ByGreg Frank, writer at
Born and raised in Juneau, Alaska. Running enthusiast, film enthusiast, former social studies teacher and all around nerd.
Greg Frank

The days are getting shorter, it’s Labor Day weekend, the kids are back in school and your vacation time is over. Summer is over. Even the upcoming releases reflect this, as all the big blockbusters have come out now and we get The Light Between Oceans and Morgan this weekend. The Vikander/Fassbender film is supposed to kick off Oscar season. Morgan represents that horror films that studios just begin shelling out. The season is changing and it’s time to reflect on the summer movie season: Who the winners are and who the losers are. L:et’s get right into it.

Winner: Animated Films

OK, so let’s get this right off the bat. One of the best summer for animated movies. Zootopia, while not released during summer, was lingering around when summer kicked off. It made a ton of money and was foreshadowing a good summer for animated films. Finding Dory, a sequel to Finding Nemo (2003), came out and made over $930 million at the box office and holds a 94 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Finding Dory is considered a huge success.

Then there was The Secret Life of Pets. That film made over $700 million worldwide and over $350 million at the domestic box office. Pets also holds a 75 percent on the tomato meter. Even though Kubo and the Two Strings didn’t do great at the box office, it also has over 90 percent on RT and it was an original story. Oh, then there was Sausage Party, an original film that really scored big at the box office. Sure, there are some misfires (Angry Birds, Ice Age: Collision), but overall this summer saw some great animated films.

Loser: Traditional Blockbuster Films (Including Reboots And Sequels)

In the '90s and 2000s there was a certain blockbuster formula: Lots of explosions, one-liners and a shaky story and/or character development. We love lots of these films and we embraced them. However, this has changed. Look at some films that we would have flocked to 10+ years ago: Independence Day: Resurgence, The Legend of Tarzan, Ghostbusters, Warcraft, Jason Bourne, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, The BFG, Alice Through the Looking Glass — these films would have done great in a lot of other years regardless of quality. Yet, they were ALL turned away by audiences and grossly underperformed. These films were soundly rejected and for good reason. Are audiences getting smart, or have our tastes evolved?

I forgot to mention Ben-Hur. Man, what a bust. Add that to the list.

If you didn't see Ben Hur, check out all that you need to know in the video below:

Winner: Will Smith And Margot Robbie

If you look at this summer, you will know that Suicide Squad probably didn’t resonate with people as much as the trailers did. What the trailers showed was fun, levity and entertaining characters. Also, the soundtrack didn’t hurt at all. Now, Smith came out looking like, well, Will Smith. He was able to recapture his charm that we missed in Concussion and Focus. He was smart, funny and charming and was one of the best parts of Suicide Squad. Will Smith showed he can still lead a summer film and now I look forward to seeing him in Bad Boyz for Life. Margot Robbie stole our minds and hearts as Harley Quinn and we are wanting her to lead her own film. (Yes, I am conveniently leaving Robbie’s earlier release off because no one saw Tarzan)

Loser: Superhero Films

How bad do superhero films look? Sure, they crushed it at the box office, but man this is a bummer summer for superhero movies. Don’t get me wrong, superhero films have a long way from going downhill financially. In fact, they were very profitable. However, critically they struggled. Word of mouth hurt. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows really underperformed. Batman v Superman made almost $900 million and yet critically it struggled. I already have chronicled why Batman v. Superman signals a problem in a previous post, but here is a short version: When you load up a chamber with your biggest bullet, you expect more than just a small dent. This film could have easily grossed a billion dollars.

Warner Bros. has struggled critically with their properties and people will eventually not see superhero films because of poor ones. X-Men: Apocalypse struggled critically and financially. People hammered that film (unfairly, in my opinion) like it was a summer construction project. I don’t know who replaced Oscar Isaac, James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence with lifeless alien versions of them, but that’s what happened (and it showed financially). Fox looks for Deadpool to carry the X-Men universe. Then there is Suicide Squad. Yeah, financially it is crushing it, beating out 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, but it is still a bomb critically. Each DCEU film is having lower and lower scores the farther we get into it.

The lone bright spot was Captain America: Civil War and if Marvel is the only one pumping out quality films we will see the end of the Golden Age of Superhero movies faster than a Vegas drive-thru wedding.

Winner: Summer TV

So, has anyone been watching some of the shows in the summer? I mean, after all, we have a new season of Orange is the New Black, BoJack Horseman, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Casual, Game of Thrones and Mr. Robot. Stranger Things has captured the world’s imagination. The quality of TV right now is immense and the fact that it is VOD makes it very accessible and easier. Summer TV is coming out of this season smelling like roses. Think about it: If you give people the choice between Warcraft, Legend of Tarzan, ID: Resurgence or Mechanic: Resurrection or any of the previous shows, they will choose the shows. Summer TV has really looked like a better alternative to summer films.

If Hollywood can’t fix some of the problems, summer TV could very well take people away from the theaters. Driving to the theater, paying $10 per ticket and then paying for concessions all adds up to unnecessary time and money. Hell, I would argue that summer TV has been better quality overall than the summer films (which is like saying the Cleveland Browns won’t win their division — it’s an easy, true statement to make).

Loser: Original Films

This one hurts. It really does. People complain about Hollywood not making original content. You know what the problem is? It’s not the quality, it’s that people haven’t responded to original content outside of a few exceptions (The Secret Life of Pets and Bad Moms for example). Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, Captain Fantastic, The Shallows, Nerve, Southside With You, Florence Foster Jenkins, War Dogs, The Nice Guys, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, Swiss Army Man, Hands of Stone are all either original films, biopics or films based on a book. Know what else all of these films have in common? NO ONE WENT TO SEE THEM. Some of them have great reviews, some didn’t.

Here’s the deal: Hollywood makes plenty of mainstream original films and yet people don’t go to watch with a few exceptions. Batman v Superman made more money than Bad Moms, The Secret Life of Pets and Sausage Party combined. If films are a risk, executives will go with a proven property every time because it makes more money. If you want more original content, go see original content. There is plenty out there, so quit yer bellyaching. Because these films made such little money, it’s hard to justify creating them. There were a lot of really good ones, too — The Nice Guys and Swiss Army Man were awesome!

Winner: Summer Season

Summer season is creeping more and more into a year-round thing. I mean, there were a few huge films that were released before May: Jungle Book, Zootopia and Batman v Superman all were released before May and after February. Other big blockbuster hopefuls released before were: The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Keanu, The Divergent Series: Allegiant and 10 Cloverfield Lane. March is definitely a primer for summer films (remember, Furious 7 was released in April).

The summer season is just inching closer and closer to spring. Some of the best and most popular films are released before May. Studios realize that March is a prime slot, like how the NFL wants games on Sunday, Monday, Thursday and Saturday and how the NBA wants to be a year-round, talked-about sport (which they have made successful). Hollywood wants to extend the summer season, and that is apparent given the movies being released.

Winner: Horror Films

This is, by far, the biggest winner. How good has horror been? Well, we have seen three horror films take the top spot at the box office in debut weekends. The Conjuring 2 was a sequel that actually did better than the first; Lights Out made a bunch of money and the latest release, Don’t Breathe, has also taken the top spot last weekend. The other part is that these are GOOD, well-reviewed horror films. People have generally liked them. This string of good releases is rare; it’s about as rare as Twitter not being a cesspool for negativity, a well thought-out YouTube comment, or seeing a Unicorn. I don’t remember when this many quality horror films were released. Then, if you wanted to count Purge: Election Year as a horror film, it also did pretty well for the third installment of a series. Horror has crushed this summer and kept us from turning off the lights and breathing (which is tough because I really like one of those things).

So, those are the winners and losers for the summer season. It really has been a disappointing summer, but there are always winners and losers. Let’s see what the rest of the year brings us.

What was your favorite movie this summer season?


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