What shall we remember from this summer of movies? Will it be the epic flops? There are so many from which to choose. The grand failure of Fantastic Four and the even grander failure of Miles Teller on the press tour. The poor casting choices in Aloha overshadowing what turned out to be an easily overshadow-able movie. The whatever one would call Pixels. What’s that — you’ve never head of Pixels? No, not Pixar. Pixels. Not ringing any bells, huh? Well, you’re not the only one.
Yet in spite of these high-profile low-earners, the summer of 2015 was quite a successful one at the box office: The second-biggest in history.
As Variety reports, domestic ticket sales reached $4.48 billion, a 10.4 percent improvement over the worst-in-seven-years earnings of 2014. Industry estimates put between 518 million and 530 million people at the movies this summer, up from 495 last summer. Helping boost these numbers? A later-than-usual Labor Day weekend, which added seven days to the typical summer stretch.
Big victors, unsurprisingly, are sequels and comic book flicks. Minions made over a billion dollars worldwide. So did Jurassic World, demonstrating, as Guardians of the Galaxy did before it, that Chris Pratt is a star, thereby validating the long-held opinion of Parks and Recreation fans everywhere. Avengers: Age of Ultron also crossed the billion dollar mark. If you are tired of these sorts of movies monopolizing the multiplexes, you better re-up your Netflix subscription because they’re not going anywhere.
But the real champions of the season are Disney and Universal; together, the two studios are responsible for 60 percent of the market share. One more time: More than half of the profits from this summer’s movie season were generated by only two studios. Universal Pictures doesn’t even have a superhero in its stable, unless you count Pratt and/or the dinosaurs, and, as Mark Harris noted at Grantland earlier this summer, “the rest of the studio’s lineup is striking in its attention to women and people of color.”
The other Universal offerings from the summer include the Amy Schumer vehicle Trainwreck, a rated R comedy starring and written by a woman, Fifty Shades of Grey, Straight Outta Compton, Pitch Perfect 2, and Furious 7, which has a more ethnically diverse cast than any major franchise. Those diverse movies reeled in diverse audiences and a considerable amount of cash; even excluding Furious, those Universal movies grossed almost $1.1 billion worldwide.
Better news, for the less-conventionally-inclined, is the success of Inside Out, an original story that not only boasts two female protagonists (Amy Poehler’s Joy and Phyllis Smith’s Sadness) but also takes place entirely within the mind of a 12-year-old girl (Riley, voiced by Kaitlyn Dias) and treats the emotional life of a young girl as an action-packed adventurescape.
Also a cause for celebration in the (still) mostly-white, mostly-male Hollywood: Pitch Perfect 2 — written by Kay Cannon, directed by Elizabeth Banks, stuffed with female stars — was the fifth-highest grossing movie domestically, raking in $183.8 million; feminist revenge fantasy Mad Max: Fury Road was the ninth-highest, with $153 million domestic; and Straight Outta Compton, fueled by a social media campaign so ubiquitous you’re already sick of it (“Straight Outta ____” Instagrams for everyone!) rounded out the top ten with a $150 million domestic gross.