Two years ago, there was serious concern that the box office might recover from the pandemic. In 2021, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and its James Bond sequel “No Time to Die” offered a glimmer of hope that movie theaters weren’t really a relic of the past. But it took until 2022 for movie theaters to really return their value to Hollywood.
And for the first time in a long time, it wasn’t just superheroes who kept the box office going. In fact, the year’s highest-grossing film was “Top Gun: Maverick,” a sequel to a movie that premiered nearly four decades ago, while Baz Luhrmann’s compelling biopic “Elvis,” and the stellar romantic comedy of Universal’s “Ticket to Paradise” and A24’s “Everything Everywhere at Once” proved that there’s a real opportunity for gritty swings to resonate with audiences.
But with film’s serious comeback come those annoying but inevitable flops. And this year, there were some duels. The failures of “Lightyear” and “Strange World” cast Disney into some serious doubts about the future of family movies. Meanwhile, the well-reviewed “Brothers” and “Shi Said” highlight the challenges of mid-budget fare.
Overall, the domestic box office has collected $7.1 billion so far in 2022, according to Comscore. Those ticket sales are still down 33% from the $10.6 billion generated in 2019, the last normal period at the box office. This is in part because the studios released fewer movies throughout the year, but the decline cannot be attributed to COVID-related production delays. It can also indicate a change in consumer habits.
before the end of the year, diverse We take a look at how the major studios have performed at the global box office over the past 12 months.
Heights: “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” ($955 million), “Thor: Love and Thunder” ($760 million), “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” ($800 million and more), “Avatar: The Way of Water” ($889 million) and counting)
bottoms: “Death on the Nile” ($137 million), “Lightyear” ($226 million), “Amsterdam” ($31 million), “Strange World” ($54 million)
Takeaway: What a difference a few years and one pandemic can make. In 2019, Disney did no wrong at the box office, breaking records with an astounding seven billion dollars in blockbusters. At this point in the year, none of her films have reached that specific benchmark, though “Avatar: The Way of Water” will cross $1 billion any day now. To be fair, only two other films this year managed to reach that milestone, but you’d think with three Marvel films on the calendar, at least one would have a fighting chance. Outside of pre-existing franchises, Disney has weathered a string of embarrassing big-budget misfires. It’s especially about that Pixar, once the gold standard for kid-friendly fare, hasn’t struck a chord with consumers for quite some time. Of course, Disney’s missteps still outperform most of the studio’s biggest wins, but the Magic Kingdom spends a pretty penny crafting and marketing its movies, creating towering bars of success. Superheroes will be fine in 2023, but when it comes to the rest of the slate, newly rehired studio CEO Bob Iger definitely has his work cut out.
Heights: Top Gun: Maverick ($1.488 billion), “Smile” ($216 million), “Scream” ($140 million), “Jackass Forever” ($80 million), “The Lost City” ($190 million)
bottoms: “Babylon” ($5.3 million and up)
Takeaway: It’s hard to underestimate Paramount’s improbable rebound at the box office. Written off in the early days of the pandemic, the studio has enjoyed a near-perfect stretch (the good times were slightly marred by “Babylon”) with back-to-back hits in every genre. Particularly impressive is that Paramount’s 2022 slate has drawn in fans of rom-coms, slapstick, and classic all-American action, while also introducing “Jackass Forever” and “The Lost City” to demographics that previously struggled to appeal to audiences. And of course, there’s the hugely successful Top Gun: Maverick, Tom Cruise’s decades-old sequel, which was hardly a winner. However, it was unavoidably popular, and not just with fans of the original. Anyone interested in pop culture felt the need to check the hype, which propelled the film to $1.488 billion worldwide and made it the highest-grossing release of the year. Tom Cruise, the box office gods salute you.
Heights: “Uncharted” ($401 million), “Bullet Train” ($293 million), “Where the Crawdads Sing ($140 million), The Woman King” ($92 million)
bottoms: “Morbius” ($167 million), “Father Stu” ($21 million), “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile” ($87 million), “Devotion” ($17 million), “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” (9.5 Million dollars)
Takeaway: Sony spent a good part of the year helming “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which opened in December 2021 but continued to sell tickets through the summer. With its 2022 offerings, the studio has taken some risks that have paid off, such as the video game adaptation and start of the franchise “Uncharted,” Viola Davis’ action epic “The Woman King” and the literary adaptation “Where the Crawdads Sing.” Jared Leto’s comic book movie “Morbius” wasn’t a total disaster costing $75 million, but it’s barely enough for the coins to merit sequels and spin-offs that rival Disney’s adventures in the MCU. And “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile” joined the list of underperforming family films this year. The $90 million budget “Dedication”, which Sony distributed without financing it, was the only painful flop. By keeping budgets in check, the studio helped prove there was still room for originality at the box office.
Elevations:Jurassic World Dominion ($1.001 billion), “Minions: The Rise of Gru” ($939 million), “The Black Phone” ($161 million), “Ticket to Paradise” ($165 million), “Halloween Ends” ($104 million), “No” ($171 million)
bottoms: “The 355” ($27 million), “The Northman” ($69 million), “The Bros” ($14 million), “Easter” ($13 million), “She Said” ($10 million), “ The Fabelmans” ($10.5 million)
rank: b +
Takeaway: Universal went big and diverse in 2022, releasing far more movies from a much wider range of budgets and genres than its big studio brethren. However, the results were decidedly mixed. Universal’s flagship franchises, “Jurassic World” and “Minions,” have achieved the blockbusters they were meant to make, becoming some of the biggest hits of the year and propelling the studio past $3 billion worldwide. Horror films like “The Black Phone” and “Nope” proved irresistible to audiences. But Universal’s efforts to expand into adult or artistic works failed to bear fruit. Oscar bait films like “Fableman’s” and “She Said” bombed – and their commercial meltdown is annoying because most critics thought they were actually good. The quality, apparently, is not enough during a pandemic that refuses to fade to black.
Heights: “The Batman” ($770 million), “Elvis” ($286 million), “Don’t Worry Darling” ($86 million), “DC League of Super-Pets” ($220 million)
bottoms: “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” ($405 million), “Black Adam” ($389 million)
Takeaway: It was not a very happy time to be in the house that the Warner Brothers built. With a new flagship at Warner Bros. Discovery, the studio embarked on a wave of cost-cutting, layoffs, and project cancellations that made it a very stressful place to work. So how has the studio fared amid all the turmoil? Yeah. The Batman movie delivered the goods, with director Matt Reeves finding a new take on the story of a masked avenger. “Elvis” has become one of the rare adult-targeted films to actually connect at the box office, while “Don’t Worry Darling” has ridden a wave of off-screen drama for a must-see while providing us with some of 2022’s funniest movies and great moments ( Miss Flo and Spitgate, we’re looking at you). Elsewhere, however, things didn’t go according to plan, with two franchisees fading away. “Fantastic Beasts” seems to have lost its magical touch, while “Black Adam” was such a waste of time and treasure that left DC’s new heads choosing to move on from Dwayne Johnson’s anti-hero.
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