2019 Midyear Report: The biggest box-office winners and losers (so far)

·Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
(Photos: Universal Studios, Disney/Marvel, Disney/Fox)
Us, Avengers: Endgame and Dark Phoenix (Photos: Universal Studios, Disney/Marvel, Disney/Fox)

Despite the record-breaking heroics of Avengers: Endgame, 2019 has underwhelmed at the box office. According to tracking statistics, ticket sales are down more than 7 percent from 2018 and box-office receipts are nearly 10 percent off year over year. As we reach the midpoint of the 2019, Yahoo Entertainment takes a look back at the films that delivered and those that flamed out, the franchises that still pack theaters and those that need to be retired, and the biggest trends at the cineplex. Grab some popcorn, sit back and see the year’s box-office winners and losers so far.

WINNER: Long goodbyes

The solution to franchise fatigue? Just give the characters a good ending, instead of making another skippable sequel. Avengers: Endgame ($841 million) is the obvious example, but Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral brought in $73 million, making it the second-highest earner in the nine-film franchise; How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World brought in $160 million; and M. Night Shyamalan’s superhero-trilogy conclusion Glass came in at $111 million.

LOSER: The X-Men

Poor mutants. Dark Phoenix, the long-delayed, trouble-plagued follow-up to X-Men: Apocalypse, opened in June to dismal reviews. With current ticket sales totaling $61 million, it’s by far the worst-performing film in the franchise.

WINNER: The Avengers, particularly Carol Danvers

The conclusion to the Avengers saga cost Disney a fortune to make, but Avengers: Endgame justified every penny. The film kicked off with the biggest opening weekend ever, then ended up challenging Avatar for the title of most profitable film in box-office history, with $2.78 billion in global ticket sales. (Whether Endgame wins depends on whether or not you count Avatar’s second theatrical run in the tally, which most do, and the success of this past weekend’s re-release, which has inched Endgame closer to the title, with $2.76 billion.) But let’s not overlook Marvel’s other 2019 triumph: Captain Marvel, the MCU’s first female-fronted superhero film, currently the No. 2 movie of the year with $426 million in domestic ticket sales, and a global box office of $1.1 billion.

LOSER: Dogs

A Dog’s Purpose, a comedic tearjerker about a continually reincarnated dog who tries to make all his owners happy, made a solid $64.5 million in 2017. But its two 2019 sequels played dead at the box office: January’s A Dog’s Way Home made $42 million, and May’s A Dog’s Journey made $22 million. A Secret Life of Pets 2 ($121 million) didn’t fare well either — but in happier dog-movie news, John Wick Chapter 3 — Parabellum ($157 million) was a very good boy.

WINNER: The Upside

It’s an inspirational story in more ways than one. This drama about a paralyzed billionaire (Bryan Cranston) who befriends his ex-convict caretaker (Kevin Hart) had a lot of strikes against it, from mixed reviews, to being an English-language remake of a foreign film (generally a gamble at the box office), to originally being produced by Harvey Weinstein. But STX Films was smart to acquire The Upside in The Weinstein Company’s fire sale. The relatively low-budget film has generated $108 million at the box office, besting Godzilla and the X-Men.

WINNER: Jordan Peele

Get Out was no fluke: Jordan Peele is a box-office force to be reckoned with. The writer-director’s second feature, the cerebral horror film Us, snatched the No. 1 spot from Captain Marvel on opening weekend and went on to make $175 million in the U.S. Considering its budget was around $20 million, Peele should be well on his way to funding his next cinematic nightmare.

LOSER: Sluggish sequels

Dark Phoenix wasn’t the only tentpole to score an all-time low for its franchise. Men in Black: International has made just $56 million, less than a third of ticket sales for the previous lowest-ranking Men in Black film, 2012’s MIB 3. Secret Life of Pets 2 opened to $58 million less than the 2012 film, and is currently at $121 million —which means it hasn’t even caught up to Secret Life of Pets’s first-week sales. Godzilla: King of the Monsters has banked just $106 million, failing to scare up more than either 2014’s Godzilla ($200 million) or 2017’s Monsterverse entry, Kong: Skull Island ($168 million). Even the The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, which seemed like a sure thing, has performed below expectations; with $105 million in ticket sales, it did higher numbers than The Lego Ninjago Movie ($59 million) but didn’t pass The Lego Batman Movie ($175 million) and definitely didn’t come close to the first film’s $257 million haul.

WINNER: Anime-inspired family films

Two of the year’s big weekend-matinee films came to Hollywood by way of Japan. Pokémon Detective Pikachu, the first live-action film adaptation of Pikachu’s universe, pulled in $142 million domestically and $425 million worldwide. The lesser-known success story is animated film Dragon Ball Super: Broly. The oddly named, martial-arts fantasy film is the twentieth feature film in the Japanese franchise. It quietly made $30 million domestically and $114 million worldwide — not only becoming the most profitable film in the franchise, but one of the top-earning anime films of all time.

LOSER: Laika

This innovative stop-motion animation studio has produced some of the most visually dazzling films of the past decade. Unfortunately, after 2019’s Coraline, every one of their films has opened to diminishing returns. This year’s Missing Link followed Laika’s brilliant 2016 film Kubo and the Two Strings. Kubo underperformed with $48 million in ticket sales; in comparison, Missing Link has made just $16 million.

WINNER: Body-swapping comedy

Comedies about kids switching bodies with adults had a moment in the ’80s (Big, Vice Versa), another in the early ’00s (13 Going on 30, Freaky Friday), and now they have arrived for a new generation. Universal’s comedy Little, starring Regina Hall, has made $40.6 million at the box office since the beginning of June, while Sony’s superhero comedy Shazam! made $139 million in the U.S. and $363 million worldwide.

WINNER: Docs

Once again, documentaries are having a very good year. The highest-grossing doc thus far is Peter Jackson’s WWI time capsule They Shall Not Grow Old ($17.9 million), which combined colorized and restored vintage footage with first-person veteran interviews. Other hot tickets include the Aretha Franklin concert film Amazing Grace ($4.3 million); the moon-landing doc Apollo 11 ($8.8 million); Disneynature’s Penguins ($7.6 million); and the back-to-the-land story Biggest Little Farm ($3.2 million).

LOSER: Remakes

With a couple exceptions (The Upside and Pet Sematary among them), remakes were a tough sell in 2019. Shaft ($16 million), Miss Bala ($15 million) and Hellboy ($21 million) all came and went so quickly, audiences may not even have known they existed. The Hustle, a remake of 1988’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, fared better with ticket sales of $35 million. The exceptions that proved the rule: Pet Sematary ($54 million) and The Upside ($108 million), a remake of a 2011 French film called The Intouchables that has already seen remakes in India and Argentina.

WINNER: Octavia Spencer

Spencer started the year with a win: Green Book, which she co-produced, took home Best Picture at the Oscars. Then in May, she had another with Ma, Tate Taylor’s horror film about a neighborhood woman who befriends, then terrorizes, a group of teenagers and their parents. Ma was marketed entirely on the strength of Spencer playing against type as a deranged killer, and it was a good call: The movie brought in $43.8 million on a $5 million budget.

LOSER: Struggling comedies

Why is it so hard to get people to see a comedy in a movie theater? Hollywood would love to know. While films like the Jennifer Aniston-Adam Sandler vehicle Murder Mystery are reportedly killing it on Netflix (no pun intended), well-reviewed releases like Fighting With My Family ($22 million), Long Shot ($30 million), Late Night ($11 million), and every critic’s favorite 2019 comedy, Booksmart ($20 million), are all squeaking by in cinemas.

WINNER: Supervillains on a shoestring

Yes, it’s possible to make a superhero film without a huge effects budget — and sometimes, it pays off. The James Gunn-produced Brightburn told an original supervillain origin story on an estimated $6 million budget, and has made $17 million so far. Meanwhile, M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass brought an invincible Bruce Willis face-to-face with the villains from his previous films Split and Unbreakable, creating his own DIY version of Endgame and making $111 million at the box office.

WINNER: Evangelical Christian films

They may be largely ignored by mainstream media, but films made by and for Evangelical Christians are generating big bucks on tiny production budgets. In 2019, the anti-abortion propaganda film Unplanned, produced by the film industry’s major faith-based distributor Pure Flix, made $18 million on an estimated $6 million budget. Steph Curry’s production company Unanimous Media teamed up with Fox (well, Disney now) to distribute another Christian-themed hit, the inspirational drama Breakthrough, which has made $40 million so far.

LOSER: Serenity

Even though M. Night Shyamalan had a film in theaters, the award for most audacious plot twist of 2019 goes to this cuckoo drama starring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway. It’s the kind of movie that could have gotten a big lift from word-of-mouth — but it brought in only $8.5 million, meaning its inevitable cult-classic status has yet to be achieved.

WINNER: Critic-proof Disney remakes

The live-action Disney hits keep on coming, and audiences are eating them up… even though the reviews for this year’s batch have been tepid at best. Dumbo, the worst-reviewed Disney live-action fairy tale since 2016’s Alice Through the Looking Glass, nevertheless opened at No. 1 in the U.S. and brought in $114 million (and $351 million worldwide). Aladdin fared better with critics, though not as well as previous musical adaptations Beauty and the Beast and The Jungle Book. The Will Smith-starring film nevertheless made $305.9 million in the U.S., topping Maleficent and Cinderella. In short, things are looking good for The Lion King, which premieres in July.

WINNER: Keanu Reeves

His January sci-fi film Replica may have been a dud, but Reeves bounced back with John Wick 3 — Parabellum, which quickly became the highest-grossing film in his ultra-violent action franchise. The film has made $157 million domestically so far, and $291 million worldwide. Reeves also gets bonus points for being the comedic highlight of both Toy Story 4 and the Netflix hit Always Be My Maybe, proving that the Matrix star has more versatility than audiences ever gave him credit for.

LOSER: The Kid Who Would Be King

Director Joe Cornish’s contemporary riff on the King Arthur legend opened to solid reviews, but original live-action family films are a tough sell these days. The Kid Who Would Be King is rumored to have lost more than $50 million, taking in just $16 million at the box office.

WINNER: Rocketman

It has a long way to go before it hits Bohemian Rhapsody numbers (which totaled $216 million by the time the Oscars had come and gone), but director Dexter Fletcher’s better-reviewed Elton John biopic has made its mark. The modestly budgeted film is up to $78 million in grosses.

WINNER and LOSER: James Cameron

The technology-obsessed auteur spent years trying to get an adaptation of the manga Alita: Battle Angel to the big screen. The film, produced by Cameron and directed by Robert Rodriguez, finally opened in February to the tune of $85 million domestically. That might have spelled disaster for Alita … except that the CG-enhanced sci-fi film crushed it worldwide, making over $319 million in foreign ticket sales. If Terminator: Dark Fate does well, Cameron will officially graduate to the “Winners” category.

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