This Week in Box Office History: Superheroes
Ever wonder if summer was always this big popcorn action season? What was raking in the dollars ten, twenty, thirty years ago? Wonder no more: This Week in Box Office History will set your mind at ease!
June 20-27: the Trends
Looking back at top earning movies over the last 30 years, consumers have definitely gravitated towards action in the first week of summer. Three distinct genres gobble up most of the top dollar spots historically this weekend: Superheroes, Sci-Fi, and…Cartoons? Yes, nearly a third of the list is dominated by Disney and Pixar, with Pixar alone nearly equaling the amount of comedies that have cracked the top spot this week in history.
Superheroes and Super Profits
This week saw the release of Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989, for many heralding the beginning of the “serious” Superhero movie. With the declining profits and campy tone of the Superman series potentially souring film makers on the genre, this new direction showed that comic book adaptations could still draw an audience, an adult audience to boot. Hot on Burton’s heels in 1990 was Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy (nominated for 7 Oscars…7! Not bad for a guy with a square face!) Next were Batman Returns in 1992, Batman and Robin in 1997, Ang Lee’s 2003 Hulk adaptation (breaking the Batman streak,) and Batman Begins taking the crown right back in 2005. Man of Steel was nudged from the top this weekend, by Pixar no less, but the trend is still pretty evident: we like us some super fights when the weather gets hot.
In a Box Office Long Ago, in a Galaxy far Away
Opening the trend for little green men and out of control monsters was the homesick E.T. in 1982, and the last hurrah of the Star Wars dynasty (the prequels didn’t happen, DIDN’T HAPPEN!) Return of the Jedi holding the top spot in 1983. Ghostbusters lightened the mood in 84, and Cocoon made Wilford Brimley hot at the theater in 85. This streak of Sci-Fi earners was broken up by Superhero mania until Jurassic Park roared to the number one position in 1993, and The X-Files (98) and Minority Report (2002) rounded out the decade. Since then, its been a summer slump for the Sci-Fi genre this week in history…Sorry Star Trek fans.
Do It for the Children
Surprisingly, movies aimed at children (instead of man-children) have had a robust showing this week historically. Who Framed Roger Rabbit debuted this week in 1988, and despite not earning the top spot, did put Disney on the map for June, a trend followed by The Lion King and Pocahontas back to back in 1994-5 respectively. Tarzan (unfortunately not the bad-ass Greystoke starring Christopher Lambert) was the last Disney film to take all the money in 1999. Not a bad run, but it pales in comparison to Pixar’s current Box Office dominance: since 2010’s Toy Story 3, Pixar has been on top every year up to the present, with Monster University winning this week’s cash race. Who knew a story about a tall otherworldly figure all in blue trying to find acceptance could do well at the theater? And with humor? Listening Warner Brothers?
This week saw the premier of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws in 1975, making the waters unsafe for swimming, but the summer very safe for Blockbusters. While not the greatest bets, several comedies have historically done well too, including Dodge Ball, proving that Vince Vaughn can actually be funny in June.
Information courtesy of Box Office Mojo. used with permission.