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Weekend Movie Takeaway: Summer Recap

September 3, 2019
2 min read time

The final weekend of summer didn't offer a lot of surprises at the box office, but it does give us a chance to look back at the macro takeaways from what has long stood as the most intensely scrutinised movie-going period of the year.

The Gerard Butler action threequel, Angel Has Fallen, maintained its top position at the box office over the Labor Day weekend with a $14.5 million take from the Friday – Monday period. While remarkably low for a the top spot, it speaks to the degree of enduring nostalgia for the kind of R-rated action movies that used to dominate summer.

The most likely result will be another Fallen movie, but with any luck, it might also make the studios a little less trepidatious about investing in these kinds of action films.

Good Boys continued to solidify its sleeper-hit status, taking second place in its third weekend in theaters with a $11.6 million four-day take, bringing its total to a noteworthy $58.6 million. Although it's unlikely to inspire many more R-rated comedies starring twelve-year-olds, the fact that the audience is continuing to show up for adult-targeted comedies is great for storytelling.

Like R-rated action movies, big, brash comedies used to be much more of a summer staple than they are these days. Here’s hoping the surprise success of Good Boys will lead to more of them.

With no new films opening to significant numbers, the rest of the long weekend’s top ten mostly reflected the previous week's take. There's some storytelling encouragement to be found in the continued relative success of horror semi-anthology Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark, and the dark comedy thriller Ready Or Not, which has already formed a substantial cult following. We often lament the lack of medium-sized movies in this space, and the success of these two bodes well for films with similar storytelling ambition. 

It is also worth noting that Spider-Man: Far From Home re-entered the top ten, thanks to a new "special edition" version entering a large number of theaters.

Special editions have long been perceived as something for the secondary/home entertainment life of a movie. And while special editions (or so-called director's cuts) playing theaters isn't unprecedented (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Blade Runner, The Exorcist and Apocalypse Now are four noteworthy examples), it rarely happens this quickly after the initial release.

The apparent success of the Spider-Man: Far From Home special edition (not to mention the Avengers: Endgame re-release featuring a Far From Home teaser at the end) could see further instances of this sort of presentation. What does this mean for storytelling? The potential to result in footage or scenes being deliberately left out of initial releases in order to re-insert them into a special edition. Which isn't great for narrative purity.

Stepping back to look at summer as a whole, there appears to be three main takeaways: Disney. Disney. Disney.

With the exception of Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood—the conversation around which is continuing thanks to a global rollout of the film over the last few weeks—pretty much all the major hits came from the House of Mouse.

Nobody is saying these are bad stories, or bad movies. Disney is unquestionably good at what it does. But the degree of consolidation in popular storytelling is worrying on a number of levels. Especially when you consider that so-called “live action” Lion King remake/remounting was one of their biggest hits.

Disney's summer box office take of 2.2 billion was more than three times the total of the next biggest haul (Sony with $700 million), which is a ringing endorsement of Disney's commercial strategy. Which, in turn, means they are unlikely to stop mining their own intellectual property any time soon.

The natural extrapolation of that is the death of original stories in a medium that relies on fresh narrative blood to stay vital. It doesn't feel very sustainable in the long term, from a storytelling perspective.

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