This isn’t news, but it bears repeating: If there is one thing we can learn from looking at summer movies, it’s that absolutely nobody cares what critics have to say about summer movies.
Critics hated some summer movies that did really well and loved others that bombed.
Who had a good summer at the box office? Who wishes that 2016 had never happened? Let’s look at some numbers. All grosses are drawn from the almighty boxofficemojo.com.
This summer’s biggest winner was Disney, by far. Great merciful crap, did Disney have an insane year. The top four movies on the planet were Disney films.
“Captain America: Civil War,“ the most recent entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, grossed $1.152 billion worldwide. “Zootopia” was a sleeper smash with a $1.02 billion gross. “The Jungle Book,” an entirely CGI-affair (save for the lead actor), grossed $961 million. And Pixar’s most recent entry, “Finding Dory,” picked up $930 million worldwide (with $479 million of that in the States; domestically, it’s the year’s most successful picture).
Even with a few flops —“The BFG,” directed by Steven Spielberg, earned only $54 million domestically and $160.3 million worldwide against a $140 million budget; “Alice Through the Looking Glass” took $77 million domestically but finished with a decent $295 million worldwide gross; and “Pete’s Dragon” has only made $55 million in about three weeks of release — Disney pretty well owned 2016. Until everyone gets sick of Marvel and Star Wars, this trend may continue. Then again, nothing lasts forever.
That said, superheroes in general had a good year. The critically excoriated “Batman v Superman” grossed $872 million worldwide (though only $330 million of that at home). The critically rebuked “Suicide Squad” made $637.8 million worldwide.
“Deadpool” was the real superhero surprise, grossing $782 million worldwide against a budget of $58 million. Considered a low-budget also-ran, it radically outperformed “X-Men: Apocalypse,” which took in $544 million worldwide but only $155 million domestically, less than half of the $363 million domestic “Deadpool” made. The moral of this story is that absolutely nobody cares what critics have to say about superhero movies, especially audiences in other countries.
You know who also had a good year? People complaining on the internet. Take, for example, “Ghostbusters,” rebooted by Paul Feig with a gender-swapped cast. A certain segment of the internet almost instantly started complaining about the ladies wielding proton packs, keeping up a drumbeat of bafflingly bad buzz that resulted, most recently, in actress Leslie Jones’ website getting hacked. The movie earned a $121.7 million domestic box office (and only a $217.7 million international total), and plans for a sequel seem to have been scrapped. This is very literally why we can’t have nice things.
Then again, sometimes the market and critics march hand in hand. “Free State of Jones,” starring Austin spirit animal Matthew McConaughey, just did not work and made only $20 million, less than half its $50 million budget.
I was one of the very few critics who didn’t absolutely love Austin film godfather Richard Linklater’s “Everybody Wants Some,” but it never completely found an audience, grossing only $3 million, making for Linklater’s worst outing since “Me and Orson Welles” in 2009 and doing far, far worse than 2014’s still-incredible “Boyhood.”
But I really enjoyed “Midnight Special,” by Austin director Jeff Nichols, a movie that couldn’t quite find its audience, either — it made only $6 million worldwide. (And also got its tribute-to-’80s-sci-fi-and-fantasy lunch eaten by Netflix’s “Stranger Things.”)
Ultimately, critics enjoyed “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping,” Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone’s comedic ode to the Biebers of the world. But it made a dismal $9 million (no budget was released) domestically and has not been released overseas. And the genuinely terrific “Green Room,” a much better horror movie than, say, “Don’t Breathe” or last year’s “It Follows,” has made only $3 million. I suspect both will have a decent life on various streaming services.