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Summer Box Office Wrap Up: Top Gun Tops, While Studios Fail Theaters

The summer box office has come and gone, and while there were no real losers this year [how could there be compared to the last two], but as a whole, studios deserve tons of criticism for leaving theaters out to dry starting in August. While never a huge month to open something major, with some exceptions, to absolutely punt the entire month is inexcusable. Especially after May-July felt like the old days for the most part, obviously, we are still down from the heights of summer 2019, as the overall box office is still down -21% form there, but what is impressive is that it got that close with half the amount of movies.

Tom Cruise Wasn't Going to Allow Top Gun: Maverick To Go To Streaming
Christopher McQuarrie, Tom Cruise, Joseph Kosinski, and Jerry Bruckheimer on the set of Top Gun: Maverick from Paramount Pictures, Skydance, and Jerry Bruckheimer Films. © 2020 Paramount Pictures. All Right Reserved.

Summer Box Office Was Sizzling There For A Bit

Every theater owner should send Tom Cruise and Paramount a muffin basket. A big reason we can say this summer box office was as successful as it was all boiled down to Top Gun: Maverick. Paramount stuck to their guns, holding and holding this film for theaters when all others were panicking and dumping huge movies on streaming services, and they reaped the rewards. As of this writing, the legacy sequel has grossed $700 million here in the states, and $1.4 billion worldwide, making it the fifth highest domestic grosser of all time. Nobody saw that coming, and it really helped push the conversation away from streaming and back to the theatrical experience.

Other winners in the summer box office include Universal, who had maybe the quietest billion summer ever thanks to Jurassic World: Dominion and Minions: The Rise of Gru. Throw in Jordan Peele's Nope crossing $120 million, and Universal has little to complain about. Warner Bros., when they were not pissing off the entire film industry, had many of their films that would have opened huge delayed yet again, so their two openers were polar opposites. DC League of Super-Pets disappointed, failing to grab the kids and just kind of floundering along since there is nothing much in theaters at the moment, currently at $80 million. Their other big one, Elvis, was a big breakout hit, scoring $149 million and making a star out of Austin Butler.

Lightyear: New Poster, Image, and Special Look
ALISHA? – In Disney and Pixar's "Lightyear," Buzz (voice of Chris Evans) returns to the planet he's been marooned on for decades after a monumental test flight. But things have changed while he was away. When he runs into Izzy Hawthorne (voice of Keke Palmer), he mistakes her for her grandmother Alisha—Buzz's best friend and commander. Peter Sohn lends his voice to Buzz's dutiful robot companion, Sox. Directed by Angus MacLane (co-director "Finding Dory") and produced by Galyn Susman ("Toy Story That Time Forgot"), the sci-fi action-adventure opens in U.S. theaters on June 17, 2022. © 2022 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Then there is Disney. While Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness way overperformed before Memorial Day, Thor: Love & Thunder made less than Ragnarok, and audiences felt lukewarm towards it. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever won't be a good barometer to judge if the bloom is coming off the MCU rose, but Ant-Man will be. Then there was Lightyear. What Disney has done to Pixar is criminal. After throwing their last three films- Soul, Luca, and Turning Red onto Disney+ with no theatrical runs, the moviegoing public has been trained that Pixar is a streaming brand. Lightyear was the lone complete disaster at the summer box office, grossing only $118 million and becoming a joke. That's less than The Good Dinosaur made, the previous low bar for Pixar (Onward doesn't count, as it opened right as the world shutdown). That is a tarnished brand now, and Bob Chapek has a big job ahead of him to change that.

Other surprises include Where The Crawdads Sing, which has had very impressive legs and amassed $84 million so far. Universal scored again with Blumhouse thriller The Black Phone, which opened against heavy competition in June and still pulled in  $89 million. Bullet Train, the last big opening of the summer almost four weeks ago, and stalked to $80 million so far, not bad.

Our top ten for the summer looked like this when we did our summer box office preview before Top Gun came in and left everything in its wake:

  1. Jurassic World: Dominion
  2. Minions: The Rise of Gru
  3. Thor: Love and Thunder
  4. Top Gun: Maverick
  5. Lightyear
  6. DC League of Super-Pets
  7. Nope
  8. Elvis
  9. The Black Phone
  10. Easter Sunday

Here is how that top ten actually went:

  1. Top Gun: Maverick
  2. Jurassic World: Dominion
  3. Minions: The Rise of Gru
  4. Thor: Love & Thunder
  5. Elvis
  6. Nope
  7. Lightyear
  8. The Black Phone
  9. Bullet Train
  10. Where The Crawdads Sing

Not too shabby, though that Easter Sunday pick is going to haunt me for a while.

It is just a shame that studios punted on August so much. Sure, there are still pandemic reasons for that, but to completely take six weeks of grosses away from theaters after such a strong summer is bad business. Also, if this summer taught theaters anything, it's that they should be building as many IMAX and premium format screens as they can. People are coming to the theaters in droves again, but they want that premium experience. Better to be able to give it to them as often as they can.

Halloween Ends Hits Peacock Same Day As In Theaters
Credit Universal/Blumhouse

While the summer box office sizzled for a bit, the fall will be atrocious. September has a couple of releases, like horror pics Barbarian and Smile, that could break out a bit. But other than that, romantic comedy Bros and Olivia Wilde's increasingly controversial Don't Worry Darling, but that is about it, and none of those are expected to be blockbusters. October brings two big openers- Black Adam with Dwayne Johnson changing the DC Universe forever, as they have told us many times. The other is Halloween Ends, and a simultaneous release on Peacock will handcuff that one. Hopefully, the winter warms up in November, heading into Christmas and the awards season.

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Jeremy KonradAbout Jeremy Konrad

Jeremy Konrad has written about collectibles and film for almost ten years. He has a deep and vast knowledge of both. He resides in Ohio with his family.
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