The news involving the Hollywood box office for the most part has been pretty negative especially in terms of the annual total gross or all the action movie flops this summer. One thing that has been overlooked is the overall success of the summer. It actually did better than most people noticed. Or most journalists took note of.
Continuing from where I last kept track, July was actually a bigger month than most people noticed. Yes, the big news of the action flops of that month like The Lone Ranger, Pacific Rim, Red 2 and R.I.P.D. What shouldn’t be overlooked were the big successes of the month like the minion power of Despicable Me 2, the goofball comedy of Grown Ups 2, suspense of The Conjuring and even the successful action-packed delivery of The Wolverine. Overlooked by most, 2013 produced the highest-grossing July ever with $1.291 billion: $20 million more than the previous July record set in 2008 and almost $220 million more than July 2012. Funny how the flops made bigger news than the successes.
August also continued the run of success for the summer of 2013. It opened with the success of 2 Guns, continued with the temporary success of Elysium, received surprise successes from We’re The Millers and Lee Daniels’ The Butler and ended on a bright note with the opening of One Direction: This Is Us. At the buzzer, August 2013 grossed $755.4 million: $16.4 million more than August 2012. 2013 is not the highest-grossing August ever as it’s been outgrossed by the Augusts of 2001 and 2007.
So if you want to give a rough estimate of comparing summers, by simply adding up the grosses from May to August of both 2013 and 2012, the summer months of 2013 grossed slightly more than $425 million more than the summer months of 2012. This is a welcome relief after the slumping of the first four months of the year. It doesn’t completely make up the deficit it had over the monthly pace of 2012’s total gross but it does help gain a lot back and reassure us that people still like to go to the movies despite how many forms of entertainment people have.
One thing is the successes and failures of 2013 can teach Hollywood a lot about shelling out movies for the public. I will admit that the news about the constant flopping of the big budget action movies did deserve to be made note of. In fact it continued with Elysium despite how good quality it was. One thing that should have also been taken note of was the low-budget successes that happened. Some of which had quite minimal expectations put on them. First example is the horror drama The Conjuring which made $136 million total all on a budget of $20 million. In fact it debuted at #1 in its opening weekend with a gross more than double its budget. Another example is the oddball comedy We’re The Millers. It never was #1 at the box office but it opened with a healthy opening weekend of $26.4 million and went onto a gross that currently stands at $132 million. This movie had to be the movie that had legs this summer. The most current example is Lee Daniels’ The Butler. That’s not your typical summer fare but it held the #1 spot during the last three weekends of the summer and just hit $100 million this weekend. Hollywood, take note.
It’s not to say that action moves were a complete dud this summer. It actually opened strong with Iron Man 3 and continued with Star Trek Into Darkness and World War Z. However the first sign that the crowd was about to tire of this genre was when Man Of Steel didn’t gross as much as hoped. Sure, $291 million is still impressive and has it as the 3rd-highest grossing movie of 2013, but more was expected. I believe that was the first sign that it would be all downhill from here for this summer’s action flicks.
What should be noted is that the biggest winners at the box office were not necessarily the action movies but the animated family movies. Iron Man 3 may have been the highest grossing movie of 2013 so far but Despicable Me 2 is the second-highest. Its Minion Power took it to a total gross of just over $359 million. Monsters University holds as the fourth-highest of 2013 with $265 million. A third animated movie, Epic, also received an impressive total gross of $107 million.
So that sums up the summer of 2013. Action-packed, animatedly-charming and surprises out of left field. For every box office dud, there were hits. The bad news of the summer action flick would lead to good news of this summer’s total gross. Hollywood should learn from this summer and prepare not simply for a better summer but a smarter-planned summer for 2014.
Remember how for many years Pixar animated movies would be some of the best made of the year? Monsters University showed signs of Pixar heading in a more commercial direction with more emphasis on profit than on script quality. The question is will Pixar return to the greatness it had for many years?
Pixar started off as a small animation studio that made computer animated shorts. Actually shorts was as far computer animation got as far back as 20 years ago. That all changed when they received a phone call from Disney. There they teamed up to make the first ever animated feature. The end result, Toy Story, was history in the making. Released in the fall of 1995, it won over the critics and was a big hit at the box office. Director John Lasseter even received a special honorary Oscar for his achievement.
Eventually over the years the success of Toy Story would pave the way for successes of other 3D animated features over the years. Much of which was done by Pixar itself with the successes and critical renown of A Bug’s Life in 1998 and Toy Story 2 in 1999. In fact in teaming up with Disney/Buena Vista, it became clear that 3D would be the next big thing in animation as it would even fare better with the critics and outgross 2D animated movies from Disney like Mulan in 1998 and Tarzan in 1999.
However it would soon be clear that Pixar would soon get some rivalry in terms of 3D pictures. DreamWorks animation would release Antz just weeks before A Bug’s Life. Then they’d release Shrek in 2001 which did even better critically and financially than Pixar’s Monster’s Inc. that year. The rivalry would eventually lead to the eventual domination of 3D animation in shelling out animated features.
Pixar teamed up with Disney would have continued success and critical renown with other pictures like Finding Nemo in 2003 and The Incredibles in 2004. The movies were not your typical Disney movies in terms of marketing characters in toys but they did continue to score well with the public with both grossing over $250 million and score excellently with the critics. However 2006 gave a sign that Pixar was leaning into commercial directions with Cars. The movie scored 74% on Rotten Tomatoes—the lowest for a Pixar feature at the time—but the movie succeeded in toy merchandise. Its gross was also an impressive $244 million.
2007 to 2010 saw continued success and critical renown with Pixar’s features like Ratatouille in 2007, Wall-E in 2008 and Up in 2009. The big bang came in 2010 with the release of Toy Story 3, the finale to the Toy Story series. Like most of Pixar’s previous movies, it scored excellently with the critics. Its box office result was also excellent as it grossed $415 million: the most ever for a Pixar feature.
I still remember right after Toy Story 3 came there was countless mention of the success Pixar has made both financially and critically over the years. Entertainment webpages around that time made note of the successes they gave over the years. Rotten Tomatoes even pointed out that except for Cars, each Pixar movie up to then scored 90% or higher on its Tomatometer. Even Vanity Fair had a picture during the time of the Oscars of all the characters of Pixar movies. It was almost like around that Oscar time there was a big salute to Pixar for the 15 years of entertainment they gave. 15 years of excellent quality entertainment. 15 years of entertaining families and charming critics. A total of almost $3 billion gross. Forty-one Oscar nominations and eleven Oscar wins including seven wins in the Best Animated Feature category. In fact you could give credit for movies like Toy Story or Toy Story 2 for why the Best Animated Feature category was added by the Academy back in 2001.
Then it seems like right after Toy Story 3 and the glory that followed, things went downhill for Pixar. First came Cars 2 in 2011 with a lot of hype and merchandise. The film grossed a humble $191 million at the box office. However it was the Rotten Tomatoes result that was the big shocker. 39%: the first Pixar feature ever to be certified a Rotten Tomato. It even became the first Pixar feature to fail to receive a Best Animated Feature Oscar nomination ever since the category’s inception. As for the merchandise…
2012 gave a bit of hope that Pixar would be back into the swing of things with Brave. Brave was also a milestone as this would be the first Pixar feature with a female protagonist and would include two female co-writers and a female co-director. Unfortunately Brave received 78% at Rotten Tomatoes: falling short of Pixar’s finest efforts. The film did gross $237 million at the box office but still something was missing.
2013 seemed like another year where Pixar was aiming for quantity instead of quality. Monsters University, the prequel to Monsters Inc., was the only Pixar feature released in 2013. That hit a 78% on Rotten Tomatoes but still grossed an impressive $260 million. In terms of merchandise…
This weekend came Planes, a movie that was going along the same line as the Cars movies. It’s not necessarily a Pixar movie but it did have John Lasseter create the story for it. It scored only 24% on Rotten Tomatoes and opened the weekend with a paltry $22.2 million. That could be bad news about Lasseter’s creative juices.
It’s a question to what happened to Pixar as they always aimed for quality not just in terms of animation but also in the story and script. In fact seven of Pixar’s features have also been nominated in the screenplay categories and it’s those that have stood out as Pixar’s finest achievements. However as seen in the past, the desire to go more commercial does make the quality take a backseat. The animation is still top-of-the-line however the lack of inventiveness in its writing is making itself more evident.
It’s not to say that this is the end of Pixar’s legacy. 2014 will have The Good Dinosaur coming out. This was made from a concept of John Lasseter and will introduce a new scriptwriter to Pixar’s dream team. 2015 also shows Pixar keeping its creativity active with The Inside Out and also giving another commercial try with Finding Dory. How these movies will do both commercially and critically is something only time will tell.
Pixar has left a legacy of animated movies over the past twenty years. However it has been right after the release of Toy Story 3 that they appeared to be taking their legacy for granted. Their upcoming releases should send the message if they’ll return to it or not.