Ready for the red carpet
Issue: Volume 39 Issue 6: (Nov/Dec 2016)

Ready for the red carpet

By the time this goes to press, we will be nearing the end of the 2016 box office, and studios will be in high gear as awards season takes off. A look at the top-grossing movies for the year thus far definitely says something about audiences’ preferences. They loved animated features, and they surely loved superhero films.

Topping the charts (as of mid-November) are: Finding Dory, The Secret Life of Pets, Zootopia, and Kung Fu Panda 3 in the animation category – and this is pre- Moana release. As for superheroes, Captain America: Civil War, The Deadpool, Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad, Doctor Strange, and X-Men: Apocalypse proved themselves as big earners. Also topping the charts are The Jungle Book, Jason Bourne, Star Trek Beyond, and Ghostbusters.

And there is another trend. This year had a large number of sequels/ prequels and remakes: Alice Through the Looking Glass, Batman v Superman, Ben-Hur, Captain America: Civil War, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Finding Dory, Ghostbusters, Ice Age: Collision Course, Independence Day: Resurgence, Kung Fu Panda 3, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Jason Bourne, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Star Trek Beyond, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, The Jungle Book, The Legend of Tarzan, The Magnificent Seven, and X-Men: Apocalypse were among the more popular.

Many studios believe sequels are better investments than new properties. They have established recognition and predetermined popularity. But a sequel does not always mean guaranteed success. Consider Charlton Heston’s Ben-Hur (1959), which grossed nearly three times more domestically than the 2016 remake.

In contrast, Captain America: Civil War – like its predecessors – ruled the year’s box office, with the latest release sitting in the number two spot (albeit with a month and a half still left in the year and big titles yet to be released). And while the Harry Potter-based Fantastic Beasts was making its debut as of this writing, all indication is that it will be a big fan favorite. The same can be said of the Star Wars anthology film, Rogue One, opening in mid-December.

Similarly, after audiences found a place in their hearts for Nemo in 2003, they found Dory just as lovable this year, as Finding Dory landed in the top spot in the year’s overall box-office take (again, as of mid-November). The live-action The Jungle Book, filmed with virtual backgrounds and digital characters with the exception of Mowgli, repeated the success story of the original film. In the past, Superman and Batman have done well on their own, so it’s no surprise that having them share the screen turned out to be very lucrative in terms of revenue, landing them at number seven thus far.

Needless to say, the box-office success of a movie is not an accurate indication of the film’s visual effects or animation quality. But, it does help when voting time comes around.

The year has not ended yet, however. In this issue, we take a deep dive into the digital work in what is sure to be an animation contender, Moana (see “Navigating Polynesia,” page 8), as well as a visual effects “beast,” Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (see “Magical by Design,” page 16). Look for Rogue One coverage in the next issue.