Can Hollywood Repeat Its Huge Year at the Box Office in 2016?

Jurassic World

Source: Universal

It’s been a strange last few years for Hollywood. As sequels, reboots, adaptations, and big-name franchises have taken over, original screenplays have become something of an endangered species. The reason behind this of course is money, with franchising proving itself to be the quickest and easiest way to a huge box office haul. But then 2014 rolled around, and a fair share of panic began to set in, as the industry hit a two-decade low at the box office. A year that saw the release of a new Hunger Games movie, two Marvel movies, and the latest from the Transformers saga still ended up as a down year.

Domestic box office dropped 5% in that year, as China began to dominate the film market. Fewer and fewer people in the U.S. were choosing to go to the movie theater to see their favorite films, making it so a lot was riding on 2015’s slate of big-budget releases. In the end, 2015 proved itself more than up to the challenge. This year saw a record five different billion-dollar releases (Furious 7, Jurassic World, Minions, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens). Things will wrap up with a grand total of $11 billion made at the box office in the United States alone, assuaging many of the early fears the industry harbored at the beginning of the year.

For every peak though, there’s always bound to be a valley. 2016’s planned slate of films is impressive, but suffice to say Hollywood still has a steep hill to climb. Measuring up to a 2015 that featured five places in the top 11 grossing films of all time is no small task by any stretch of the imagination. Most estimates seem to agree that The Force Awakens will top that list by the end of its run in theaters, and with the next installment in the trilogy not due out until 2017, a different franchise will have to step up to shoulder the load instead.

2016 won’t be without its potential hits. Marvel will be unveiling Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange, Warner/DC will debut both Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, 20th Century Fox has Deadpool and X-Men: Apocalypse, and Lucasfilm will release the first of its “Anthology” movies in Rogue One. But much of this potential is rooted in a hope that the needle won’t shift in terms of what audiences look for in their blockbusters. We’re about to be inundated with comic book movies, and it’s hard not to feel like the genre is fast-approaching terminal velocity.

Part of a good year at the box office is based on slam dunks like The Force Awakens meeting (and in that case, exceeding) expectations. But the other key facet can be found in surprises like Jurassic World. No one would have guessed the fourth installment in the Jurassic Park franchise would break the all-time record for an opening weekend, making it the runaway choice for Hollywood’s “Serendipity of the Year.” Nostalgia ran deep in 2015, and it made studios a whole lot of money in the process.

The film industry is hoping to continue capitalizing on nostalgia and franchises in 2016, but doubling down on the hot hand is always a risky proposal. Someday, whether it’s next year or beyond, audiences are going to begin craving original ideas again. With Hollywood having put all their eggs in the franchise basket though, that day could mark a huge slide at the box office across the board. In the meantime, studios are busy counting their money from their best year ever. The only question that remains is whether or not they can do even better.

All box office numbers pulled from Box Office Mojo

Follow Nick on Twitter at @NickNorthwest

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