Summer 2013 Box Office Full Analysis: Who Won and Who Lost

It’s September tomorrow which means summer is pretty much over. And more importantly it means the summer movie season is also over. Every year we hear about how Hollywood is dead and no one watches movies anymore and every year we find out that is patently untrue.

ummer 2013 Movies - Sumit Dutta

This is one of my favourite times of the year – it’s always fascinates me to see what movies did well and to see how they compared to the pre-season hype. Each year we are sold on an ever-increasing slate of movies all with their own unique USPs but the global movie going public is getting harder to read. With more entertainment options available movie makers and marketers can’t always necessarily rely on the same tricks they used to get audiences through the doors.

There are always winners and losers and this year there have been big examples of both. There has also been a lot of vocal scepticism this summer – I can’t recall the last time when people were so excited about big movies bombing and reactions so divided.

SEE MORE: The Big 2013 Movie Preview

Depending on who you talked to Man Of Steel was either a worthy reboot or a terrible film with a completely out of character ending. Iron Man 3 was a bold and witty marvel or an abomination that spat on “real fans”. Ditto Star Trek Into Darkness. (For the record I loved Iron Man 3 and thought Man Of Steel was good but not Dark Knight great – haven’t seen Star Trek yet)

And people couldn’t agree on what was a hit of flop either. World War Z defied a lot of expectations to make over $500m worldwide yet nobody couldn’t say for certain if that meant it was a success or not (I think it was). Star Trek made money but was expected to do much more. Pacific Rim is crawling to $100m domestically, but was a success overseas.

Luckily there were some outright successes. Now You See Me made close to $300m on a $75m budget. Fast & Furious 6 hit a franchise high with close to $800m, Despicable Me 2 topped that figure and horror smash The Conjuring racked up over $220m on a $20m budget and is still in play.

Here’s the Top 20 Movies of Summer 2013 Worldwide:

Rank / Title / Studio / Global Gross / Domestic & International Split

1 Iron Man 3, BV, $1,214.3    $408.6 $805.7 33.60% 66.40%
2 Despicable Me 2, Uni. $806.8    $351.7 $455.1 43.60% 56.40%
3 Fast & Furious 6 , Uni. $786.7    $238.6 $548.1 30.30% 69.70%
4 Monsters University, BV $690.2    $261.8 $428.4 37.90% 62.10%
5 Man of Steel, WB $649.8    $290.3 $359.5 44.70% 55.30%
6 World War Z, Par. $526.2    $199.0 $327.2 37.80% 62.20%
7 Star Trek 2, Par. $458.7    $227.4 $231.3 49.60% 50.40%
8 Pacific Rim, WB $397.4    $99.3 $298.1 25.00% 75.00%
9 The Wolverine, Fox $351.5    $125.9 $225.6 35.80% 64.20%
10 Hangover Part III, WB $351.0    $112.2 $238.8 32.00% 68.00%
11 The Great Gatsby, WB $331.0    $144.8 $186.2 43.80% 56.20%
12 Now You See Me, LG/S $293.1    $116.6 $176.5 39.80% 60.20%
13 Oblivion, Uni. $286.2    $89.1 $197.1 31.10% 68.90%
14 Epic, Fox $253.4    $107.4 $146.0 42.40% 57.60%
15 After Earth, Sony $243.6    $60.5 $183.1 24.80% 75.20%
16 The Smurfs 2, Sony $236.2    $63.9 $172.3 27.00% 73.00%
17 The Lone Ranger, BV $231.8    $88.0 $143.8 38.00% 62.00%
18 The Conjuring, WB $220.7    $132.3 $88.4 59.90% 40.10%
19 The Heat, Fox $209.6 $156.6    $53.0 74.70% 25.30%
20 Grown Ups 2, Sony $186.6    $129.2 $57.4 69.20% 30.80%

(Source Box Office Mojo)

Here are a few trends I noticed:

Sony Took A Beating This Season

The Daniel Loeb vs. Kaz Hirai beef was sparked by the under-performance of After Earth and White House Down. Harsh seeing as both were original films featuring stars the public usually love and made by directors who have made huge films in the past.  Last year Sony hit big with Skyfall and Spider-Man. But they can’t rely on those franchise every year. Smurfs 2 was also down a lot from the first instalment which hit big internationally. It will still probably be profitable when all is said and done thanks to a managed budget and some savvy promotional tie-ins. Luckily Adam Sandler, one of Sony’s golden boys, salvaged some dignity with a strong result for Grown Ups 2. Just a shame it was with a terrible movie.

Universal Had A Great Summer

Yes R.I.P.D. bombed hard and has probably killed Ryan Reynolds’ chances of heading a big move for a while, but their two golden franchises sparkled. Who would have though that the sixth Fast & Furious film would ever be so big? I’m curious to see if 2014’s Fast 7 will hold the momentum. Saturation is a risk and this is the first movie in years without Justin Lin at the helm. Illumination Animation had a huge hit with Despicable Me 2. Universal finally have a strong animation arm and its paying off big time. In addition to the 2nd and 3rd biggest films of the year so far Universal took the top 2 spots at the UK Box Office. Guess those London scenes in Fast 6 really worked!

SEE MORE: Universal Pictures – 100 Years By The Numbers [Infographic]

Marvel Studios Pays Off

The biggest film of the summer (and most likely the year) was Marvel / Disney’s Iron Man 3. A huge $400m+ domestic gross was eclipsed by an unexpected $800m+ international gross – both highs for the franchise. This is the second film in a row from Kevin Feige’s Marvel Studios to top $1bn worldwide. That $4bn acquisition of Marvel looks better and better with every film. Can Thor: The Dark World match up? Maybe not but expect the Marvel renaissance to continue for some time and in style.

SEE MORE: How Marvel Studios Built Its Cinematic Universe [Infographic]

Too Much Animation

There were 4 animated films in the top 20. Not bad but there were too many big animated summer movies playing to the same audience in the same time-frame. Turbo bombed, and Epic although a reasonable success wasn’t the franchise breakout Blue Sky were hoping for. Scheduling is clearly the issue. I’m sure those films and Smurfs 2 might have made more money in less competitive frames. But with so many films in such a short span something has to give and parents only have so much money to spend at the cinema. I also wonder how Blue Sky and DreamWorks can continue to co-exits under Fox. Next year How to Train Your Dragon will be up against Rio 2 – there’s room for both to succeed but there also the risk of cannibalisation. Even Disney wasn’t safe with Planes – luckily that film had a mid range budget and I’m sure the merchandising will make it a success.

SEE MORE: Has Pixar Lost The Magic Touch?

International, Our Hero

Once again the global audience saved some films. The Wolverine might have hit a series low in the US but its overseas gross meant it was the biggest grossing X-Men film to date. Overseas also saved Pacific Rim, The Hangover, The Smurfs, Oblivion and to an extent After Earth. And of course it took domestic hits like Iron Man, Despicable Me and Fast 6 to huge highs.

Warner Bros. Balanced Act 

Another strong slate. Man of Steel may have had some mixed reaction but it made a lot of money and successfully rebooted the character. Gatsby scored big and was very effective counter programming that still had the trappings of a big budget movie (that’s cos it was!). Pacific Rim might not spawn a franchise but considering some were predicting it to fail miserably it has done reasonably. Hangover hit a series low but still made money and The Conjuring and We’re The Millers will make for a nice end to the season. Well done! It’s clear that there is only one thing missing from the Warners equation and that’s animation! Time to invest?

SEE MORE: SuperMarketing: The Man Of Steel Way

Disney On Top

Yes Lone Ranger bombed, but Iron Man and Monsters Uni soared. Pixar and Marvel are the best bets Bob Iger & Disney ever made and I reckon Lucasfilm can only add to that success. Disney’s All-Tentpole-All-The-Time strategy is risky but if anyone can make it work it’s the best brand manager in the business.

SEE MORE: Disney Buys Marvel For $4bn – What Does This Mean For Both Companies?

SEE MORE: Disney Buys Lucasfilm For $4bn

Star Power Is Not Dead… Yet

The new theory that stars don’t matter was put to the test this summer and the results? Inconclusive.

Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Johnny Depp and 2012-All-Star Channing Tatum couldn’t deliver. So stars don’t matter! Wait a minute! Could Fast 6 have done so well without Vin Diesel and The Rock? Same with Brad Pitt and WWZ. Could Man of Steel have done so well without its heavyweight supporting cast? And of course Robert Downey Jr IS Tony Stark. So what does it mean? I guess people want to see stars in films they want to watch. Not very insightful perhaps but true all the same!

SEE MORE: Top 10 Highest Paid Hollywood Actresses 2013

SEE MORE: Top 10 Highest Paid Hollywood Actors 2013

Ha-Ha! R Rated Comedy, A Summer Staple

The Hangover, This Is The End, The Heat, We’re The Millers. All hits. All comedy. All R-Rated. It’s the same pattern every year, people go to the movies at summer for two reasons: to watch big spectacle and to get big dirty laughs.

SEE MORE: This Is The End: A Saintly Comedy?

Lionsgate Counters With A Clever Trick

The mini-major had a lean slate but had a very solid success with the entertaining Now You See Me. They counter-played very well. It was a slick, stylish, well made movie with an appealing cast and a reasonable budget. And playing against the big FX heavy sci-fi flicks meant that audiences who had got bored with those types of movies had a good alternative. This is a great argument for lower budget blockbuster style movies. Great to see Louis Letterier on form again after the misfire of Clash Of The Titans!

SEE MORE: The Brand: Lionsgate’s New Logo & New Mindset

Kids Only

Same story every year, everything was PG or PG-13 with 2 R-Rated comedies hitting the Top 20.

Original vs. Adaptations. The Debate Continues

We want original movies says everyone every year! And then when they go the cinema they by and large reject them in favour of sequels! There were 8 sequels in the top 20 which isn’t a bad spread. There were quite a few originals films this summer and a few did well. But not as well as the sequels.

No Independents Day

There didn’t seem to be any big indie breakouts this summer. Was it a lack of good movies, good marketing or lack of interest? I suspect the audience for grown up films is slowly shifting over to TV given the quality of that format’s top shows.

Early Bad Buzz Is Fatal

Now this is an interesting one. After Earth, RIPD, World War Z and of course The Lone Ranger all had lots of negative buzz months before their release, and in the case of Lone Ranger & WWZ a lot of that was down to their ridiculously overblown budgets. This happened last year too with Battleship & John Carter and both $200m+ movies failed at the box office. So what needs to happen? Managing budgets of course but how do you combat bad buzz so early on? PR & marketing teams need to get a better handle on negative sentiment which can spread like wildfire thanks to social media. There was one exception however. Brad Pitt and Paramount did a great job salvaging WWZ’s rep before release and it went on to play well. But the others suffered badly. When an audience has made its mind up about a movie so many month in advance you can’t be complacent.

So  what other  lessons can be learned if any?

MI4 and Tomorrowland director, Brad Bird tweeted this yesterday:

Is he saying his Disney stable-mate Gore Verbinski made a bad film!? I’m just kidding but of course this is always the perception. People ask why do films like Transformers get made – well its cos they make money. Lots of it.

So its audiences fault for lapping it up?

Well audiences can only watch what Hollywood serves so it’s up to them to create original films. I think the real lesson is that GOOD and ORIGINAL don’t need to be mutually exclusive.

And that ORIGINAL is cool but Iron Man 3 was the fifth time we’ve seen Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark and still rocked. Maybe what we need is an ORIGINAL approach to sequels. If you’re gonna make a second, third, fourth, fifth instalment try to keep it fresh. Universal, Justin Lin and Chris Morgan have done this very well with the Fast series and by handing over to horror veteran (and director of his own summer hit) James Wan, they are again ensuring that 2014’s part 7 should have some new ideas.

The other key takeaway for me is that budgets are still way too high for certain films. There are a lot of $200m+ budgeted films on this list above and worse a few not on the list. The movie industry is still a very inefficient beast. You can argue its impossible to apply the same business process management to moves as they’re creating art not a factory made products.  But it doesn’t really hold  water (and of course a lot of people will say that a lot of films are factory made products!…we’ll just ignore them)

Maybe a lower budget helps the ideas flow and keeps film makers hungrier and sharper. It’s telling that Neill Blomkamp’s $30m District 9 has significantly out-grossed his $100m+ Elysium.

Ultimately summer 2013 was a mixed bag but there were enough good movies to keep me happy. And at the end of the day from the perspective of a film fan that’s really all I can ask for.

Summer 2014’s Blockbuster Movies

Will 2014 be better? We have 4 Marvel movies (Captain America 2, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, X-Men: Days Of Future Past and wild card Guardians Of The Galaxy), a 7th Fast & Furious, Godzilla – Legendary’s final pic with Warners, a Planet Of The Apes sequel, Michael Bay’s Ninja Turtles & Transformers 4, Expendables 3, a DreamWorks sequel (How To Train Your Dragon) a Blue Sky sequel (Rio 2), a Pixar original (The Good Dinosaur). Disney’s Maleficent and Transcendence from Christopher Nolan’s DP Wally Pfifster.

It feels a lot closer to 2011’s line-up (not least because a lot of them are sequels to 2011 movies.

Some great looking potential blockbusters there (personally very intrigued by Guardians Of The Galaxy) but perhaps a quieter year than 2012 and a warm-up to 2015’s mega-blockbuster face-off.

Let the hype and speculation commence!

Was this a good summer for movies? Let me know!


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