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A Look at The Biggest Box Office Stories from 1972-present (THABOS: The History of Amazing Box Office Stories) | IT'S FINALLY COMPLETE!!!!!!!

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Eleventh domestic and eighth worldwide saw Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation. After the IMF is dissolved, Ethan Hunt is on the run from the CIA, framed for a crime he didn’t commit. All the while, Hunt tries to prove the existence of the Syndicate, a mysterious international rogue terrorist organization.

 

Rogue Nation was formally announced in August 2013, with the newest director in charge being Christopher McQuarrie of Jack Reacher fame. J. J. Abrams returned as producer with Bad Robot, while David Ellison returned as a co-financier with his Skydance production company. Much of the same crew from Ghost Protocol returned here. Cruise, Rhames, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg. Rebecca Ferguson and Alec Baldwin later joined as new characters with Sean Harris as the antagonist.

 

The big stunts Cruise had to take here involved hanging on a plane for dear life and breathing underwater for a long period of time. The former had a limited time of 48 hours to pull this off, with Cruise performing the scene himself without any stunt double, suspended over 5,000 feet in the air. The plane took off and landed 8 times before the team had the perfect shot. Cruise also met with diver Kirk Krack to help Cruise hold his breath for more than three minutes to perform an underwater sequence that was shot in one take without any edits. The scene would actually see cuts, but Cruise still had to make his muscles work, and he reportedly held his breath for more than six minutes underwater.

 

Rogue Nation was set for release on Christmas Day 2015, a weekend that did wonders for Ghost Protocol. However, with the planned launch of The Force Awakens, a hype-feeding entity that was set to destroy everything in its path, Paramount knew they had to move this title. It was, and still is, one of the few viable franchises they had left. But instead of delaying the film, Paramount actually pushed it ahead in January, all the way to July 31, 2015.

 

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This was a problem. The film wrapped up production in March 2015 after the crew reworked the ending for about a month. So that meant things had to get rushed. Paramount had to rush out a marketing campaign and press tour, McQuarrie had to rush through post-production, and IMAX had to rush out a new print for the format. The film was finally finished at 2 AM on July 18, less than two weeks before its release date. This could have been an omen for bad things to come. And yet it wasn’t.

 

Not only did Rogue Nation earn significant praise, cited as the best of the franchise, it surpassed all box office expectations. Initially estimated to open to $40-50 million, Rogue Nation surprised everyone and saw a $55.5 million opening. This was the third-biggest Cruise opening, and the second-biggest for Mission: Impossible, only behind the second movie. And with critical praise and a certain Marvel title turning out to be a financial dud, the movie finished with over 3.5 times its opening, repping $195 million domestically and $682.7 million worldwide. This was only a touch below Ghost Protocol, an impressive feat seeing as how the film didn’t have as concentrated or as meticulously planned a marketing campaign. Of course, it was still a good decision in the end, as the movie probably would have been creamed by Starkiller Base over here.

 

The success of Rogue Nation ensured a follow-up that was notable for sharing a lot of the same creatives from this movie. And this would soon lead to the almost 20-year long franchise becoming bigger, better, and stronger than ever.

 

Twelfth place was the comedy hit Pitch Perfect 2. Focusing on a college women’s acapella group named the Barden Bellas, we see the girls take part in a world singing championship, with the main goal being to fight off a snooty German musical group. All the while, hi-jinx and catchy song covers ensue!

 

For those who don’t know, Pitch Perfect was a 2012 musical comedy about an acapella music group from Barden University. Based on a non-fiction book written by GQ senior editor Mickey Rapkin, Pitch Perfect was produced by Elizabeth Banks and served two purposes: it showcased a wide variety of young talents like Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Skylar Astin and Ben Platt, as well as focus on the musical acapella scene; basically music without instrumental accompaniment.

 

The film was a sleeper hit when it first came out, grossing $65 million domestically and $115.3 million worldwide, making it the second-highest grossing musical comedy of all time, only behind School of Rock. But after its theatrical release, the film started to really pick up steam. The comedy, music, and characters really struck a chord with teen audiences. I should know, as I was there. I was a choir boy throughout my entire middle school and high school years, and the way the film struck a chord with my demographic was unheard of for any movie. Not only was it a funny and entertaining look at music performance, it was a solid introduction to acapella. This would lead to the film becoming a Mean Girls-style smash on home video, with an estimated $124.5 million in home media sales. Anna Kendrick’s song "Cups," an adaptation of the folk song "When I’m Gone," also became a radio sensation, reaching #6 on the Billboard charts. Pentatonix, another acapella group, also began making major headwaves in the music scene. There was potential for this to be more than just a one-off.

 

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So in December 2012, both Skylar Astin and Rebel Wilson revealed they were already in meetings for a potential sequel. And in April 2013, it was finally announced for a 2015 release date. Elizabeth Banks moved up from producer to director, with Kay Cannon staying on as screenwriter and the rest of the cast returning to reprise their roles. New cast members include Hailee Steinfeld (hi @WrathOfHan), Katey Sagal, Flula Borg, Pentatonix, David Cross, and Keegan Michael-Key.

 

Pitch Perfect 2 was released May 15 and would see an exponential increase that was arguably never seen for any sequel. To put into perspective the film’s opening, Pitch Perfect 2’s $69.2 million opening wasn’t just well above industry expectations of $40 million. In just three days, Pitch Perfect 2 outgrossed the first movie’s entire domestic run. John Wick and Austin Powers aside, that’s the kind of incredible growth that just can not happen, and it shows just how iconic the film was to so many youths at the time. This also served as the biggest opening for a musical and the third-biggest opening for a PG-13 comedy, only behind The Simpsons Movie and Goldmember. It would go on to gross $184.3 million domestically and $287.1 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing musical comedy of all time. Net profit was $139.6 million.

 

This success would of course lead to Pitch Perfect 3 in December 2017. It earned $185.4 million worldwide, though suffered from poor reviews. A fourth film has been rumored, but not much progress has been done. But hey, we’ll see what happens.

 

Seventeenth place got a little bit naughty with the infamous Fifty Shades of Grey. Dakota Johnson plays Anastasia Steele, a young college graduate who finds herself working for a young business magnate named Christain Grey, played by Jamie Dornan. Grey finds himself fascinated by Anastasia, and soon the duo find themselves in a uniquely sadomasochistic relationship.

 

The 2011 novel by E. L. James, an adaptation of James’ Twilight fanfiction, proved to be an instant success on bookshelves, with the first novel selling millions of copies and later translated into 52 languages. Despite its controversial subject matter and criticism by book critics, conservatives, and even BDSM community members, readers were getting into it in more ways than one, resulting in an entire trilogy. And with a successful book comes a lot of studios trying to acquire the film rights. WB, Sony, Paramount, Universal. Even Mark Wahlberg’s production company was in the bidding war. In March 2012, Universal and Focus Features acquired the trilogy rights, while author E. L. James earned some control for the movie’s creative process, choosing Social Network’s Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti as producers. Bret Easton Ellis of American Psycho fame was interested to write, but Kelly Marcel, the writer of Saving Mr. Banks, was in charge instead.

 

The hunt for a director was a long one, with Joe Wright being considered fairly early, only to end up unworkable due to his schedule. Later on, Patty Jenkins, Bill Condon, Bennett Miller and Steven Soderbergh were considered. But when all was said and done, Sam Taylor-Johnson, wife of Aaron Taylor-Johnson, became director, earning $2 million for the role. Johnson had...conflicts with E. L. James throughout production.

 

Casting for the two leads went through a lot of issues, as James and co. wanted it to be just right. E. L. James wanted Robert Pattinson to play Christain Grey, remember this was based on Twilight fanfiction, but James realized casting him and Kristen Stewart would be too weird. And thus, a massive shortlist of actors were in consideration. Anastasia had Alicia Vikander, Imogen Poots, Elizabeth Olsen, Shailene Woodley, Felicity Jones, Keeley Hazell, Lucy Hale, and Emilia Clarke all in some form of consideration. Ultimately Dakota Johnson was given the iconic role.

 

Christain Grey’s casting was even crazier. Iam Somerhalder and Chace Crawford expressed interest, but both were turned down. Ryan Gosling was asked, but he was not interested. Garrett Hedlund was considered, but he didn’t connect with the character. Stephen Amell followed like Hedlund. But after initially turning down the role, Charlie Hunnam was cast for the role of Christian...then he had to drop due to filming conflicts with the show Sons of Anarchy. So in yet another shortlist featuring Alexander Skarsgard, Theo James, Francois Arnaud, Scott Eastwood, Luke Bracey, and Billy Magnussen, the new actor set to play the iconic character was Jamie Dornan.

 

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Universal knew that this book had a fanbase, resulting in a marketing campaign that began more than a year in advance for the film with several posters displaying the phrase “Mr. Grey will see you now”. The trailer first launched July 2014, featuring a remix of Beyonce’s "Crazy in Love." It was an instant smash, generating millions of views and becoming one of the biggest movie trailers in 2014. And with a Valentine’s Day release, Fifty Shades was sold as a major date movie, enticing couples with a racy, naughty little romanic drama that was full of sex and romance. And with the film sparking controversy with Christians the world over for daring to show people having sex, it quickly became an event film people had to see to believe...if you’re over 18 of course.

 

Opening on February 13, Fifty Shades of Grey generated a massive three-day of $85.2 million, with the four-day tallying to $93 million. This wasn’t just the biggest President’s Day opening of all time, beating Valentine’s Day for the honor, but also surpassed Passion of the Christ’s long-standing record to become the biggest February opening in history. This was also the fourth-biggest R-rated opening and the biggest non-sequel debut ever for a Universal title.

 

Of course, like Twilight before it, this was a frontloaded beast, with fans rushing out to see this movie over the Valentine’s Day/President’s Day weekend. So the film only finished with $166.2 million, less than half of its opening weekend. But that didn’t matter. With a worldwide gross of $569.6 million, Fifty Shades of Grey became the third-biggest film solely directed by a woman, and the fourth-biggest R-rated film ever up to that point. A net profit of $256.55 million ain’t too shabby either.

 

And it even got love in the awards circuit. Okay, it did earn five Razzies, but it did see a Golden Globe and Academy Award nomination for two different original songs. Those songs, “Love Me Like You Do” by Ellie Goulding and “Earned It” by The Weeknd, also became huge hits on the charts. And sure enough, Dakota Johnson quickly became a household name, becoming a bit of an indie darling in the process.

 

In 2017 and 2018, two sequels, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, released in theaters. Sam Taylor-Johnson did not return due to her fights with E. L. James with James Folely in charge of both installments. Neither captured the same success: Darker earned $381 million, while Freed saw $370 million, though both were still major success stories either way, solifidifying the iconic, if slightly confusing legacy of the E. L. James novel.

 

Nineteenth place saw the music biopic take a huge step up with Straight Outta Compton. Five young men from the streets of Compton all have a love for music and hip-hop. And together they create NWA, a rap group that changed everything. Telling their tales of life in the hood, NWA revolutionized the hip-hop genre forever, and Straight Outta Compton is their story.

 

A biopic about the NWA was somewhat inevitable, seeing as how members Dr. Dre and Ice Cube were still major presences in the music and even film industry. And we would first hear inklings on the idea in March 2009 with New Line Cinema as distributor. And things moved slowly from there. Andrea Berloff signed on as a writer, while the late John Singleton was in talks to direct. In late 2011, things finally started to pick up, with F. Gary Gray, Craig Brewer and Peter Berg all contenders to direct. Gray later signed on in March 2012, a fitting choice considering he worked with both Cube and Dre in films and music videos before, and Universal acquired the film in 2013. Universal also hired Jonathan Herman to write a new draft while Will Packer signed on as an executive producer and Legendary Pictures appeared as a financier.

 

Casting calls happened as early as 2010, but things weren’t formally announced until June 2014. The band members were all played by talented young actors like Corey Hawkins, Aldis Hodge, and Jason Mitchell, but the most intriguing casting choice was who played Ice Cube. Cube’s literal son O’Shea Jackson Jr. actually played his father in this movie. But the casting call soon fell into controversy when it came to casting extras. The call specifically called for Black girls with a certain A-D ranking scale that categorized A women as “classy” and “B through D” linked as much poorer and much less attractive and linked explicitly with skin tone. The darker your skin, the more they wanted you if you were unattractive. As you can imagine, this racist, colorist, sexist nonsense did not go over well.

 

Even more bad stuff happened on set, with a drive-by shooting taking place on the set one week into production. In January 2015, Suge Knight was involved in a hit-and-run incident that left a man dead and another hospitalized reportedly after an argument on the set of Straight Outta Compton. Both figures were Terry Carter, a co-founder of Cube’s Heavyweight Records, while the other was filmmaker Cle Sloan. Transcripts in 2017 indicated Suge was not happy with the film’s portrayal of him and he was not compensated for his part. And thus, Knight murdered a man and was sent to 28 years in prison.

 

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With both Cube and Dre still major names, they were a huge part of the film’s marketing campaign. Cube actually showed a sneak peek of the film’s trailer at a concert in December 2014 two months before its official debut. And a week before release, Beats made a new app that allowed people to take photos and put a “Straight Outta” caption on top of it, resulting in memes and jokes all throughout Twitter and Instagram, and the app being downloaded six million times before the movie even debuted in theaters.

 

At this point, Straight Outta Compton didn’t feel like a typical musical biopic. Its hype was so strong and so deafening that it was higher than even something like Walk the Line or Ray. And thus, on its August 14, opening, Straight Outta Compton debuted to a deafening $60.2 million. Keep in mind, most biopics on famed musicians gross those kind of numbers in their whole runs. But with a fantastic advertising campaign, as well as the film’s subject matter and music still seen as iconic and relevant to today’s audiences. Compton’s debut far exceeded industry expectations, which only went to above $45 million only when people realized the pickup of buzz. And even then it still leapfrogged from what the industry projected here.

 

This was the fifth-biggest August opening of all time, the highest August debut for an R-rated film, and the biggest music biopic opening ever. However, most significant was that this was the biggest opening ever for an African-American director. And while frontloaded due to fan demand, Compton still stayed #1 three weekends in a row, earning $161.2 million domestically and $201.6 million worldwide. As it turns out, this passed Scary Movie to become the biggest domestic movie ever from a Black director, and was the biggest music biopic in history after 2005’s Walk the Line.

 

While the film did garner scrutiny over its accuracy, it was still a major critical hit, and it helped give exposure to one of the greatest hip-hop groups in history. A soundtrack by Dr. Dre also released in time with the movie called Compton, which also became a significant hit. Several of the cast members like O’Shea Jackson Jr. and Aldis Hodge would also see impressive acting careers in the years ahead. And of course, people were scrambling to make their own music biopics, some of which would also go on to be incredible box office successes.

 

And it’s through this we can truly appreciate Universal’s 2015 success. Over the last few years, Disney has been a constant dominant force, and for good reason. Hell, in 2015, Disney was unstoppable. But Universal’s 2015 was truly something to behold. For years, Universal was more or less ignored, with only one or two notable franchises that people. But in 2015, almost everything went right. Jurassic Park returned to record numbers, Fast & Furious hit an incredible high, and Minions made animated history. Just one of these stories would have solidified Universal’s 2015 as an epic one. Having all three in just one calendar year is just mind-boggling.

 

And all the while, Universal had so many other hits to back up their big three. Pitch Perfect 2 solidified the series as more than just a cult hit. Fifty Shades of Grey took the book series to new heights. Straight Outta Compton reinvented the ways biopics and musician movies can be advertised and released. Trainwreck turned Amy Schumer into a household name. The Visit redeemed M. Night Shyamalan. Even with a couple of lousy performers like Ted 2 or Crimson Peak, the variety and diversity of Universal’s 2015 slate was both commendable and impressive, with great box office returns and decent critical backing for several of them.

 

This was Jurassic, F&F, Illumination, Judd Apatow, Will Packer, and Blumhouse, among many other Universal/Uni-adjacent contributors all at the top of their game, and it’s still astonishing to see how well the studio did with just about every genre in just one year. You can’t say Disney can excel at doing that, I’ll tell you that much. And while Universal hasn’t quite hit the same heights as they have with this, they’re still a consistently strong studio that has consistently seen great box office from many of their silos and franchises. In fact, Jurassic, Despicable Me, and F&F would become one of the few franchises that can consistently hit the billion-dollar club every year since 2015, resulting in a studio that had almost zero before 2012, and one of them only getting there due to a high-profile rerelease in 2013, to six by 2020. And it’s sure to grow, assuming billion-dollar titles are still a thing when this nightmare pandemic is over.

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Twenty-first place featured the action masterpiece Mad Max: Fury Road. In a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland lies Max Rockatansky, thankfully not played by horrible person Mel Gibson and instead not horrible person Tom Hardy. Water and oil are scarce commodities, largely being hoarded by the sadistic cult leader Immortan Joe. Joe discovers that Imperator Furiosa, one of his lieutenants and played by Charlize Theron, has taken away five of his wives. And soon, Max finds himself roped in to help Furiosa and Joe’s wives, leading to an epic and lengthy road battle.

 

A Mad Max 4 was one of those movies that seemed stuck in a proverbial development hell, largely due to financial difficulties and outside circumstances. George Miller, the creator of the Mad Max series, re-acquired the rights from Warner Bros. in 1995, and soon began working on the project in 1998. In 1999, the basic idea finally came to his head. The basic premise were that the violent marauders were not fighting for oil or goods, but for human beings. That idea had endless amounts of potential, and it was decided the film would shoot in 2001 under 20th Century Fox. Ultimately, that didn’t happen due to the September 11 attacks, a ballooning budget, and George Miller working on Happy Feet. Miller would then try to get his film off the ground in 2003, with plans to shoot the film in the Australian desert. However, rainfall in the area killed any chance of filming. Namibia was also a planned location, but tightened travel and shipping restrictions due to the Iraq War killed any chances there.

 

Things stayed quiet for a few years, though he would mention he still wanted to make the film in 2006. And for a while, Heath Ledger was considered for the role of Max because horrible person Mel Gibson is...horrible person Mel Gibson. But 2009 was when things finally picked up. For a while, Fury Road was actually intended to be a 3D R-rated animated film that would take a Kurosawa approach to the franchise that would take the series on a different route. A tie-in video game was also supposed to be released with George Miller in charge of the project. The plan was for a 2011 or 2012 release date. But shortly after, Fury Road went from a 3D animated film to a 3D live-action film, with location scouting in May 2009. However, Fury Road would still take cues from animation, as the entire film was storyboarded before the screenplay was written. With about 3,500 panels, this almost mirrored the exact same number of shots in the film.

 

The project was formally announced in October 2009. Casting was given for both Hardy and Theron in 2010, and filming finally began in Namibia in June 2012. With 90% practical effects and the ultra-talented John Seale coming out of retirement to do the cinematography, the production was a very tense one for Miller, Hardy, and Theron. The two leads didn’t often see eye-to-eye, and Hardy was confused and frustrated if Miller’s crazy vision was actually working. It also didn’t help the production was isolated, the shooting conditions were unbearable, and the extreme weather often meant production had to shut down. It wasn’t until after the movie Hardy realized Miller knew what he was doing and all parties reconciled their differences.

 

The film had an extensive post-production cycle, with a heavy amount of effects work. The film was edited by Miller’s wife Margaret Sixel, who took three months to edit the 480 hours worth of footage. The film’s frame rate was one that was heavily manipulated, with about half of the film being shorter or faster than the usual 24 fps. If a shot was too confusing, the film’s frame rate slowed down. If a shot was too easy to understand, it was sped up. This led to a jerky, almost mind-bending look that would become one of the many aspects praised about the movie. The visual effects artists also saw themselves altering lighting and time of day, weather effects, and terrain. Night scenes were filmed in broad daylight, and the sky was sometimes digitally replaced with a more interesting sky. This, again, gave the film a distinct look that stood out from other post-apocalyptic features, and most features in general for that matter.

 

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Mad Max was more of a cult series than an iconic movie franchise. Therefore, expectations at the box office were fairly muted, which was not a good thing for a $150-185 million beast like this. Thankfully, George Miller delivered the goods, and WB knew it. With a premiere at Grauman and a screening at Cannes, Fury Road was considered an instant classic. People showered the film with praise, celebrating its direction, action, score, cinematography, acting, visuals, costume design, editing, and feminist values. 

 

It had immense critical backing on its side, which gave it a huge leg up. So how did the movie do? Was the wait worth it financially? Well...yes with an if, no with a but. Opening on May 15 to $45.4 million, Fury Road earned itself $153.6 million domestically and $374.7 million worldwide. This was far above expectations, becoming the second-biggest WB title of the year, and reinvigorated interest in a somewhat niche property. That’s good. However, the costs made to produce and market the movie were exorbitant, and the lack of a Chinese release diminished its potential. That’s bad. Ultimately, it was a bit of a moderate hit. It was estimated to have lost $20-40 million, but it could have done far worse and it certainly got discussion.

 

But like any great movie, the box office was far from the last thing talked about the film. This has lived on as one of the most beloved films of the 2010s, with many critics citing it as one of the greatest action movies ever made. This would result in Fury Road becoming the most loved film of 2015 by numerous critics and 10 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. And the film helped introduce millions of young cinephiles to the world of Mad Max, helping the property soar to a new popularity never seen before. Later in 2015, a Mad Max video game released on Playstation 4 and Xbox One to mixed reviews, but strong sales, becoming the eighth-best selling game of 2015.

 

A sequel has been considered somewhat a no-brainer, but legal issues between Miller and Warner Bros. has led to a follow-up, subtitled The Wasteland, held back from production. However, things have smoothed out between parties, and just this year, it was formally announced that a prequel centered on the character Furiosa is now in development. Queen Anya Taylor-Joy is set to star as a younger Imperator and George Miller will return to direct. A June 2023 release date is currently set.

 

This year has been one where we’ve talked about all kinds of success stories. But because I’m an ass, I think it’s fitting to end this with one of the most infamous flops of the 2010s. That’s right, we’re talking about Fantastic Four, the 53rd biggest movie domestically. Four young scientists are transported into an alternate universe, which makes them alter their physical form and has them gain incredible new abilities. One can stretch himself to impossible heights, one can turn invisible, one can turn into a flaming man, the other is transformed into a rock monster. And the four find themselves figuring out how to harness their abilities and work together when a familiar enemy plans to destroy Earth.

 

While Fantastic Four has been a major part of Marvel Comics’ history, their forays to feature films have never really gone anywhere. Disregarding the Roger Corman movie, the first real attempt to bring Fantastic Four to the big screen was in 2005. Directed by Tim Story, the 2005 title was panned by critics but still saw decent box office returns, earning $330.6 million worldwide. At the very least, this had 20th Century Fox confident enough to produce a sequel in 2007 subtitled Rise of the Silver Surfer. Reviews were slightly better (key word being slightly), but the film failed to capture the same excitement or attention, resulting in $289 million worldwide. Plans for a third Fantastic Four movie and a spin-off based around Silver Surfer were quickly canceled, and the franchise was pushed away from the limelight for almost an entire decade.

 

Of course, there was more than that when it comes to developing this reboot. Even back in 2009, Fox was working on a new interpretation of the Marvel superheroes with Akiva Goldsman as producer and Michael Green as screenwriter. Actors like Adrien Brody and Kiefer Sutherland were considered at that point, but it wasn’t until June 2012 the Fantastic Four we know today came into fruition. Josh Trank, fresh off the critical and commercial success of Chronicle, was hired as a director. And while Jeremy Slater was attached as a writer, Trank ended up writing the script himself, because he was not a fan of Slater’s work. Slater’s work featured Galactus and Dr. Doom and was heavily inspired by The Avengers in terms of tone and story. Trank hated every word of it, and wanted this comic book movie to...not be comic book-y. This resulted in Slater’s work being so insignificant, Trank purposefully prevented him from meetings without his permission and limited the notes Slater got from Fox. Slater left after six months and it all went downhill from there.

 

One of the more interesting tidbits of the casting process was the age of the actors. Specifically, the Fantastic Four was full of young, fresh-faced talent. Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell. But one of the more interesting tidbits was Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm, becoming the first Black actor to play the hero. Trank cast Jordan both because of his talents and because he felt it was necessary for this film’s heroes to match with today’s demographics. Ultimately, because racist Marvel fans ruin everything, this led to significant controversy because of course it did. Trank saw numerous death threats from IMDb message boards and even slept with a .38 Special on his nightstand until production ended. And would you believe things got even crazier?

 

Filming began in May 2014 with production wrapping up in August 2014. Reshoots would commence in January 2015, which wasn’t an abnormal part of the production process for a blockbuster title. The issue was that this was part of a major reconfiguration of the movie itself. Fox was not a fan with Trank’s cut of the film, as it was less a comic book romp and more a morose and grim tale a la Chronicle. Maybe Fox shouldn’t have asked the Chronicle guy to...not make a Chronicle-esque movie. Trank wasn’t much better, as he was reportedly unprofessional and had erratic behavior while on the set. This poor behavior made him lose a comfy gig directing a new Star Wars title in fact.

 

Trank’s behavior and negative reactions to his cut not only led to several sequences Trank envisioned being unfilmed, but Fox ordered changes to the film without Trank’s supervision during reshoots. Certain plot points were completely altered from Trank’s original idea. This included the ending, which was not finalized, being hastily cobbled together from script pieces from the original Slater script and new ones written on the day of reshoots. Trank’s suggestions were swiftly ignored with editor Stephen E. Rivkin basically became the “de facto director” to Trank.

 

So we come to its release date, August 7. The film had an okay marketing campaign. It was clearly not as buzzed or hyped as something like Age of Ultron or even Ant-Man, but its adverts certainly made it look like a step up from the Tim Story films at the very least. And hey, with Marvel becoming the biggest thing ever, it was pretty much guaranteed the film would at least hit $100 million. And Fox seemed confident enough, as a sequel was already slated for July 2017. This was actually part of a major push from Fox to invest further in Marvel titles to capitalize on the success of the MCU, with titles like X-Men: Apocalypse, a Deadpool spin-off, a Gambit spin-off, a third Wolverine movie, and much, much more.

 

But then the reviews hit. In just one day, all the hype, interest, and excitement dropped like a rock. Critics panned the movie for being dull, underdeveloped, poorly-written, poorly-edited, poorly-structured, and embarrassing to sit through. It was pretty much the worst reviews seen from a major superhero tentpole like this in ages, and killed a lot of hype from fans. But the worst of it came one day before release. Josh Trank, fed up with the hellhole that was production, sent one little tweet: “A year ago I had a fantastic version of this. And it would've recieved great reviews. You'll probably never see it. That's reality though."

 

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It pretty much meant this was an awful film even to the dude who made it, and damaged any goodwill this movie and even Fox had with the run-up to release. And it did not quell any fears Fantastic Four fans had for this being a faithful, well-made interpretation of their favorite heroes. At this point, only the most deathly curious checked this out. And this film’s $25.7 million opening was so bad, it didn’t even hit #1 on its release, as Rogue Nation repeated in the top spot. And with a C- Cinemascore, this pretty much meant Fantastic Four saw some of the absolute worst reception ever for a superhero movie, ending with $56.1 million domestically and $167.9 million worldwide, resulting in this becoming one of the biggest failures of 2015, estimated to have lost $80-100 million.

 

By this point, Fantastic Four was dead in the water. The second movie was pulled November 2015, and even if Fox or Simon Kinberg or whoever wanted to make a new movie, nobody was interested unless Papa Feige was involved in some capacity. In fact, everybody agreed it was best for Fox to just not make any more Fantastic Four movies and just let their film license expire. Josh Trank also didn’t turn out much better, as reports over his erratic behavior and lack of communication with the producers killed any future works, resulting in him going to director’s jail for a while. Hell, because so many sequences weren’t filmed, a director’s cut that followed Trank’s vision does not exist. So they can’t even do a Snyder Cut thing with this turkey. It’s a film that literally offered nothing to the world and just made everything worse. That’s a rare kind of failure.

 

But like with any failure, once you hit rock bottom, you will get back up. Josh Trank would disappear for a while, but in 2020, he would find himself directing Capone, a biopic starring Tom Hardy that...well, it came out I guess. And for Fantastic Four itself, Papa Feige would actually be involved with the property years later due to everyone’s favorite merger. And just a few weeks ago, Papa Feige announced that Spider-Man director Jon Watts would bring the Four to the big screen. Will this be the turning point for the franchise? Is this finally going to make people give a shit about the famous family? Yeah, probably.

 

And there’s 2015 for ya. It was a big year with a lot of stuff to talk about, both good and bad. And so...The Revenant gave Leo an Oscar. Ant-Man was another Marvel hit. Home began the first Dreamworks/Fox hit in ages. Hotel Transylvania 2 took the series to new heights. Spongebob came back to theaters. San Andreas solidified Dwayne Johnson as a box office draw. Daddy’s Home benefited from Force Awakens sell-outs. Alvin and the Chipmunks 4...not so much. Insurgent kept Divergent for like..one year. Peanuts went back to theaters. Kingsman became a solid spy franchise. The Good Dinosaur became Pixar’s first flop. Creed revived Rocky in a major way. Tomorrowland became one of Disney’s biggest bombs. Spy continued Melissa McCarthy's comedy dominance. Terminator: Genisys killed the franchise. Taken 3 ended the trilogy with...grace? Maze Runner continued to muted results. Nancy Meyers saw another success with The Intern. War Room began a Christian hit. Paul Blart returned in an epic way. The Big Short made Adam McKay an Oscarbait director.

 

Pixels was a huge dud for Adam Sandler. The Hateful Eight was an underappreciated Tarantino release. Magic Mike XXL continued the epic story. Poltergeist was remade for some reason. Joy failed to capitalize on the previous J-Law/O. Russell titles. Sicario helped turn Villenueve into a household name. Jupiter Ascending became an infamous disaster for the Wachowskis. The Gift made Joel Edgerton a hit director. The Boy Next Door had us all in love with mom’s cookies. Pan became one of the biggest box office hits in WB history. Chappie killed Blomkamp’s career. The Last Witch Hunter was D&D fanfiction come to life. Lastly, an Entourage movie...came out I guess.

 

This was 2015

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2015 was definitely the year of Star Wars. Seriously, Star Wars was everywhere that year, especially in the final months leading up to TFA. Regardless of how the sequel trilogy ended up, TFA’s record as the biggest domestic release of all time is extremely unlikely to be surpassed anytime soon, so you have to give it that. 

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@Brainbug @excel1 @YourMother the Edgelord @Webslinger  @Noctis  @DAJK @Sir Tiki @Giesi @Rorschach @TalismanRing

 

This was a long one to research, but I loved every minute of it. It honestly took me back to where I was at in 2015. I finished my junior year and was all set for my senior year of high school, and it was such an exciting and surreal experience for that whole year. And I had a lot of fun encapsualting all the cool box office stories that happened in just one calendar year.

 

Talking about Universal's 2015 was particularly great. It was so cool and exciting to see this studio rise up and outgross the competition the way it did, even after Disney put out all their big guns. We'll frankly never get to see this kind of performance again in a world where people are allergic to non-Disney titles/pandemic ruining theatrical exhibition, so it was kind of bittersweet to talk about Straight Outta Compton in the same breath as Jurassic World

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JURASSIC WORLD remains my last great call.  Maybe some day, my foresight with film box office predicting will return...but it felt good to have nice flashback to 2007 days by nailing JW opening weekend mega-break out.

 

There were people on this forum thinking the opening weekend would be sub $100 and that $125m was impossible. :rofl:

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Jurassic World is the reason i decided to check out this site here regulary. Godzilla 2014 made me discover it, but it was JW's OW thread that showed me how fun this place is.

 

And besides, Jurassic World still remains kind of my favourite movie of all time. It has its big share of flaws of course but i coudnt care less about every criticism you could come up with: That film gave us Jurassic Park fans exactly what we wanted to see for such a long time: a real ull-blown operational dino park. The scene where they arrive at the park, Gray opens the window and that damn music plays always tears me up. Seeing this on the big screen back in 2015 will always be one of the greatest moments of my young life and im not one bit ashamed to admit that.

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It was exceptionally dumb commercially to move on from the "Open Theme park" angle as quickly as they did. 

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9 hours ago, excel1 said:

It was exceptionally dumb commercially to move on from the "Open Theme park" angle as quickly as they did. 

That probably a very original take, considering that move made them beat the all time opening weekend record and launched an incredibly successful reboot spin.

 

The first movie being all about people trying to make a park happen again like the first one...... it is movie number 4 after all, not that quick, it is not like the things go wrong before the park open didn't got explored a lot in the past.

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Great write up, Eric!

 

So this is probably the most personal that I'll get about the reminiscing, because I remember 2015... well, not fondly, but it was an important year for my family. That February and March my dad had suffered his first two strokes (I remember the week of the first one literally beginning with the Spider-Man/MCU news and ending with him in the emergency room) which left him housebound during the spring. Then when June rolled around and he could really leave the house again, in lieu of going places as we had done in the past, he and I saw a movie nearly every weekend from then until April or so of 2016. It was a nice couple of hours of normalcy a week for us, and so while I don't really have a "personal movie" for 2015 like I have for other years (maybe Force Awakens comes the closest) I do have some great experiences that I shared with him.

 

2016 was probably the last year to date that I really went to see smaller films in theaters, so I'm looking forward to that. Thank you! ^_^

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2016

Donald Trump wins the presidential election in a surprise victory, the United Kingdom votes to leave the European Union, and a gay nightclub in Orlando becomes the target site for a mass shooting, resulting in 49 deaths, the deadliest mass shooting from a lone gunman...you know, for a while. Nice, France also saw 86 deaths from a truck attack, Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff is impeached, and two stolen Vincent Van Gogh paintings are recovered.

 

Television’s biggest finale was not a show, but an entire franchise. After CSI: Cyber was canceled after its second season, so too did the CSI franchise, signifying the end of a 16-year juggernaut. Other finales include Mythbusters, American Idol, Penny Dreadful, Royal Pains, and most tragic of all, Lab Rats. Notable premieres were Legends of Tomorrow, Lucifer, American Crime Story, Fuller House, The Loud House, Atlanta, The Good Place, This is Us, Westworld, Insecure, The Crown, and Stranger Things. Music had Twenty One Pilots hit it big, and also had albums from Rihanna, Ariana Grande, Panic! At the Disco, Blink-182, and Beyonce. The latter’s Lemonade also featured a visual album that aired on HBO and quickly redefined how music videos and music albums can be made.

 

Big games this year were Overwatch, The Last Guardian, a remake of Doom, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Watch Dogs 2, Street Fighter V, the infamous Kickstarter flop Mighty No. 9, and Pokemon Go, which quickly became a viral sensation and even quicker forgotten about by the general public. And sadly, many people died this year, including David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Harper Lee, Patty Duke, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Anton Yelchin, Gene Wilder, Leonard Cohen, John Glenn, Zsa Zsa Gabor, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, and Debbie Reynolds.

 

For the box office, things were very much divided into a world of haves and have nots, at least domestically. 2015 had a similar thing going on, but this was when things got ridiculous. Nine of the top 10 earned over $300 million, the highest it’s ever been, but the division was staggering, with only three movies in the $200 million range. Number 13’s Doctor Strange and Number 14’s Hidden Figures had a near $63 million divide from one another. 2015 was of course the beginning of this paradigm, as Universal and Disney were the only studios worth a damn that year. But 2016 solidified things, as moviegoers only went to a set amount of films each year, exclusively from big brand names, and everything else had to fight for table scraps and mediocrity.

 

Regardless, this was a big year for superheroes, talking animal movies, and Disney properties. But domestically, the reigning champ was Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. One week before A New Hope, we see a group of Rebels, led by the fierce Jyn Erso. The Rebels are set on a quest to find the plans for the Death Star, the ultimate weapon of the Galactic Empire that could very much destroy the world itself. And through an epic battle that details the opening crawl from the first Star Wars movie, this film shows just how the Rebels truly succeeded in their quest to stop tyranny and fascism spread across the galaxy.

 

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This anthology film first found its roots with a Star Wars television show that never got off the ground. Back when Lucasfilm was still under George Lucas, he planned to produce a series titled Star Wars: Underworld, which would take place between the PT and OT and serve as an anthology series looking at different characters and storylines, with Han, Lando, Palpatine, C-3PO and others being featured. This did not last, as the project was deemed too expensive for a television series. Remember, this was back in 2005, when Netflix didn't even have an online streaming component. One idea for the show was by Jon Knoll, the VFX supervisor for the prequels. His idea? An episode about the Rebels who stole the Death Star plans in the first place.

 

Sure enough, Knoll pitched the idea after the Disney acquisition went into effect, as he knew if he said nothing, this interesting idea would have been just that. And in May 2014, Disney announced Knoll’s idea would become a movie called Rogue One, directed by Gareth Edwards and written by Gary Whitta...then Chris Weitz signed on as writer after Whitta left in early 2015. This was part of a major expansion for Star Wars in terms of movies. After acquiring the biggest sci-fi franchise in history, Disney was understandably eager to milk that for all its worth. They knew there was an audience that would lap up anything Star Wars, and seeing as how they had great success with Marvel in terms of expanding their universe, why not for the galaxy far far away?

 

And thus, Rogue One was the first in what was planned as “Star Wars Stories”, an anthology series that looked at individual events that took place during and outside of the Skywalker Saga. While not the same thing as a cinematic universe, it was cut from the same cloth. Taking the universe and expanding on new factions, characters, and figures in Star Wars media, and giving them the same budget and scale as the main entry lines, so as to keep Star Wars forever in the conversation. The plan was for a Sequel Trilogy title one year, a Star Wars Story the following year, and so on.

 

Gareth Edwards envisioned this film as being very different from all the other Star Wars titles. Hell, the title Rogue One was a double entendre, as it was literally the “rogue one" of the franchise. The film was more of a war movie, with a gritty style and dramatic tone, and a pretty morbid ending to boot. And most notably, this was the first Star Wars movie to not have an opening title crawl. This helped make Rogue One a more unique piece and, ironically, more than just a Star Wars story. It took a familiar world and experimented with a unique style that helped it seem more than just the typical space opera adventure, even if it did feature familiar characters.

 

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Speaking of, one of the most fascinating actors to appear was Peter Cushing, since...he’s dead. Lucasfilm managed to secure permission from the Cushing estate that allowed them to create a CGI likeness of Cushing over the body of actor Guy Henry that allowed Grand Moff Tarkin the chance to come to life again. ILM looked over hours of reference material, with Henry’s face being mapped over by a digital model of Cushing, almost like a digital body mask. Another process was given to Princess Leia, with Norwegian actress Ingvild Deila’s face getting superimposed by Fisher’s face back in the 1970s. This was not well-received by many, as it looked unconvincing, creepy, and had debates on both the legality and morality on having dead actors be brought back to life this way.

 

In May 2016, reports went out that Rogue One would go on to have five weeks of reshoots. And what’s most interesting was that another major creative would take charge. Tony Gilroy, best known for The Bourne Identity, wrote several new scenes for the movie, and acted as a second-unit director under Gareth Edwards, as a way to rework some elements that weren’t quite working as well as Lucasfilm had hoped. Gilroy would then oversee the edit and additional photography, ultimately leading to several issues the movie had fixed, such as the ending. Gilroy would go on to earn a writing credit for the film and get paid $5 million for his contributions.

 

With splashy trailer drops at Star Wars Celebration and the Summer Olympics, Rogue One was a crucial title for Disney’s reinvigoration of Star Wars. The Mouse House knew fanboys and general audiences would turn up for an Episode VII. But would they turn up for a spin-off? For a prequel, after years of getting burnt by the more poorly-recieved Prequel Trilogy? For a film that was much more linked to fanboy intrigue rather than general excitement from moviegoers? Disney did everything in their power to get everybody hyped up for another Star Wars title, even after a short gap from the previous one. And boy did it work.

 

Projections for the film were somewhere in the $100-150 million range. A clear step down from Force Awakens, but understandable for a spin-off title. But sure enough, when tickets went on sale, sites like Fandango crashed 10 minutes in, much like what happened to Force Awakens last year. And in the first 24 hours, Rogue One saw the second-strongest ticket sales for a movie in such a time period, only behind Force Awakens. And sure enough, Rogue One beat out all previous expectations with an opening of $155.1 million, the second-biggest December debut, only behind...you know what. Yes, this was a bit of a drop from Force Awakens, but this didn’t have the same nostalgic appeal nor the return of fan favorites like Han Solo to get audiences hooked on this title.

 

If anything, it was a clear sign that Star Wars was just as exciting to the masses as ever. People weren’t just here for the lightsabers, the Force, or the Jedis. People were getting invested in the lore, the backstories, and the other aspects the series never really explored, at least in the movies. People wanted more of the Star Wars they knew and loved. Force Awakens proved that. But people also wanted more from Star Wars that wasn’t retreading old ground. Of course, this idea of new genres and styles for Star Wars quickly moved away after a notable box office failure, but this idea of Star Wars media that is more distinct and drenched in lore still shines today through the abundance of Disney+ Star Wars shows currently airing and set to launch in the next few years.

 

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The film continued to play in packed houses as the clear destination for that holiday season. It repeated at #1 for the next two weekends, with audiences having fun with this grim, yet action-packed sci-fi romp, and it was still a popular title well into the new year. Didn’t hurt it was a film about political rebels right at a point when America was set to have its own fascist leader. The title finished with $532.2 million domestically and $1.06 billion worldwide, the second-biggest movie of the year globally. And it was the perfect send-off to what was a banner year for Disney, which I’ll go into greater detail on in a bit.

 

And while the "Star Wars Story" sub-series quickly went away, Rogue One has lived on as a fan-favorite. Many still argue this is the best of the most recent Star Wars titles, and this love has translated further into other facets of Star Wars media. Tie-in novels, comic books, and video game appearances are just a sample of Rogue One representation, but they couldn’t do much with Rogue One since all the characters...well you know. But as always, Disney knows how to satiate their fans. And for Rogue One, the biggest one is just around the corner. 

 

In 2018, in conjunction with the unveiling of the official title of their new streaming service, it was announced that Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor would get his own television series on Disney+, detailing his life before becoming a Rebel. This was one of the first shows announced for the service, and it was just recently given the title Andor and is currently set to debut in 2022.

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Second domestic and third worldwide saw Pixar return to the ocean with Finding Dory. This follows Dory, everyone’s favorite amnesiac blue tang, as she finds herself discovering more about her. Clues and memories from her past and her previous family are slowly unleashing into her head. And through an adventure that finds herself in a marine life institute, Dory might just find herself reuniting with the parents she lost years ago.

 

A Finding Nemo sequel is very similar to Toy Story and Monsters, Inc. before it. That being, it was already going to happen even if Pixar wasn’t in charge. Back when Disney and Pixar were set to split, Disney developed their own direct-to-DVD sequel to Finding Nemo through the newly made Circle 7 Animation studio. The idea for the movie was going to feature Nemo’s long lost twin brother and involve Marlin getting captured, with Nemo, Dory, and Nemo’s brother saving the day. But luckily, cooler heads prevailed. Disney bought Pixar, Circle 7 shut down, and a Nemo sequel was dead in the water...sorry.

 

But that didn’t mean a Nemo sequel wouldn’t happen. Finding Nemo was still one of Pixar’s biggest movies ever, and Ellen DeGeneres, who was a huge supporter for a follow-up, was bigger than ever thanks to the success of her daytime talk show. Yet the gears didn’t start turning until 2012, the same year Finding Nemo re-released into theaters in 3D. During the conversion process, director Andrew Stanton rewatched Finding Nemo for the first time in years. And he began to realize something oddly tragic about the comic relief Dory.

 

“I started to think about how easily Dory could get lost and not find Marlin and Nemo again,” said Stanton in an interview. “She basically was in the same state that she was when Marlin found her. I didn't know where she was from. I knew that she had spent most of her youth wandering the ocean alone, and I wanted to know that she could find her new family, if she ever got lost again. It's almost like the parental side of me was worried."

 

Stanton stayed hush on the project, knowing shareholders would coerce him to rush the film. It wasn’t until he finally got a good story down that he shared a sequel idea with John Lasseter and other Pixar bigwigs. One of which being Angus McLane, who would serve as co-director for the film and helped develop many of the film’s sequences. Stanton also chose Victoria Strouse as the screenwriter.

 

The script was a challenging one for Strouse. Dory being a forgetful character with short-term memory made things difficult when it came to crafting a story around her. But the biggest issue came from the setting. In early 2013, the documentary Blackfish became a massive talking point. Detailing how the captivity of orca whales damages their psyche, Stanton sat down with the creatives for Blackfish. Because the movie took place in a Seaworld-style marine park, the institute was reworked so the fish had the option to leave the institute if they so choose. This helped give the film more scientific accuracy and allowed the film to not seem as creepy or dangerous to the public information and understanding of marine animals.

 

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Releasing June 17, 2016, Finding Dory was an event for all ages. The film came out 13 years after Finding Nemo, so many of the kids who saw it all those years ago were grown up and nostalgic for a film they adored as children. At the same time, Finding Nemo was an evergreen title that still did consistently well on DVD and streaming, so younger viewers were just as entranced by the original movie and just as excited for this follow-up. And with little else in the way of competition, as well as the Ellen hype machine, Pixar’s sequel continued the iconic film’s box office legacy.

 

After seeing the strongest pre-sales ever for an animated movie on Fandango, and also helped by positive reviews by critics, Finding Dory made history. Its $54.7 million opening day was far and away the biggest OD for any animated title, and becoming the first animated film to cross the $50 million mark in one day. This soon led to a record-breaking $135.1 million opening weekend. This was the biggest Pixar debut ever and the second-biggest June opening in history. But it wasn’t the biggest headline. After nine years, Finding Dory finally dethroned Shrek the Third, making it the biggest animated debut of all time. Its worldwide opening of $185.7 million was the sixth-biggest animated opening ever. It was an astonishing performance that showed just how much excitement there was to see familiar friends like these for all types of audience demographics.

 

And that hype continued further. It passed $200 million in a week, becoming the only animated film to do that, and stayed #1 for the next two weekends. And despite competition from Secret Life of Pets, Finding Dory was a box office juggernaut, ultimately ending with $486.3 million. This gross beat out The Lion King to become the biggest Disney animated film in history in this market, and beat out Shrek 2’s 12-year run as the biggest animated film in domestic history. Worldwide was $1.03 billion, making it the second Pixar movie and the fifth animated film to cross that milestone. This would result in a net profit of $296.6 million and a much-needed win for Andrew Stanton after the failure that was John Carter.

 

While a third film has been discussed, no plans are currently being made, but the franchise is still a strong one with both kids and adults. And Andrew Stanton has returned to live-action directing upon this film’s success, directing episodes for Stranger Things, Better Call Saul, and Legion. And in terms of movies, Stanton has two different live-action projects currently in the works.

 

The bronze medal in the States (and Canada) was actually the victor worldwide. That’s right, it’s Captain America: Civil War. After the destruction caused by The Avengers has gone too far, the United Nations creates the Sokovia Accords, a panel that will oversee and control the team, as The Avengers are forced to only go out when the government allows them to. Tony’s favorability towards these regulations and Steve’s disapproval soon leads to the team being severely fractured, and a battle between both sides threatening to destroy the Avengers team itself.

 

Upon very strong test screenings for The Winter Soldier, Joe and Anthony Russo were immediately signed on as directors for a third Captain America movie, with Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely also returning as screenwriters. Things were a bit quiet in the months since Winter Soldier’s release. The Russos mentioned how the film’s tone would be a combination of both First Avenger and Winter Soldier, and listed several influences for the film, including Seven, Fargo, The Godfather, westerns, and Brian De Palma titles. They also mentioned story beats like Steve’s relationship with Bucky, but things were pretty silent. For a good reason.

 

In October 2014, Papa Feige had a massive presentation at the El Capitan for fanboys and entertainment journalists, revealing all the new titles set for Phase 3 for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And it was here where Papa Feige let the shoe drop. Captain America 3 wasn’t just going to be the first film of Phase 3. It was also going to adapt the iconic Civil War comic book miniseries and Robert Downey Jr. was going to appear as Tony. This was a big deal, as a Civil War adaptation was on and off the table for a long while, as the grand scope and massive cast made execs skittish if it could be pulled off for a feature. And considering how the movies heavily influenced the character interpretations of these characters, they couldn’t really do a straightforward adaptation. But Papa Feige had trust in the Russos, especially after they pulled off a political superhero title with grace.

 

One of the more exciting elements of Civil War was the inclusion of several iconic heroes. If anything, this was Avengers 2.5 when looking at the cast. However, two iconic Marvel heroes were the real scene stealers. The first was Black Panther, played by Chadwick Boseman. Papa Feige wanted there to be a third party in all the madness between Steve and Tony, so bringing in the character T’Challa, who had no affiliation with either hero, helped give a sense of balance. This inclusion would introduce T’Challa to millions of moviegoers and was one of the many aspects that helped the future Black Panther movie become a smash. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

 

The second was, of all things, Spider-Man. After The Amazing Spider-Man 2 saw mixed reviews and killed off any interest in Garfield’s interpretation, Sony was at an impasse. People were tired of their Spider-Man movies and wished he was with Papa Feige. But they still couldn’t get rid of their only consistent moneymaker. And thus, in December 2014, it was revealed Sony was discussing with Disney and Marvel Studios to find a way to get Peter Parker into Civil War. And in February 2015, Sony and Marvel formally announced an agreement that allowed Spider-Man to appear in the MCU and have Papa Feige take full creative control, while Sony was in charge of marketing and distribution and ownership of Spider-Man movies. Many young actors auditioned for the role and did screen tests with both Evans and Downey. And sure enough, young actor Tom Holland would earn the role. His interpretation of Peter Parker, which emphasized the youthful figure both in his literal age and character personality, would be loved by many Marvel fans.

 

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Disney and Papa Feige rolled out the red carpet for this film, beginning with a trailer debut launching to 61 million views in just 24 hours. Strategically placed behind The Force Awakens, it was just one of many clever promotions. A Super Bowl promo with an iconic chant of “United We Fall, Divided We Stand” saw the most social media activity of any movie promo that day. A second trailer that saw up to 95 million views. “Team Cap” and “Team Iron Man” hashtags across all social media. An exclusive clip at the MTV Movie Awards. Promotional tie-ins up the wazoo.

 

At this point, everybody knew this was coming and they weren’t gonna miss it for the world. It outsold every Marvel movie on Fandango and became the highest-selling superhero movie ever in terms of presales. And on its May 6 debut, including $25 million in Thursday previews, the second-highest ever for a Marvel film, Civil War opened to $75.5 million on its first day, the eighth-biggest opening day ever. This would soon lead to Civil War dominating all the headlines with a $179.1 million opening weekend.

 

In just three days, Civil War outgrossed The First Avenger’s entire domestic run and was the fifth-highest opening weekend of all time. Sure this basically being Avengers 2.5 helped, but it was still a highly commendable and mind-bending opening, showcasing the might Marvel had at the box office and how they managed to hype up fans and non-fans alike for this epic event. Although despite all the headlines, the next few weeks weren’t as shiny or exciting. While it did repeat at #1 its second weekend, the film saw multiple 50%+ drops throughout May, despite earning critical acclaim. Did the film just not spark the same kind of passion with general audiences? Was the movie too dour for many? Was the MCU becoming too insular and alienating to non-fans, meaning these were becoming like Harry Potter or Twilight? I don’t know and I don’t care!

 

And frankly, Disney couldn’t care that much. Civil War finished its run with $408.1 million domestically and $1.1 billion worldwide, becoming the 12th-biggest film of all time globally. With a net profit of $193.4 million, Civil War was a fantastic introduction to Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a terrific send-off to the Captain America trilogy. And contrary to what its legs may have you believe, this was the intro to the phase where Marvel was at its all-time peak, usurping itself as not just the biggest movie franchise but arguably the biggest thing in pop culture worldwide. And what an introduction it was.

 

This was also a pretty notable milestone for Disney at the domestic box office. For the first time in the history of box office reporting, Disney became the first studio to get the top 3 domestic winners for one single year. The smart acquisitions Disney took over the past decade, all of which made to help the company expand and grow into an incredible entertainment behemoth, truly paid off here. After years of acquiring the best brands and ensuring audience trust for Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm, Disney truly reaped supreme benefits as all three studios saw billion-dollar grossers and incredible domestic rewards. And I’m not even getting into the rest of Disney’s slate. Trust me when I say I have a lot to talk about in the next few posts.

 

Fourth domestic and sixth worldwide, we have Illumination’s The Secret Life of Pets. This animated title looks at what our pets do when we head off to school or work. Specifically, this follows a Jack Russell Terrier named Max and his conflicts when his owner brings a new dog into the mix, a mongrel named Duke. After the duo find themselves lost in New York City, they are forced to work together to get back home, while meeting several colorful characters along the way.

 

The idea for this film first saw life in 2012. Illumination CEO Chris Meledandri pitched Despicable Me director Chris Renaud the idea for a movie about what pets do when their caretakers are away. Renaud found the premise an interesting one, but he and his team failed to figure out how to create a good and compelling story behind it. For a while, the film was even going to be a murder mystery, but it was decided the film should be more relatable, with a few too many similarities to the plot of Toy Story.

 

The massive success of Despicable Me meant a lot of actors were eager to sign on to do a voice for their next major project. And Secret Life of Pets was notable for having an all-star cast of comedic talent. Horrible person Louis C.K. was cast as the lead Max, while other actors included Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper, Lake Bell, Hannibal Burress, Bobby Moynihan, Steve Coogan, Albert Brooks, and even Dana Carvey, who was semi-retired post-Master of Disguise.

 

With a major bevy of actors and its connection to the biggest new animation studio, Secret Life of Pets was backed by an enormous marketing campaign. Kids, adults, and pet owners alike were bombarded with ads and promos hyping up this film as the next big animated feature. And it was projected by the trades to be a box office success, with predictions for an opening in the $70 million range. But with hilarious videos and an easy, relatable premise that emphasized people’s love of pets, SLOP moved to incredible heights that have still not been challenged.

 

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On its July 8 weekend, Secret Life of Pets saw a record $104.4 million 3-day haul. It was a historic debut, becoming the sixth-biggest animated film debut, the sixth-biggest July opening weekend, the fourth-biggest opening for Universal, and it quickly surpassed Inside Out to earn the highest opening for a completely original film. 2016 was the absolute peak of Illumination in terms of box office, as people could not wait to see new and exciting hi-jinx from the Minions people. And with their omnipresent marketing machine and simple yet hilarious characters, it seemed Illumination had another major marketable franchise to call their own. This was also a blessing for Universal, as one year after their record 2015 where they consistently saw hits, they didn’t have a single 100M+ grosser until Pets that July.

 

And with the rest of July and August all to itself in terms of animated family titles, Secret Life of Pets managed to earn $368.4 million domestically and $875.5 million worldwide. This was a rousing success, becoming the fifth-biggest wholly original film of all time worldwide. And thanks to Illumination’s thrifty business model, emphasizing tiny production budgets and cost-conscious animation techniques, this $75 million title earned a net profit of $374.6 million, becoming the most profitable title of 2016.

 

In 2019, The Secret Life of Pets 2 released to theaters, with far less Louis C.K. This saw nowhere near the same success. While still a strong hit, the film grossed less than half of its predecessor with $434.4 million,  making it a disappointment. And despite a solid net profit of $118 million, there has been no word on a third film or any other continuation of the franchise. And thus ended the short reign of Illumination’s #2 franchise.

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Fifth place on both accounts saw Disney adapt The Jungle Book yet again. It’s the classic story of Mowgli, an orphaned boy raised by wolves in the Indian jungle. With the villainous, man-hating tiger Shere Khan set to kill Mowgli in order to keep balance to the jungle, Mowgli, alongside a group of colorful animal characters, finds himself on a journey of self-discovery that makes him truly understand who he is.

 

The Jungle Book is a story that Disney has told time and time again. There’s the 1994 film by Stephen Sommers, the first live-action Disney remake ever made, as well as the 1998 direct-to-video title Mowgli’s Story. But of course, the Disney Jungle Book retelling everybody knows is the 1967 animated classic, which was the second-highest grossing Disney film upon its initial release. And with Disney gung-ho on remaking several of their animated classics, The Jungle Book was one of the first to be greenlit, with an official announcement in July 2013. Jon Favreau was later confirmed as a director that November. Favreau was a massive fan of the 1967 film as a child, and he wanted to make sure his interpretation brought justice and respect to the original film.

 

Favreau made two crucial decisions that helped this film’s financial prospects immensely. The first was that Favreau did not want to make this a direct copy of the 1967 film. Rather, he wanted The Jungle Book to be a blend of the lighthearted fun and catchy songs of the Disney film with the dark, perilous, more realistic Rudyard Kipling novel. Favreau also updated a lot of the themes for modern audiences. Kipling’s book was about nature being something to overcome, while Favreau’s film was about nature being something to protect. Pixar also helped develop the story with Favreau. This move cemented The Jungle Book as an all-ages affair. It was still fun and safe for kids, but it had enough bite, danger, and grit that made it exciting for adults. All the while, the Disney branding, nostalgia, and all-star cast of Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Christopher Walken, Lupita Nyong’o, Idris Elba, and Scarlett Johannson helped broaden its appeal even further.

 

Another major factor of the film’s hype was its groundbreaking visual effects. Favreau felt that just going out into the jungle and shooting the movie would have made the film lose the magic the 1967 film had. The animated film was a landmark one in terms of character animation and production design, and Favreau had to maintain those ideas if he wanted this remake to give any sort of justice to the original. So with a suggestion by Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn, Favreau used this film as a showcase of the latest advancements made in photorealistic rendering, CGI technology, and motion capture technologies.

 

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So the movie was shot entirely in one soundstage in Los Angeles, with only one actor Neel Sethi, the young boy playing Mowgli, and several giant bluescreens. All the backgrounds were artificially created, while the animals were all CGI, apart from a few puppets for Sethi to work off of. This was a major selling point for Favreau’s movie. CGI wizardry can really excite viewers, especially if it’s something people have never seen before. So the idea that the landscapes as sprawling and as massive as in this film were solely made through computers gave the film major attention with adults and film fans, as this looked to be an innovative trailblazer for CGI-heavy blockbusters. This kind of groundbreaking VFX work would become synonymous with Jon Favreau in the next few years, as The Lion King remake and The Mandalorian would boast innovative VFX techniques.

 

With a release date on April 15, The Jungle Book was set to be yet another hit for Disney’s live-action department. Ever since its unveiling at D23 2015, the raves for its VFX work and the success of the previous remakes ensured it would be a success. But it seemed like Disney knew they had a strong hit on their hands. The movie saw widespread acclaim from critics, hailing the film for its visuals, characters, story, and action setpieces, citing it as a film that could be enjoyed by anyone, whether young or old. All the while, praising its CGI and 3D technology, citing it to be a landmark title in the same vein as Avatar, Gravity, or Life of Pi.

 

The glowing reviews The Jungle Book earned pushed the film’s buzz further and further. And what started with projections in the $60 million range grew to the high 80s. But nobody could predict what it would actually open to. On its first day, The Jungle Book shocked everyone with $32.4 million, the fourth-biggest April OD of all time, helped also by $4.2 million, a rarity for a springtime family film. And with incredible word of mouth and family appeal, Jungle Book opened to $103.3 million. The records were too many to count here. It was the second-biggest April opening, the second-biggest Disney remake opening, and the seventh-biggest opening for a non-sequel.

 

This was helped by the broad appeal across all audiences. It was fun for kids and action-packed for adults. But it was also notable for being one of those experiences you had to watch on the big screen. More specifically, at premium prices. 3D and IMAX played a major part, representing 43% and 10% respectively of the first weekend haul. It wasn’t just a really good movie. It was a really good movie that was worth paying extra. And apart from I guess Dunkirk, this really was the last major Avatar/Gravity-style “see it in 3D/IMAX” title ever made. Although I’m sure I am blanking on something that came out recently.

 

And with a completely barren April and glowing reviews, The Jungle Book continued to drive in massive attendance figures in the weeks to come. Its second weekend saw a 40% drop for $61.5 million. That 40% fall was the fourth-smallest drop for a $100 million opener, and it managed to land in the top 15 best second weekends ever. Weekend three saw it drop only 29%, earning $43.7 million, the sixth-biggest third weekend ever. With marginal drops in the ensuing weeks, The Jungle Book saw $364 million domestically, becoming one of the leggiest century openers of all time. And with strong returns overseas, especially in India, where it became the highest-grossing Hollywood film of all time, The Jungle Book saw $966.5 million worldwide. It saw a net profit of $258 million.

 

The box office performance of The Jungle Book is a surreal one. Again, most expected it to do well. But nobody expected this title to get into the top 5 of 2016. Just goes to show what VFX wizardry and a likable, talented director can really do. The Jungle Book’s success soon elevated Jon Favreau’s stature even further with Disney, with him getting two major gigs, including another remake focusing on CGI animals. A sequel has been in development ever since The Jungle Book’s release, though Favreau has put it off due to his work on that other remake. And now that he’s busy trying to save Star Wars, it’s debatable if a Jungle Book 2 will actually happen. But hey, never say never.

 

Sixth place was Deadpool, a film nobody expected would do as well as it did. Wade Wilson is a mercenary with a mouth who sadly is diagnosed with terminal cancer. And due to crazy circumstances, an evil scientist manages to give Wade mutant powers that allow him to have superhuman healing abilities, but a scarred physical appearance. Outraged that this scientist made him unfuckable, Wade Wilson becomes the antihero Deadpool, a wisecracking, foul-mouthed, fourth-wall breaking assassin who seems a little too aware he’s in a stupid comic book movie.

 

Most people start the story of the Deadpool movie in 2009, but actually we can trace this movie’s origins all the way back to the year 2004. After working together on Blade: Trinity, writer David S. Goyer and actor Ryan Reynolds teamed with New Line Cinema to create a movie based on the somewhat obscure character Deadpool. Reynolds learned that in the comics, Deadpool described himself as “Ryan Reynolds crossed with a Shar-Pei”, which made him intrigued with the character. And New Line exec Jeff Katz thought Reynolds was the only fit for the role, so it seemed like it was destined to be greenlit. Ultimately, because Deadpool was a character heavily associated with the X-Men, which was under 20th Century Fox, New Line couldn’t get the rights and the film was scrapped.

 

However, when one door closes, another one opens. And Fox still had interest in a Reynolds-led Deadpool movie. It helped that Jeff Katz moved from New Line to Fox a few years later. The plan was for Reynolds to cameo in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which soon led to a larger role, and plans for the Wolverine movie to springboard a Deadpool spin-off. And while it did happen, it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. The Deadpool featured in Origins was nothing like the comic book character. Instead of a skilled assassin that never knew when to shut up, this Deadpool had several bizarre mutant superpowers and had his mouth sewn shut, meaning there were zero quips by the climax. So while a Deadpool spin-off would still be in development, it would completely ignore the Wolverine version, with an emphasis on a slapstick tone and several fourth wall breaks.

 

Zombieland writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick were attached to the screenplay in January 2010 and several directors were in consideration. And while Robert Rodriguez and Adam Berg were considered, Tim Miller, best known for his VFX work on the X-Men movies found himself making his directorial debut with this movie. At least that was the idea until the movie was scrapped by Fox. The movie was set to be R-rated with intense violence and foul language, so that already made execs concerned about its box office potential. But in 2011, Green Lantern, also starring Ryan Reynolds, hit theaters. The film was a disaster, both critically and financially, which tainted the Deadpool project internally. But after a few meetings with Reynolds and Tim Miller, a compromise was made. They were going to allow this film to be R-rated, but first Miller had to make some compelling and interesting test footage so the film could get greenlit. And Miller did, using CGI animation made by his animation company Blur Studio. It was shown to Fox in 2012, but they were not impressed enough to greenlight the film just yet. There was hope from Reese and Wernick that the record success of The Avengers would persuade Fox to get the project up and running, but Fox was even more hesitant on the script compared to the test footage, with the plan now for Deadpool to show up in an Avenger-esque team-up film.

 

And for a while, things were quiet on the Deadpool front. James Cameron and David Fincher, good friends with Miller, would champion the title to Fox executives, but not much progress was made on a greenlight. But in July 2014, everything changed. Somebody leaked the test footage Miller made online, a move that Reynolds and his team were thinking of, though it was reportedly done by somebody who worked at Fox. And when it leaked, the response from fanboys and film journalists was strong. Really strong. The action and comedy was a perfect match for the insanity people knew and loved from Deadpool. This is what people wanted to see, and it seemed like there was plenty of potential for a fun action-comedy superhero title. Sure enough, in September 2014, Fox gave the film a March 2015 production date and a February 2016 release date.

 

But even when the movie was finally greenlit and the creatives were allowed to do what they wanted, Fox had seemingly no faith. Deadpool was already given a mid-size budget, a far cry from the $150 million+ all the other superhero titles were getting. But sure enough, 48 hours after its official greenlight, Fox cut the film’s budget down to $7-8 million, effectively making the film cost $58 million to make. This not only meant the team was limited in terms of locations and action, but the film had to go through major rewrites, with nine pages of the script being completely cut. This meant Reese and Wernick’s story had to get creative. And they had their ways.

 

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The first was combining an origin story with a traditional superhero adventure. The film’s opening action scene would take up the first half of the movie, becoming intercut with flashback scenes of how Wade Wilson came to be. This not only smartly introduced the character of Deadpool and his background, but it also saved money by putting in as few action scenes as possible, yet each action sequence was memorable and lively. The second way was simple: making it funny. The writers made sure the film got a lot of laughs, which meant a lot of references. The biggest ones being jabs at Deadpool’s appearance in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Reynolds’ appearance in Green Lantern. The most important thing to the team was that the pop culture references had to be timely and up-to-date, but they can’t be so obscure or drenched in comic book lore that people have to look things up. This emphasis on clever laughs and pop culture gags that were accessible to just about everybody with a decent understanding of superhero movies.

 

This kind of clever, subversive comedy also translated into the marketing campaign, which did a lot of heavy lifting to get curious viewers interested in the film at a pretty tight cost. The marketing budget was small, just like the movie’s production budget. But Reynolds wasn’t going to let his film be lost in the shuffle, so he worked with Fox’s marketing president Marc Weinstock to create a unique ad campaign that stayed true to the character of Deadpool. An actor playing such a heavy part in a film’s advertising was an unheard of move. So aside from the usual trailers, Reynolds helped develop several interesting adverts and promos. 

 

A Halloween video with Deadpool talking to kids dressed like the X-Men. A PSA where Deadpool talks about testicular cancer. Promos featuring Manchester United, Betty White, and Conan O’Brien. An unconventional billboard selling the movie as a romance film (which wasn’t completely off from the final product btw), as well as a billboard displaying three emojis: 💀💩L. Reynolds taking part in a faux rivalry with Hugh Jackman on social media. An April Fool’s video where Deadpool kills Mario Lopez. A Burt Reynolds photo shoot parody. Appearances in promos for shows on MTV, Comedy Central, VH1, Logo TV, and Spike.

 

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It was a brilliant ad campaign. Not only were ads everywhere, each one was distinct, fresh, and weird, fitting for a movie like this. It was hilarious to see all these clever promos for this superhero title, it smartly used Ryan Reynolds and his impressive social media following, and it embraced its R rating, telling people this was something completely fresh in the superhero genre from all the PG-13 schlock. It just looked funny and weird, and you had to check it out to see what this odd little title is all about.

 

And sure enough, Deadpool finally opened on February 12. Projections from Deadline and other trades had the film opening at around $55-60 million, which would have been a great opening for a film about an obscure hero. But its Thursday previews amounted to $12.7 million, the biggest previews ever for an R-rated title. This was destined to soar past those projections, and it would soon earn $47.3 million on its opening day, beating Matrix Reloaded’s OD record made all the way back in 2003. This would later lead to $132.4 million for the three-day and $152.2 million for the four-day.

 

All told, every record you can think of was made this weekend. The biggest R-rated opening, the biggest February opening, the biggest Valentine’s/President’s Day opening, the biggest IMAX opening for an R-rated film ($16.8 million). It was a historic weekend that shocked everyone. Superhero movies have a strong kid audience that boosts up their sales, and Deadpool locked them out from seeing it. So the fact this film managed to outgross the openings of several major PG-13 Marvel titles was something truly mindboggling, and I’m sure a lot of Fox execs were embarrassed they waited so long to make this film.

 

The next few weeks continued to be strong, with its second weekend repping $56.5 million, with it becoming the fastest R-rated movie to reach $200 million, just nine days. And after the dust settled, Deadpool grossed $363.1 million domestically, becoming the highest-grossing X-Men film, and outpacing a majority of MCU movies and DCEU titles. And it became the second-biggest R-rated film domestically, only behind Passion of the Christ, a film that will, again, probably hold the record forever. Worldwide saw its grosses leap to $782.6 million. Net profit amounted to $322 million.

 

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Everybody and their goldfish has their reason why Deadpool became the smash success it became. Remember, it was expected to do well, but not even Fox predicted this would become one of the highest-grossing superhero films in history. If I can throw my hat into the ring, Deadpool is one of those movies that came out at just the perfect time. The Avengers pretty much made superhero movies into a hot commodity overnight. And by 2014, superhero movies went from a popular genre to the biggest film genre ever. Disney and WB were cashing in on Marvel and DC movies left and right, and audiences were becoming more invested than ever on these characters. This explosion of tentpole superhero titles was overwhelming, but people couldn’t get enough of them.

 

But at the same time, people were starting to get a little tired of these movies and their tropes. So Deadpool was a needed breath of fresh air. People wanted something bold, and they also wanted something they can laugh at. Something that can lovingly poke holes at the movies they love, while also being a bit more bloody and vulgar. Deadpool was a shot in the arm for the genre, bringing in laughs both intelligent and stupid, at a time when the superhero bubble seemed like it was ready to burst (I know, how quaint of us 2016 denizens). And Deadpool has continued to live on as a popular film, with the character becoming a household name almost overnight.

 

The success of Deadpool also ushered in a new era of R-rated tentpoles. For years, studios have clung to PG-13 titles, but Deadpool showed that masses of people over 17 can and would be excited over R-rated tentpoles, so long as you deliver something fresh, exciting, and engaging. Deadpool would soon lead to the likes of Logan, It, and Joker, with likely many more R-rated blockbusters in the years to come. And of course, plenty more Deadpool movies, although the franchise’s track record would become a bit wonky due to a certain studio buyout.

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Despite only earning seventh place, we have the fourth-biggest movie worldwide with Zootopia. In a world with anthropomorphic animals, there’s the city of Zootopia, a melting pot where all kinds of mammals supposedly co-exist in harmony. But when a rabbit police officer named Judy Hopps, who finds herself put into a box by the precinct due to her species, finds herself pairing up with a sly con artist fox named Nick Wilde, she discovers a conspiracy within the city and that the supposed peaceful union between predators and prey isn’t quite as nice as it may seem.

 

This film came from a pitch meeting between Tangled director Byron Howard and Disney Animation CCO John Lasseter. Howard pitched three different films to Lasseter: an all-animal adaptation of Three Musketeers, a 1960s-themed story about an evil cat turning humans into animals, and a film about a bounty hunter pug in space. Byron Howard was a massive fan of Disney’s Robin Hood, which took the timeless story and made all its characters anthropomorphic animals, and felt it was the perfect time for Disney to try out the idea again. Lasseter loved the idea of an all-animal movie and suggested combining all three ideas together.

 

So not long after, Howard pitched Savage Seas, a spy film focusing on a James Bond-esque arctic hare named Jack Savage. Jared Bush would later sign on to write the film. As the film was progressing, the one thing that everybody at Disney loved the most was the first act, which focused on a city made by and for animals. The all-animal city was an interesting setting that had a lot of creative locations, and everybody wanted more of it. This soon led to the film being set entirely within the location of the all-animal city, now named Zootopia, and was changed into a contemporary police procedural with the predator/prey dynamic serving as a backdrop to discuss racial tensions.

 

But even then, the film wasn’t quite working out. The new storyline focused not on Judy, but Nick the fox. In this version of Zootopia, predators are forced to wear “tame collars”, which shocked them every time they felt any sort of primitive emotion like anger or excitement, so as to keep the prey safe and comfortable. Nick, who has become world-weary and frustrated with life, is soon framed for a crime he didn’t commit, and Judy was hunting him down in a Fugitive-esque tale. This idea did not work. Despite the happy ending, the plot, world, and characters were too mean, too cruel, and too unlikable to have anything to root for.

 

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This caused a massive rewrite to the script that put the perspective not on Nick, but on Judy. This changed everything, as Judy’s story was about a newcomer to Zootopia who learns, alongside the audience, the discrimination Zootopia covertly hides under a bright, sunny image. This not only made the world and characters more likable, but it smartly introduced the film’s themes of race relations and stereotypes more organically, pointing out to viewers that stuff that supposedly “doesn’t happen anymore” is so naturally embedded into our society. If anything, Zootopia’s message came out just the right time, since Mr. Cheeto got elected a few months after its release.

 

Disney’s marketing campaign had three interesting venues when it comes to hyping up their new talking animal movie. The first was Star Wars. The Force Awakens came out in December 2015, which was a perfect venue for every upcoming 2016 release. It was one of the most hyped movies in years, and everybody wanted their film to play in front of it, hoping that their promo for Warcraft, X-Men: Apocalypse or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 would push their movie into the stratosphere. But funny enough, the one trailer that got people talking was Zootopia’s. Detailing Judy and Nick at a DMV run by sloths, this was just one scene from the movie, but it was such a perfect scene to share with people. The film played on a universal idea, used the animal concept as a good backdrop, and put in so many hilarious gags in just a couple minutes. I still remember the audience laughter for almost every moment in that trailer, and I’d argue this boosted the film’s appeal exponentially to millions.

 

 

Second was the promotions used towards the furry fandom. For those who don’t know, furries are people who are fans and admirers of anthropomorphic animals and their media. Zootopia is notable for arguably being the first of these kinds of movies to really lean into the fandom and their interests. So much so, Buzzfeed discovered a marketing agency that works for Disney actually communicated with the furry meet-up group Furlife to post pictures of themselves in fursuits as a way to promote the title. Disney’s marketing department is so savvy and creative nowadays that they’re able to get niche markets and fandoms invested and excited in a way that it brings millions of other demos into seeing the picture.

 

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, there was the reviews. Disney knew they had a real critical winner on their hands, and Zootopia unleashed with rave reviews. Critics hailed the movie as an animated masterpiece, highlighting the film’s creativity, animation, characters, and themes of racism and stereotyping, an almost unheard of venture for family animation. This had everything going for it to be a smash hit. It got general audiences excited. It got a fandom that never got much media attention, and what little there was largely negative, excited. And most importantly, it was a movie that had something in it for everybody.

 

When it first released March 4, expectations for the film’s opening were largely in the $60 million range. So it came as a bit of a shock when it debuted to $75.1 million. It’s another case, like with Deadpool, where the records were too many to count. It was the biggest opening for Walt Disney Animation Studios, it was the third-biggest opening for a completely original film, it was the biggest animated March opening, it was the seventh-biggest March opening, and it was the tenth-biggest opening of all time for an animated film. It was a rousing success fresh out the gate, but the real story came in the weeks ahead.

 

With praise by just about everybody, Zootopia’s huge opening soon led to a slim 32% second weekend drop. Earning $51.3 million, Zootopia became the third March film in history to gross $50 million on its second weekend. The other two, Alice in Wonderland and The Hunger Games, opened significantly higher. Weekend three saw it fall only 28% for $37.2 million, earning the eighth-biggest third weekend of all time, and the second-biggest for an original title, only behind Avatar. And on its fourth weekend, despite the oncoming release of one of the most anticipated titles of the year, Zootopia not only stood strong, dropping only 35%, earning $24 million, but it soon outpaced said superhero title quickly after, becoming the surprise #1 of the month. It would continue to be in the top 10 for the next nine weeks, as Zootopia finally ended its run domestically with $341.3 million, 4.55 times its opening, and serving as the tenth-best animated film of all time.

 

And that’s just in North America. The film was a hit just about everywhere, with the two most notable markets being Japan, where it increased the following two weekends since its debut, and China, where it became the highest-grossing animated film in the region’s history. This would result in Zootopia grossing $1.02 billion worldwide. This made Zootopia the second film, the first Avatar, to be completely original and pass this milestone. Zootopia’s $1 billion haul also made it the fourth-highest grossing animated film in history.

 

Much like Deadpool, Zootopia came at just the right time. Racism was becoming a topic that was more and more discussed by people. At one point being swept under the rug and taught by our garbage public school education system that it went away when MLK got what he wanted, people were starting to call out this kind of stuff out and argue that it’s still here and more prominent than ever. So Zootopia, a lighthearted and fun animated romp that still tackled heavy issues, used this platform to start a conversation, particularly for a younger generation. Since its release, there's been debate on how effective or well-done its message is. But it definitely had positive attributes when it comes to its messaging, being understandable for kids, but not patronizing for adults. And that’s a hard balancing act to accomplish for what is still a family feature.

 

And Zootopia was greatly rewarded for its qualities, becoming one of the biggest animated movies in history, earning award after award, and selling tons of merchandise. A theme park land is currently in construction over at Shanghai Disneyland, and while a sequel has been in discussion, the next major plan for the franchise is a Disney+ television series called Zootopia+, currently set for release in 2022.

 

At eighth was the very polarizing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The world finds themselves unsure if Superman should still exist and serve as our protector. And billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne is one of those unsure about Superman. The nefarious Lex Luthor thus uses Bruce’s fears and manipulates Bruce, aka Batman, into a battle that could very well lead to the future of an amazing superhero team.

 

A movie detailing a fight between DC’s two biggest heroes can be traced all the way back to the early 2000s, when WB studio head Alan Horn was trying to revive both the Caped Crusader and the Son of Krypton for a new generation. Seven screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker pitched the idea for a Batman vs. Superman movie. Sure enough, all the plans were on this single movie, with Akiva Goldsman in charge of rewrites.

 

The plot for this movie detailed Bruce Wayne suffering a mental breakdown due to years of crimefighting and all the people around him being dead, though he did have solace in his fiancé. All the while, Clark Kent was going through his own marital issues. Regardless, both men were still good friends, and Clark was Bruce’s best man for his wedding. But when the Joker kills Bruce’s fiance, Bruce is torn emotionally, turns on Clark, and they duke it out. Turns out Lex Luthor was the bad guy in charge of the whole thing, and then the heroes get together to beat him up. Yes, this is entirely real.

 

The film managed to get Josh Hartnett for Superman and Christian Bale as Batman, and was set to film in 2003. But shortly before production could go underway, the movie was scrapped entirely. After J. J. Abrams submitted a new draft for Superman: Flyby, Horn loved it so much he felt it was best to just focus on individual Superman and Batman films rather than a big team-up. This also led to the studio without any Batman title, which soon led to the production of 2004’s Catwoman. And um...yeah.

 

A decade or so later, Man of Steel was set to release and Zack Snyder began to think about what was next for a Superman sequel. And after Clark Kent fought Zod, his equal in terms of physicality and planethood, it seemed only one other option was left: another superhero. And thus, at Comic-Con 2013, it was announced that Man of Steel 2 was instead going to be Batman vs. Superman, serving as the first time ever these two would be in a movie together. David S. Goyer signed on as a writer, despite him saying a movie like Batman vs. Superman “is where you go when you admit to yourself that you've exhausted all possibilities”...good job guys. Chris Terrio of Argo fame rewrote the script.

 

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The title was later revealed as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Instead of a “vs.” they went with a “v” because that made it look like the movie wasn’t just going to be a “versus” title...okay. And shortly after, we got our first real look at casting for the new characters. Bruce Wayne was going to be an older, more rugged figure, a contrast to the young Henry Cavill. And the role of Bruce was given to Ben Affleck, who was hesitant to join, feeling he didn’t fit the traditional mold. This actually led to major fan backlash for this very reason. But when Snyder showed him the concept, Affleck joined the party. Breaking the mold was also why Jesse Eisenberg was cast as Lex Luthor, as his young physique and quirky personality allowed Lex to be taken into new directions never seen before with the character...for better or for worse.

 

But by far the most interesting casting choice was Gal Gadot as Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman. Not necessarily Gadot’s casting, but more that this was the grand film debut for Wonder Woman. And alongside Gadot’s appearance throughout the film, including the climax, a few other heroes saw their debut here. Ezra Miller as Flash, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, and Ray Fisher as Cyborg. All these characters appeared in this movie for one reason: establishing a shared universe.

 

While Man of Steel was the starting point for the whole shared universe, Batman v Superman was when things really went into action. It introduced the idea that other superheroes exist in this universe, and that they were all gonna come together at some point. And Batman v Superman, already a film that used the hype of seeing so many iconic heroes all together, was the set-up for dozens of future movies and characters, with no less than 10 films being announced October 2014. Some were made, some weren’t, but it was obvious that Batman v Superman was going to be a game-changer for DC Comics releases.

 

And WB made sure this movie was going to be a box office powerhouse, with a massive $165 million marketing budget. But really, Batman v Superman is one of those ideas so inherently fascinating to audiences that it was impossible not to resist seeing it. It’s two of the greatest superheroes duking it out on the big screen. How can it not go wrong? And sure enough, Batman v Superman was a monster in advance ticket sales, becoming the best-selling superhero title ever. With projections going $120 million at worst and $185 million at best, nothing could possibly go wrong.

 

And then the reviews dropped. And things started to go south. Critics called it dull, incoherent, overlong, poorly written, failed to understand its characters and felt more like an advertisement for future movies rather than an exciting superhero action movie. But even with this toxic reception, that didn’t mean there wasn’t major hype for the movie. And this would lead to March 25, with an opening day of $81.59 million, making it the fourth-biggest opening day ever. But things started to seem a touch off even getting out of the gate. It dropped 38% on Saturday for $50.7 million, the second-biggest Friday-to-Saturday fall for a superhero movie, only behind The Dark Knight Rises. A $33.8 million Sunday was a 58% fall from Friday, making it the biggest Friday-to-Sunday drop for a superhero title. This $166 million debut was frontloaded, but still made the movie the biggest Easter opening, the biggest March opening, the second-biggest Warner Bros. opening, and the eighth-biggest opening of all time. Its global opening of $422.5 million was the fifth-biggest worldwide debut.

 

But after earning $209 million in the next few days, repping the 11th-biggest opening week in history, it all came crashing down. Its second Friday, $15 million, was an 82% fall from its opening day, a record fall for a superhero movie. This soon led to a fall of 69% for its second weekend, one of the worst drops for a superhero movie since X-Men Origins: Wolverine. And keep in mind, only two wide releases dropped that weekend, and both were no1currs. The fact this movie dropped so hard despite everything going for it was very much a cause for concern. And the film continued to drop like a rock in the weeks to come, as films like The Jungle Book and Civil War stole its thunder. This soon led to Batman v Superman finishing its gross with $330.4 million, less than double its opening. Worldwide grosses has it at $873.6 million.

 

As much as I lean negative here, the thing to remember is that Batman v Superman...was a success. A major one in fact. It earned a net profit of $105.7 million, and it far surpassed the $800 million threshold that allowed WB to recoup their investments. But that still led to a twinge of disappointment. The novelty of seeing all these iconic heroes together duking it out arguably should have led to this grossing a billion. And it seems WB was not a big fan of Batman v Superman’s reception and box office. In May 2016, DC Films was established, allowing a team of executives responsibility over all future DC projects, similar to that of Marvel. Of course, DC Films is still adamant on a director-driven image and film titles.

 

And since then, this shared universe, soon titled the DC Extended Universe, has been one that has been full of incredible highs and terrifying lows. And we have a lot to say about all these types of highs and lows.

 

Ninth was the very polarizing Suicide Squad. After the death of Superman (spoiler alert), government agent Amanda Waller thinks it’s important for there to be a new government agency led by supervillains, using them for the missions that are too dangerous for anybody else to take care of. And sure enough, the group, known as the Suicide Squad, find themselves in a major quest against the evils of the Enchantress, an ancient being set to destroy the Earth. As a result, the group, including Harley Quinn and Deadshot, will have their sentences reduced.

 

The first announcement that a film based on Suicide Squad was in development was all the way back in 2009 with Dan Lin as a producer. But it wasn’t until September 2014 things really went into production, with David Ayer serving as director, with the plan for his movie to be “Dirty Dozen with superheroes”. Ayer also wrote the screenplay, and only had six weeks to write it, because the release date was already set.

 

The following October was when we got the initial casting list, with the cast as follows: Will Smith as Deadshot, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Tom Hardy as Rick Flag, Jai Courtney as Captain Boomerang, and Ryan Gosling as the Joker. You may have noticed a few cast changes here. Ryan Gosling’s talks shortly ended with Jared Leto getting the role of the Clown Prince. And later on, Tom Hardy had to leave due to his commitment towards filming The Revenant, with the role of Flag fighting between Joel Edgerton, Jon Bernthal, and Joel Kinnaman. Kinnaman got the role in the end. Viola Davis, in contention between Octavia Spencer and Oprah Winfrey, got the role of Amanda Waller.

 

The movie began filming in April 2015, wrapped up August 2015, and soon took part in reshoots in 2016. But these reshoots were a bit grander than what usually happens. Rather than just improve on scenes or takes, Suicide Squad’s reshoots completely changed the movie. The negative reactions to Batman v Superman’s somber tone, alongside the poppy and lighthearted trailers, played against the backdrop of "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Ballroom Blitz", made WB nervous. People wanted something fun and exciting, and Ayer’s film was too intense and gritty for their tastes. So Warner spent $22 million on reshoots to make it more comedic and lighthearted, trying to blend Ayer’s somber movie with the goofy lightheartedness found in the trailers. I’m sure that won’t hurt it at all. This also led to Jared Leto almost out of the film entirely, with almost all his scenes taken out of the movie.

 

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Suicide Squad was backed with a jam-packed campaign promising action, comedy, explosions, and all that other fun stuff. It even had a huge soundtrack launch, featuring hip young talents like Twenty One Pilots, Skrillex and Rick Ross, Kehlani, and Panic! at the Disco. Truly, nothing could go wrong this time...right? Sure enough, Suicide Squad saw just as bad, if not worse reviews than Batman v Superman, with complaints over its story, characters, and editing. But that still couldn’t stop the hype.

 

Suicide Squad opened with a first day of $65.1 million, the biggest August opening day, and the third-best opening day of the year. But once again, Suicide Squad was very frontloaded in its opening weekend, only grossing $133.7 million. But of course, this led to a slew of records. The biggest August opening, the biggest Will Smith opening, the second-biggest non-sequel opening, the fifth-biggest WB opening.

 

However, much like Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad dropped like a rock on its second weekend, falling 67% for $43.5 million, making it one of the worst drops ever for a superhero movie, a near identical situation for Batman v Superman. And while it did do a touch better in the coming weeks, the film grossed $325.1 million domestically and $746.8 million worldwide.

 

And again, like Batman v Superman (god this pattern is weird), it was still an obvious success, with a net profit of $158.45 million. And seeing as how it had nowhere near the same expectations as BvS, it wasn’t as embarrassing in the headlines. And hey, the obscure team of Suicide Squad soon became one of the most iconic DC properties, with Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn in particular being a huge fan favorite. This led to several spin-off titles either in the works, released, or scrapped entirely, but the next major step for Suicide Squad is for a brand new movie.

 

In 2021, a new release, The Suicide Squad, is set to be a soft reboot, featuring some of the characters from the last movie, and bring in a slew of new characters and talents, including Idris Elba, Sylvester Stallone, Peter Capaldi, and Pete Davidson. From Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn, could this be the one that gets Suicide Squad good critical standing? We’ll have to wait and find out.

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Illumination saw further success in tenth place with the release of Sing. In a world populated by anthropomorphic animals, a koala named Buster Moon is trying his best to save his theater. In a way to boost his money, he creates a singing competition that has the entire city trying to get in. And thus, hi-jinx and hilarity and catchy musical numbers ensue.

 

This was an interesting title for Illumination, as this was the first to be made by an outside director. Rather than Pierre Coffin or Chris Renaud, Hitchhiker’s Guide director Garth Jennings was in charge of this title. It was originally titled Lunch...for some reason, only to be titled more appropriately to Sing. Like Secret Life of Pets, several major names rounded out the voice cast. Examples include Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, John C. Reilly, Scarlett Johansson, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, and Nick Kroll to name a few. This even featured cameos from acclaimed directors Edgar Wright and Wes Anderson, as they both are good friends with Jennings.

 

For the soundtrack, Illumination went all out and got the rights to no less than 65 different pop songs. Getting the music rights for so many hits from a variety of genres and labels, ate up 15% of the film’s production budget of $75 million. This didn’t mean there weren’t any new songs written. Stevie Wonder and Ariana Grande, a duo I’m sure somebody wished would come together, would collaborate on a new song for the movie titled “Faith”. This single, alongside a premiere at Toronto International Film Festival, would be another instance of Illumination’s major marketing campaign. The first trailer, one of several in fact, launched in January 2016, many more trailers launched throughout the entire year, it saw massive promotion during the Rio Summer Olympics, it had sneak peek screenings at AMC theaters one month before release on the same weekend Moana came out. There was even a poster for the movie prominently displayed during The Secret Life of Pets. At this point, if you didn’t know about this movie, you were living under a rock.

 

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Premiering December 21, Sing earned between its Wednesday opening and Boxing Day Monday $75.5 million, making it an incredibly strong second place behind the juggernaut that was Rogue One. And sure enough, its second week, New Year’s, saw an increase of more than $93.9 million, resulting in the film earning $187 million in the span of 14 days. And with it continuing to play well through the new year, Sing amounted to $270.4 million domestically. This not only cemented another major win for Illumination, with two brand new IPs to exploit after their instant cash cow Despicable Me, but it broke a significant record, becoming the highest-grossing film never to hit #1. This finally toppled My Big Fat Greek Wedding’s 14-year record, and no film has come close to this accomplishment. It also earned $634.1 million worldwide and saw a net profit of $194.2 million.

 

2016 was Illumination at its peak. While there wasn’t a Despicable Me movie in sight, the fact the studio was able to have two movies gross on par with their big iconic animated starter was nothing short of a miracle and shows just how much people loved Despicable Me, the Minions, and whatever the studio seemed to have cooking at their studio. Sure enough, alongside the acquisition of Dreamworks Animation that same year, this cemented Universal as a major force in animation, becoming the only studio that truly could stand toe-to-toe with the goliath that is Disney. A Sing 2 is set for release December 2021.

 

Eleventh for the year was Disney Animation’s other big hit, Moana. It’s the story of Moana, a strong-willed daughter of the chief for a Polynesian village. Moana finds herself called out for adventure by the ocean itself after her island is in peril. Teaming up with a demigod named Maui, the duo look to save her people by trying to find a relic that belongs to a beautiful goddess.

 

When Ron Clements and John Musker finished their work on The Princess and the Frog, their next planned film was an adaptation of the Terry Pratchett novel Mort. Ultimately this was not to be, as they were unable to acquire the film rights. So when it was time to pitch their next idea, they had one goal: make sure their pitch was a completely original idea. One of their ideas was a film about Polynesian culture, after Musker began reading up on Polynesian mythology and the story of Maui. They loved the aspects of this culture so much they decided this would be their next film.

 

This soon led to the duo taking several research trips to places like Fiji, Samoa, and Tahiti in order to find inspiration and meet people from the South Pacific Ocean. The plan was for the film to focus on Maui, but their research inspired them to have the movie focus on the teenage daughter of a chief. It likely also helped that Disney Princesses were a popular thing. Their research also helped create the basic backbone for the story, as Clements and Musker discovered that the people of Polynesia voyaged and discovered lands far before the Europeans did, and seemingly stopped these expeditions for what seemed to be little reason. During the five years of development, Clements and Musker recruited several experts across the South Pacific to serve as consultants on the film’s cultural accuracy and sensitivity. Called the Oceanic Story Trust, the group caused several changes and alterations to aspects of the film to help make it seem more alive and respectful.

 

When the film first began production, the initial screenplay was written by none other than Taika Waititi. His draft, which focused on Moana as the sole daughter in a family with five or six brothers, was heavily focused on gender. But ultimately, the directors thought it was best if the movie was about Moana finding herself rather than competing against family. Taika also left the project in 2012, focusing on his family and What We Do in the Shadows. Other stories included Moana’s father being eager on navigation, Moana rescuing her father, and the inclusion of a grandmother character. The film went through nine different stories before the one we have today. And while Jared Bush is the credited screenwriter, rewrites by Aaron and Jordan Kandell helped deepen the emotion to the story and gave certain elements people loved from the movie to life, including strengthening Moana and Maui’s relationship, adding a prologue and a collector crab named Tamatoa, and the coconut army known as the Kakamora.

 

The film’s cast was largely Polynesian, with actors like Rachel House, Nicole Scherzinger, Temeura Morrison, and the one and only Dwayne Johnson all actors in the film. The role of Moana saw hundreds of auditions, with the role finally given to unknown Auli’i Cravalho. Funny enough, while Cravalho has a similar physical appearance to Moana, that was a total coincidence, as Moana was designed well before any casting was done.

 

For the music, the crew wanted the film to have traditional South Pacific music, while also combining it with pop and Broadway sensibilities. This led to a trio of music artists: Singer-songwriter Opetaia Foa’i, composer Mark Mancina, and Broadway’s sweetheart Lin-Manuel Miranda himself. The trio began working together in late 2013, at a time when Miranda was still developing the Broadway smash Hamilton. This resulted in Lin recruiting Hamilton stars Phillippa Soo, Christopher Jackson, and Renee Elise Goldsberry to contribute to the demos for the songs.

 

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Releasing November 23, Moana was a major deal for Disney. This was their first musical since the smash success of Frozen, and they were gonna do everything to ensure lightning would strike twice. And it was yet another win in what was a winning year for Disney. Moana made history over that Thanksgiving weekend, becoming the first film since 2008’s Four Christmases to debut at #1 over the holiday. With $56.6 million for the 3-Day and $82.1 million for the 5-Day, Moana earned the second-biggest Thanksgiving debut in history, only behind the juggernaut that was Frozen. Another glowing victory for Disney’s animation department after the incredible launches of both Zootopia and Finding Dory. And with glowing reviews and word-of-mouth, Moana stayed #1 for the following two weeks and well into the Christmas season, finishing up with $248.8 million domestically and $643.3 million worldwide.

 

The success of the film came at the perfect time for several parties, but most notably Lin-Manuel Miranda. After already achieving a banner year with the overnight success of Hamilton, Miranda has very quickly moved on to be Hollywood’s golden boy, most notably with Disney. He’s appeared in the Ducktales reboot, was the co-star for Mary Poppins Returns, and his filmed stage recording of Hamilton later launched on Disney+ in 2020 to rave reviews and instant success, expanding the reach and appeal of the service to millions across the world. And currently, Miranda is hard at work on the music for the upcoming Little Mermaid remake and Disney Animation’s next major title Encanto, set for release on Thanksgiving 2021.

 

And while it was not as massive as the other 2016 Disney animated titles, Moana has, ironically enough, arguably become the most iconic and long-lasting of the bunch. With the help of the Disney Princess connections and a massively successful soundtrack, which became the fifth-best selling soundtrack of 2017, Moana has lived on like Frozen as a movie every little girl can’t get enough of, with the songs still racking up millions of listens on YouTube and Spotify and the film becoming one of the most popular titles on Disney+. In fact, it was the second-most viewed film on streaming last year, only behind Frozen II. This success has not gone unnoticed by Disney. In 2023, a television series is set to debut on Disney+, and it's certain we are getting plenty more Moana content in the next few decades.

 

Twelfth domestic and eighth worldwide saw the glorious return of JK Rowling’s Wizarding World with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Taking place in the 1920s, British wizard and zoologist Newt Scamander finds himself in New York City. Newt collects and takes care of all sorts of interesting and otherworldly magical creatures, and all of them are found in his magic suitcase. But when his suitcase accidentally opens, all of his creatures are running amok, threatening the bridge between the Wizards and Muggles. So on a quest for Newt to gather all his animals, he finds himself connected to a greater conspiracy that might just shake the Wizarding World even further.

 

The title Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them might sound familiar to some Potterheads, as this was a textbook Harry read during his time at Hogwarts. In fact, it was later published as a supplementary book in 2001. While more of a directory than a narrative, this was soon the basis for Rowling and WB to milk a little bit more money out of their golden goose. In September 2013, despite Deathly Hallows Part 2 being hyped up as the be-all end-all finale to Harry Potter, Warner formally announced the plan for a new Harry Potter series. One that was a prequel that took place in 1920s New York and focused on the Fantastic Beasts writer.

 

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David Heyman and Steve Kloves returned producers, while David Yates returned as director. Pretty standard stuff, and it made it seem like it would be more of the same. However, one nice nugget of information was that J. K. Rowling was actually going to be the screenwriter. This was a major milestone for Rowling, as Fantastic Beasts was her first screenplay ever. It also served as a showcase that Rowling was going to be an integral part of this new era of Harry Potter. Instead of just being a cash-in on a popular IP, this was something the creative head was truly passionate about.

 

And both Rowling and WB were excited about this new era of Potter. So much so that in July 2016, Rowling confirmed that Fantastic Beasts went from the planned trilogy that was first announced into a series of five whole movies. So she knew this movie was going to be big and that people were going to be real excited for it? And was J.K. right?

 

Fantastic Beasts launched November 18 to decent reviews. It was nowhere near as glowing as previous Potter entries, but solid enough for a first entry. And this soon led to a very strong $74.4 million. It was far and away the lowest Potter opening, but considering it was a spin-off with little connections to the original source material, it still meant the film was on the right track. And with appeal towards family audiences and less upfront demand, Fantastic Beasts played well for the next month, earning more than 3 times its opening with $234 million domestically. Worldwide amounted to $814 million. All told, this was a solid return to form for Potter and it indicated that Rowling and Warner had another hit on their hands. And considering the amazing consistency Harry Potter had with each and every entry, that should in turn translate towards its spin-off, right...right?

 

Thirteenth was yet another Marvel hit with Doctor Strange. After an arrogant surgeon named Stephen Strange loses his ability to operate after a devastating car crash, he finds himself soul-searching. And sure enough, he soon finds himself discovering the hidden world of magic and mystic arts. And with Strange’s incredible powers, he soon finds himself learning about alternate dimensions and how to protect both the magic world and the human world.

 

The character Doctor Strange has been an important fixture of Marvel Comics for decades. So naturally, a film adaptation has been in the works as early as the 1980s. The first attempt to bring Strange to the big screen can be traced back to 1986, with a script by Back to the Future’s Bob Gale and developed at New World Pictures. That never went anywhere, but Alex Cox soon co-wrote a new Doctor Strange script with Stan Lee himself. The script was ready to go with Regency as its production company. The problem was that Regency’s films were distributed by Warner Bros., who had several disputes with Marvel at the time over merchandise.

 

Then in the next few years, more and more companies and writers tried to get a Doctor Strange movie off the ground to no avail. Producer Charles Band and Full Moon Entertainment in the early 90s, a Wes Craven-directed film by Savoy Pictures for 1994 or 1995, a Columbia film in 1997 produced by Brad Grey, Dimension Films in 2001 with David S. Goyer as writer and director, then Miramax acquiring the rights from Dimension despite being owned by the same company for a 2005 release. All of these ideas never went anywhere. Of course, it wasn’t until Marvel Studios CEO Avi Arad and Papa Feige planned their cinematic universe that a Doctor Strange movie finally began truly getting work done, with the plan for this being a Paramount release. Reportedly Neil Gaiman and Guillermo del Toro pitched a version of the film to Marvel, but the studio was not interested. I would say that was stupid of them, but...I guess it wasn’t in hindsight.

 

Things finally got on track around 2013, when Papa Feige revealed Doctor Strange would play a major role in the upcoming Phase 3 of the MCU. And in February 2014, a wide variety of directors were in talks, including Mark Andrews, Jonathan Levine, Nikolaj Arcel, and Dean Israelite. But as it turns out, Scott Derrickson was chosen to direct the film in June 2014. Derrickson was very eager for the role of director, so much so he wrote an entire 12-page scene for the movie, illustrated his own concept art, and created a storyboard in a 90-minute pitch towards Marvel Studios. Papa Feige was very impressed, and after eight different meetings, Derrickson brought the character to life, with his collaborator C. Robert Cargill as a writer, though Jon Spaihts later took charge of rewrites.

 

The casting process for Doctor Strange himself was a long one, with a massive who’s who of actors all in consideration. Joaquin Phoenix was the first asked, but after several talks, negotiations with Phoenix ended, as the actor thought blockbusters took too much time and were not fulfilling enough. This soon led to several other actors in consideration in some form. Jared Leto, Tom Hardy, Ethan Hawke, Oscar Isaac, Ewan McGregor, Matthew McConaughey, Jake Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell, Keanu Reeves, and Ryan Gosling were all considered in some way, shape, or form. However, the belle of the ball was actually the actor Feige, Derrickson, and Spaihts all wanted in the first place. Benedict Cumberbatch was officially cast December 2014, as all the creatives agreed even during negotiations with other actors he was the only actor who could pull the role off.

 

One of the highlights of Doctor Strange was its visual effects, offering a more trippy and surreal take people often did not see at Marvel. Derrickson wanted the film to feel like a “Ditko/Kubrick/Miyazaki/Matrix mind trip”, with an emphasis on making the magic look and feel like something never seen before in Hollywood films. Rather than repeat the look of something like Harry Potter, Derrickson wanted the magic to feel more tactical, more real, and more surreal, as well as rooting it more in gestures rather than incantations. This led to several distinct visuals and setpieces, featuring Inception-style folding cities.

 

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Another unfortunate highlight was the film’s whitewashing. Tilda Swinton played The Ancient One, an androgynous master of the mystic arts. The original character in the comics was a Tibetan man, but writer Cargill was in a bad situation here with this character. The Ancient One played into Fu Manchu stereotypes, and his Tibetan origins would likely reignite the Tibetan sovereignty debate at China, one of the biggest markets for Marvel. At the same time, not giving an Asian role to an Asian actor would have made things worse. For a while, it was going to be an Asian woman, but that might have led to a Dragon Lady stereotype. If it was an Asian girl, it could be perceived as exploiting an Asian fetish (Jesus). Ultimately, Derrickson casted a non-Asian in the role, even though that led to even more backlash for justifiable reasons. Truly a no-win situation, outside of...you know...just giving a decent role to an Asian actor and try and avoid harmful stereotypes. But I guess that was just too hard to do.

 

Doctor Strange opened on November 4 to high expectations, with projections in the $65-75 million range upon its release. But sure enough, with positive reviews and coming out as the first major superhero title since Suicide Squad in August, Doctor Strange overperformed by a heavy amount, earning $85.1 million. This served as one of the biggest superhero origin story openings ever, an impressive feat considering Strange was never quite as iconic as, say, Captain America. 

 

And despite competition from Fantastic Beasts and Moana, Doctor Strange still played well throughout November, ultimately earning $232.6 million domestic. And its $677.7 million worldwide gross meant Strange became the highest-grossing origin film in the MCU (how quaint). It was yet another smash for Phase 3 that set this era of Marvel into more success in the next few years to come. Net profit was $122.65 million. Doctor Strange has since lived on as a fan-favorite character for many, with his appearances in Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity War considered highlights by many. And in 2022, a sequel, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, is set for release with Sam Raimi himself in charge as director.

 

On paper, Doctor Strange’s run wasn’t anything to write home about. However, Doctor Strange’s run was necessary to talk about the true MVP of 2016: The Walt Disney Company. With the help of some choice acquisitions, several strong creative heads, and nostalgic attachments to the brand, Disney was having a pretty strong decade of theatrical hits. And there’s certainly debate as to where Disney first began the box office groove they have today. Some say it’s Alice in Wonderland grossing $1 billion. Others say it was The Avengers becoming the third-biggest film in history and reinvigorating superhero movies to unseen levels. Others say it was Frozen, which became one of the most iconic films in history almost overnight.

 

But in terms of when the box office domination truly began, when Disney really had a commanding lead at the box office and the cultural conversation, arguably was in 2016. This was a year unlike any other for Disney. Not only were they the fastest studio to reach $1 billion in a calendar year domestically, crossing the record in 128 days, Disney became the first studio ever to have five different movies cross $300 million domestically and three movies hit $400 million domestically. And after Universal broke records with three different movies reaching $1 billion, Disney swiped Universal’s glory by releasing four the following year. And with Civil War, Rogue One, Finding Dory, Zootopia, and The Jungle Book, Disney became the first studio ever to have the entire worldwide top 5. With $3 billion domestically and $7 billion worldwide, Disney’s 2016 was the biggest box office year in history, and it wasn’t even close.

 

Disney commanded almost 25% of the domestic market share through a very strong strategy of box office quality over quantity. Have about five or six distinct studios develop one or two high-profile, big-budget tentpoles a year, have these studios be headed by creative producers and filmmakers who know how to make fun, four-quad titles, and focus on some of the best, most exciting, and most interesting brands and franchises that hold extreme sentimental value. People aren’t just Star Wars or Pixar fans. They are devoted, invested, and dedicated to these brands and studios, and Disney does everything in their power to make sure they can keep these diehard fans excited.

 

And in 2016, just about everything turned into gold for Disney. Sure there were some duds like Alice Through the Looking Glass and The BFG, showing Disney’s strategy is not infallible. But Disney managed to have almost all their titles be more than just hits. They were the talks of the town, broke box office records, and kept their brands and studios permanently in the conversation for months. Disney Animation, Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm all hit high marks and it seems people couldn’t get enough of their superhero titles, sci-fi epics, or animated hits.

 

Sure, they had this kind of success before. But they haven’t led the market share since 2003, and in previous years, studios like Fox or Universal stood toe-to-toe against them. 2016 is when the floodgates opened, and no other studio could truly compete against the consistency, brand recognition, and intense devotion that Disney has earned. Warner Bros. can get there with superhero titles, and Universal can get there with their animation studios. But at this point, nobody will top what Disney has achieved through its years of smart business decisions and savvy marketing.

 

Today, Disney has been the dominant force at the box office and looks to go even further within the world of streaming. And frankly, this is where it all started.

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21st place was where the infamous reboot of Ghostbusters ranked. A complete reboot, this focuses on four women who create their own ghost-catching business. And while they may just be enthusiasts for ghosts, their passion for the supernatural could very well lead to New York City being saved from an evil force.

 

Ghostbusters 3 was one of those films that had been in development hell as early as the second movie. And through the long development process, while Dan Aykroyd and other creatives for the franchise were eager, the biggest stalwart on the project was Bill Murray. Murray was not a fan of Ghostbusters II, liked the script for Ghostbusters III even less, and he was going through several issues with Columbia Pictures, the owners of the property. So apart from the Ghostbusters video game released in 2009, a Ghostbusters III just never happened, despite several screenwriters and Ivan Reitman and Dan Aykroyd trying to get it off the ground. And in 2014, Ghostbusters III officially died with the tragic passing of Harold Ramis.

 

But Ramis’ death wouldn’t stop Sony from trying to get some money out of the property. Ghostbusters was still an iconic name, and 80s nostalgia was bigger than ever. So in August 2014, Bridesmaids director Paul Feig was announced to direct the next installment. But there was a twist: it was a complete reboot, and the cast was going to consist entirely of women. Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Lelie Jones were all attached to star, though Emma Stone was reportedly in negotiations. All the while, many of the original cast members appeared as cameos.

 

This Ghostbusters reboot also served as the stepping stone for a true reinvigoration of the brand. Coming off several flops, as well as their Spider-Man franchise stuck in limbo, a new production company was made by Ivan Reitman called Ghost Corps, which would oversee the Ghostbusters franchise and be used to create a unique shared universe. Not only was a sequel to Feig’s movie in development, but an all-male Ghostbusters film was in development with Channing Tatum and Chris Pratt set to star, and the Russos serving as directors. All the while, a title from Sony Pictures Animation was also in development, from the perspective of the ghosts.

 

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So yeah, Ghostbusters was coming back in a big way, and with nostalgia tapping, a great cast, and an interesting idea for a reboot, this should have been a hit. But sure enough, something not even Sony predicted occurred. During the film’s run-up to release, Ghostbusters was hit with a major smear campaign from fanboys and misogynists. People online berated the film before it even came out, calling it out for looking unfunny, looking generic, and most importantly, having icky women as the star. This soon led to the film becoming the most-disliked trailer on YouTube and becoming the source of bashing for all geek YouTubers and meninists alike. This basically turned this goofy comedy into a social statement and the beginning of a lengthy, drawn-out culture war.

 

So when it finally released on July 15, it ironically came and went. It opened at second place, behind Secret Life of Pets, and saw a $46 million opening. While it was the biggest opening of McCarthy’s career, that didn’t necessarily mean the road up ahead was easy, especially considering its massive production budget of $144 million. And with okay legs in the weeks to come, Ghostbusters only did $128.3 million domestically and $229.1 million worldwide. The film needed at least $300 million to break even, and reports of money losses vary from $25 million to as much as $70 million.

 

This probably wouldn’t have been that huge of a hit to begin with, but this was a film sadly marred by online trolls. As geek culture becomes the dominant force in pop culture, so too does its ugly sides. And this makes even the most exciting movie seem like a chore to talk about or be interested in. So sadly, a lot of people didn’t show up. And these sexist reactions were only just a warning sign for the next few years, as more and more blockbusters become culture wars against the supposedly woke, anti-male Hollywood elites. Sure enough, just about every movie meant to sell Happy Meals that just so happens to have somebody with XX chromosomes as the star nowadays is part of a dumbass culture war, as basement dwellers, Nazis, and politcal edgelords complain about how these movies represent a tragic downfall of society or whatever. Some films have managed to sneak by, and some have even used this backlash to their advantage. But this tragic “X” factor is one that has stuck around unfairly in the years since.

 

All the planned Ghostbusters titles were soon scrapped, and the brand is now a bit of a toxic one. But Reitman and Aykroyd look to be at it again with the release of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, a direct sequel to Ghostbusters II that looks to copy Stranger Things and tap into the nostalgia market once again. It’s currently set for release November 2021.

 

Another failed nostalgia play was 27th’s Independence Day: Resurgence. Twenty years after the last movie, the United Nations has created Earth Space Defense, an international military defense and research organization that was basically Space Force before Space Force. But these preparations and new tech isn’t enough, because the aliens are just as, if not more deadly than ever.

 

A sequel to Independence Day, once the second-highest grossing film of all time, was in the works as early as 2001, with the 9/11 attacks being an inspiration to put this film into production. While writer Dean Devlin tried to work on an outline with Roland Emmerich, the project laid abandoned in 2004 when the duo failed to have a good enough script. Things were quiet until 2009, when Emmerich stated he had considered making two sequel to form a trilogy. Treatments were getting finalized and things were finally on track. But one big Willie had to mess it all up.

 

Will Smith was very strict in terms of his payment for both films, with a push for a $50 million salary for both movies. Fox refused this paycheck, and Smith’s negotiations soon halted. But despite the fact that Will Smith was the one thing everybody liked about the original movie, Emmerich made sure these two sequels happened no matter what and would be shot back-to-back. And in March 2013, we saw the first signs of the movie we soon got, with the announcement for ID: Forever Part 1 and Part 2. Remember, this was back when the 2-parter wasn’t considered yet a stupid gimmick. The film would focus on the new generation of alien fighters, with Will Smith’s character’s stepson as one of the leads and plans for wormholes as a plot device. The script was sent to Fox with twenty pre-viz shots, and the film was finally greenlit, albeit as a single film. The subtitle Resurgence was announced in June 2015.

 

Casting would soon begin, with fresh faces including Liam Hemsworth, Maika Monroe, and Jessie Usher, along with Chinese actress Angelababy in a sad case of good ol’ Chinese audience pandering. And while a lot of the vets returned, like Jeff Goldblum, Brent Spiner, Bill Pullman, and Vivica A. Fox, one key player was absent. Will Smith was busy with Suicide Squad, and his issues over payment with Fox meant his character was killed offscreen.

 

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But even without Smith’s involvement, it made perfect sense for Independence Day: Resurgence to be one of the biggest hits of the summer. It had 90s nostalgia, it had action, it had explosions, it had several trailer money shots. There was literally no reason for this movie to fail. But when it finally opened on June 24, it was a disaster.

 

The film was panned by everybody. It was too stupid and too boring all at the same time, though I think my fellow mod @baumer can sum it up best in his review. Already this put a damper on a film that had a lot going for it, and this led to muted projections between $45-60 million, especially after the blockbuster success of Finding Dory one week earlier.

 

Sure enough, the film opened below even the most pessimistic of projections, earning $41 million, below what the first film generated back in 1996, when ticket prices were pennies compared to today. And despite the fact that Independence Day was literally the week after, the film dropped 59% on its second weekend for $16.7 million. This freefall continued, with the film only generating $103.1 million domestically, a third of the first movie, and $389.7 million, 48% of the first movie’s haul.

 

What was an easy slam dunk was an absolute dud, despised by all, and failing to make even a hint of the first film’s impact. This film’s performance, in a way, was indicative of a problem so many films suffered that year: sequelitis. In a day and age where Hollywood is as risk-averse as ever, the multiplexes were flooded with nothing but sequels to already established hits. But simply put, most of them were not very good, and nobody bothered to watch them. Resurgence is arguably the most high-profile example, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, X-Men: Apocalypse, Star Trek Beyond, Alice Through the Looking Glass. People were hesitant on seeing new movies, but they were also just as unwilling to see follow-ups to other movies again, especially if they didn’t look interesting or exciting. And it’s been made even worse, as with the rise of ticket prices, audiences were becoming more and more choosy. It’s a big reason why Disney succeeded the way they have. They not only had the franchises people care about, but they knew how to make these movies feel exciting and talked about as can’t-miss events. This soon became a distressing pattern, where only certain studios and franchises were really making any noise, as everything else basically amounted to second bananas. And even today, nobody has figured out the problem.

 

A third movie was in the works, but the awful reception and the Disney-Fox merger has nipped it in the bud, though Emmerich still hopes it’ll get made by Disney at some point. Good luck with that I guess.

 

On a happier note, let’s talk about a success story nobody saw coming: Moonlight, all the way down in 92nd place. It’s the story of Chiron, a young Black man in Miami. The film details three periods of life: his time in elementary school, his time as a teenager, and his current life as an adult. It’s here we see Chiron battle his identity, his sexuality, and the abuse he has suffered from the world around him.

 

This is based on the script for the 2003 play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, written by Tarell Alvin McCraney. An autobiographical piece made so McCraney can cope with his mother’s death from AIDS, the script was shelved for over a decade. And it wasn’t until a new fresh director named Barry Jenkins was looking for new material that it came to light. Jenkins got into contact with producer Adele Romanski and was looking to create a low-budget, more personal film. Jenkins later on discovered McCraney’s play through the Borscht arts collective in Miami and instantly fell in love with it. And after discussions with McCraney, Jenkins wrote the first draft for his next movie.

 

One of the most important things Jenkins utilized with the screenplay, apart from structuring the three acts with distinct chapters based on the life of Chiron, is using this screenplay to base it on the life of both himself and McCrary. The mentor character Juan, played by Mahershala Ali, was based on McCraney’s brother’s father, while the mother figure Paula, played by Naomie Harris, was based on both Jenkins and McCrary’s mothers, who both suffered from drug addictions. Both men also grew up in Liberty Square, a primary location of the film. This made the film feel personal and alive, as if we were looking at the issues these men were going through while growing up. Jenkins also made sure that all the actors that played Chiron didn’t meet one another. Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes never met until after filming so they could avoid imitating one another.

 

Little was said about Moonlight in the run-up towards release, but it wasn’t until the first trailer launched the film started gaining attention by awards pundits and arthouse fans. And after the film premiered at Telluride, Toronto, and New York, the film was an instant critical darling. Festival attendees showered the film with critical praise for its direction, acting, writing, music, and themes, citing it as one of the best films of the decade.

 

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With such incredible awards hype, Moonlight debuted in limited release October 21 in four theaters to $415,000. With a PTA of $100.5 thousand, it was by far the biggest average of the year. It would quietly make solid money in the weeks to come, with decent expansions and continued interest. The week before the Academy Awards, it had already raked in a decent $22.2 million. But on that fateful weekend, Moonlight made history. History in the most chaotic way possible.

 

Despite earning eight nominations, the big headliner going in was that La La Land, the acclaimed musical throwback with two of the hottest stars and already a massive box office hit, was going to win Best Picture. Moonlight had no stars, was distributed by a relative unknown with A24, and saw decent, if not astonishing box office. And for a while, it seemed like La La Land was going to win Best Picture. As Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway presented the Best Picture win, Dunaway said it was for the Emma Stone film. But in a Steve Harvey-style mixup, the two were accidentally given the Best Actress envelope, confusing everyone. When in fact, it was actually Moonlight, the little film that could, that won Best Picture.

 

This win was a historic one. Not only did this Best Picture snafu give the film major headlines, propping the movie to $27.8 million domestically and $65.3 million worldwide, but Moonlight’s success broke several records. It was the first Best Picture winner that had an all-Black cast and the first that was LGBTQ-related, making it a milestone in terms of progressive, bold cinema. Even more groundbreaking, as the other big contender was chided for its treatment of race, through Ryan Gosling’s character being a “white savior” to the prominently Black music of jazz.

 

This was also a major turning point for actor Mahershala Ali. While he had success in critical and commercial hits like House of Cards and Luke Cage, Ali’s performance, while brief, was hailed as some of the best acting of the decade, as the mentor figure of Juan radiated warm, lovely energy. Ali’s performance was such a hit, he won Best Supporting Actor, and became the first Muslim to win an acting Oscar. Mahershala Ali has since gone on to win another Oscar for Green Book, appeared in films like Alita: Battle Angel and shows like Ramy, and is currently set to play Blade in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

 

It was a true Hollywood ending for this film, as it continues to be praised by audiences for years to come. And sure enough, A24 quickly became a household name, cited as a bastion for acclaimed indie titles, including Lady Bird, The Florida Project, First Reformed, Hereditary, The Farewell, Midsommar, First Cow, and Minari, among many, many others. Barry Jenkins also saw major success, with his next film If Beale Street Could Talk landing Regina King an Oscar, and currently he is hard at work on a prequel of the recent Lion King remake.

 

And that was just about all there is to say about 2016. Well...except for these. Hidden Figures was a leggy machine. Jason Bourne and Star Trek both came back to “ehh” fanfare. X-Men: Apocalypse failed to ride the superhero wave. Trolls became a merchandising behemoth. La La Land was yet another musical smash. Kung Fu Panda 3 ended the series with grace. Central Intelligence brought two of the biggest stars together. The Legend of Tarzan was a bomb, but not as big a bomb as most predicted. Sully was another hit for Eastwood and Hanks. Bad Moms became STX’s first and only franchise. The Angry Birds Movie came out a few years too late. The Conjuring 2 maintained the universe’s popularity. Arrival turned Denis Villenueve into a household name. Passengers was known more for its paychecks than the movie itself. Sausage Party brought R-rated animated laughs to the mainstream. The Magnificent Seven was another attempt to make Chris Pratt a bankable star.

 

Don’t Breathe was a strong Labor Day sensation. The Accountant became a solid post-Batfleck hit. The Purge: Election Year continued the series’ strong momentum. Pete’s Dragon was the one Disney remake that just did fine. Boo! A Madea Halloween became Tyler Perry’s biggest hit in years. Storks was Warner’s next attempt at animation post-Lego Movie. 10 Cloverfield Lane brought back the weird little series we all know and like. Lights Out put David Sandberg on the map. Allegiant was a spectacular disaster, killing the franchise. Likewise with Ice Age: Collision Course and Inferno. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 failed to capture the zeitgeist like its predecessor. The BFG was Spielberg’s biggest financial failure. 

 

The Shallows was a feather in Blake Lively’s cap. Assassin’s Creed and Warcraft failed to make video game movies appealing to the masses. 13 Hours had a lot of controversy, but nobody really cared. The Huntsman: Winter’s War failed to keep Universal’s Snow White franchise trucking. Kubo and the Two Strings was a critically-acclaimed, little-seen stop-motion epic. Manchester by the Sea was a stirring, emotional success. Allied was the centerpiece for the nasty Brangelina divorce. The Nice Guys became a cult hit. Mother’s Day ended Garry Marshall’s weird holiday trilogy. Collateral Beauty was a bizarre Oscar-bait disaster. Gods of Egypt was laughable. Hell or High Water was a decent end-of-summer hit. The Witch gave us the wonder that is Anya Taylor-Joy. Ben-Hur was remade...for some reason. And finally, Florence Foster Jenkins...came out I guess.

 

 

This was 2016

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@Brainbug@charlie Jatinder @excel1 @YourMother the Edgelord @Webslinger @Noctis @DAJK @Sir Tiki @Giesi @WittyUsername

 

This was another interesting one to talk about. Not just because this was when I was getting more active on BOT and box office reporting in general, but also because in how this was when the rise of Disney and their current dominance today truly started. Before, you had studios like Fox and Universal going toe-to-toe. But now? Not anymore. Even in the streaming wars, the studios just can't compare with what Disney is doing. There's obviously a lot you can critique about with this stuff here, but there is something morbidly fascinating and curious to see their strategies and acquisitions and how they have become the main focal point in the current pop culture discussion and discourse.

 

We're getting close to the end here, and I hope you guys are still loving what I'm writing every couple weeks.

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