By David Poland

20 Weeks of Summer: Was The Summer DISASTER Actually A Win? (Part 1: Disney/Fox/Paramount)


Twenty-four movies.

That is the direct output of the wide-release movies from the six major distributors this last summer.

Do you want to think about this summer based on numbers or do you want to get all emotional about it? Because if you think facts matter, start with the fact that there were 33 wide-release movies from the 6 major distributors last summer (2013).

If all you are basing your reports of a summer disaster on is one specific, not very rich stat, you probably don’t care.

How about this? The average wide release studio (or Dependent) movie released this summer grossed— and this is just domestic, where the overall box office was down 13% from last year’s mass stat… international is up—earned an average of $22 million more at the box office this summer than last summer.

WAIT! How is this possible? Hollywood is BURNING!!!!

Let’s look at it studio by studio:

Disney (Buena Vista) – The studio released five films this summer and four last summer. They had the #1 domestic movie of the summer both summers. Last year, Iron Man 3 was #1 worldwide for the summer. This year, Maleficent is #2 worldwide and the domestic #1, Guardians of the Galaxy, is at #7 and likely to get to #6 or #5 by the time it plays out worldwide.

Maleficent – $230m – $754m
Guardians of the Galaxy – $314m – $632m
The Hundred-Foot Journey $51m – $52m
Million Dollar Arm – $36.5m – $37m
Planes: Fire & Rescue – $58m – $96m

$1,571m worldwide

The Lone Ranger – $89m – $261m
Planes – $90m – $220m
Monsters University – $268m – $744m
Iron Man 3 – $409m – $1215m

$2,440m worldwide

That’s a $869 million shortfall from last summer. Disney must be in a panic, right?

Well, let’s put aside the fact that two of the movies this summer have yet to have a major international release and that Guardians still has a few big markets coming. Say that’s good for $150m. Still… $719 million off… scary, right? That’s 29%! Far worse than the beloved overall domestic summer gross figure. Disney must be in free fall. People must be getting fired left and right, right?

Uh, no.

Here’s the deal. None of the five releases this summer are likely, when all is said and done, to lose money. Maleficent has a similar profit profile to Monsters University and perhaps even has the same value in resurrecting an aging brand. Planes, which launched a strong new marketing brand, was also highly profitable last year. Not so much this year… but the brand value is extended without taking a loss. 100 Foot and Million Dollar will be modestly profitable. Lone Ranger took—though the only reporting was on the projected loss, not the actual writedown—a $160m loss for the studio, it seems.

So Summer 2014 is, it seems, up about $80 million on Summer 2013 at this point. (Yes, very rough numbers.)

Comes down to IM 3 vs Guardians.

And IM3 will probably gross about $500 million more than Guardians when all is said and done. $121 million of that was in China… and there may be a similar haul for Guardians there too… so no need for an immediate asterisk-off. Figure about $250 million more in revenue back to Marvel/Disney. Then, consider how much more Iron Man 3 cost Disney than Guardians did. Publicly confirmed figures say IM3 cost $30 million more to make than Guardians. And how much more backend did Robert Downey, Jr. get on IM3 than anyone could have negotiated for Guardians? Not to mention that IM3 seems to be the end of Downey in that suit, except in team-ups while Guardians took a pretty much nonexistent title and made a franchise out of it. How do you value that?

One more factor. Marvel/Disney stuck another Marvel franchise, Captain America, a month ahead of the traditional summer launch of May 1 and had a summer opening result. It is not a summer movie. But if you look at it from Disney’s perspective, it kinda is. And with it at the back of the mind, it actually dips this summer into being a slightly better summer than last for Disney… even though they were off 29% by every major outlet’s favorite front page stat.

Moving on to…

Fox – The Century City studio wide-released 5 films this summers, 1 less than Big Fox last summer and 2 less if you include Searchlight, which didn’t get past 525 screens with anything this summer.

Domestically, Fox’s grosses were up 33% over last summer ($818m vs $617m), even with fewer films released. Worldwide was even more dramatic, up 61% from last summer.

Let’s Be Cops – $77m – $101m
The Fault in Our Stars – $125m – $301m
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – $207m – $681m
X-Men: Days of Future Past – 234m – $746m
How to Train Your Dragon 2 – $176m – $609m

$2,438m worldwide

The Internship – $45m – $94m
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters – $69m – $200m
Turbo – $83m – $283m
Epic – $108m – $268m
The Wolverine – $133m – $415m
The Heat – $160m – $230m
The Way, Way Back – $22m – $23m

$1,513m worldwide

Three of the five wide releases from the studio this summer did better than any film the studio released last summer.

It is true that Apes 2 and the new X-Men are, respectively, one of the most expensive and probably the single most expensive film made by the studio without a large percentage of the cost coming from outside the studio. But the $250m-plus box office improvement over last summer’s most expensive film, The Wolverine, more than makes up for that in either case.

Even on DreamWorks Animation, which is self-funded and distributes through Fox, the Fox revenue this summer doubled.

Last summer, The Internship lost money, Percy Jackson 2 was borderline, as was Epic.

This summer, Fault was way more profitable than last summer’s Heat, and both Apes and X did their jobs and made money.

Still looking for a studio with a disastrous summer…

Paramount – They only released two films last summer. Three this summer.

Hercules – $72m – $219m
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – $185m – $333m
Transformers: Age of Extinction – $245m – $1081m

$1,633m worldwide

World War Z – $202m – $540m
Star Trek Into Darkness – $229m – $467m

$1,007 worldwide

World War Z was last summer’s most expensive film. But a brilliant, aggressive push by Paramount may have gotten it to black ink. Close call. I don’t know enough to be sure either way. But with $540 million worldwide, there is a reasonable sense that they can make a sequel and build on that without reshooting an entire act of the film this time.

Star Trek Into Darkness was another soft hit last summer. They admit a $190m budget this time and wordlwide gross increased about $80 million… in other words, the way things are going, flat. They found a new glass ceiling on this franchise, it seems.

This summer, Hercules stiffed… though it isn’t clear how much money Paramount had tied up in the film. So the studio had a clear loser that they didn’t suffer last summer.

But Transformers: Age of Extinction, even with the Chinese $300m in asterisk gross, generated (very roughly) approximately $450 million in rentals coming back to Paramount… more than any other movie this summer and roughly double either Paramount movie last summer. And T4 certainly cost less than WWZ and may be closer than acknowledged to the Trek 2 budget.

And also from producer Michael Bay, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has overperformed expectations with $333m to date and given more energy to what was already a very strong merchandising line.

So even with the Hercules smack, Paramount was stronger this summer than last.

That’s three studios that have all had summers certainly equal to and really, better than last summer.

Still waiting for The End of Hollywood as we know it…

Part II: The Other 3 Major Studios

One Response to “20 Weeks of Summer: Was The Summer DISASTER Actually A Win? (Part 1: Disney/Fox/Paramount)”

  1. Joe Gillis says:

    I think the reason this summer was a disaster has nothing to do with the numbers – it has to do with the fact that people who love movies are frustrated with the fact that the majority of these films are garbage. They are machine-made products, with no personal stamp, that make no attempt to say anything meaningful other than “LOOK HOW MUCH WE CAN BLOW UP!!!!”

    Know the reason why The Fault in Our Stars was such a smash? It was about people. Actual, real people. Who don’t have superpowers and millions of dollars and access to high-tech weapons. The studios need to stop boring us to death with their CG-crapfests. It just gives us more incentive to stay at home and watch TV.

Quote Unquotesee all »

“The thought is interrupted by an odd interlude. We are speaking in the side room of Casita, a swish and fairly busy Italian bistro in Aoyama – a district of Tokyo usually so replete with celebrities that they spark minimal fuss. Kojima’s fame, however, exceeds normal limits and adoring staff have worked out who their guest is. He stops mid-sentence and points up towards the speakers, delighted. The soft jazz that had been playing discreetly across the restaurant’s dark, hardwood interior has suddenly been replaced with the theme music from some of Kojima’s hit games. Harry Gregson-Williams’ music is sublime in its context but ‘Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots’ is not, Kojima acknowledges, terribly restauranty. He pauses, adjusting a pair of large, blue-framed glasses of his own design, and returns to the way in which games have not only influenced films, but have also changed the way in which people watch them. “There are stories being told [in cinema] that my generation may find surprising but which the gamer generation doesn’t find weird at all,” he says.
~ Hideo Kojima

“They’re still talking about the ‘cathedral of cinema,’ the ‘communal experience,’ blah blah. The experiences I’ve had recently in the theatre have not been good. There’s commercials, noise, cellphones. I was watching Colette at the Varsity, and halfway through red flashes came up at the bottom of the frame. A woman came out and said, ‘We’re going to have to reboot, so take fifteen minutes and come back.’ Then they rebooted it from the beginning, and she had to ask the audience to tell her how far to go. You tell me, is that a great experience? I generally don’t watch movies in a cinema at all. Netflix is the future. It’s the present. But the whole paradigm of a series, binge-watching, it’s quite different. My first reaction is that it’s more novelistic, because if you have an eight-hour season, you can get into complex, intricate things. You can let it breathe and the audience expectations are such that they will let you, where before they wouldn’t have the patience. I think only the surface has been touched with experimenting with that.”
~ David Cronenberg