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Wednesday, 4 January 2017

2016 box office review: of superheroes and animals

2016 was the year when animals and superheroes ruled cinemas worldwide: if you didn’t focus on those two archetypes, then your film had a limited box office scope.

The top 20 films worldwide feature six superhero movies and six films focusing on anthropomorphised animals. Leading the pack was Captain America: Civil War with more than $1.1bn (some $250m less than Age of Ultron but some $440m more than the previous instalment of Cap); it placed seventh in the UK, first internationally, third in the US and fourth in China.

Second, third and fourth were another trio of Disney hits: Finding Dory and Zootopia just clipping passed $1bn, with the live action Jungle Book falling just shy of that marker. Dory wasn’t as well reviewed as Nemo and its performance was hampered somewhat as it was the fourth and last of the major animal movies (preceded not only by Zootopia and Jungle Book but also The Secret Life of Pets) and did not perform well in China (perhaps because Finding Nemo was never released there), leading to an international take lower than its predecessor of 2003. Nevertheless, Dory was fifth in the UK, seventh internationally, and top in the US.

Zootopia was the second-most successful film internationally, aided by a second place finish in China with $235.6m. It was also the most successful film based on an original script. In the UK, it could only place 13th with £24m, nearly £12m short of Pets, £19m short of Dory and £22m short of Jungle Book.

Jungle Book was surprisingly well-reviewed, showed good legs and pocketed nearly $967m worldwide, including £46m-plus in the UK (good for fourth place), more than $600m internationally (third place), and $150m in China.

The fifth largest film of the year is the first non-Disney film: The Secret Life of Pets got close to $900m, making nearly £36m in the UK (ninth place), and more than $500m internationally (also eighth). It placed fourth in the US, just beating Jungle Book.

Supers v supers
Four of the next seven places are taken by superheroes, namely Bats v Supes, Deadpool (arguably the shock over-performer of 2016), Suicide Squad and Doctor Strange. While both DC entries were poorly received by the fanbase they were aimed at, they both finished clear of $300m and £30m in the US and UK respectively. Of the DC films, only Bats v Supes was released in the China, falling just shy of $100m. Deadpool came seemingly from nowhere to deliver his own Valentines’ Day massacre: counter-programming didn’t succeed quite as well as this in the rest of 2016 and Mr Pool was the most successful rom-com of the year. He was the most successful superhero in the UK (just beating Civil War) and doubled the take of his cohorts in the X-Men. In the US, the only superhero movie to beat him was Civil War. Mr Pool was also the most successful superhero movie in France, Germany, Australia and Russia. A crisp high five then to all those involved with Mr Pool!
Dr Strange opened well and showed good legs everywhere to finish 12th.

The worldwide top 10 also features Rogue One, which in the final fortnight of the year hauled in nearly $800m. Its performance so far is weighted towards the US, but  it didn’t open in all major international territories before the end of the year. It gatecrashed the party in the UK, just scraping ahead of Fantastic Beasts in the final days of the year to top the chart. It should finish on $1bn or more worldwide (depending on its legs internationally). Of course, 2016 was bookended by Star Wars, with The Force Awakens dominating the start of the year. It took a further $732.5m in the first few months of the year (including $125m in China and £35.9m in the UK) on top of its $1.3bn in 2015.

Also making the top 10 was another franchise spin-off (which launches a new franchise), namely Fantastic Beasts. If not quite in the HP and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 league ($1.3bn), it’s got a shot at passing the $800m mark.

Huge Chinese hit The Mermaid generated 95% of its $553.8m worldwide take from China.

The X-Men suffered their own Apocalypse, coming in 27% down on their Future Past adventure. Kung Fu Panda suffered similarly, down 22% on its predecessor, with its largest territory being China.

More than half’s Warcraft’s worldwide take came from China, placing it 16th overall.

More adult fare, Jason Bourne and The Revenant, finished in a tight pack with the fifth (and presumably final given its take was 53% lower than its immediate ancestor) Ice Age movie. It's worth noting that just two movies in the top 20 were star-driven: Bourne and Revenant.

Enter the flops
The Independence Day sequel got bumped from the top 20 list in the final days of the year, overtaken by Moana (which had not opened in all major territories before the end of the year). ID2’s near-$390m take came off a production budget of $165m. Its predecessor took more than $800m 20 years ago; if you inflation-adjust that figure and note that there was no Chinese market then, it would appear about that only a quarter of the number of people that saw the original saw the sequel.

2016 was a crowded year and it’s no surprise that other films failed to find a large audience. Notably missing from the worldwide top 20 are such heavily marketed films as Star Trek Beyond (it fell more than 25% short of Into Darkness), Ghostbusters (it failed to cross the $300m barrier on a production cost of $144m), The Huntsman: Winter’s War (Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain wasted in a $115m production that pulled in nearly $165m, less than half of its predecessor’s haul) and Alice Through The Looking Glass (it fell just shy of the $300m barrier, but finished with a take 70% lower than the original’s take).

The third Divergent instalment, Allegiant, brought in less than $180m, which compares poorly with the near $300m totals of the first two parts. It emerged all-too swiftly that the fourth and final part would screen as a TV series. Whether this kills off the YA fantasy/sci fi adaptations remains to be seen.

Particularly dishonourable mentions should also go to Inferno, which finished with less than a third of the Da Vinci Code’s final result, and Ben-Hur. The latter epic cost $100m and generated just $94.1m worldwide. For reference, the inflation-adjusted US box office only figure for the Charlton Heston variant is $843.8m!

The British bit
In the UK, Bridget Jones’s Baby played like a traditional British movie: number three at home with £48.1m, but with only low-level success elsewhere. Nearly one-third of Bridget’s overall box office came from the UK.

Other notable over-performers in the UK include The BFG, which crossed the £30m barrier (that figure accounts for about a fifth of its overall total), and The Girl On The Train, which crossed the £20m barrier  (the UK was pretty much the only territory where it performed like the film its marketing and release pattern aped, Gone Girl).

The Revenant also crossed the £20m barrier, which just goes to show how much a brilliant trailer can impact a film’s performance: it was all about that bear attack.

2017 offers a similar number of superhero movies (including the first female-led example, courtesy of Wonder Woman), remakes (Tom Cruise’s The Mummy), and sequels (Wolverine 3, Guardians 2, Kingsman 2, Alien Covenant, Despicable Me 3, Cars 3, Thor 3, Paddington 2, Blade Runner 2049, and Pitch Perfect 3). There’s also the small matter of Star Wars 8: will records be broken again?

Worldwide (1 January 2016 to 1 January 2017)
Civil War $1,153.3m
Finding Dory $1,027.6m
Zootopia $1,023.8m
The Jungle Book $966.6m
The Secret Life Of Pets $875.4m
Batman v Superman $873.3m
Rogue One $786m
Deadpool  $783.1m
Fantastic Beasts $775.5m
Suicide Squad $745.6m
Star Wars 7  $732.5m
Dr Strange $657.6m
The Mermaid   $553.8m
X-Men: Apocalypse $543.9m
Kung Fu Panda 3 $521.2m
Warcraft $433.5m
Jason Bourne $415.2m
The Revenant  $409.4m
Ice Age 5 $407.7m
Moana $399.1m

UK (1 January 2016 to 1 January 2017)
Rogue One £52.1m
Fantastic Beasts £51m
Bridget Jones’s Baby £48.1m
The Jungle Book £46.2m
Finding Dory £42.8m
Deadpool  £37.9m
Civil War £36.9m
Batman v Superman £36.6m
The Secret Life Of Pets £36.5m
Star Wars 7  £35.9m
Suicide Squad £33.6m
The BFG £30.6m
Zootropolis £24m
The Girl On The Train £23.5m
Trolls £23.4m
Jason Bourne £23.3m
The Revenant  £23.2m
Dr Strange £23.2m
X-Men: Apocalypse £18.3m
Alvin & The Chipmunks: The Road Chip  £16.8m

International (1 January 2016 to 1 January 2017)
Civil War $745.2m
Zootopia $682.5m
The Jungle Book $602.5m
Fantastic Beasts $551.4m
The Mermaid  $550.6m
Batman v Superman $542.9m
Finding Dory $541.3m
The Secret Life Of Pets $507.1m
Star Wars 7  $449.3m
Dr Strange $427.5m
Suicide Squad $420.5m
Deadpool  $420m
X-Men: Apocalypse $388.5m
Warcraft $386.3m
Kung Fu Panda $377.6m
Rogue One $361m
Ice Age 5 $343.7m
The Revenant  $331.3m
Independence Day $286.5m
Now You See Me 2 $269.8m
Jason Bourne $253.1m

US (1 January 2016 to 1 January 2017)
Finding Dory $486.3m
Rogue One $425m
Civil War $408.1m
The Secret Life Of Pets $368.3m
The Jungle Book $364m
Deadpool  $363.1m
Zootopia $341.3m
Batman v Superman $330.4m
Suicide Squad $325.1m
Star Wars 7  $283.2m
Dr Strange $230.1m
Fantastic Beasts $224.1m
Moana $210m
The Revenant  $181.9m
Sing $166.5m
Jason Bourne $162.2m
Star Trek Beyond $158.9m
X-Men: Apocalypse $155.5m
Trolls $150.3m
Kung Fu Panda 3 $143.5m

China (international releases only in 2016)
The Mermaid $526.8m
Zootopia $235.6m
Warcraft $220.8m
Civil War $190.4m
Kung Fu Panda $154.3m
The Jungle Book $150.1m
The Great Wall $148.2m
Star Wars 7  $125.4m
X-Men: Apocalypse $120.8m
Dr Strange $109.2m
Now You See Me 2 $97.1m
Batman v Superman $95.8m
Fantastic Beasts $85m
The Angry Birds Movie $75.9m
Independence Day $75.4m
Jason Bourne $66.9m
Ice Age 5 $66.5m
Star Trek Beyond $65.1m
TMNT 2 $58.9m
Alice Through The Looking Glass $58.8m

Data sourced from and the BFI

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