It’s been a rough summer at the box office, especially where big studio blockbusters are concerned. In particular, the domestic box office bombed hard, with just $3.54 billion in ticket sales over a 13 week period beginning with the first weekend in May. That figure may sound impressive on paper, but it represents a 2.5% dip from last summer’s returns and is the second lowest total since 2001 when adjusted for inflation. Outside of Disney, who have remained as rock solid as ever this year (although even they weren’t immune to disappointing box office returns, as we’ll see in a bit) pretty much every major studio had one or multiple movies tank this summer.
Surprisingly, it had almost nothing to do with quality (Suicide Squad is terrible and yet it ruled the box office for the month of August) or audiences growing tired of sequels (the summer’s two most successful films — Finding Dory and Captain America: Civil War — are both sequels). The biggest culprit, at least according to Forbes’s Scott Mendelson, appears to be saturation, as too many movies came out too close together, preventing the majority of them from enjoying financial success outside of their opening weekend. Here are the summer 2016 movies that were most hurt by market saturation and audience indifference:
12. X-Men: Apocalypse
With a projected worldwide box office haul of $543 million, X-Men: Apocalypse certainly wasn’t a flop … but it wasn’t a smash hit either. In truth, Apocalypse is something of a minor success for 20th Century Fox; with a $178 million budget, the film was able to make back its production and marketing costs, but it also didn’t achieve the same level of success as its 2014 predecessor, X-Men: Days of Future Past. That film made over $200 million more than Apocalypse, but the newest entry in the long-running X-Men film franchise also beat out films like First Class, The Last Stand, and X-Men United. In a different year, Apocalypse’s box office returns may have been considered more of a disappointment, but Fox was lucky that Deadpool was such a surprise success, which helps offset the latest X-Men film’s good but not great numbers.
Even though Duncan Jones’s long-in-development Warcraft adaptation ended up becoming the highest-grossing video game movie of all time, it’s still a relative box office disappointment. With a budget of $160 million, the film’s $47 million domestic gross looks absolutely abysmal, but the biggest surprise about Warcraft is that it raked in a ton of cash overseas, to the tune of $386 million (that represents almost 90% of its total revenue). In fact, Warcraft is the first North American film to make over $100 million in China and not do the same domestically. Even with its massive success in China ($220 million), The Hollywood Reporter estimates that it still lost Universal Pictures an estimated $15 million. Combine that with a terrible critical reception (an abysmal 28% on Rotten Tomatoes), and it’s difficult to see Warcraft becoming a true cinematic franchise.
10. Independence Day: Resurgence
Alongside Ghostbusters (another box office failure) Independence Day: Resurgence represented Hollywood’s 2016 campaign to mine moviegoers’ built-in nostalgia for big hits from the ’80s and ’90s. It didn’t work out so well. Although it’s not quite the biggest bomb of the year by any stretch, Resurgence can justifiably be called the outright most disappointing movie of the summer. Although 1996’s Independence Day wasn’t exactly a hit with critics either, it at least is remembered fondly among many moviegoers and even some critics as a fun bit of filmmaking; an alien invasion flick with big explosions that also went a long way in making Will Smith a movie star.
Unsurprisingly, the sequel didn’t do well with critics, receiving a rotten RT approval rating of 32 percent, but it was also almost as poorly received by general audiences, netting a dismal 33 percent approval rating. Adding insult to injury, Resurgence made less than half of what its predecessor did 20 years ago, earning $383 million on a $165 million budget compared to Independence Day’s impressive worldwide haul of $817 million with only a $75 million budget. With numbers like that, we probably shouldn’t expect a third entry in the franchise in 2036.
9. The Legend of Tarzan
Admit it, you already forgot this movie came out. While this expensive Tarzan reboot wasn’t a complete box office failure, it also didn’t earn quite enough to make back its marketing and production budgets and earn a profit. Despite the involvement of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows director David Yates and a solid cast that included Margot Robbie and Christoph Waltz, The Legend of Tarzan managed to gross $356 million, which is actually a respectable figure for a movie that had little to no hype or anticipation behind it.
Unfortunately, Tarzan also had a $180 million budget and considering the general rule of thumb is that a film has to earn double its production budget just to break even, so it’s still represents a sizable box office disappointment — and with a lowly 36 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a critical disappointment as well — for Warner Bros. all the same.
8. Alice Through The Looking Glass
Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland was one of the highest-grossing movies of 2010, rocketing to over $1 billion worldwide. With a payday like that, you would think Disney would have fast-tracked a sequel, but for some reason it took a full six years for them to release a follow-up. Evidently, the wait was too long for audiences because Alice Through The Looking Glass made a fraction of what the original did, despite having a bigger budget and bringing back almost all of the original’s stars (although Burton didn’t return to direct).
Embarrassingly, Through The Looking Glass made less worldwide ($295 million) than the first film did domestically ($334 million), which is pretty much all the indication you need to tell that this was not the repeat success Disney was looking for. It also didn’t help that the movie was even worse than its predecessor from a quality standpoint, currently sitting at a 30% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
7. Star Trek Beyond
One of the few films on this list that arguably deserved to be a bigger hit with audiences, Star Trek Beyond may have represented a welcome improvement over its predecessor, Star Trek: Into Darkness, in overall quality, but it took a step back in terms of box office returns. In fact, the Star Trek franchise has been falling steadily at the box office ever since J.J. Abrams rebooted it in 2009, with each successive film earning less than the last. With a staggering production budget of $185 million, Star Trek Beyond has so far only scraped together $155 million domestically, for a total of $294 million worldwide, so it’s unlikely that Paramount will break even on this one. Although a fourth installment was previously announced, it’s now unclear whether it will come to fruition given Beyond’s poor box office performance.
6. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
While anyone who actually likes good movies wrote this one off well before it was even released, the relative box office failure of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is arguably one of the biggest surprises of the summer. The Michael Bay-produced reboot from 2014 may not have been very good either, but it made a ton of money, earning approximately $500 million worldwide on a $125 million budget. Understandably, distributor Paramount Pictures quickly greenlit a sequel and threw even more money at it, with Out of the Shadows having a $135 million budget. However, the sequel managed to make less than half of what its predecessor did with a paltry $245 million worldwide. Even if the film is a hit on VOD and home video, it’s unlikely that Out of the Shadows will break even, and it’s now unclear whether or not Paramount will proceed with a third entry in the rebooted TMNT franchise.
Despite suffering through negative buzz leading up to release based on bad trailers and sexist fanboys furious over the film’s female cast, Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters revival started out its theatrical run on a surprisingly positive note. Not only was the film generally well received by critics (73 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), but it also had a solid opening weekend, earning $46 million domestically. Unfortunately, things stalled out considerably after that, with the film only managing to earn $224 million worldwide. With a hefty budget of $144 million, Sony ultimately went back on its initial announcement that a sequel was “a given,” with industry insiders reporting that the sequel is on hold until further notice.
4. The BFG
Although Disney has far and away had the best year among major movie studios when it comes to box office success, Steven Spielberg’s The BFG represents a significant flop for the House of Mouse. Based on Roald Dahl’s children’s book of the same name, The BFG received positive reviews but couldn’t translate that reception into ticket sales, with the film reaching a disappointing total of $165 million worldwide. With a reported $140 million budget, The BFG fell well short of breaking even and even if it does well on home release, it will have a hard time recouping its costs. Part of the blame for The BFG’s failure could be attributed to the film’s title, as “BFG” tends to conjure pictures of the “Big F—ing Gun” (or “Brittany’s Fancy Gynecologist” if we’re going by proper names) from Doom more than it does a Big Friendly Giant. It also didn’t help that Disney released The BFG only two weeks after Finding Dory, which means that Disney essentially cannibalized its own film.
3. Kubo and the Two Strings
Kubo and the Two Strings, one of the best films of the year, has been crashing and burning at the box office since its release in August, but that’s also not really surprising. Created by Laika Studios, Kubo is a breathtaking film featuring arguably the best stop motion animation ever seen and despite earning some criticism for employing white actors to voice Japanese characters, Kubo has received near-universal critical acclaim. Unfortunately, distributor Focus Features has failed to bring audiences in, as Kubo has only managed to earn $43 million as of this writing, which is well short of its $60 million budget. Kubo and the Two Strings seems destined to become a cult classic, but it arguably deserved to be a runaway success.
2. Free State Of Jones
One of the most quickly forgotten films of the summer, the Civil War drama Free State of Jones is arguably a signal that the McConaissance may be winding down. On paper, a Civil War movie starring Matthew McConaughey sounds like a surefire hit, the film ultimately flopped with audiences and critics alike. Although it had a relatively modest budget of $50 million, Free State of Jones fell well short of earning that money back, earning only $20 million domestically (it wasn’t released overseas because who cares about American history outside of the United States?). The whole situation might have looked better for Free State of Jones if it had any Oscar buzz (historical dramas typically do well with the Academy) but the film was savaged by critics, which means this is probably the last time you’ll ever hear its name mentioned again.
The biggest box office bomb of the summer (and probably the year), Timur Bekmambetov’s remake of Ben-Hur is a failure of epic proportions. The film cost an estimated $100 million to make (and that’s before the marketing budget) and analysts predict that it will finish its box office run with a worldwide gross of $70-75 million. Ben-Hur is projected to lose $120 million when all is said and done, which may give Hollywood pause the next time they consider reviving a classic and turning it into a swords-and-sandals epic, a genre that has seen diminishing returns ever since Ridley Scott’s The Gladiator in 2000. Guess we should probably rule out seeing a remake of The Ten Commandments anytime soon.