38 million), Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies ($10.9 million versus $30 million), The Brothers Grimsby ($6.8 million versus $18 million), and Fifty Shades of Black ($11.6 million versus $29 million).  So there were see horror and sci-fi doing well and action and comedies doing poorly in the first quarter.  Kind of matches up.

Second quarter goes like this: over-performers rank like this: The Shallows ($55.1 million versus $29 million), The Jungle Book ($364 million versus $220 million), Money Monster ($41 million versus $28 million), Barbershop: The Next Cut ($54 million versus $44 million) and Central Intelligence ($127.4 million versus $108 million).  Keep in mind these are going by percentages, not by actual difference.  The bottom five were Hardcore Henry ($9.2 million versus $30 million), Keanu ($20.5 million versus $50 million), Free State of Jones ($20.8 million versus $50 million), God’s Not Dead 2 ($20.7 million versus $47 million) and Alice: Through the Looking Glass ($77 million versus $170 million).  So here we have a few comedies doing better than expected.

Third quarter goes like this: for over-performers they rank Don’t Breathe ($89.2 million versus $22 million), which is the largest differential for tracking at 406% of expected domestic gross, The Legend of Tarzan ($126.6 million versus $50 million), Lights Out ($67.2 million versus $30 million), Snowden ($21.5 million versus $10 million), and Nerve ($38.5 million versus $20 million).  The five big losers were Hillsong: Let Hope Rise ($2.3 million versus $12 million), Morgan ($3.9 million versus $12 million), Hands of Stone ($4.7 million versus $14 million), Blair Witch ($20.7 million versus $49 million), and Ben-Hur ($26.4 million versus $55 million).  Big horror and thrillers with over-doing it.

Fourth quarter totals aren’t as complete as the first three quarters, but some big starters so far include Hacksaw Ridge ($64.7 million and counting versus $38 million), Ouija: Origin of Evil ($34.9 million versus $21.5 million), Boo! A Madea Halloween ($73.2 million versus $47 million), The Accountant ($85.4 million versus $58 million) and Trolls ($150.5 million and counting versus $110 million).  Some early losers for fourth quarter rank as follows: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk ($1.7 million versus $50 million), which doing the math is 3% of tracking, the lowest of the year for wide releases, Miss Sloane ($3.4 million and counting versus $26 million), I’m Not Ashamed ($2 million versus $15 million), Rules Don’t Apply ($3.6 million versus $19 million), and The Edge of Seventeen ($14.3 million and counting versus $58 million).  So a few Oscar-potential films fell very flat at the box office this fall and holiday season.

Well, I guess you sum up 2016 in this way: superhero movies did well, and we expected them to, same goes for Disney.  Animated fare surprised us sometimes and came away with big wins, and horror movies really surpassed expectations and became one of the biggest genres this year.  We’ll have to wait and see what 2017 delivers, but this early out we have about eight superhero films, too many animated films to count, however not too many high profile horror films are slated, so we’ll maybe see a better result for action, comedies, and dramas next year.

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I am a gigantic movie nerd who spends his free time memorizing Oscar winners and nominees and seeing as many good movies as I can. I have always wanted to write about films, review films, and speculate on films, and hope that this site helps me get a couple of people who can agree or disagree with me.