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Blah summer movies this year were just the same old, same old

Posted October 9

"Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" opens Oct. 21, starring Tom Cruise. The sequel came about because the first Reacher film did well in overseas theaters. (Deseret Photo)

There's a consensus among professional and semiprofessional critics that summer 2016 was pretty miserable on the cinema front. And there are plenty of stories on the web by said critics that validate each other on that point.

Not that there haven’t been some box-office hits — some big ones, in fact. But even some of the biggest summer blockbusters were dismissed by critics whose access to a keyboard has built up a sizable following.

“Suicide Squad” is perhaps the most obvious example, having accumulated a meager 26 percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes, the aggregate review website.

But critics aren’t alone on that one. Even fan ratings aren’t all that high, with nearly 124,000 Rotten Tomatoes readers giving “Suicide Squad” a moderate 67 percent while some 217,000 voters at the Internet Movie Database give it 6.7 points (out of 10).

But somebody must like it. A lot. Because the film has earned more than $300 million stateside, according to the statistical-tracking website Box Office Mojo, putting “Suicide Squad” at No. 8 for the year so far, and no movie does that without patrons returning to the theaters to see the film a second or third time.

And worldwide? It’s No. 8 on that chart too, having raked more than $400 million in foreign sales for a worldwide total of $700 million.

“Jason Bourne,” with a middling 56 percent in favorable reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, demonstrates that Matt Damon still has serious marquee value, as that sequel is No. 9 for the year, earning $161.7 million domestically and $398.9 million worldwide (No. 14 on that list).

And “Legend of Tarzan,” which has a lowly 36 percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes, has made $126.6 million in North America (No. 15 on the year-end list) and $356 million internationally (No. 17).

Not that the worst movies were all hits. Some of the biggest flops of the past few months include the remakes of “Ghostbusters” and “Ben-Hur” and the sequels “Zoolander No. 2,” “Independence Day: Resurgence,” “The Huntsman: Winter’s War,” “Alice Through the Looking Glass” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.”

On the other hand, “Warcraft” was a stateside bomb but did tremendous business overseas. Domestically it earned just $47.2 million but foreign markets brought in another $386.3 million. (On the domestic chart it’s ranked at No. 44; on the worldwide chart it’s No. 12.)

That certainly speaks to the dominance of the international movie market.

Foreign box-office earnings have always been important to Hollywood, dating back to the silent era. But today, major studio movies carry the burden of backbreaking budgets. Each major studio picture costs tens of millions — sometimes hundreds of millions — to produce, and just to break even each film must earn more than twice its budget.

As a result, overseas bookings can rescue a film like never before.

So even though “Ghostbusters” earned $228 million worldwide, because the budget was $144 million the film is considered a bust. Don’t expect a sequel.

On the other hand, the 2012 Tom Cruise vehicle “Jack Reacher” earned even less, $218 million worldwide — but since the budget was $60 million you’ll see a second Jack Reacher film, subtitled “Never Go Back,” in theaters Oct. 21.

There are many more, but you get the idea.

Anyway, here’s Box Office Mojo’s top 10 list for 2016 domestic box-office hits so far:

  1. “Finding Dory,” $484.4 million
  2. “Captain America: Civil War,” $408.1 million
  3. “The Secret Life of Pets,” $364.9 million
  4. “The Jungle Book,” $364 million
  5. “Deadpool,” $363.1 million
  6. “Zootopia,” $341.3 million
  7. “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” $330.4 million
  8. “Suicide Squad,” $321 million
  9. “Jason Bourne,” $161.7 million
  10. “Star Trek Beyond,” $158.5 million

And the top 10 list for 2016 worldwide box-office hits so far:

  1. “Captain America: Civil War,” $1.2 billion
  2. “Zootopia,” $1 billion
  3. “Finding Dory,” $986.3 million
  4. “The Jungle Book,” $966.2 million
  5. “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” $873.3 million
  6. “The Secret Life of Pets,” $834.8 million
  7. “Deadpool,” $782.6 million
  8. “Suicide Squad,” $738.8 million
  9. “The Mermaid,” $553.8 million
  10. “X-Men Apocalypse,” $543.6 million

Note that, aside from jostling for position, eight of the 10 films on each list are the same. And most of the differences aren’t that far apart. (“X-Men: Apocalypse” is No. 11 on the domestic list, and “Jason Bourne” and “Star Trek Beyond” didn’t make the worldwide list but they’re still in the worldwide top 20.)

The only real anomaly is “The Mermaid,” a dark Chinese fantasy that has earned $550.6 million worldwide, but just $3.2 million of that came from U.S. theaters — which actually says more about Americans’ disdain for reading subtitles than it does for the film itself.

And the only top 10 movie that isn’t a summer release is “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” which opened in March.

In fact, summer movies so dominate the box office that nine of the second 10 (on both domestic and worldwide lists) are also from that period.

And, as usual, animated features and superheroes dominate — four of the domestic top 10 are cartoons and four are comic book heroes with superpowers. And “Jason Bourne” and “Star Trek Beyond” are sequels with heroic action characters.

Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." He also writes at www.hicksflicks.com and can be contacted at hicks@deseretnews.com.

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