Wednesday, January 9, 2019

In Laman's Terms: How Did The Seven Major Movies Studios Fare At The 2018 Domestic Box Office?

In Laman's Terms is a weekly editorial column where Douglas Laman rambles on about certain topics or ideas that have been on his mind lately. Sometimes he's got serious subjects to discuss, other times he's just got some silly stuff to shoot the breeze about. Either way, you know he's gonna talk about something In Laman's Terms!

There are seven big American movie studios (soon, we shall be back to six once 20th Century Fox gets absorbed by Disney in the coming weeks) and they all released a whole slew of movies in 2018. Today, I shall use my box office savvy mind to look at their yearly grosses from 2018 and see which ones were on a financial roll and which ones are looking to the future to improve their fortune!

Let us begin with a studio I'm sure you're all shocked is once again on top of this (small) world....

1. Disney
Total Gross: $3,092,343,747

Another year in the 2010's, another year where Disney dominated all the other studios at the domestic box office. Disney had their second-biggest year ever at the domestic box office in 2018, an impressive achievement considering they actually had a number of box office non-starters this year. A Wrinkle In Time fell short of recent Springtime live-action Disney family movies and topped out at only $132.6 million worldwide, Christopher Robin became the first (exempting the 2017 documentary Born In China) Disney title in nearly two years to miss the $100 million mark domestically and The Nutcracker and the Four Realms grossed a dismal $54.4 million domestically. And then there was Solo: A Star Wars Story, a movie that proved that even Star Wars movies could lose movie. The heavily troubled production cost well over $260 million to make but couldn't even top $400 million worldwide.

Disney managed to even things out and then some by releasing two of the four biggest movies of all-time this year Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War both grossed over $675 million domestically. The former Marvel Studios feature became only the third movie ever to crack $700 million domestically while Infinity War ended up as only the fourth movie in history to crack $2 billion at the worldwide box office. Disney also found massive success in Incredibles 2, which soared far above typical box office numbers for animated movies to gross $608 million domestically alone, becoming the biggest animated movie of all-time in the process. As if that weren't enough, Ant-Man and the Wasp improved nicely on its predecessor to score $213.7 million, Ralph Breaks The Internet should be able to sneak past the $200 million mark and Mary Poppins Returns is on its way to becoming one of the biggest live-action musicals ever made. Disney had some bigger misses than usual this year but thankfully for them, they also had much bigger than usual hits as well that took the studio to impressive domestic box office heights.
2. Warner Bros.
Total Gross: $1,940,074,233

2018 was the third biggest year ever at the domestic box office for Warner Bros., only behind their box office hauls from 2009 and 2017 and the studios slate was primarily filled with hits of various shapes and sizes. Aquaman will end up as their biggest movie at the domestic box office that was released in 2018 with a $310+ million domestic gross, cementing the DC Extended Universe as a franchise force to be reckoned with in the process. In the calendar year of 2018, though, their biggest title was A Star Is Born, which took in a massive $201.1 million. That Bradley Cooper directorial effort wasn't the only sleeper hit the studio experienced in 2018 as Crazy Rich Asians became one of the biggest romantic-comedies in history with $174 million. The Meg, with its $145.4 million domestic haul, was another overperformer for the studio while Ocean's 8 took in $140.2 million to become the second-biggest movie ever for the Ocean's franchise. While not as big as some of his most successful blockbusters, Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One took in a decent $137.6 million domestically while Dwayne Johnson's Rampage similarly took in a solid $101 million domestically, making it only the second live-action video game movie to clear $100 million domestically. Finally, The Nun continued the winning streak of the Conjuring movies with a $117.4 million domestic gross, the second-biggest domestic haul of any Conjuring movie while The Mule is on track to become the sixth Clint Eastwood directorial effort to clear $100 million domestically.

As for weaker performers, the scattershot track record WB has at the domestic box office with animated family fare continued on with the underwhelming $82.9 million domestic gross of Smallfoot and the $29.7 million gross of Teen Titans Go! To The Movies. Meanwhile, the studio also continued to struggle with launching new live-action comedy hits. Game Night at least held on well after its so-so opening weekend to take in $69.1 million, but the likes of Tag and Life of the Party failed to crack $55 million domestically. Their first two titles of the year, Paddington 2 and 12 Strong, also fell short of the domestic box office totals of comparable titles. Probably the one major worrisome box office performance of 2018 for WB, though, was Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, which is on its way to ending its domestic box office run just below $160 million, way below the domestic haul of its predecessor and any Harry Potter movie. That's not the kind of box office results you want when you still have three more Fantastic Beasts movies to release. Maybe they can replace them with some Aquaman, Crazy Rich Asians and Ready Player One follow-ups?
3. Universal
Total Gross: $1,768,670,318
Lots of older Universal franchises came back for new installments this year and led the studio to their second-biggest year in history. The newest Jurassic World movie topped all of their other 2018 releases, as well as all but one of the studios releases in history, with a $416.7 million domestic haul while a new Illumination title, The Grinch, continued that animation studios winning streak with a $266.2 million domestic haul. Blumhouse created plenty of moneymakers for Universal in 2018 between new Halloween, The Purge and Insidious movies while Mamma Mia! returned after a decade to gross a great $120.6 million. The Fifty Shades of Grey franchise concluded with a solid $100.4 million haul while The House With A Clock In Its Walls was slightly above average for a live-action family movie with a $68.5 million gross. Blockers and Breaking In also did fine business considering their smaller budgets while Green Room, though starting off slowly, has already grossed $32.1 million despite never playing in over 1,215 locations and seems to have plenty of gas in its tank.

There actually wasn't too much that went too haywire for Universal in 2018, with even box office duds having their losses mitigated by the fact that most Universal titles have smaller budgets. For instance, Night School fell short of most other Kevin Hart vehicles but it still grossed an alright $77.3 million, better than any other live-action comedy in 2018. First Man couldn't translate strong reviews into a powerhouse domestic box office performance with only $44.9 million, but that's not an atrocious haul. More problematic were 2018 titles like the ones from Legendary Pictures, who concluded its partnership with Universal with a couple of 2018 box office duds like Skyscraper and Pacific Rm: Uprising.  Most troubling of all was a pair of December 2018 flops, Mortal Engines ($14.8 million) and Welcome to Marwen ($8.3 million), both of which will end up as two of the lowest-grossing wide releases that the studio has launched in recent memory. Those two seem to be the outliers in an otherwise year of domestic box office for Universal.
4. Sony/Columbia
Total Gross: $1,283,717,705

After a couple of rough years at the domestic box office, Sony/Columbia actually managed to score their second biggest year at the domestic box office since 2009 (only 2012 was bigger in that timeframe). Nearly 20% of that gross alone came from the $235.5 million generated in 2018 by 2017 holdover Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, which became the studios biggest film of all-time domestically with a whopping $404.5 million haul. Their biggest 2018 release proper turned out to be sleeper hit Venom, which finally kicked off a cinematic universe for the company with a stunning $213.3 million domestic gross. Similarly impressive was Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation with a $167.5 million gross, on par with the domestic sum of Hotel Transylvania 2 while the studios surprisingly high number of successes in the family movie genre continued with hits Peter Rabbit ($115.2 million) and Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse ($108.1 million generated in 2018 alone). It wasn't just family films that excelled for the studio though, the R-rated action movie The Equalizer 2 became one of the biggest Denzel Washington vehicles ever with a robust $102 million sum while Searching became a late summer sleeper hit with a solid $26 million gross. Even that Sicario sequel, Day of the Soldado, managed a decent $50 million haul that put it ahead of the $46.6 million domestic gross of the first Sicario.

Despite scoring a number of victories, particularly in the lucrative realms of blockbuster and family fare, the studio still saw its fair share of misses on their 2018 slate. After years of build-up, Studio 8, a production company whose films Sony was set to distribute, finally released their first two titles, Alpha and White Boy Rick, to disappointing domestic box office figures ($35.8 million and $24 million, respectively). Despite being based on a popular urban legend, Slender Man actually fell behind original property Alpha with a meek $30.5 million domestic gross while Holmes & Watson fell far below past Will Ferrell Sony/Columbia comedies with only $21.2 million. Not all attempts to extend existing Sony/Columbia franchises worked out as well as Venom or Jumanji, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween fell far short of its predecessor with a $46.7 million domestic gross while an attempt to relaunch the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series with The Girl In The Spider's Web resulted in a disastrous $14.8 million domestic gross. The studio's recent difficulty with launching a financially successful drama continued onward with The Front Runner, which became one of the studios lowest grossing wide releases ever. Clearly, there were some big misses for Sony this year, but the good news is the likes of Venom, Peter Rabbit and Into The Spider-Verse have kicked off new franchises for the studio and their 2019 slate is one of their most promising in years.
5. 20th Century Fox
Total Gross: $1,051,718,670

In their last year as a stand-alone studio, 20th Century Fox had the lion's share of its $1+ billion domestic box office haul come from a handful of titles as the studios 2018 slate primarily consisted of either more solid smaller earners or outright box office duds. Deadpool 2 was, of course, the cream of the crop among their 2018 titles with a $318.4 million domestic gross that solidified it as the fifth biggest 20th Century Fox title in history. In second place was the massive sleeper hit Bohemian Rhapsody, which is well on its way to a $200 million domestic gross given that it amassed $189.8 million in 2018 alone. Another music-driven sleeper hit for the studio was The Greatest Showman, which made $125.3 million of its $174.3 million domestic haul in 2018. Another 2017 holdover that did well for the studio in 2018 was The Post, which added $80.1 million to the studios yearly domestic haul. On the smaller but still successful side of things, both Love, Simon and The Hate U Give fared well for small-scale YA-novel adaptations with $40.8 million and $29.6 million domestic hauls, respectively.

On the weaker side of things, Maze Runner: The Death Cure's $58 million domestic gross was well below what its two predecessors took in while far more worrisome was the disastrous performance of The Predator, which took in only $51 million domestically, a step down from the $52 million haul of the cheaper 2010 feature Predators. Going farther down the list, one see's a number of original or non-sequel R-rated features that just missed the mark for the studio in 2018. With only $46.6 million in the bank, Red Sparrow became one of the lowest-grossing Jennifer Lawrence vehicles to date while the $41.9 million domestic gross of Widows fell far short of expectations. Bad Times at the El Royale fared even worse than either of those two with a dismal $17.8 million. Finally, The Darkest Minds was one of the lowest-grossing movies ever to play in over 3,000 locations with an anemic $12.6 million domestic total. 2018 saw some major high's for 20th Century Fox, but there were also a number of major star-driven misses that rendered their 2018 (which was their lowest-grossing year at the domestic box office since 2013) a mixed bag.
6. Paramount Pictures
Total Gross: $757,000,762

From 2006 to 2014, Paramount Pictures cleared $900 million without a hitch at the domestic box office and from 2007 to 2011, they had yearly domestic box office totals ranging from $1.4 to $1.9 billion! But the studios been on a cold streak since 2015 as their annual slate of movies has dwindled down to a small amount of super expensive films that typically flop at the box office. After hitting their lowest annual domestic box office gross ever in the 21st century in 2017, Paramount Pictures slightly rebounded this year with a couple of hits that showed that the studio was capable of still churning out a major hit. Top of the crowd was Mission: Impossible - Fallout, which took the long-running franchise to new domestic box office heights with an impressive haul of $220.1 million. Even more of a surprise hit than that feature was A Quiet Place, which blew away all expectations with a massive $188 million domestic gross, making it one of the biggest horror movies of all-time. Book Club was also one of the more notable sleeper hits of the summer with $68.5 million.

Those three were the big highlights of Paramount's 2018 slate, along with Bumblebee which isn't doing outstanding business but is doing solid box office with $71.4 million generated in 2018 on its way to a domestic gross that will likely end up above 2017's more expensive Transformers: The Last Knight. Instant Family has also legged out over the holiday season to a $64.8 million domestic haul that's short of expectations but isn't bad for a live-action family comedy. Even with those titles around though, 2018 still had too many of the kind of box office duds that Paramount has been too familiar with in recent years, as Sherlock Gnomes fell 57% below the domestic gross of its predecessor with only $43.2 million, Annihilation took in only $32.7 million, Nobody's Fool was one of the lowest-grossing Tyler Perry directorial efforts ever with only $31.7 million and Overlord was far below prior J.J. Abrams-produced Paramount Pictures titles with only $21.7 million. There was also Action Point, which wound up as one of the lowest-grossing wide releases of 2018 with a dismal $5 million. There were plenty of box office misses this year, though thankfully, only Action Point was as big of a dud as last year's Paramount misfires like Suburbicon or Downsizing. To boot, the biggest movies of this year prove that Paramount still can turn out a hit as big as the ones they regularly released back in the 2006 to 2014 era. I'm sure everyone at the studio
7. Lionsgate
Total Gross: $388,875,022

I guess Lionsgate basically just gave up on 2018 seeing how meager their slate was. After the last two years saw them really trying to make a show for how they didn't need the Hunger Games movies with hits like La Land, Wonder and Hacksaw Ridge, their 2018 was shockingly devoid of movies in general, let alone box office hits. Their one hit, A Simple Favor, was also their biggest movie of the year with a $53.5 million domestic gross. That's below the domestic hauls of past Fall thrillers like The Girl on the Train but is nonetheless a solid haul that, given its $20 million budget, ensures the film will be profitable. Eugenio Derbez continued his box office hot streak with the $50.3 million domestic haul of Overboard while Tyler Perry's Acrimony grossed an alright $43.5 million.

The rest of Lionsgate's 2018 box office results ranged from being merely disappointing to being outright disastrous. The Commuter's $36.3 million gross was well below past Liam Neeson action vehicles while The Spy Who Dumped Me and its $33.5 million domestic gross was similarly weaker than prior Mila Kunis comedies. Robin Hood was yet another failed attempt by Lionsgate to launch a new blockbuster franchise as it grossed a meager $30.6 million while Hunter Killer was one of the lowest-grossing movies of Gerard Butler's career with only $15.7 million. Both Early Man and Kin were two Lionsgate releases that managed to open in over 2,000 locations that still couldn't manage to clear $10 million. With only $388.8 million generated this year, this is the second-worst year for Lionsgate since 2007 (only 2011 was worse) and the studio will need to get their box office grosses back to the levels seen in 2016 and 2017 if they still want to be a box office force to be reckoned with in the years to come.

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