Blockbusters, bad buzz, and box office bombs: Summer 2016 in review

captain_america__civil_war___international_banner_by_ratohnhaketon645-d9yyuugWell, that was…interesting. I was trying to come up with a sentence to summarize my thoughts on the 2016 summer blockbuster season, and that’s what I ended up with. As a whole, this summer seemed to have a larger number of misfires than normal, and quite a few major releases that either failed to perform at the box office or live up to audience expectations.

Of course, “Captain America: Civil War” did get things off to a strong start, with an impressive $179 million opening weekend and a 90 percent Rotten Tomatoes score. It’s currently tied for my favorite movie of the summer. However, from there things got rockier, and quite a few sequels, reboots, and remakes under-performed. “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” “The Legend of Tarzan,” “Independence Day: Resurgence,” “Now You See Me 2,” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” seemed to come and go without a lot of fanfare. The video game adaptation “Warcraft” also failed to do much at the U.S. box office, though it picked up some steam overseas.

So, what happened? Although it could have something do with audiences simply getting tired of “more of the same,” that isn’t all of it, since two sequels, “Captain America: Civil War” and “Finding Dory,” performed very well. Perhaps the other films simply didn’t bring enough new material to their franchises or fully play up the nostalgia factor, like “Jurassic World” did last summer. Maybe the window of opportunity for films like the “Independence Day” sequel had already passed.

We also saw that bad buzz — or even simply minimal buzz — can hurt a film. I’ve always wondered what kind of power Rotten Tomatoes scores have on the average movie viewer (all the under-performers listed above did have negative Rotten Tomatoes scores). Maybe audience members don’t necessarily pay attention to those scores, but if a film isn’t getting a lot of good buzz, people might just elect to stay home. Online streaming services like Netflix are giving consumers access to more and more content, including older movies and TV shows and fresh, original content. If there’s nothing amazing in the theater, they can just stay home and easily find something to watch online. Besides, the cost of a month’s subscription to Netflix and a bowl of popcorn at home is far less expensive than the cost of taking a family to the theater every weekend, with tickets + concessions.

I think poor buzz contributed to the under-performance of “Ghostbusters” and “X-Men: Apocalypse,” which is a shame because I quite liked both of these films. Granted, “Apocalypse” might have been a little too hard to follow for viewers who weren’t super-fans of the film series (the film has lots of references to what’s happened before). But the film has some fun scenes and great performances, once again, from James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as prequel-era Professor X and Magneto. “Ghostbusters” actually drew a lot of anger from some fans, and I believe it’s unlikely we’ll get a sequel. While of course it’s okay to be concerned about a reboot or to ultimately dislike it, the online chatter about this film turned rather nasty and sadly veered in a racist and sexist direction. 😦

Speaking of negative online chatter, Warner Bros.’ hotly-anticipated super villain round-up “Suicide Squad” created quite a stir when it drew really, really bad reviews. Some fans even called for Rotten Tomatoes to be shut down and complained that Christopher Nolan’s Batman films were too good and should never have been made because they set an unrealistic standard for DC Comics movies (yes, I really saw someone arguing that). “Suicide Squad” isn’t a terrible film, but it is fair to say it wasn’t as good as it could have been. Although it boasted a $133 million opening weekend, I think its drop-off will be steep. At this point, Warner Bros. really needs the Wonder Woman movie to be a critical AND commercial hit, or their films post “Justice League” may be dead in the water.

Finally, a film that was close to my heart was “Star Trek: Beyond.” This movie really felt like a love letter to the Original Series and showed off the great chemistry among this reboot cast. Unfortunately, it under-performed at the box office too, and now I’m afraid Paramount won’t go ahead with that fourth movie they announced. This was a great movie, and I really hope we get to see more from this cast.

In conclusion, overall I was a little disappointed in this summer blockbuster season, and right now “Star Trek: Beyond” and “Captain America: Civil War” are the only movies with guaranteed slots on my “best of the year” list (in fact, they’re the only movies to make that list so far this year). However, the fall and winter season should chase some of these summer blahs away. “Doctor Strange,” “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” and “Rogue One” all look fantastic.

So, what did you think of the movies this summer? What films did you like or dislike?

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17 thoughts on “Blockbusters, bad buzz, and box office bombs: Summer 2016 in review

  1. Great summary. I haven’t seen Ghostbusters, X-Men: Apocalypse and Suicide Squad yet but I did see Star Trek Beyond and it’s a real shame it’s not performing. It’s certainly one of the better and underrated films of the summer. I think Paramount said they are going ahead with Star Trek 4 so it would seem they’re happy at some level.

    • Thank you! I’m glad to hear they’re going ahead with another one; I’m a big, big fan of Star Trek Beyond. The summer movie season gets so crowded sometimes that occasionally a really great film gets buried, like this one did. Maybe spring or fall would have been a better time for it?

      • Yep it’s definitely coming back with Chris Hemsworth returning as Kirk’s dad. Not sure how they’re going to explain that one, but yeah it’s happening. I definitely agree with crowded release dates. There was such a short window between films that I didn’t have the time to see them all. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Star Trek Beyond probably would have worked best as a September/October release just for breathing room and having no pressure. Just not December…that’s Rogue One time! I’ve got to catch up with some summer releases but sadly probably missed the boat and now will have to wait for blu-ray/digital release. Hopefully I’ll get round to watching Suicide Squad this week.

      • I’m curious to see how they’ll work Kirk’s father into this; maybe flashbacks or perhaps he was trapped in some kind of alternate dimension? I agree, I think Star Trek Beyond would have been just fine as an October or even April film. Captain America the Winter Soldier did just fine when it came out in spring 2014. 🙂

      • From the announcement it kinda sounds that Kirk will meet his father. I hope they don’t go down the alternate timeline, we’re already in an alternate timeline! Too many timelines lol. You’re right about Winter Soldier and to date, it’s still Marvel’s best film.

  2. I enjoy a good summer blockbuster. I think this year the pickings are slimmer. If there were stronger reviews for some of them I would have gone out to see them in theaters. Mostly I’m waiting for the video release. I still may see Star Trek Beyond or Jason Bourne in theatres. Good post!

  3. Honestly, I have been very disappointed with the movies this summer. Most were just in mediocre range or lower. I really think the problem is that the filmmakers simply need to make better films, because a lot of these revamps are feeling empty and that’s showing through.
    X-Men and Ghostbusters got poor buzz because they simply weren’t very good. The time may have passed for and Independence Day sequel, but the fact that the film was awful is probably a large part why it didn’t work. Its pretty clear, if you want good buzz for your film, make a better film.
    Mind you that only works when they are large franchises. The best movie I saw this summer was Nice Guys which not many others saw. We need to promote good films more than talk about films that fail I think.

    • It almost feels like a lot of these films were rushed: either the script, the production, the editing, or even all the above. Studios feel pressured to pump these tentpoles out; I think with more work and a better script, Suicide Squad could have been a really interesting, edgy film. I have heard good things about Nice Guys. I’m almost to the point where I wish studios would make fewer films. That way, they can spend more time on the films they do make (like Suicide Squad) and smaller films (like Nice Guys) get some space to breathe at the box office. We don’t need a big budget action movie every weekend.

  4. Yes, quite a poor Summer – lots of movies I cld not b bothered to go and sit thro!
    Star Trek may b my last visit to th cinema until Doc Strange in November!
    U wld think that th success of Guardians of th Galaxy shows that people want something fresh and different and not sequels/reboots th whole time, but it’s MILLIONS of dollars the studios are gambling w here!
    Glad u really enjoyed Star Trek – but apart from that, this Summer has been a real bummer!
    Cheers!

    • Yep, Cap. America Civil War and Star Trek Beyond were my highlights, and like you, the next big one for me is Doctor Strange. The sad thing is that Suicide Squad could have been really fresh and different but it felt like the movie was just rushed to theaters. Ah well–here’s hoping for a strong fall!

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