At the end of this year, three movies with female leads — Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Beauty and the Beast, and Wonder Woman — will be the top grossing movies of 2017 domestically, accounting for over $1.34 billion in revenue (and $2.93 billion worldwide). It’s an unprecedented statement of audience enthusiasm for stories led by women, and about as apt an exclamation point for 2017 as one could imagine in an industry that has been upended by a stream of accusations against powerful men that they had committed sexual misconduct, assault, and rape. It is also highly instructive of what worked this year for audiences — and what did not.
In the first three months of 2017, a diverse slate of films geared to a wide spectrum of audiences pulled in record high revenues at the domestic box office. These were movies starring women and people of color, in genres like period dramas and social thrillers and movie musicals, and people streamed to theaters to see them. And then summer hit, and a dreadful glut of desperately familiar sequels and wannabe franchise debuts seemed to actively repel audiences, dragging down box office to calamitously historic lows. That trend, with a few punctuated exceptions, persisted until November, when people started going to the movies again — including popular films showcasing women and people of color.
Amid the ceaseless discord and fury of 2017, the concepts of diversity and representation in pop culture — i.e. showcasing stories by, about, and for people who aren’t just one specific plurality of the population — have become a polarizing social media flashpoint. But audiences have also made clear they are great business for Hollywood. It’s simple: When you make more kinds of movies for more kinds of people, you’re bound to make more money.
It’s foolish to try to ascribe a single, unifying theme to an industry as sprawling and unwieldy as the movie business. But when surveying the people, projects, and studios that fared the best and worst from the year (including BuzzFeed News’ mid-year assessment), it’s impossible not to notice how often diversity and representation — demographically, artistically, commercially — played some kind of factor in their success or failure, even in the continued box office dominance of the Minions from the Despicable Me franchise.
WINNERS: Diverse perspectives behind the camera
Until The Last Jedi likely overtakes them all, the top three grossing films of the year worldwide in 2017 were Beauty and the Beast from director Bill Condon, The Fate of the Furious from director F. Gary Gray, and Despicable Me 3, codirected by Pierre Coffin.
None of those directors are straight white men.
To address the angry comments already auto-populating below, the reason this matters is that straight white men — and their innate artistic perspectives and prejudices — have dominated the top echelons of filmmaking since the invention of the art form. Beauty and the Beast, meanwhile, is the top grossing film ever directed by an openly gay man; The Fate of the Furious broke the same record for a black filmmaker; and Coffin, whose mother is Indonesian novelist Nh. Dini, already holds the record for an Asian director of an animated feature, with 2015’s Minions.
The success of those filmmakers this year — along with Wonder Woman’s Patty Jenkins, the highest grossing female director ever; Thor: Ragnarok’s Taika Waititi, the highest grossing Maori director ever; and the smash hits directed by Jordan Peele (Get Out), M. Night Shyamalan (Split), and Malcolm D. Lee (Girls Trip) — accounted for over $2.15 billion in domestic box office returns, and $5.87 billion worldwide.
More of this, please!
What’s next? Condon is developing a remake of Bride of Frankenstein. Jenkins is directing Wonder Woman 2. Waititi is codirecting the animated feature Bubbles, about the life of Michael Jackson from the perspective of his pet chimp. Peele will write and direct a social thriller due in 2019. Shyamalan is directing a sequel to Split for 2019. Lee is directing the comedy Night School with Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish. Coffin and Gray have not yet announced their next projects.
LOSERS: Men in the movie business accused of sexual misconduct
Harvey Weinstein lost his company, was expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and witnessed his name become synonymous in the national consciousness with grotesque sexual predation.
Kevin Spacey’s agent and publicist dropped him, then Netflix fired him from his series House of Cards and cut ties with his Gore Vidal biopic Gore, and then he was literally erased from his major role in All the Money in the World. (His last-minute replacement, 88-year-old Christopher Plummer, is getting serious Oscar buzz.)
Louis C.K. had to buy back his wildly misguided feature film I Love You, Daddy after losing just about every major professional relationship he’s ever had.
Brett Ratner was forced to abandon the Warner Bros. lot and was banished from the Wonder Woman 2 credits (though he likely wasn’t invited in the first place). Dustin Hoffman’s 50-year career is in tatters, Roy Price was axed from running Amazon Studios, and James Toback has transitioned from allegedly having to tell every woman he wants to harass that he made a few movies once, to having everyone know him as the guy who somehow managed to sexually harass over 200 women, at least.
Of the many, many remarkable things about the Reckoning — catalyzed by the New York Times and the New Yorker’s blockbuster stories on Weinstein in early October — one of the most astonishing has been the ruin that has befallen virtually every man who’s weathered allegations of unwanted sexual advances, from badgering, groping, and kissing, to assault and rape. This behavior was abetted by an industry that allowed these men to see themselves as indispensable within their own personal fiefdoms. So, to witness that same industry make so unambiguously clear that these men can and will be dispensed with sends a powerful — and, one hopes, lasting — message.
There is one lingering and significant asterisk, however. In late November, John Lasseter preemptively announced he was taking a six-month leave of absence from running Pixar and Disney’s animation studios in anticipation of three separate stories about him engaging in unwanted intimate physical contact with multiple female employees. For over a decade, Lasseter has been the single most powerful creative force in feature animation (and, arguably, the entire movie business): Since 1995, the films he’s overseen have earned a staggering $17 billion at the worldwide box office, to say nothing of the fortune they’ve raked in from merchandising, theme park attractions, and post-theatrical sales and rentals. How the Walt Disney Company chooses to handle Lasseter’s return — if it chooses to allow him to return at all — will speak volumes to how much Lasseter’s prodigious success and influence outweighs the allegations against him, and serve as the biggest test yet of the lasting strength of this extraordinary cultural moment.
What’s next? For some, obscurity, police investigations, and/or an inevitable attempt at redemption. For all, a stain on their professional and personal reputations that will never wash out.
WINNER: Tiffany Haddish
Haddish’s outrageously funny performance in the hit summer comedy Girls Trip — and her equally delightful promotional press tour — rocketed her from a rising presence in stand-up comedy to one of the biggest stars of the year. Haddish made such a powerful impression that she earned the Best Supporting Actress award from the New York Film Critics Circle — and her subsequent lack of a nomination from the Golden Globes became a viral Twitter moment after her costar Jada Pinkett Smith scolded the Hollywood Foreign Press for ignoring their film.
What’s next? She’ll next star opposite Kevin Hart in Night School in 2018, and she’s starring and executive producing the satire The Oath, the directorial debut of actor Ike Barinholtz.
LOSER: Matt Damon
It is bad enough that all three of Damon’s films this year — February’s The Great Wall, October’s Suburbicon, and December’s Downsizing — used the fact that Damon was the star as their main selling point, and then all bombed at the box office. But Damon also strode boldly into the fray of the Reckoning and the #MeToo movement and managed to keep saying the wrong thing every single time. He evoked his four daughters to defend himself against the allegation that he tried to pressure a reporter to drop a negative story about Weinstein (as if having a daughter was a requirement for a man’s outrage about sexual assault). He admitted he knew Gwyneth Paltrow had been harassed by Weinstein (but had never actually discussed it with her). He complained that we weren’t talking enough about the “whole shitload of guys” who aren’t sexual predators (and then added he’d judge working with people facing allegations of sexual misconduct on a “case-by-case” basis).
And in an astonishing trainwreck of an interview with Peter Travers at ABC News, he proclaimed “we can work with” Louis C.K. because of his apology (even though Damon said he doesn’t know “all the details” about the allegations against C.K.); he cast himself in a hypothetical scenario in which someone made (apparently untrue) allegations against him (“I would be scorched earth. I’d go, ‘I don’t care if it costs $10 million to fight this in court with you for 10 years, you are not taking my name from me’”); and he wanted to make sure it’s clear that “there’s a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation” — which earned a stiff, viral rebuke from Minnie Driver, his ex from 20 years ago.
What’s next? Damon will appear in Ocean’s 8 in June (although there’s an online petition to have him removed), and he’s executive producing the Boston crime drama pilot City on a Hill with Ben Affleck for Showtime.
Horror had a very good 2017 in general, between Get Out, Split, Annabelle: Creation, Happy Death Day, and the daily news. But nothing came close to the box office phenomenon that was this adaptation of the Stephen King novel. Earning $327.5 million domestically and $698.1 million worldwide, It obliterated the record for the highest grossing film in September, and stands as the highest grossing horror movie of all time (not adjusting for ticket price inflation). Director Andy Muschietti appeared to tap into an elemental need to exorcise the existential dread that has lurked within the headlines all year, and the film transformed Bill Skarsgård (aka Pennywise, the child-eating clown) into a highly problematic thirst trap. In other words, maybe the most 2017 movie of 2017.
What’s next? Chapter Two for 2019.
LOSER: The Weinstein Company
Even before the Harvey Weinstein stories first broke, it had been a grim year for the company that bears his name. The family drama 3 Generations (total domestic gross: $68,852) and the costume romance Tulip Fever (total domestic gross: $2.4 million) became the latest casualties of the company’s fetish for sitting on a film for years while killing it with a thousand cuts in the editing room. The latter especially became an object of ridicule for Film Twitter, which was only compounded after Weinstein wrote a bizarre column in late August for Deadline damning the film with the faintest praise. A choice line: “Alicia Vikander also reached out to tell me that her mom’s friend gave her a rare call just to tell her how much she enjoyed it.”
Whatever dull luster formed around the modest success of the crime thriller Wind River and the animated feature Leap!, meanwhile, was instantly extinguished by the stories that have rendered Harvey a monster and devastated his company beyond repair. The (dubious) awards contender The Current War (with Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Shannon) was pushed to 2018; the release of the horror flick Amityville: The Awakening earned — and this isn’t a typo — $742 domestically; and the future of ostensible 2018 releases The Upside (with Kevin Hart, Bryan Cranston, and Nicole Kidman), and Mary Magdalene (with Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix) remains in question.
What’s next? The company is attempting to sell itself, but the chances that it will exist in any recognizable form in 2018 remain precariously slim.
From June 16 to Nov. 3, Disney didn’t release a single film, but it did have to deal with several PR headaches. First, Lucasfilm fired the directors of two Star Wars movies: Episode IX’s Colin Trevorrow — replaced by J.J. Abrams — and Solo: A Star Wars Story’s Phil Lord and Christopher Miller — replaced, after months of production on the film had already concluded, by Ron Howard. Then the studio blacklisted the Los Angeles Times in response to the newspaper’s coverage of its connection with businesses in Anaheim, California. (The studio reversed its decision after just a few days following outcry and a counterboycott from critics groups and media outlets.)
And yet, despite those bumps in the road and its nearly six-month sabbatical from releasing movies, Disney still dominated at the box office for the second year in a row. Five of 2017’s top 10 grossing films worldwide — Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Beauty and the Beast, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Thor: Ragnarok, and (yes, it’s true) Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales — came from the studio, totaling more than $4.61 billion in global gross alone. All in, Disney earned over $6 billion worldwide for the second year in a row — the only studio to achieve that milestone.
And that gargantuan figure stands to grow significantly larger in the years ahead, after the Walt Disney Company announced on Dec. 14 that it is acquiring the majority of 21st Century Fox — including the film studio 20th Century Fox — for $52.4 billion in stock. Should it pass muster with federal regulators, the repercussions of the deal are likely to be felt for years, if not decades, as Disney further fortifies its position as the dominant company in the entertainment industry.
What’s next? Hold on to your mouse ears: Marvel Studios will release Black Panther on Feb. 16 and Avengers: Infinity War on May 4; Disney will release Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time, with Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Chris Pine, on March 9; Lucasfilm will release Solo: A Star Wars Story on May 25; and Pixar will release The Incredibles 2 on June 15. Phew.
LOSER: 20th Century Fox
In an industry increasingly dependent on home runs, all Fox could muster this year was a triple with Logan (which took in $616.8 million worldwide), and doubles with War for the Planet of the Apes ($490.6 million worldwide) and Murder on the Orient Express ($311.9 million worldwide). Otherwise, the sequels Kingsman: The Golden Circle and Alien: Covenant vastly underperformed, while Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, Snatched, The Mountain Between Us, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, Ferdinand, and A Cure for Wellness all bombed.
And then Mickey Mouse killed Fox as an independent movie studio. The deal for Disney to acquire 21st Century Fox won’t close for many more months, so what this means for Fox’s employees, not to mention its future slate, remains up in the air. But with Disney CEO Robert Iger promising $2 billion in “savings,” it’s probably not great!
What’s next? Assuming for the moment that nothing changes for Fox until at least June: the final Maze Runner movie The Death Cure on Jan. 26, the Jennifer Lawrence spy thriller Red Sparrow on March 2, the gay coming-of-age drama Love, Simon on March 16, the horror-inflected X-Men spinoff The New Mutants on April 13, and the Deadpool sequel on June 1.
WINNERS: Christopher Nolan and Edgar Wright
In an industry addicted to established franchises, known properties, and familiar filmmaking tropes, both of these directors got major studios to bankroll films that were original stories and involved innovative creative approaches — and audiences were thrilled.
With Dunkirk, Nolan made a war movie about the most famous retreat in World War II without a central protagonist, and fractured the storytelling into three separate timescapes. It earned some of the best reviews of Nolan’s career, considerable Oscar buzz, and $525.6 million worldwide.
With Baby Driver, Wright fused a crime thriller with a tightly choreographed musical of pop hits, and made $226.9 million worldwide — by far the best box office of his career — on a reported $34 million budget. (If the film’s sparkle retroactively dimmed due to the presence of Kevin Spacey, that isn’t Wright’s fault.)
Nolan and Wright’s creative risks not only paid off, they did so during a summer in which all the things studios thought were fail-safe projects — you know, established franchises, known properties, and familiar filmmaking tropes — became reliable failures. One only hopes Hollywood is paying attention.
What’s next? Neither have announced their next projects.
LOSERS: Luc Besson and Dane DeHaan
Besson spent years banging the drum for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets — his adaptation of the French sci-fi comic Valérian and Laureline — playing up its visual extravagance and the $180 million budget he raised outside the studio system. Anticipation seemed to be high, especially for those with a special fondness for Besson’s 1997 sci-fi adventure The Fifth Element. It was a go-for-broke gamble for Besson, and, alas, he almost did: Valerian sank like a stone, earning just $41.2 million domestically and $184.7 million internationally, not nearly enough to cover the film’s budget (although foreign distribution sales did help defray some of those costs).
The outcome was especially harsh for DeHaan (Chronicle, Kill Your Darlings), a promising up-and-coming actor who was judged to be wildly miscast as the supposedly dashing and rakish Valerian. (Let us never forget Kyle Buchanan’s description of DeHaan as a “murder twink.”) It was also the second of three box office duds DeHaan headlined in 2017, along with February’s psychological thriller A Cure for Wellness and September’s epically delayed period drama Tulip Fever.
Fortunately, both Besson and DeHaan’s next projects appear to be more of a return to form.
What’s next? For Besson, the crime thriller Anna, with Luke Evans, Cillian Murphy, and Helen Mirren. For DeHaan, as infamous outlaw Billy the Kid in the Western The Kid, directed by Vincent D’Onofrio in his feature directing debut.
WINNER: Ridley Scott
When BuzzFeed News published actor Anthony Rapp’s allegation that Kevin Spacey made a sexual advance toward him when he was 14, it was clear that the most immediate professional fallout was the fate of Spacey’s next film, the fact-based thriller All the Money in the World, about the kidnapping of one of the grandsons of extravagantly wealthy oil tycoon J. Paul Getty. Sony Pictures had been emphasizing Spacey’s performance as Getty in its marketing plan. But in the wake of the mounting allegations against the actor, the film was pulled from its debut at the AFI Film Festival in November, and the expectation was that it would quietly fizzle into a sad, half-forgotten Hollywood anecdote.
Instead, its director Ridley Scott refused to let his film be collateral damage of Spacey’s career implosion. The 80-year-old recast Getty with Christopher Plummer, and somehow managed to reshoot 22 scenes in the finished film in just nine days in late November, in time to make a Dec. 25 release date — a feat virtually everyone in Hollywood would have deemed impossible before Scott pulled it off. Somehow, the film managed to earn three Golden Globe nominations, for Scott, Plummer, and Michelle Williams, and while box office returns have so far been mild ($4.4 million over two days domestically), the sheer fact that Scott rescued this movie at all is something of a Hollywood miracle. It all happened at such a breakneck speed that the box office misfire that was Scott’s Alien: Covenant has become but a distant memory.
What’s next? The sequel to Alien: Covenant, and probably 23 other movies, in 2019.
LOSERS: Kate Winslet and Idris Elba
This one is just so sad: Together and separately, these impossibly talented and beautiful actors made some terrible choices in 2017.
First, let’s deal with the unfortunate film that featured Winslet and Elba together: The Mountain Between Us, about two strangers who end up stranded on a frigid mountain peak after a plane crash. The film had the potential to be a bracing showcase for both actors’ celebrated talents. Instead, it featured some of the least appealing work from either of them in a story that unfolded with escalating absurdities. Audiences shrugged, critics scoffed, and the film limped to a global gross of $61.1 million.
For Elba, it was the second box office letdown of the year. The Dark Tower, an adaptation of the beloved Stephen King sci-fi adventure book series, was supposed to launch the actor into his obscenely delayed perch as an A-list movie star. Instead, the movie pleased no one en route to earning a droopy $111.8 million worldwide.
At least Elba could lean on his acclaimed supporting role in Molly’s Game, and contractually obligated supporting role in Thor: Ragnarok. Winslet, by contrast, found herself stumping for the Woody Allen film Wonder Wheel, and even before the Reckoning was upon us, she struggled to figure out how to talk about Allen, whose daughter Dylan has accused him of molesting her as a child. Post-Reckoning, Winslet’s efforts didn’t get much better. The film, by the way, has earned just $3 million worldwide, one of the absolute worst box office performances of Allen’s — and Winslet’s — careers.
What’s next? Elba’s feature directing debut, the Jamaican-set crime drama Yardie, will debut at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Winslet’s most immediate next project isn’t clear, but she will appear in the sequel to Avatar, due (at this point) in 2020.
WINNER: The Big Sick
Indie film has had a rough go of it for several years now, as financing and traditional distribution have dried up, and Netflix and Amazon have disrupted an already fragile ecosystem. So it was deeply gratifying to see an independent film like The Big Sick resonate so well with audiences over the summer, let alone a film as thoughtfully crafted and executed as this one. Directed by Michael Showalter from a script by its star Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon, the film tracked the story of Nanjiani and Gordon’s early courtship, which was suddenly turned upside down by a mysterious illness that put Gordon (played by Zoe Kazan) into a medically induced coma. The film resonated as an unconventional romantic comedy, and as a portrait of Nanjiani’s specific struggles as a Pakistani immigrant turned stand-up comic, earning $55.3 million worldwide and considerable awards buzz. It also sparked criticism of its portrayal of South Asian women, and defense of its critique of the practice of arranged marriage — which Nanjiani has used as an opportunity to push for “more stories” about South Asian people.
What’s next? Showalter, Nanjiani, and Gordon haven’t announced their next feature projects.
LOSER: Tom Cruise
While the days when a Tom Cruise movie was a guaranteed hit have long since past, the 55-year-old actor hasn’t ever quite faced down a year as bad as this one. The fact that The Mummy was an embarrassing flop perhaps should not have been all that surprising, given its dubious provenance as the inaugural film in a monster movie cinematic universe no one asked for — and has now apparently been all but abandoned.
American Made, however, looked like a return to the kind of old-school Cruise vehicle that had made him into a paragon of movie stardom in the first place: It was a non-franchise, fact-based drama that utilized Cruise’s legendary charm — rather than his ability to execute a stunt — to transform a story about cocaine smuggling in the 1980s into an enjoyable seriocomic romp. But it earned just $51.3 million domestically, the worst box office performance for a wide-release movie sold on Cruise’s name alone since All the Right Moves in 1983.
In both cases, Cruise’s international appeal helped to rescue these films from total failure. The Mummy in particular earned $329 million outside the US and Canada, in large part due to its popularity in China. But after a botched stunt on Mission: Impossible 6 broke Cruise’s ankle and forced lengthy production delay, it’s likely Cruise really is just like the rest of us, and just desperately wants 2017 to be over.
What’s next? The sixth Mission: Impossible movie, still due to open July 27.
WINNER: The Hitman’s Bodyguard
Based on ticket sales, it was the worst August at the domestic box office in at least 35 years — which left this action comedy starring Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson at No. 1 for three straight weekends, an exceedingly rare event for either actor in a non-franchise film. That still only resulted in a $75.5 million domestic return (and $176.6 million globally), but sometimes you win by winning, and sometimes you win because everybody else loses.
What’s next? Reynolds will star in the Deadpool sequel on June 1 and Jackson will reprise his role as the voice of Frozone in Incredibles 2.
LOSER: Steven Soderbergh
After his so-called retirement in 2013, Soderbergh returned to feature filmmaking to direct the sublime blue-collar heist picture Logan Lucky, with Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, and Daniel Craig. In advance of its release, he did a series of interviews touting his efforts to avoid the studio system by independently raising both the production and marketing budgets ($29 million and $20 million, respectively), which allowed him to oversee promoting the film himself. The hope was to quietly revolutionize movie financing in a framework much more friendly to filmmakers. Instead, Logan Lucky earned just $28.8 million domestically, and $47.3 million worldwide, nowhere near the targets Soderbergh had hoped, and needed, to hit. Soderbergh was right in that Hollywood spends an outrageous amount of money on movie marketing, but his solution ultimately buried one of the most commercial movies of his career.
What’s next? Unsane, a psychological thriller reportedly shot on iPhones, with Claire Foy, Jay Pharoah, and Juno Temple, on March 23.
With almost no fanfare, this heartwarming adaptation of the best-selling book — about how Auggie (Room’s Jacob Tremblay), a boy with significant facial scarring from years of life-saving surgery, navigates his first year in public school — has become one of the surprise hits of the fall, grossing over $174 million worldwide. It’s the biggest live-action hit in years for costars Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson (who play Auggie’s concerned parents), and another triumph for director Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), who’s also one of the credited screenwriters for this year’s Beauty and the Beast.
What’s next? Chbosky is developing the script for Disney’s live-action Prince Charming, and may possibly direct it. Tremblay will appear in The Predator on Aug. 3. Roberts will star opposite Manchester by the Sea’s Lucas Hedges in the thriller Ben Is Back, directed by Hedges’ father Peter (Dan in Real Life). Wilson hasn’t announced his next project.
WINNER: Illumination Entertainment
Domestically, Despicable Me 3 earned $264.6 million, just over $100 million less than its 2013 predecessor. In fact, there’s a decent chance you didn’t see it, don’t know anyone who did, and have been left to wonder why it's on this list in the first place.
So when I tell you that this movie made over $1 billion worldwide, please understand that there are forces in the universe that we will never fully comprehend, like the enduring appeal of yellow pill–shaped nonsense creatures who have become horrifically sexualized memes. (I’m not providing links for that — you’ll have to find them on your own.)
More to the point, though, Despicable Me 3 continues the ascendancy of its animation studio Illumination Entertainment as possibly the most lucrative creative endeavor in modern Hollywood. Frankly, nothing comes close.
What’s next? Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, with Benedict Cumberbatch, which will make all of the money when it opens Nov. 9.
LOSERS: Feature animation that isn't from Illumination Entertainment
Animated films, like horror, were thought to be something akin to box office perennials, certain to syphon money from parents keen for a two-hour weekend distraction. Then came 2017, and a plethora of films — Ferdinand, The Star, My Little Pony: The Movie, The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Leap!, The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature, The Emoji Movie, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, Smurfs: The Lost Village, and Rock Dog — that failed to connect with practically any audience at all. Consider that these 10 films have made less worldwide combined (roughly $1.02 billion as of Dec. 26) than Despicable Me 3 alone ($1.03 billion).
Even Coco, Cars 3, The Boss Baby, and The LEGO Batman Movie were just modest hits. The first two of those films, in fact, are among the lowest domestic grossers in Pixar history. Oversaturation, the rise in ticket prices, a perceived decline in quality — it’s not entirely clear why audiences have cooled so quickly on animated fare that doesn’t feature yellow pill–shaped nonsense creatures. But they have.
What’s next? Early Man, the latest from Wallace and Gromit director Nick Park of Aardman Animation, on Feb. 16; Sherlock Gnomes, with Johnny Depp voicing the titular sleuthing gnome, on March 23; Isle of Dogs, Wes Anderson’s return to stop-motion animation after 2009’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, also on March 23; and Incredibles 2, Pixar’s long-awaited sequel to its 2004 sensation, on June 15.
LOSER: Annapurna Pictures
Megan Ellison has been one of the most important film producers of the 2010s, backing acclaimed films like The Master, Zero Dark Thirty, Her, American Hustle, Foxcatcher, Sausage Party, and 20th Century Women through her company Annapurna Pictures. This year, she relaunched Annapurna as a bona fide mini studio, independently distributing three films: the gritty docudrama Detroit, the Ben Stiller mid-life mini-crisis dramedy Brad’s Status, and the unconventional period romance Professor Marston & the Wonder Women. All three were well received by critics, and all three were box office failures of considerable magnitude. This is the kind of company making the kinds of movies that people who care deeply about movies want desperately to succeed, so one can only hope that Ellison and her team surmount their considerable learning curve quickly.
What’s next? Richard Linklater’s adaptation of the novel Where’d You Go, Bernadette, with Cate Blanchett, on May 11. The company is also set to release Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic Backseat, with Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Sam Rockwell, and Steve Carell; If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of the James Baldwin novel; and The Sister Brothers, a Western starring John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Riz Ahmed.
DRAW: Warner Bros. Pictures
On the one hand, Wonder Woman and It were those rarest of movies: word-of-mouth blockbusters, bringing in over $1.5 billion worldwide between them due more to genuine audience enthusiasm than sheer marketing muscle (though that helped too). Along with Dunkirk, Kong: Skull Island, The LEGO Batman Movie, and Annabelle: Creation, they lifted Warner Bros. Pictures to its biggest year at the domestic box office since 2009. Especially crucial for the studio: Diana Prince single-handedly rescued its ungainly efforts to launch its DC Films unit as a commercial and creative rival to Marvel Studios.
On the other hand, broad comedies CHiPs, The House, and Fist Fight all flatlined, while woefully expensive event movies Geostorm and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword were catastrophic box office bombs, earning just $72.6 million domestically combined. And what should have been its crown jewel release this year — the omnibus superhero spectacular Justice League — will be the lowest grossing film yet in the misbegotten DC cinematic universe. Meanwhile, the next film in the studio’s other major franchise, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, isn’t even opening for another year, and yet the production still managed to dismay many among its fanbase with how director David Yates, producer David Heyman, and J.K. Rowling herself have handled the controversy surrounding Johnny Depp’s continued portrayal of the titular Big Bad.
What’s next? Take a deep breath: The family comedy Paddington 2 (rescued from original distributor the Weinstein Company) on Jan. 12; the Afghanistan war thriller 12 Strong with Chris Hemsworth on Jan. 19; The 15:17 to Paris, Clint Eastwood’s docudrama about the men who thwarted the terrorist attack on a French train in 2015, on Feb. 9; the action comedy Game Night, with Rachel McAdams and Jason Bateman, on Feb. 23; the reboot of Tomb Raider, starring Alicia Vikander, on March 16; Steven Spielberg’s 1980s nostalgia bomb Ready Player One on March 30; the I-can’t-believe-this-is-a-movie videogame adaptation Rampage, with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, on April 20; the back-to-school comedy Life of the Party, with Melissa McCarthy, on May 11; the I-can’t-believe-I-have-to-wait-for-this-movie heist caper Ocean’s 8 on June 8; and the I-really-can’t-believe-this-is-a-movie Tag, about five friends who’ve played an epic game of tag their whole lives, on June 16. PHEW.