Summer Of Universal

This summer has been an amazing few months for one studio in particular. Unviersal. The studio run by Comcast Corporation (which also owns NBC.) Now, this isnt usual for this studio. In fact, it normally isn’t even in the running. The big winners generally tend to be Disney, Warner Brothers, and sometimes Paramount (Mission Impossible and Transformers films.)
And yet, somehow, this summer, everything just went right for Universal. They had four movies which passed the 100 million mark. Now, if a movie is made for a budget of multiple hundred millions, like most superhero movies are, than passing 100 million means nothing. But in the case of something like Striaght Outta Compton, it is huge. Compton was made on a shoe-string budget of just 28 million. And it has already made more than 130 million. And that movie is the weakest performing of the four films Universal dominated the summer with.
Another movie was Minions. Now, I have no idea how good or how bad this movie was (personally, after loving the characters in Despicable Me, I still don’t see how you can make an entire movie around them,) but how the movie performed is quite remarkable. It has already made 320 million in the U.S. and between 600 – 900 million overseas. That means it is crossing the 1 billion mark. It’s in good company, because Universal had two other movies that crossed the 1 billion mark this summer too.
Those movies are Furious 7 and Jurassic World. Furious 7 has made more than 1 billion worlwide. Now that’s pretty inredible for the seventh movie in a series. This is one of the only series’ around that gets more popular as it goes on and as they turn out more sequels (the Mission Impossible films might be another example.) It’s amazing how this all happened, because the first Fast and Furious was good, but nothing special. And then there were a whole bunch of sequels that sucked. But when Vin Diesel and Paul Walker realied that their careers were petering out, and came back to the franchise suddenly it found a whole new audience. The fifth movie, where th Rock first enterred into the series, was the biggest and the best. Since that film, these movies have been generating massive amounts of money.
In addition to all of this, there is the movie that was the biggest hit of the summer. In fact, it was the biggest movie since Avatar, back in 2009. The movie is Jurassic World. It set records. Right now it is the third highest grossing film of all time, beating out The Avengers for that spot. Unbelieveable. The movie made over a billion worldwide and that is before even looking at the 640 million it made in the U.S. The only two movies in history to gross more are Avatar and Titanic (both movies by director James Cameron.)
There are a lot of factors that contribute to all of this success, and one of the biggest ones is Universal really figuring out what people would want to see. In the case of Compton, the movies placement in August really helped. It was the sleeper movie that everyone was talking about in that final month of the summer. If it had come out the same weekend as the big budget superhero films, like Ant Man, I’m sure it would have gotten swallowed up. But studios don’t take advantage of August. They generally tend to let that month just slip by, thinking there is no hope for any film that is released there. And now two years in a row one of the biggest hits of the summer was released in this month (last year it was Guardians of the Galaxy.)
In the case of Furious 7, I suppose Paul Walker’s death helped make people curious in the same way that Heath Ledgers’ death added a little more momentum to The Dark Knight. Furious 7 was not very good. And nothing about it made it stand out over the last two films in the series, except for Walker’s death and now bringing in Jason Statham. I’m glad the movies do so well, but just wish they were a little better. This seventh film was smart enough to bring in amazing Thai martial artist Tony Jaa, but then dumb enough to barely use him at all.
Perhaps the most interesting pattern of all is one that effected Jurassic World. The pattern is to bring in these young, unknown filmmakers who had one indie hit and are totally unproven. Jurassic World marks the third time it has been done. That movies director was Colin Trevarrow, who is now the biggest thing in Hollywood. Before Jurassic World, he made Safety Not Guaranteed, a tiny indie movie that was just okay. Last summer, we got Godzilla from Gareth Edwards, a man whose only previous credit was a small movie called Monsters. And then there was the biggest bomb of this summer, Fantastic Four. The director, Josh Trank, was really to blame here, being a total jerk to everyone on set, from Miles Teller (who he nearly got into a fist fight with,) to Kate Mara (who he treated like garbage.) I know the studio, Fox, pulled some of Trank’s action scenes out of the movie and also completely changed his ending, but his actions were definitely in large part to blame as well. The man acted in a totally unprofessional manner, destroying the home of the tenant who had rented him a house to stay in during the movie’s shoot. The point is, when you hire these young guys who are totally unproven, you just never know. The pattern is interesting (Edwards and Trevarow are both now directing upcoming Star Wars movies, and Trank was slated to do the same until Disney heard about his behavous and cut him loose.) As far as this new trend of hiring these directors goes, right now it’s 2 for 3.


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