Sunday, August 29, 2021

Sunday Best: 2021 Summer Box Office Review


Summer Movie Season has come and gone once again.  And what is our conclusion?

In terms of box office success, the numbers were very low.  No movie made over $200 million in the theaters.  Also, we may be seeing the effect of streaming on the theater dollars.  Things were so spooky that some films that were supposed to be big summer hits were pulled like Hotel Transylvania.  

In terms of box office, the top 10 highest grossing films of the summer are as follows:

1. Black Widow
2. F9: The Fast Saga
3. A Quiet Place Part II
4. Jungle Cruise
5. Cruella
6. Free Guy
7. Space Jam: A New Legacy
8. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
9. The Boss Baby: Family Business
10. The Suicide Squad

My predictions were as follows (along with my rationale):

1.  Black Widow

Black Widow (2021 film) poster.jpg

In the last 10 years, 5 Marvel movies have been the top Summer movies at the box office.  Black Widow has the advantage of being the first major Marvel release in years and it is a flashback into Phase 3.  The trailers look fun and I don't think people are ready to jump off the Marvel train just yet.

2.  F9

F9 film poster.jpg

Fate of the Furious had a steep drop off in box office from the 7th movie, but it was still a big hit.  This is a two-decade-old franchise that has brought in more money than I think people ever dreamed it could.  Rather than its age being a detriment, in a post-COVID world, it could actually be a plus, where people want to return to things they know and grew up with.

3.  A Quiet Place Part II
A Quiet Place Part II.jpg

This is a movie where the first did well at the box office but only gained more esteem when people discovered it on home video.  As a PG-13 horror movie, it can bring in a younger audience than a lot of the R-Rated fare.  The studios have also been really pushing for the idea that this is a theatrical experience to be had.

4.  Hotel Transylvania: Transformania

Hotel Transylvania Transformania poster.jpg

I always bet big on kids movies.  This franchise has been plugging away for a long time and this could be a big draw for families looking for an escapist theater experience.

5.  Jungle Cruise
Jungle Cruise - theatrical poster.png

I'm reckoning that this will have a similar box office to the Jumanji sequels.  Dwayne Johnson is one of the last stars that can draw a box office.  And with Disney marketing, I expect a big push for this as an adventure that will be for the whole family, especially for those who have kids two little for Marvel movies.

6. In the Heights
In The Heights teaser poster.jpg

This is one of my wild cards that I'm taking a big bet on.  The people I know who are anticipating this movie are incredibly intense about it.  Hamilton is a massive hit in the popular culture and this has been heavily pushed as Lin Manuel Miranda property.  And people want to be uplifted with a feel-good musical.  The two big drawbacks are that it will simultaneously be on HBO Max and I get the feeling that they are going to touching on some hot-button political issues, which may turn off a huge percentage of the movie-going public.

7.  The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
The Conjuring - The Devil Made Me Do It.png

These mid-budget films make big-budget numbers.  I was actually incredibly surprised at how well this franchise is doing in terms of ticket sales.  Like In the Heights it will premiere on HBO Max, but it also might make a big appeal to the teen demographic looking for a good horror movie that isn't R-rated.

8.  Space Jam: A New Legacy

I don't think that LeBron James is as popular as Michael Jordan, which is why this movie is lower on the list.  But this movie looks like Warner Bros. is pulling out all the stops and putting all of its IP into this film.  So you know that they are going to push this movie as THE sports film/kids movie that EVERYONE will want to see.  Again, this will be an HBO Max release too so this may hurt the box office.  We will also see if any of the controversy over the film (e.g. Pepe LePew and the Droogs) or James himself will have any affect on getting people into the theater.

9.  Free Guy
Free Guy 2021 Poster.jpg

This is also one of my wild card picks.  I'm thinking this is going to be pushed like a PG-13 Deadpool.  It will have the same kind of tones, but set in a video game world where the violence can be toned down.  This one is going to depend, I think, on the buzz from the early screenings.  If the buzz is good then I think the audience is going to come.

10.  Snake Eyes: GI Joe Origins

Snake Eyes G.I. Joe Origins Movie Poster.jpg

While people pan the first two GI Joe movies, they actually made hundreds of millions of dollars.  I'm waiting on a trailer, but this might just click.  While the producers have noodled a lot with the main character, I don't think that mainstream audiences are going to care much about that.

This year I did fairly well with the top part of the chart:

- If you allow for the fact that the Hotel Transylvania sequel was pulled from the lineup, I got the top four earners in the correct order.
-I correctly got 7 out of 10 into the top ten.
-I was way off on In the Heights potential box office, as well as Snake Eyes.
-I did not think Cruella would be as popular as it was.  I should know by now not to underestimate Disney
-I honestly forgot about The Boss Baby and I should have kept that one in mind.

So here are my conclusions.

Four of the top ten films were from Disney, with Marvel's Black Widow taking the top spot.  While I do think that the next two Marvel films (Shang-Chi and The Eternals) will be underwhelming, fan enthusiasm for the next Spider-Man film is incredibly high.  As I've said, Marvel is starting to get a little experimental with Phase 4.  If things go as I predict, I think Marvel will course correct and stick with movies to please the widest audience.  Disney does an excellent job of marketing their films as something where you can bring the whole family.

2. Franchise Films (Qualified)
Only Free Guy and Jungle Cruise are the non-franchise film in the top 10.  And Jungle Cruise is piggybacking of the name recognition from the Disney ride.  F9 is a close second for the top box office and it is the latest in a franchise that is over two decades old.  However, with the diminished box office totals, this may not be good news for franchises.  The budgets tend to get inflated and the returns aren't huge.  A Quiet Place Part II and The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, had more modest budgets and got a bigger return.


1.  Warner Bros.
While franchise they got three films in the top 10, none were spectacular hits.  The Suicide Squad barely made it to the top ten and it looks like it will lose money and so too maybe will Space Jam: A New Legacy.  And they were banking on a big return on In the Heights, but that never materialized, I would imagine mostly by bad word-of-mouth.  I have HBO Max and I still haven't seen it.  I'm hoping that Dune  will turn things around.

2.  Movie Theaters
I love the theater experience, but people are not coming back to Pre-COVID levels.  The future is now a bit uncertain.

I'll be finishing up my summer movie reviews soon, but there was a lot of hit or miss this year.  

But in terms of ranking by quality, here are the rankings of the summer movies I saw in 2021 (I'm including streaming).

A Quiet Place Part II
Those Who Wish Me Dead
Black Widow
The Tomorrow War
Free Guy
Army of the Dead
Gunpowder Milkshake
The Suicide Squad
The Woman in the Window

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