Tag Archives: Blockbuster

Dunkirk: Global Success Amidst the Summer Movie Drought

This summer, Christopher Nolan released his interpretation of the 1940 Battle of Dunkirk in France through his movie experience of Dunkirk. There is no shortage of war movies, and the Battle of Dunkirk itself has had numerous movies already, but Dunkirk shone through. In a summer that was a flop for many major studios, Dunkirk managed to be the 5th highest domestic grossing film of the summer. So, what makes this movie stand out from the others?

movieOn the opening weekend of July 21, Dunkirk got $50.5 million in 3,720 domestic theatres. With only a budget of $100 million, Dunkirk made back its money domestically by the second weekend. Released mid-July, it was a surprise to many about Nolan’s choice of a mid-summer release, especially if Nolan wanted this movie to be considered for an Oscar, as many Academy Award contenders like to open in the winter months. This timing definitely did work in Dunkirk’s favor, as Dunkirk released before other movies that would be possible competition for theatre space, and the movie is still being shown in theatres 16 weeks after release.

Similarly it intrigued people that they would release such a heavy topic film for the summer, when most would think of summer movies as light and happy films. But Sue Kroll, the Warner Brothers President of Worldwide Marketing and Distribution, explained that “By dating it in the summer, it’s declarative. It positions the movie as a big cinematic experience.” The combination of having a summer film, along with the fact that Nolan didn’t want this film to be a niche movie, made it so this movie appealed to more of the casual moviegoer. It wasn’t targeted as an award-winning movie; it was targeted to be a film for everyone to experience.

While Dunkirk was succeeding, and rising to the top in the United States, it also exploded globally. Distributed to 41 other countries, the total foreign gross was $337 million. It was expected to automatically do well in the United Kingdom, as the characters of the film were from the United Kingdom, and it was received very well there with a total of $73 million. Dunkirk also did very well in China with a gross of $51 million.

Another factor with Dunkirk that made it apply to a wider audience than most war movies is the way in which they told the story. The typical American way of storytelling, like in most war movies, usually involves an individual or group of people who bond together, go into a major fight, and come out the other side. There’s a distinct progression of problem and resolution.

Dunkirk morphed this aspect of storytelling by dividing the story into three sections that are happening at different times but are weaved together throughout the film. One section happens over the time of a month and follows a small group of soldiers on the land. Another section happens over the span of a day with civilians out on the sea trying to help the war in whatever way they can. And then finally there is a section that happens over the course of an hour in the air with a pilot.

movieThis alone makes Dunkirk stand out from other movies, and I believe that this kind of telling a story has a more global appeal. Foreign films are typically more focused on the experience and emotion that a movie can make you feel, and especially with a topic such as war; there usually aren’t many happy, wrapped-up resolutions. You don’t even know one of the central character’s name, but throughout the movie, you feel the intensity and severity that this particular soldier is going through.

While many preemptively predicted that while this film would do fine due to the fact that it was a Nolan film, it was not expected to do great. But now many critics are predicting that Dunkirk will be up for a number of Oscars, including the possibility of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Mark Rylance), Best Screenplay, and Best Original Score.

movieOn the same note, Dunkirk was able to obtain a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, which not a lot of movies these days are able to hold. Nolan was able to fascinate both critics and audience members, and it is probably because he was able to make the movie simplistic and relatable while also not compromising the complex emotion of the film.

We will have to see in March next year if Dunkirk will be able to claim a couple major Academy Awards against its competition. But Dunkirk was able to understand the power of global distribution and harness the market worldwide in 42 countries, making a wonderful profit and impressing audiences everywhere with its original take on storytelling and war.

-Rachel Renes

The SOLO Film to Keep in the Star Wars Tradition

Disney is producing a Han Solo standalone movie? What’s next, a Jabba the Hutt film? Actually I think I might have spoke too soon on that last one… Regardless, in 2015 Disney announced their expansive slate of films through 2020, which included the “Solo” pic along with the likes of two more saga films and the first Star Wars standalone film in Rogue One. It was a bit of a risky move to dive into a realm outside of the saga stories, but Rogue One showed it could be possible, and financially successful. Each of the announced films were slated to be released in December of their respective year, all except for one of them. The then untitled Han Solo film was set to be released in May 25th of 2018, making it the lone, or “solo,” Disney produced film to keep with the Star Wars summer tradition.

Star Wars Since May of 1977, the Star Wars franchise had become famous for its summer releases and for paving the way of the blockbuster movie along with Spielberg’s Jaws. Each film in the franchise after was released around the third or fourth weekend in May, until The Force Awakens broke the tradition. Since Disney has been releasing all their new films in the month of December and carving a new tradition, why break from that and keep Han Solo in May?

One of the reasons could be that since Han Solo is a classic character that harkens back to the original trilogy film, all of which had summer releases. Therefore, Disney might want to replicate that traditional feel with this iconic character. Another reason could be that Disney might want to avoid the bloated winter holiday movie season slated in 2018. Paramount is releasing a Transformers spinoff film titled Bumblebee in December, Warner Brothers has Aquaman , and Disney themselves plans to release the long awaited sequel Mary Poppins Returns as well. December of 2018 definitely seems like a month to avoid at this point. Yet again, is May all that great of a month to release the film in either?

Fast forward from 2015 to 2017 and the now titled Solo: A Star Wars Story is well into production… that is until directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were suddenly fired over creative differences with Disney. Subsequently, Hollywood veteran Ron Howard was brought in to rein in the film, and Disney insisted the film would maintain its May 25th, 2018 release date despite the ongoing mess. Is this really a good idea though? A film of this caliber should take all the time it needs, and I’m not so sure having directors fired mid-production paints a picture that the film is in good shape. In addition to behind the scene trouble, there remains a large and potentially self-cannibalizing elephant in the room.

Star Wars Disney and Marvel have had plans in place since late 2014 to release the highly coveted third installment in the Avengers franchise in May of 2018, just three weeks before Solo. Will this create unwanted competition between two in house franchises? In its third weekend of release, around the same time frame that Solo will be released, Avengers was still making around 36 million dollars at the box office, and the sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron was making 28 million dollars. Could releasing Solo in that time period potentially step on the toes of an expected financial blockbuster in Infinity War? I’m not so sure it won’t, but I trust the number crunchers at Disney know what they are doing.

Solo has put itself in quite the dilemma. Despite all the shake ups behind the scenes of its production, the film is set on being rushed to release in May of 2018. Unfortunately, there is not many other windows in which it can be released as it really can’t follow the new Disney tradition of December releases because of the expanding Hollywood winter season. Its current release in May could potentially cannibalize its companion in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What to do, what to do… I guess we’ll just wait for May and see what happens.

-Tristan Bennett

Is La La Land Singing for Musical Movies?: The Return of the Modern Movie Musical

Hollywood has a long-standing history with the movie musical, the golden age of musical theatre movies gave us stars such as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Yet, for the last several decades, the large-budget, over-the-top musical movies had fallen out of Hollywood’s good graces. Rewire did a great in-depth look of the historical context of Hollywood’s musical love affair.

La la landLa La Land’s success definitely brought the old-fashioned Hollywood musical back into the spotlight, but with the huge popularity of Broadway shows like Hamilton it will be far from the last musical movie adapted from the stage or otherwise to come to the big screen in the next few years. In fact, Aladdin, American Idiot and more are in some stage of production according to an article in Playbill.

Hollywood is also tapping into some of Broadway’s hottest talent to act direct and more for these new movie musicals. To name a few, Ben Pasek and Justin Paul were tapped to compose for the ode to the Hollywood musical La La Land, who currently have a Tony award winning musical Dear Evan Hansen currently running on Broadway. The pair also composed for the upcoming release The Greatest Showman based on the life of PT Barnum, as well as collaborating on some new songs for the live action version of Aladdin.

Lin-Manuel Miranda is another perfect example of this, getting in with Disney via Moana, has now composed for the upcoming Mary Poppins returns which he also starred in beside Emily Blunt, as well as additional forthcoming projects from Disney animation. Needless to say, he’s kept plenty busy since leaving Hamilton in July of 2016.

Damien Chazelle also has everything coming up roses for him since the success of La La Land, since he landed a deal to direct several episodes of Netflix’s new musical series The Eddy. The series will center around a nightclub, the house band, and its owner. On top of directing Chazelle will also be executive producing according to Variety.

The series marks a first for Netflix being its first venture into musical theatre of any sort for its original programming. This could mark a new era into musical theatre being made by streaming services instead of exclusively broadcast networks and large studios.

Musical theatre within television has seen much less of a downturn, seemingly being much more steady over the years. Shows like Glee definitely brought it back into the limelight, but the phenomenon of the musical episode was definitely popular long before. With shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer tackling it as early as the late 90s to 2000s. Many shows since have gone on to do one off musical episodes, including Grey’s Anatomy, Once Upon a Time, and The Flash being a few in more recent years.

La la landShows like Crazy-Ex Girlfriend have gone so far as to build their entire premise around it, and have numerous awards including Emmys and Golden Globes to show for it. While not always the most highly rated, it’s critic’s darling status kept it around for a third season. Which will premiere on the CW on October 13th on the CW network.

Overall, the fate of the Hollywood movie musical seems sealed, with musical theatre reaching younger audiences and Broadway being out of fairly reach for most teenagers. Hollywood movie musicals may land in a sweet spot for many of the newest generation of musical theatre fans, provided Hollywood can cater to the hip crowd.

-Taylor Lien

Star Wars: The Power of Nostalgia

Ready or not, Star Wars is back. Just around the corner, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is ready to blast into theaters across the world with an unparalleled amount of anticipation this December. Following Episodes I, II and III, Disney looks to smash all box-office records with its first blockbuster title since acquiring the Star Wars franchise.

Star Wars Force AwakensThe Force Awakens is relying heavily on nostalgia, taking place after the events of the beloved original Star Wars trilogy. The original cast is returning, and with it a multitude of rabid fans, both young and old. Check out this record-breaking trailer with over 63 million views in less than 6 months.

While already breaking some records in the trailer-watching department, will The Force Awakens actually break box-office records? In this article from cinemablend.com, box-office analyst Phil Contrino makes the bold prediction,”It’s in the same spot as Avatar, which played and played and played. Force Awakens will hit $1 billion without blinking. If it’s really good, it could cross $2 billion.”

Let’s take a look at some past box-office numbers. Check out these statistics from boxofficemojo.com, and pay close attention to the overall and weekend records. Avatar holds the overall records of both domestic and worldwide releases. Avatar made over $2.7 billion worldwide over its theater-lifespan. In 2009, Avatar was released on December 18, the same date as The Force Awakens. Knowing this, we now can say that the release date is prime-time for record-breaking. Jurassic World, which was released earlier this year, holds the domestic and worldwide weekend record with over $524 million worldwide. These are astronomical numbers for the new Star Wars film to take on, but with the bases loaded, everything points to a grand-slam in the film industry.

So now that we see how successful it could be, let’s take a look at why many think it will reach that success.Keep in mind that I am not an expert in the film industry. I have, however, come up with my own reason why I think The Force Awakens will indeed be successful enough to break the box-office records. My reasoning boils down to a simple, elegant formula:

Fresh Elements + Nostalgia = Excitement

The higher the excitement, the more people will flock to see the movie, multiple times in many cases. It is already easy to see the the excitement in articles like this from Variety.com.

The Force Awakens PosterThe fresh elements that are working for the upcoming film include new characters, new environments, new plot lines and a new director in J.J. Abrams. Abrams has directed a number of successful movies and TV shows, including the two newest Star Trek movies, and two Mission Impossible films, and the TV series Lost. He is experienced in the Action-Adventure and Sci-Fi genres. Star Wars fits J.J. Abrams like a glove, and I think that even the most loyal Star Wars fans will not be disappointed in the final product.

While new elements will attract some viewers (people like it fresh), the real power behind this film is nostalgia. Returning elements from the original Star Wars trilogy from the late 70’s/early 80’s make this is possibly the most anticipated movie of all time. This is nostalgia at its finest. Older generations will come to see the next film in the franchise because they watch it as a child. Younger generations will come to see it because they have watched it as a child. The Force Awakens does not target a specific audience because it does not need to. Star Wars appeals to everyone, regardless of age, gender, class, race or religion.

Many of the original cast returns for The Force Awakens, including Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, Harrison Ford as Han Solo, Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca, Anthony Daniels as C-3PO and Kenny Baker as R2-D2. They have all aged considerably, but we love it. Also making a return at age 83 is John Williams to conduct the musical score, who is just as beloved as any character in the series.

Force Awakens Chewy SoloThe combination of the young and the old has resulted in unparalleled excitement, the likes of which the film industry has never seen. Will the record-breaking excitement turn into record-breaking success? Only time will tell.

Do you think this movie will break box office records? Is nostalgia really the driving force behind the excitement, or do you think it’s something else?

Seth Ebling

The Film is Strong with This One: Star Wars Episode VII Film and Tech

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, George Lucas created a film franchise that revolutionized and redefined the entire science fiction genre as we know it. Star Wars introduced a new level of technology and special effects integration never seen before in film. With the acquisition of the franchise by Disney, there is even more innovation to be made, and that will start with Episode VII, due out in December, 2015.

starwarsDirector J.J Abrams (Star Trek, Mission Impossible III) has recently revealed that he is shooting the movie with 35mm film instead of the latest industry standard of digital.

This is not surprising of Abrams, who has yet to produce a film digitally, and believes that film is a valuable art that produces images that no digital rendering can replicate. Along with the 35mm film, leaked photos have shown the use of IMAX cameras, which would demonstrate the true versatility of Episode VII.

starwars2One can only imagine the amount of special effects and green screen action that will be present as well, so maybe a breath of fresh air from the digital world would be a tasteful addition to the film. One of the things that the Star Wars franchise has always been proud of is the eclectic sense of costuming and prop design that is most certainly extensive by nature of the science fiction genre. Taking it back to the original 1977 method of models and elaborate set designs, information and pictures have shown that Episode VII will not rely on strictly green screen, which while most certainly will be used, will not be the prime motivator to many movies that have been produced in the last decade.

With very little information released about the 2015 sci-fi epic, fans are left to only speculate the details of story and the overall quality of the Disney project. It is hard to believe many fans are even left after the very negatively criticized prequel trilogy came out, leaving many hardcore fans left to feel betrayed in a sense with characters like the CGI-monstrosity that is Jar-Jar Binks. (Wired.com has a great article looking at the technology and disappointments to this particular subject.)

When the series ended in 2005 with Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, the fans that remained felt closure. A short lived closure that was interrupted when Disney acquired the series in 2012. But fans have always complained about any minor change, such as the digital re-releases of the films in 1996. If anything, the creators are most likely looking towards a new generation of Star Wars to take the reins. A forgiving new generation who is open to loose interpretation and varying special effects. This being said, J.J. Abrams and everybody involved will do everything within their reach not to mess up this film as well.

So with Star Wars Episode VII set for a December 2015 release, will the film stay true to the original trilogy ideas? Do you agree with J.J. Abrams’ choice of filming in 35mm film as opposed to digital? These are the questions that we can’t help but ask ourselves as such a sacred film franchise is put into new hands into a new generation of filmmakers.

Mike Lieb

The Oscars and Movie Box Office

What is the most exciting time in Hollywood?

If you guessed January and February, you are correct!  After the first of the year, a series of awards are giving to recognize the best movies and performances of the previous year. Some of these awards are the Golden Globes, Producers Guild, Writers Guild, The Los Angeles Film Critics Awards, British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), and the Academy Awards, also known as The Oscars.


Being nominated for any of these awards is prestigious, and winning is even better.  For movie studios, however, the award season can be less about winning and more about maximizing their profit margins.  There is a buzz created by all of the nominations, and studios can use that buzz to help promote a film and appeal to more moviegoers.  Winning an Academy Award, of course, represent the height of success for any movie.

The Oscar nominations are announced the month before the ceremony and many studios go into full campaign mode to maximize the excitement surrounding the awards. There are new commercials launched that focus on how many and what kind of Oscar nominations a movie has received. This is an attempt to entice viewers to see the movie because it is being recognized as one of the best films of the year for one reason or another.  After nominations are announced studios will also try to get interviews and photo shoots set up with the actors in the film as a way to get some free publicity.

Does all of the award buzz really pay off for the studios?  Box office results indicate that, yes, there really is something to the excitement.  According to BoxOfficeMojo.com, The Artist had a small four-theater release around Thanksgiving and was slowly gaining momentum, but after being nominated for an Oscar it jumped up to over six hundred screens.

The publicity around the awards can be important for independent films that are nominated.  Many of them have small advertising budgets and being nominated puts a film on the map.  The Descendants, from Fox Searchlight, was another movie that had a small opening and was able to pick up momentum through the award season.

The Oscars had an interesting effect on the movie The Hurt Locker.  Originally released in June of 2009, The Hurt Locker opened for twenty-one weeks on 535 screens and grossed only $12.5 million.  After winning the Oscar for best picture in 2010, the movie was re-released for two weeks on 350 screens and grossed another $4 million, about 30% more!

The Artist, The Descendants, and The Hurt Locker are all examples of films that have received a boost from award nominations and wins.  The Academy Award is the most important award given during the season because of the number of filmmakers, tradespeople and actors voting for the winners.  According to the chart on BoxOfficeQuant.com, there is a significant jump in movie revenue at the start of the award season, and it continues through the Oscars Award ceremony.  All of the award excitement can pay off for some movies in a big way, with box office boost and the long-term claim to fame.

Amelia M. Torre

Summer Blockbuster Report –> Bigger Budgets = Smaller Box Office?!

Hollywood is rethinking their love of big budget summer blockbusters, and is downsizing their multi-million dollar budgets to adjust to the recessionary economic times.

Ryan Nakashima discusses how Hollywood has put two big budget films on hold, the film version of Stephen Kings “The Dark Tower” series as well as Disney’s “The Lone Ranger” which reported had a budget skyrocketing past $250 mil.

These changes are happening in response to this past summer, which produced some less than stellar box office numbers, including Universal’s “Cowboys and Aliens” which grossed $129 mil in worldwide tickets sales, but was produced for more than $163 mil.  There was also Warner Brothers’ “Green Lantern” which was produced for $200 mil according to the website boxofficemojo.com, however it made little revenue in the U.S., only grossing $120 mil.

Studios need to start realizing that just because a film has an astronomical budget, does not guarantee packed theaters across the country.


A surprise summer hit was the character driven film, “The Help” starting Emma Stone and based on a best selling novel of the same name. “The Help” was made for only $25 mil and has grossed more than $160 mil to date in the United States. A more action driven summer blockbuster was J.J. Abrams, “Super 8” by Paramount. Made for a reasonable $50 mil the film grossed more than $130 mil at the box-office in the states, matching that tally in other countries.

What do these movies have that the others do not? Well for one thing they both have positive reviews, with 75% positive and 82% positive reviews on the website rottentomatoes.com.  More importantly they have characters that audiences care about. When you put big money in a strong character film along with dazzling visuals and a fantastic story, you may be lucky enough to strike box-office gold.

Does this combination sound familiar? Well one director in Hollywood has this combination down to a science, his name: James Cameron.  He has directed two of the biggest films in history. “Titanic” was produced for about $200 mil and it grossed $600 mil domestically, and 2009’s “Avatar,” made for $250 mil, went on to gross $2.7 billion, yes that’s BILLION in the box-office worldwide.

So what have we learned? You need more than just special effects and explosions to get people into the theaters, however that still has not stopped producers from making “Transformers 3.” Audiences are starting to demand a little substance in their Hollywood blockbuster.  And in this day in age where “Netflix” and online streaming is becoming the norm, Hollywood better start adjusting fast, or else there maybe more poorly performing “Green Lanterns” in their future.

-Steven Colonero