The 2018 summer frame in theaters was a completely different story than that of 2017. Last year’s blockbuster season was a dismal affair from studios’ perspective. Numerous franchises struggled to achieve the usual financial glory, and the overall box office take hit benchmark lows. The season was off by around 16 percent from the previous year and failed to total more than $4 billion for the first time since 2006.
This year is far different. Audiences turned out in a steady stream to set records: “Avengers: Infinity War” logged the biggest opening, and “Incredibles 2” became the highest-grossing animated feature ever. As a result, there were numerous surprise hits as well. “The Equalizer 2” managed to reach $100 million. “Crazy Rich Asians” had three straight weeks over $20 million.
For this cinema cynic, who glories in the misfires and crater-producing duds, there is not as much wreckage to pick through this year, but there are still ample failures to be found. There is always gold to be mined in the dumpsters behind theaters!
Based on a mixture of metrics—performance, expectations, and quality—here are the titles the joyous studios would prefer you not bring up during their celebration parties.
From the small distribution outfit Global Road Entertainment, this was a small-budget film, and it showed. The story is of a teen who discovers a weaponized robotic dog and becomes friends while fleeing the military complex trying to get the dog back. It appealed to few. Projected to open at a meager $5 million, it drew less than half of that and never came close to making a profit.
14. ‘Unfriended: Dark Web’
This bargain-basement horror was not expected to do much, and it lived down to those projections. It debuted No. 9 in the opening weekend and by week three lost more than 1,300 screens of its modest 1,500-screen opening. Audiences acted like the enemy: it did not even reach $9 million after a month in theaters.
A late summer entry, this special-effects action film was about a teen who finds an alien gun and uses it to combat evil-doers. It debuted outside of the top ten, and even with the extended four-day Labor Day weekend it could not draw $4 million. Some activists complained about a youth running around firing a weapon, but they needn’t wring their hands too fretfully, because no one saw it.
It was a bad enough decision to remake the tepid Kurt Russell-Goldie Hawn comedy from 1987, but then they did a gender swap in the leads to compound the artifice. This time, Anna Faris was the single parent who convinces a playboy they are married, played by Mexican actor Eugenio Derbez. Although a notably unfunny romp, it somehow managed to float above $50 million
11. ‘The Spy Who Dumped Me’
Adult comedy is currently a struggling genre. Titles like “Game Night,” “Tag,” “Blockers,” and “Life of the Party” all had varying degrees of quality yet delivered middling, unimpressive business. Trailing that lot was this spoof starring Mila Kunis and “Saturday Night Live’s” Kate McKinnon. Boring and unfunny is box office poison for this category, and the actresses looked to be straining to pull anything mirthful out of the material. McKinnon has quickly built a resume of doomed films.
10. ‘Show Dogs’
Will Arnett embarrasses himself in this heavily CGI-infused comedy where humans and talking dogs co-exist. Arnett is a cop and with his Rottweiler partner tries to break up an animal smuggling ring at a dog show. The supposed comedy aimed at kids came under fire for scenes that included child-grooming for predators, which forced Global Road to recut and re-release the film in the second week.
9. ‘Action Point’
You would be excused for not knowing anything about this attempt at comedy starring Johnny Knoxville as the owner of a rundown amusement park. Paramount barely did promotion for what it had to feel was a losing venture. Projected to possibly open at $10 million, it managed a paltry 2.3 million debut, landing in the top-25 worst openings for a wide release film (2,000-plus screens). It was so roundly ignored it was gone from theaters after just two weeks.
8. ‘Slender Man’
Based on the well-known internet legend, this film was savaged by most who saw it. There are not many instances when reviewers and viewers agree this strongly. Critics scorched the deeply derivative horror attempt and audiences were no kinder, grading it with a “D-” CinemaScore. It could have ranked worse on this list, but somehow this fooled enough teens to draw $28 million against a $10 million budget.
7. ‘Bad Samaritan’
Director Dean Devlin may need to rethink things. His debut as a director was last year’s classic sci-fi fiasco “Geostorm,” and this attempted thriller follow-up,while maybe not as embarrassingly bad, performed even worse. It premiered with a woeful $1.7 million, making for the sixth-worst opening for a wide release of all time. It disappeared after three weeks and grossed less than $3.5 million.
6. ‘Mile 22’
This was the first of a hoped-for franchise starring Mark Wahlberg as a black ops agent in the world of international intrigue. It was a meandering slog of confusion that no one was really interested in unravelling. Considering the global stage, the budget was kept modest, at $50 million. Its struggle to even reach that means any talk of future films will go no further.
5. ‘The Happy Time Murders’
A high-concept comedy with Melissa McCarthy in a world where people and puppets coexist. She and her puppet police partner are investigating the murders of members from a puppet television show.
While there was interest in the subversiveness in an adult-themed puppet production, and this was developed out of the Jim Henson production company (son Brian directed), the writing was sophomoric and relied strictly on vulgarity. Leading up to its release, the projections were scaled back repeatedly, and it still fell short its opening weekend. Studio STX Films has little to be happy about.
4. ‘The Darkest Minds’
Based on a young-adult novel series by author Alexandra Bracken, 21st Century Fox hoped this would launch a new franchise. Instead, this flamed out on the launch pad. The film set a few of the kind of records studios do not brag about. It pegged the eleventh-worst opening of all time of movies released in 3,000 screens, and it set a new record when it dropped 2,679 theaters in week three. Its darkness was in the accounting division.
3. ‘Hotel Artemis’
This was a unique attempt in that the story concerns an underground hospital for a criminal society, and is toplined by many strong actors, such as Jodie Foster and Jeff Goldblum. Many seemed to want to like it but the overall product fell well short of the promising premise. It debuted to a listless $3.1 million and was essentially on life support from there on. By the third weekend, it had more than 2,200 screens stripped from its run and was DOA.
In a summer so choked with success, it almost seemed as if something had to give. Positioned as a raucous, popcorn-devouring action piece, “Skyscraper” may have been too calculated to actually have mass appeal. A mashup of “Die Hard” and “The Towering Inferno” starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, it seemed poised to be a typical summer success.
It had been projected to open at $35-40 million, but came in a massive $10 million shy against rather slight competitive premiers. In the end, the expensive production only earned $67 million, but there is a chance Universal might at least break even. Johnson is an international star, and overseas this drew an additional $225 million.
1. ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’
Chatter among the Star Wars fan base during the months leading up to the release suggested this could implode. Disney changed out directors late in the production, the lead Alden Ehrenreich was said to be struggling in the role of Han Solo, and many of the trailers and still shots of characters generated curiosity and laughs instead of interest.
More to it, the title was released outside of the usual Christmas holiday window for Star Wars properties, and it arrived just months after “The Last Jedi,” which hardcore fans widely disregarded. While “Solo” managed to crawl over the $200 million mark (and just under $400 million globally), in comparison “Deadpool 2” was released a week prior and finished by making $100 million more.
For a film from this behemoth property to flame out is striking. It remains to be calculated how much Disney will lose on this title, with estimates ranging from $50 million up to $100 million.