The Weekend Warrior’s Summer 2014 Box Office Wrap-Up

Now that summer’s over–and hopefully you’ve already perused and commented on my personal Top 11 of the summer–it’s time to look at the movies of the summer in terms of box office.

We might as well get this out of the way that I really screwed the pooch in some of this year’s summer box office predictions or as my boss and editor mentioned after reading it over back in April:

“Sex Tape, Deliver Us (from Evil), and Get On Up seem like weird additions to your Top 15. Am I wrong to question you on this?”

Fortunately, my boss isn’t one to spend more than a couple years gloating about me putting my cart behind those lame horses as summer began, thinking that one or all three might break out ala The Help or The Conjuring. Obviously, none of them did.

So how did I do otherwise? You can check out the Top 12 movies of the summer in the gallery at the bottom of this piece or you can just read on.

My pal Jamie Williams of Think McFly Think certainly called it when he said that no movie would gross more than $300 million over the summer and he was right.

That being said, there were few people who thought for a second that Marvel Studios’ sole movie of the summer–sorry I’m not counting their early April release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier as “summer”–and supposedly their biggest risk, James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy would score big with nearly $280 million grossed since opening on August 1. It’s still #1 movie as of this writing, having jumped back there a week back, but even opening so late in the summer, it effortlessly passed “Transformers” and some of the other odds-on-favorites to win the summer i.e. all of them. I’m incredibly sorry to Mr. Gunn for doubting his movie could possibly do as well as other Marvel movies, thinking it would end up in seventh place behind the summer’s big sequels. It’s going to be a long time before I can get over that shame. Not only that but over the weekend, it also became the highest-grossing movie of 2014, besting Marvel’s other release of the year, and literally NO ONE saw that coming. (Plus the movie’s soundtrack did huge business and it even started the new dance craze called “Grooting.” Take that, Macarena!) It’s also one of the rare blockbusters this summer that has done equally as well domestically as it has internationally, as even some of the biggest movies did better overseas. (The two noticeable exceptions are the two R-rated comedies whose topical humor would likely register better among Americans.)

No, I was indeed in the camp that thought Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age of Extinction would win the summer (which included the editor mentioned above) and it was certainly looking that way just a few weeks back when it passed other movies and settled around $240 million after having the only $100 million opening of the year. And even THAT was questioned by some! That was also probably the closest I came in terms of opening weekend predictions and not only didn’t it win the summer as I predicted, but it also fell nearly $85 million short of my expected $335 million domestic gross. Not even “Guardians” came close to that amount. Internationally though, Michael Bay is the real victor of the summer (and year, at least so far) with a global take of over a billion dollars, the only movie this year to do that well, helped greatly by countries like China and Japan.

Meanwhile, Disney’s Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie, which I had placing 11th (!) for the summer, thinking it would top off around $116 million, ended up making nearly $70 million its opening weekend and then it had serious legs over the summer – not too surprising considering the legendary legs of the film’s star. By July, it had surpassed many of the anticipated fanboy sequels of the summer and ended up taking third place for the summer with nearly $238 million. This literally made it Angelina Jolie’s highest opening and grossing movie of all time. Not bad for a woman who is already getting Oscar buzz for her second movie as a director, Unbroken, coming out later this year. The movie did well internationally as well, bringing its global total to $750 million.

It also fared slightly better both domestically and globally than Fox’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, reuniting Bryan Singer with his merry mutants. That came in fourth for the summer with $233 domestic, slightly less than the $260 million I predicted as well as opening lower over Memorial Day. It squeezed out another $512 million overseas to prove itself a decent-sized hit for Fox.

It was a surprisingly close race between Legendary Pictures’ Godzilla, Sony’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and 20th Century Fox’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which I did have in fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, with between $210 and 225 million. “Apes” and “Godzilla” essentially swapped places with the former opening slightly softer than my prediction with $72.6 million but capitalizing on positive word of mouth to bring its total closer to $205 million. Although Godzilla opened significantly higher than my prediction, $93 million in fact, it ended up being as frontloaded as “Spider-Man” so that they both ended up in the $200 million range. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 fared much better overseas than the other movies to claim over $700 million in worldwide box office.

Possibly one of the biggest head-scratchers of the summer to many will be the fact that not only did the Jonah Hill-Channing Tatum action sequel 22 Jump Street beat the heavily competing animated sequel How to Train Your Dragon 2 their respective opening weekend, but it trounced it in overall gross as well. In fact, most people thought that “Dragon” would be another $200 million plus blockbuster like its predecessor and it barely came close, topping out just over $170 million. 22 Jump Street, meanwhile, grossed nearly $20 million more over the course of the second half of June, July and August. Internationally there was no competition as “Dragon” scored $300 million more than 22 Jump Street for a respectable $592 million global gross.

As much as everyone wanted to hate on Paramount’s new version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, starring Megan Fox, produced by Michael Bay and directed by Jonathan Liebesman, it did significant business for an August opener with $66 million opening weekend and pushing $166 million in just four weeks. Foolishly, I had it doing about half that amount opening weekend and grossing less than $100 million total, thinking the fans and kids would see it opening weekend and then run away. Nope.

Universal’s Neighbors, co-produced by Jonah Hill’s long-time pal Seth Rogen with Evan Goldberg, and co-starring Zac Efron, also fared better than I predicted, with an opening of $49 million and grossing over $150 million, putting it at #11 for the summer with $15 million more than my prediction.

The adaptation of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, starring Shailene Woodley, was barely on my radar when I wrote the summer box office preview in April, but as it got closer to its June 6 release, it was obvious the movie was going to be big. After a $48 million opening, it ended up grossing nearly $125 million for the summer, enough for it to fall just short of the summer Top 10.

Biggest disappointment of the summer? Though not unexpected, Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow, one of my favorite summer action movies, failed to find the audience of some of the others. It barely even made it to the $100 million that Cruise used to bring in with ease, although at least it did better than last year’s awful Oblivion.

I also hoped Jon Favreau’s Chef might catch on and be more of a sleeper hit, but it did just fine considering what a small and inexpensive movie it was, still ending up with less than $30 million even after a rerelease this past weekend.

I definitely have to give it up to Disney and Fox, which each had two movies in the summer’s Top 5 and are having a couple of late summer sleepers in The Hundred-Foot Journey and Let’s Be Cops. Fox also had the hit of The Fault in Our Stars, which was quite profitable. Sony could have done better with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 but made up for it with 22 Jump Street. Warner Bros. kind of screwed the pooch because their biggest hit was with Legendary Pictures, who have now moved on to work with Universal. They really need to get moving on these superhero movies because after the finale of “The Hobbit,” they really don’t have many other tentpoles on the horizon – well, they do have some interesting movies next year, but we can talk about those next year. Paramount? “Transformers” underperformed, at least domestically, while the “Ninja Turtles” over-performed (and both did great internationally) so that evened out, but Universal really only had the successful comedy Neighbors and the semi-hit that was Scarlett Johansson’s Lucy and didn’t quite have as much success with The Purge: Anarchy and Seth MacFarlane’s movie as they might have hoped. Lionsgate and The Weinstein Company may as well close down shop if they can’t get it together in terms of summer releases. I mean, it didn’t even seem like they were trying.

If you want to hear more about the summer box office and what went wrong and right, check out the Movie Moan summer wrap-up podcast in which I participated in with Shawn Robbins from BoxOffice.com.

The Top 12 Movies at the Domestic Summer Box Office:

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