Friday, 30 June 2017

Reflecting on Q2: A Lacklustre Stretch Delivers Uninspired Results


After a smashing Q1, the race towards a record-breaking year at the box office was well and truly on - but Q2 seems to have really dropped the baton. The April to June period has delivered a decidedly mixed bag of contenders, with a couple - hint, hint, superheroes - thriving, while the rest fight for scraps, barely surviving, with some dying a painful death. Following 'Hollywood's Early Year Successes and Signs', the second in my four-part introspective spread across 2017 examines the films released in the UK over the previous three months, with a general consensus on the Q2 slate, right as we gear up for Q3.

Here we go then - Reflecting on Q2: A Surprisingly Quiet Stretch With Uninspiring Results...

In all honesty, we have only seen four full-blown successes this quarter, with almost everyone else struggling to keep up. Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, DC's Wonder Woman and Universal's Fast & Furious 8 are the live-action contender trumping the whole competition, triumphantly ruling this second quarter. Neither Galaxy, Wonder or Furious have performed at peak potential when considering the franchises and universes they were born from, but each have achieved more than enough in the way of box office receipts and audience reception to propel their worlds forward - and that's not something everyone can say this year. Guardians has earned a phenomenal $52.8 million in the UK, with still a little more gas in the tank; that represents a significant improvement on Vol 1 and lodges itself firmly in top-tier MCU. Wonder Woman, in just under a month, has smashed $23.9 million out and while that may be the lowest in the DCEU to date (in the UK, that is), its critical acclaim and glowing receptions instals faith after three mixed-to-awful films. Finally, Fast & Furious 8 has wrapped up with $37.5 million - while that is notably below Furious 7's $59 million total, a trend mimicked around the rest of the world, it is still something to celebrate and Universal are bound to be thrilled with the outcome.The only other film that can be deemed a complete success is The Boss Baby - more on that later.

It has been moderate-to-tough pickings elsewhere.

Pirates 5 has scrapped $23.7 million up for Disney, with the end of its box office run in sight; that is a decent amount( many others will certainly be jealous) but it stacks up with the franchise's lower takings and has hardly encouraged an outpouring of love for the Johnny Depp lead action-adventure. Also dropping to the bottom of their franchise's chart is Transformers 5: after an (extended) opening week, it has amassed $7.1 million, a number far from the action series' sunniest days, with an opening weekend well-below the previous lowest opening, Age of Extinction. Alien: Covenant underwhelmed for 20th Century Fox and while a $16.3 million total may appear promising, it places the once-lucrative sci-fi series in an uncomfortable position now, regarding what and where Ridley Scott should take the series next.

Three franchise non-starters bring up the rear for Q2's bigger blockbuster releases: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword completely flopped for Warner Bros, managing a measly $6.2 million with a short theatrical run resulting in redundant franchise plans. The Mummy, standing with $9.8 million after three weeks of release, places Universal's 'Dark Universe' in murky waters; that Tom Cruise-starring film may not mean the end for Universal's gods and monsters-inspired world but it is certainly not the launch many had hoped for. Meanwhile, Baywatch failed to bring the desired box office fire this June, with an $11.2 million cumulative figure presenting Paramount Picture with a dilemma; a rather unloved debut entry failing to carve out an audience is unlikely to result in a breakout sequel should they continue plans for the intended franchise, but with so much already invested, should they give it another go? I wouldn't like to call it...

Q2's dramas have been lacking to say the least, relegated to the post-award season window after studios decide it is not worth pursuing gold. Miss Sloane is a standout but general audiences failed to connect with the Jessica Chastain-starrer, earning just $536,000; Anne Hathaway's Colossal performed even worse, carving out just $347k in May. A number of period dramas saw the light of day during Q2 and were as diverse in their box office takings as they were in their quality; Their Finest, a favourite of mine, took an impressive $5.1 million for Lionsgate and Entertainment One; My Cousin Rachel has brought in a decent $2.5 million after a few weeks in theatres; and Churchill has taken $1.25 million over two weeks, an uninspired number that is bound to disappoint Lionsgate/Entertainment One. The Sense of An Ending bowed out with a respectable $1.5m and Gifted did fine enough with $880k. But The Shack disappointed ($320k), Hampstead ($576k) underwhelmed and The Zookeeper's Wife was pretty much ignored, sadly collecting just $129k. And the less said about the absolute bomb that was The Promise ($231k in the UK, despite a $90 million production budget), the better.

On the comedy front, both Amy Schumer's Snatched ($2.5m) and Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine's Going In Style ($3.5m) performed decently and half-heartedly helped revive the genre, after a rather lacklustre few months for laughs. The Belko Experiment was the main studio horror release of the quarter and it performed rather abysmally, with a dreadful $166k; even Raw, a French import, performed better with a $182k total. Personal Shopper, a rather tough sell, wasn't really worth the effort either, with a $144k total underwhelming considering the positive reception it received. In all honest, it has been tough pickings for the horror genre for a good while now, ignoring the success of Get Out and Split, with comedy faring only a little better; maybe The House will do better - official numbers will roll in and be updated over the weekend.

That leaves us with animation and family-friendly fare and, in comparison to Q1's bounty, it continues the quarter's disappointing trend. A Dog's Purpose dug up $3.5 million from British audiences, while (the dreadful) Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul journeyed to almost $7 million. Both decent amounts but pale in comparison to the numbers faced in Q1. The Boss Baby is the only real winner here, earning an astonishing $35 million and becoming the sixth-highest grossing release of the year (and the third-highest grossing of the quarter, behind Guardians and Furious). With such slim pickings, it is easy to see how The Baby Boss flourished - but still no one expected those numbers; in fact, at the end of the last quarters report, I added "I can't see The Boss Baby providing too much of a threat"... I was very wrong. Despicable Me 3, the next animation in waiting, was only released today, so numbers will be added after the weekend when we receive a clearer picture.

Q2 has been disappointing - both on a commercial front for cineplexes, and for consumers, in my opinion, due to a downturn quality - leaving superheroes, fast cars and animation to rule the box office roost, with little left for anybody else at all. On a personal note, the highlights of the quarter are Their Finest, Wonder Woman, Miss Sloane and Guardians of the Galaxy 2, but a number of dreadful releases (Wimpy Kid, King Arthur and The Love Witch) have tried to ruin the party too.  As we look forward to Q3, we can see a variety of picture in the wings to help try and revive 2017's box office; Dunkirk, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, IT and War For The Planet of the Apes will hope to impress more mature cinemagoers; Spider-Man: HomecomingCars 3, The Emoji Movie, Valerian And The City of A Thousand Planets and Captain Underpants are going after the kids and families; leaving The Beguilded, The Big Slick, Atomic Blonde and Detroit to chase everyone else. We'll see what survives the upcoming quarter and whether it will give the box office year the shot in the arm it so badly needs after this uninspiring second quarter.

Enjoy the films!

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