Breaking Down the Highest-Grossing Movies of Summer 2018
After last year’s absolutely disastrous summer at the box office, 2018 was certainly an improvement, but there are still plenty of reasons to be concerned about the future of moviegoing.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, in terms of box office revenue, summer 2018 saw a 14% jump from last year, which was the worst season in well over a decade. That’s the good news, but the bad news is that attendance this year was only up slightly. About 473 million people went to the movies this summer, which is the second-lowest number since 1992, the lowest being last year. Revenue may be fairly decent, but that’s largely because of how expensive movie tickets have gotten.
Now that the season is just about over, let’s break down the United States’ top ten highest-grossing films of the summer and see what conclusions can be drawn from their successes and failures. Note: this information is accurate as of September 3rd.
1. Avengers: Infinity War
To nobody’s surprise, Avengers: Infinity War was the highest-grossing film of the summer, concluding its domestic run with $678 million.
Even though Infinity War was always expected to be the season’s number one movie, this was still an incredibly impressive performance, especially considering some box office prognosticators wondered whether the downer ending would impact its legs. That did not really end up being the case, and although the movie was certainly frontloaded, it had a solid multiplier of 2.6, meaning it ended up making a total of 2.6 times its opening weekend gross. For comparison, Avengers: Age of Ultron made 2.4 times its opening weekend gross.
Infinity War‘s performance also all but guarantees that Avengers 4 will be the number one movie of next summer, especially because the ending builds up so much hype for the next chapter. But what no one would have predicted at the start of the year is that Infinity War actually did not outgross Black Panther, which concluded its domestic run with $700 million.
2. Incredibles 2
As we’ve seen a number of times over the years, long-awaited sequels to beloved movies can be total box office monsters, and that was the case with Incredibles 2, which definitely exceeded expectations by making $602 million domestically and counting.
That’s nothing short of remarkable. Not only is Incredibles 2 now the highest-grossing Pixar film ever made, it’s the highest-grossing by far, beating Finding Dory by over $100 million domestically. Pixar’s three most successful movies are now sequels that came out over 10 years after the previous installment, proving how powerful a force nostalgia can be at the box office. Incredibles 2 is also now the highest-grossing animated film ever made, and the only one to ever cross $600 million (or $500 million, for that matter).
As an indication of how much audiences loved the movie, Incredibles 2 ended with a multiplier of 3.2, meaning it had fantastic legs throughout the summer as parents continued to take their kids to see the film. Now, Incredibles 3 seems inevitable.
3. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
The sequel to Jurassic World did not place #1 for the summer like its predecessor did, but Fallen Kingdom still turned in a phenomenal performance. This was a movie some were not convinced would actually do particularly well. Jurassic World was obviously a tremendous success, but was that just because of the nostalgia factor? Now that audiences saw what a new Jurassic Park movie looked like in 2015, would that fully satisfy them? Would they turn out a second time?
Clearly, the answer was yes, as the film made $415 million domestically. That’s a drop of about $230 million million from the first installment, but a large drop was always inevitable since the original film was a highly-anticipated event that fans had waited over a decade for, and this was just another Jurassic Park. All things considered, the 37% drop was pretty solid and just a few percentage points higher than the drop we saw from Star Wars: The Force Awakens to Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Fallen Kingdom‘s box office performance might also indicate that a franchise like this is kind of too big to fail, as it performed quite well despite receiving much more mixed reviews than the first Jurassic World.
4. Deadpool 2
Deadpool 2 was another sequel that some thought might struggle a bit financially. After all, the original Deadpool came out during a fairly light February, having most of the month to itself. But now the sequel was being released at the height of summer, just a few weeks after Avengers: Infinity War. That could have spelled trouble.
But Deadpool 2 ended up grossing $318 million and coming in at number four. That’s a drop of only 12% from the first one, which is again quite impressive especially when you consider how close to Infinity War the release date was. It proved that audiences loved Deadpool enough to want to see more of him, not feeling like it was basically a one-time joke, and it proved that when there are two major comic-book films back to back like this, audiences won’t mind turning out for both.
The fact that Infinity War, Incredibles 2, and Deadpool 2 all did so well also suggests that there really is no such thing as superhero movie fatigue.
5. Ant-Man and the Wasp
Next up is Marvel Studios’ second release of the summer, which was not a massive hit but was not a bomb, either. Ant-Man and the Wasp ended up grossing $213 million, which is an increase of 17% from the first film. That’s hardly a flop, but this is still one of the lowest-grossing Marvel movies, making only a bit more than Thor: The Dark World.
This can probably be blamed on the fact that Infinity War was a giant event that concluded on a crazy cliffhanger, and then it was followed by this film, which, based on the trailers, seemed to have nothing to do with Infinity War at all and starred a character who wasn’t even in that movie. So Ant-Man and MCU fans turned out to see it, but clearly, Marvel was not able to take advantage of the Infinity War momentum very much; perhaps the box office numbers would have been higher had the average person realized that there’s actually a scene in the movie that sets up Avengers 4.
Certainly, though, Disney and Marvel are likely to be fairly satisfied, if not totally over the moon, with this film’s box office performance.
6. Solo: A Star Wars Story
Despite making the top 10, Solo: A Star Wars Story can safely be considered a disappointment. The Han Solo prequel came in significantly below expectations; early estimates had it making over $170 million on its opening weekend alone, but it ended up making only a bit more than that during its entire domestic run: $213 million.
In the United States, the movie made over $300 million less than the previous Star Wars spin-off, Rogue One, although that one was released over Christmas rather than in the crowded summer movie season. Still, just over $200 million is unacceptable for a major Star Wars film, especially when you consider that the budget was reportedly upwards of $250 million.
So what lessons can be learned from this? A few come to mind. One, the movie needed a significantly more aggressive marketing push; the first trailer didn’t even come out until three months before the opening weekend, whereas the first trailer for Rogue One came out eight months in advance. Two, audiences needed more of a cooldown between The Last Jedi and Solo; releasing two Star Wars movies within six months of each other turned out to be a terrible idea, as Solo no longer felt like much of an event.
And three, May 25th probably was just not the right release date for it anyway, placing it right after Infinity War and Deadpool 2. With many moviegoers already on the fence about seeing a different actor play Han Solo, they likely decided to save their money after having already shelled out for two major blockbusters that month, and the box office numbers reflected that. Perhaps if the movie came out in the relatively light August, when Guardians of the Galaxy made a killing in 2014, these skeptics would have given Solo more of a chance.
None of this should suggest that Episode IX will have any trouble at the box office, but Disney should certainly rethink its strategy ahead of the release of the next non-episodic Star Wars movie.
7. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Considering how great the Mission: Impossible movies are, it’s always disappointing that they don’t perform even better. But for fans of the franchise, it has been quite satisfying to see Fallout, which some argue is the best Mission yet, make bank.
The film is still holding well in theaters, but as of the end of Labor Day weekend, it has made $206 million. That puts it past Rogue Nation‘s total of $195 million, and it’s also set to outgross Ghost Protocol‘s $209 million. It will be a tight squeeze, but if it can get over the $215 million gross of Mission: Impossible II, that will make this the highest-grossing Mission: Impossible yet.
That’s a big win for Paramount, although that number still doesn’t quite match the level of critical adoration Fallout received, with some reviews declaring it one of the best action movies of all time. Mission: Impossible remains one of those franchises that has its devoted fans and is a reliable moneymaker, but it never quite becomes an absolute box office sensation, always hovering around the same domestic total every time.
If Fallout does end up becoming the highest-grossing Mission film, it will also jump all the way up to #5 on our list. Who would have guessed at the beginning of the summer that Mission: Impossible would make more money than the new Star Wars?
8. Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation
There are usually at least two family-friendly movies in the top 10 every summer, and outside of Incredibles 2, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation was the other animated film that kids could enjoy; it has made $162 million as of the end of Labor Day weekend.
What’s interesting about this movie is that it was the first one in the series to not come out in September; instead, Sony decided to open it in the packed summer movie season, and less than one month after the behemoth that was Incredibles 2.
This could have been a mistake, but Hotel Transylvania ended up performing about as well as the previous two, though with a slight drop from its immediate predecessor. The movie also had a great 3.5 multiplier, meaning it wasn’t necessarily a film everyone rushed out to see opening weekend, but it was a safe option for parents throughout the summer.
Interestingly, although we’ve been focusing on domestic totals here, worldwide, this is the highest-grossing Hotel Transylvania film, and it’s also Sony Animation’s highest-grossing movie ever.
9. Ocean’s 8
After Ghostbusters underperformed in 2016, nobody was sure how another female-led reboot of an originally male-dominated franchise would perform.
But thankfully, Ocean’s 8 fared quite well this summer, grossing $139 million. That’s about in line with how the Ocean’s movies typically perform. In fact, not adjusting for inflation, it’s the highest-grossing Ocean’s movie outside of the original Ocean’s Eleven.
It doesn’t hurt that the budget was lower than the other Ocean’s movies, i.e. $70 million compared to between $85 million and $110 million for each movie in the original trilogy, according to Forbes. The budget factor is key here because Ocean’s 8 actually only made about $10 million more than Ghostbusters, yet that 2016 film was considered to be a huge flop because the budget was $144 million.
Ocean’s 8‘s run was more than enough to justify a sequel, and hopefully, Warner Bros. will announce one soon. If this movie was able to make so much despite generally being considered to be good but not great, a sequel that really knocks it out of the park should easily outgross it.
10. The Meg
As of a few days ago, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again was at #10 on this list with a domestic gross of $117 million. But like a shark sneaking up on its prey, at the very last second, The Meg‘s Labor Day weekend gross allowed it to take the ABBA musical’s place.
This is certainly the most surprising movie to see make the top ten. Earlier this year, we placed The Meg on our list of 2018 films that seemed destined for box office failure, citing the fact that it looked like a SyFy original movie quality film but on a budget so high, $150 million, that there’s no way it could make a profit. But we were dead wrong, as The Meg has actually made $123 million in the United States and a total of $465 million worldwide so far, making it anything but a failure.
It seems that a large part of The Meg‘s success was its release date. It came out on August 10th, at which point there really hadn’t been a giant blockbuster film since Mission: Impossible, and it had almost the entirety of August to itself. Had The Meg come out in May, when Avengers and Deadpool were still in theaters, it likely would have struggled, but the fact that it had such little competition in a light August worked in its favor. It didn’t hurt that the marketing was utterly fantastic, and it was the only film other than Hotel Transylvania to actually evoke the feeling of summer in its trailers. Who doesn’t want to end their summer with a dumb shark movie? And besides, while the movie wasn’t the best of the season, it wasn’t bad, either.
In a weird way, The Meg sort of had the opposite summer as Solo. While Solo seemed primed to make bank, it failed due to its poor marketing and release date. On the other hand, The Meg, which seemed primed to bomb, succeeded due to its fantastic marketing and release date.
So what sorts of conclusions can we draw from this list? For one, fans of comedies are out of luck, as not a single one made the list unless you count Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation. Last summer, we had Girls Trip, and the summer before that, we had Central Intelligence. But nearly every major studio comedy that came out this year, from The Happytime Murders to Life of the Party, has been a disappointment.
The closest we have to a full-on comedy in the top 10 would be Crazy Rich Asians, which we certainly need to touch on here, as that movie has become a complete phenomenon. If we were counting the money a movie makes after Labor Day, Crazy Rich Asians would likely end up making it into the top ten by the end of its run, probably coming in around #7. This is great news for those who want to see more diverse casts in major studio films, as well as great news for those who just like to see excellent movies rewarded financially.
Even more so than usual, this was also a summer of franchise films. We tend to say that every year, but it was especially the case in 2018, as The Meg was the only non-sequel or non-prequel on the list. Looking back at previous summers, it’s rare for only a single movie in the top ten to be original. Last year, there was Baby Driver, Girls Trip, and Dunkirk. In 2016, there was The Secret Life of Pets and Central Intelligence. In 2018, it’s just The Meg, at least as of Labor Day weekend. Increasingly, we’re seeing the multiplex as a place for the giant blockbusters, while the smaller scale, more original stories end up on TV. Looking ahead to next summer, during which some of the tentpole releases will be Avengers 4, Toy Story 4, and Godzilla: King of the Monsters, don’t expect this phenomenon to slow down anytime soon.
Finally, this was also the summer of Disney, which had a total of four films in the top 10. No other studio even had more than two (although Warner Bros. would have three if Crazy Rich Asians makes it way in). If the Disney purchase of Fox had been finalized by now, Disney would own Deadpool 2 as well, and so 50% of the top 10 movies would, therefore, be theirs. Looking at the year as a whole so far, Disney films have comprised 33% of the total box office, more than double the percentage of any other studio, and had they owned Fox by now, they’d be over 40%. Ten years ago, Disney films only comprised 10.5% of the year’s total box office. The mouse truly is taking over.