Summer Hits and Misses

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Summer is a crucial period for studios looking to make waves at the box office. The ripe months stretching from May to early August represent the prolific arrival of the biggest (and sometimes best) blockbusters in Hollywood’s arsenal.

Thanks to a string of hits, the summer 2018 slate performed significantly better than last year’s offerings, according to Box Office Mojo. Year-to-date winnings are up 8.2 percent from last year. Still, success is never without exception. Here’s a look at this summer’s biggest critical and commercial feats and flops.

Financial Breakouts

Avengers: Infinity War: The blockbuster to rule them all. The film undoubtedly kicked off the summer movie season with its highly anticipated cast of characters and the culmination of a 10-year, 19-film franchise. The movie raked in the most cash this summer, becoming only the third film to cross $2 billion at the box office, behind “Titanic” and “Avatar,” twi non-disney properties (as of their releases, anyway).

Incredibles 2: Not far behind is another Disney tent pole, this time from the  animation experts at Pixar Animation Studios. The long-awaited sequel to 2004’s The Incredibles wowed both fans and critics, managing to live up to the hype and collect more than $1 billion in ticket sales.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom: This sequel proved a  competitor to Disney and provided a satisfying follow-up to 2015’s reboot of the Jurassic Park franchise. It wasn’t quite able to match the success of its predecessor critically, but it still stomped all over the box office and pulled in the second-largest audience of any movie this summer, according to Box Office Mojo.

Ocean’s 8: This hit came somewhat as a surprise. The all-female sequel to the oceans films more than a decade ago landed rather well with audiences, despite the trend of poorly received string of female-centric reboots such as 2015’s Ghostbusters. Oceans 8 proved to be a refreshing, witty reprieve from CGI-centric blockbuster fare, and grossed almost $300 million on a $70 million budget

Mission Impossible Fallout: The most recent summer smash is the sixth film in the spy franchise, which proved it hasn’t lost any ground, even half a dozen films in. It reigned at the peak of the box office two weeks in a row, edging out Disney’s “Christopher Robin” in its second weekend and finding its way to the top ten grossing movies of the year worldwide

Deadpool 2: After the surprise hit that was the first film in 2016, this raunchy sequel racked up more than $700 million. That number is just shy of the first outing, but Ryan Reynolds and Co. should have nothing to complain about.

Critical Darlings

Tully: Directed by the team that helmed “Juno” and starring Charlize Theron as an overworked mother, this film came relatively early in the summer but remains one of the most striking, even in its simplicity. It will likely miss out on Oscar buzz because of its early release, but the film is not to be missed for its sweet storytelling, inventive editing and surprise ending.

Leave No Trace: Another quiet, midsummer release, Leave No Trace follows a father and daughter living off the grid in the deep forests of Oregon raises poignant questions about identity, obligation and belonging.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?: This documentary following the life and work of Fred Rogers, more commonly known as Mr. Rogers, and his iconic children’s television series swept audiences and critics alike off their feet with its heart-wrenching look at the figure’s aspirations, practices and philosophies. It became not only one of the highlights of the summer but the most successful biographical documentary of all time.

Hereditary: Likely the most controversial release of the summer, this A24 film (the studio behind other lauded projects such as Moonlight, Ex Machina and A Ghost Story) divided fans and critics, earning a spectacular Rotten Tomatoes score while garnering a rare F audience rating on the movie ratings website.

Fence Rider: Those films that might have succeeded with critics, but not at the box office, or vice-versa, They’re not complete duds, but they can’t be described as smash hits, either.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: While earning a modest $425 million, which was a little more than two times the hefty $195 million budget that it cost to produce the film, it remains amongst the lowest-grossing Marvel Cinematic Universe releases ( above the original Ant-Man film, “The Incredible Hulk” and “Captain America: The First Avenger”) and failed to convince people it was much better than the original. Coming only about two months after the release of Infinity War, the marketplace might have been a little too superhero saturated.

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again: This sequel to the highly successful original film back in 2008 (at that time the highest grossing film directed by a woman, until Patty Jenkin’s Wonder Woman came along), earned higher praise from critics but still has only grossed about half of that entry’s total haul, $319 million against its predecessor's $615 million. The film is still rounding out its theatrical run, so those numbers could shift slightly in the coming weeks.

Christopher Robin: Another highly charming film this year is Disney’s live-action trip back to the Hundred Acre Wood. It failed to open at #1 at the box office, despite praise from fans and moderately kind reviews, but with little competition for the rest of the summer, it has the potential to do some nice business in the coming weeks.

The First Purge: With a midrange Rotten Tomato score at 52 percent and little fanfare surrounding its Independence Day release, this low-budget Blumhouse release had no problem turning a profit, not that anyone will remember it by next summer.

Flops

Solo: A Star Wars Story: Arguably this summer’s biggest disappointment came from Disney, surprisingly. Solo, released amidst Star Wars fandom controversy and apprehensively close after The Last Jedi, over-saturation for the Star Wars brand that was once considered untouchable was proven when this anthology entry in the franchise failed to get people out to the theater. Failing to even scrape together $400 million on a $275 million production budget (not to mention probably as much on an aggressive last-minute marketing campaign), it will have to do robust business in the ancillary market to justify the greenlighting of this movie at all, let alone the dollars spent on extensive reshoots.

Life of the Party: Melissa McCarthy brought us another phoned-in comedy back in May, and audiences weren’t any more interested in this offering than they were for her last string of “hits” such as the 2016’s “Ghostbusters” remake or that same year’s “The Boss,” both of which proved to be financial disappointments.   

Skyscraper: Dwayne Johnson, one of Hollywood’s biggest stars (literally and figuratively) couldn’t even save this derivative mess of a film from crumbling in on itself.

Ryan Deloney is a staff reporter for the Arkansas Traveler, where he has been a staff reporter since 2016.

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