Box office tracking is a surprisingly in-depth hobby where forum users predict, and bet on box office performances of new movies and compete in fantasy leagues. It’s fascinating to see what movies end up being popular due to quality, marketing and Oscar buzz amongst other things. Four massive movies came out in the Christmas season to make up for the vacuum left over by the usual Star Wars December release.
First out of the gate came Spider-Man : Into the Spider-Verse which, as I said in my review, was an amazing movie. However, unlike other Spider-Man movies, which in the past have easily grossed about 800 million per instalment, it’s animated. That puts it in a separate field from the others, especially since it had such a unique style of animation, in that it wasn’t similar to the traditional 3D animation style employed by studios like Pixar and Dreamworks. It opened at about 30 million dollars in North America, which is insanely low for a Spider-Man movie (Spider-Man Homecoming had an opening of 114 million in July), though it is a critically acclaimed movie by both critics and audiences, which means it could have some great staying power in the market and make lots more in the coming months. However, any hope Spider-Man had of becoming a massive success was crushed in the next week, when Aquaman, Mary Poppins Returns, and Bumblebee all came out.
Aquaman definitely stole the top spot for the holiday, as it opened at 67 million, and it did great in China, so it’s looking to make a billion worldwide. It worked out because live-action superhero movies are all the craze right now, (5 out of the top 10 grossing movies last year were superhero movies) and it’s been about 3 months since the last one had come out, leaving lots of demand from audiences.
Meanwhile, Mary Poppins Returns and Bumblebee took the heat for Aquaman’s success, since both were slammed at the box office. Mary Poppins was in my opinion, a poorly timed remake as the first came out so long ago that there isn’t really much of a nostalgia factor. Also, the trailers made the plot of the movie look exactly the same as the first, so it had a huge lack of originality tailing it. The only thing that could have truly made this movie a smash hit was a catchy song that kids loved, which is what led to the great success of musicals like Frozen and The Greatest Showman.
Lastly, Bumblebee unfortunately couldn’t shake off the dust from the Transformers movies, even though it was very well received. General audiences are burnt out on Transformers, since the last one was a financial disappointment, so even though the movie was a refreshing change of pace, it simply couldn’t compete as a direct action movie compared to Aquaman and Spider-man, opening at a low 21 million dollars.
The box office may not seem that important at a first glance, but in the end it shows what consumers want, and also highlights the various angles for why a movie might succeed or not. In the end, that’s what the studios care about. So, vote with your wallet!