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David Poland

By David Poland

Summer Numbers Bring May Sequels

As of this writing, there are 10 films over the $400 million mark for 2013.

Last year, at this same time, there were 11… though 1, it should be noted, was over $400m on foreign dollars alone with only $10m of its $416m total coming from the US (The Intouchables) and almost all of that $406m happened in 2012.

So, in some ways, pretty even.

There were 2 billion dollar movies last summer. Only 1 this year. There was a small increase in average ticket prices. Etc. But, on the whole, pretty fair fight.

The big difference was that studios lost their focus on budget and went absolutely nuts this summer. That’s not an answer to the question of whether people still want to go to the movies or what they want to see. Last summer had a worse case of sequelitis amongst its biggest grossers than this summer… so is Hollywood taking a turn for the better? (Rhetorical.)

Three “originals,” six sequels, and one weird Oz spin-off make up ten $400m+ grossers worldwide so far in 2013. Last year, it was seven sequels, three “originals” and Intouchables.

World War Z, Pacific Rim, and The Croods (in order of expense) were the trio of originals that made it to $400m, The Croods being by far the most profitable of the three.

And which of the over-400-club film found the highest percentage of its gross internationally? Pacific Rim. Number two was Fast & Furious 6, which is one of those things that makes the movie business a constant amazement. Until Fast Five, which doubled the previous highest international gross in F&F history, this was a mediocre franchise internationally. And all of a sudden, with a tweak to the cast, international drives the franchise.

And that is why Pacific Rim really may be the first of a series of films. It’s why World War Z, which will be right on the edge of red ink, will be sequelized (with the assumption that the third act will not be re-shot the second time out). It’s why there could be a “Men in Black 4″ someday and why sequels to Marc Webb’s version of Amazing Spider-Man are a no-brainer.

Of course, Pacific Rim was also the only film in the Top Ten of 2013 that was derided and mocked as a box office disaster. But all three originals got over 62% of their gross from international. So did Man of Steel. People scoffed about Pac-Rim earning in Japan… but it more than doubled Superman’s show there. China was a huge part of Pac-Rim’s international success. And yes, the rentals are a bit lower there than in other foreign countries. But only Iron Man 3 did better there amongst English-language films… and only by $10m.

Heck, I don’t know if Pac-Rim is even going to escape the red ink. There may be some money lost. But 40 million-plus people paid money to see the film. And in the modern movie business, that smells of a big opportunity. Personally, I think GDT needs to put a few brand names in the Jaegers next time out. If he wants to draw US eyeballs, threaten the US a bit. But that opportunity to make the Fast, Furious leap is there.

11 Responses to “Summer Numbers Bring May Sequels”

  1. Etguild2 says:

    There are signs foreign fatigue may not be far behind domestic fatigue. RED 2 and Grown Ups 2 showed notable declines from the first in their respective series offshore. Percy Jackson, which was made on the assumption of foreign grosses, will be lucky to match the original. Most alarmingly, “The Smurfs” is looking at a foreign gross that’s off by at least $150 million. You’re right that Hollywood is still desperate to bank on foreign expansion, but there are tidings that we may be already hitting a wall.

    As for domestic, the deep sense of fatigue is palpable and set in early this year.

    Films with budgets of at least $100 million released since the end of June:

    Lone Ranger
    Pacific Rim
    White House Down
    The Smurfs 2

    Films released since the end of June that grossed $100 million domestically:

    Despicable Me 2
    The Heat
    The Conjuring
    We’re the Millers
    Grown Ups 2
    The Wolverine
    The Butler
    Pacific Rim (barely)

    Not much overlap. A serious need for re-evaluation is needed when “We’re The Millers,” a movie no one can muster much enthusiasm for, will likely end up being the top grossing film released between the Fourth of July and October.

  2. movielocke says:

    Ah but by the second film pacific rim sells itself its over the hump. I dont think johnny depp or brad pitt would add anythin to the gross. May even hurt the proprty with he stink of desperation.

    In the modern world, not the us centric world of the nineties, its the iron man name-not the actor in the suit-that sells the movie in china. Pacific rim is just an empty suit so the sequel should do great international without the drag of above the line talent.

  3. sanj says:

    World War Z – Pacific Rim – The Croods – Man of Steel – .Iron Man 3 – Fast & Furious 6 all the films DP listed never got a dp30 . so what’s the big deal ? at least 25 actors didn’t get any interviews + all the other crew – producers / directors / music . some of these huge blockbusters have important social commentary added .

  4. RRA says:

    The impression I got from this summer was Hollywood pointlessly killing itself by funding a slew big budget movies on the hope of rolling the right dice and get another AVENGERS or DARK KNIGHT, and then open them on top of each other.

    Why did RED 2 open in summer and not the fall or spring? I mean the G.I. JOE sequel moved from last summer to this spring and that worked out very well for that (crappy) blockbuster.

    Or even WHITE HOUSE DOWN. Why didn’t Sony move that to next summer or spring? Get far away as possible from OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN, which would be off people’s minds by then. It was a Roland Emmerich blockbuster, which isn’t my cup of tea but his trademark sort of popcorn film that usually does well.

    On the bright side, its possible that the modest budget movie isn’t on life support as people feared. THE HEAT, THE CONJURING, WE’RE THE MILLERS, NOW YOU SEE ME (yes 75 million is now “modest” in Hollywood *rollseyes*) and so forth.

  5. Jerryishere says:

    World War Z not an original. Based on a book.

  6. LexG says:


  7. RRA says:

    Lex G – thank God for giving mankind the gift of masturbation.

  8. Etguild2 says:

    I would totally watch “The 40-Year Old Virgin 2″ starring LexG.

  9. hcat says:

    Etguild, there is not a whole lot of suprises in the list of big budget films that failed to cross $100 million domestic. Most of them sounded like terrible ideas from the start. How is the Smurfs huge drop off some sort of suprise, do they not realize they are making crappy films? I can see how the first one was a hit based on nostalgia and a lack of competition but to double down on it is just wearing blinders.

    If there are any lessons to take from this summer its that counterprogramming can pay off in spades. Cheaper comedies and horror are offsetting the losses from the big-budget IP movies. Universal should take note since they have such a small slate next year, get some cheap laughers together as an alternative to the parade of spandex that is headed our way (or even another musical, who wouldn’t love a musical in the summertime?).

    And Sony, still swimming against the tide. They have proven over and over that they should never make anything but mid to lowbrow comedies, movies based on the incredible true story, and the occasional high end literary adaption. Captain Phillips would have cleaned up this summer as the riveting adult option.

  10. DiscoNap says:

    My girlfriend finally convinced me to see We’re the Millers the other night, and it’s really not that bad. Kind of ’90s-style super pleasant third tier stuff. Its monster success is the perfect example of most critics not realize that the average American sees maybe 5-7 movies a YEAR, and life is short and if they hear about an easy laugh with some heartfelt stuff in it they’ll go apeshit sometimes. Not surprised at all it’s doing well.

    Also Sudeikis needs to be careful with his next few moves, but he could really pull off the A-list.

  11. Hallick says:

    We’re The Millers is probably a case study in how to become a surprise hit by being EVERYBODY’S third option. No excitement going in, no excitement coming out, but a TON of people appear to have shrugged and meh’d their way into buying a ticket with this one.

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