Summer Movies And Big Studios: Which Came Out On Top?

It's Labor Day and the official end of the summer movie season. As usual there have been some highs and lows, some sleepers, blockbusters, and disappointments. In the case of the entire month of August it was one long shit show, ending with two of the worst weekends in box office history. But before we turn the corner away from the summer and towards the festival/awards season, let's look back at the numbers to see which of the major studios brought the most heat.

1. Disney- $1.99B

Releases: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Cars 3, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

This one will shock absolutely nobody. Disney only had three movies hit this summer but that's all they'll ever really need when they have the most dominant franchises. Guardian of the Galaxy Vol. 2 killed it once again with $863M, nearly $100M more than its predecessor. And while Pirates 5 underperformed overall compared to the earlier movies, its $792M worldwide is nothing to sneeze at. We may not see a Pirates 6 for a few years, but so what? Johnny Depp can wait a while for that next check. Cars 3's $343M is also a low for Pixar's least-appreciated franchise, but like everything Disney does it's all about merchandising dollars and those numbers must be incalculable.

2. Warner Bros.- $1.7B

Releases: Wonder Woman, Annabelle: Creation, Dunkirk, The House, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Obviously this summer has been all about Wonder Woman, and it goes far beyond the $813M the film has earned and continues to rake in. More importantly it has set the studio's floundering DCEU on the right track, and that could pay off even bigger in a couple of months with Justice League and next year with Aquaman. There were other successes, too, in the form of Christopher Nolan's WWII film, Dunkirk, which has amassed $413M so far. I look at that as a huge win, because war movies don't normally do that well in the summer. But then, war movies don't normally have Nolan's name attached. Annabelle: Creation was another small-budget, big box office smash, which helped mitigate flops like The House and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.

3. Universal- $1.6B

Releases: Despicable Me 3, Atomic Blonde, Girls Trip, The Mummy

Quietly, Universal had the best success rate of all the major studios. They had four movies over the popcorn season and all of them found an audience, whether it was here or abroad. Of course, the world loves those banana-loving yellow minions and Despicable Me 3, which continues to do well at the box office, has $994M making it the #1 movie of the summer That's to be expected, though; what wasn't on anybody's radar was the $126M from $19M R-rated comedy, Girls Trip. Every studio exec in the country wants that rate of return. The Mummy may have bombed here but the Tom Cruise actioner cleaned up overseas on its way to $400M, perhaps saving their Dark Universe. And while I remain upset Atomic Blonde didn't do better, $90M isn't so bad for the $30M film.

4. Sony Pictures- $1.2B

Releases: Spider-Man: Homecoming, Baby Driver, Rough Night, The Emoji Movie, The Dark Tower

Sony's been something of a laughingstock the last few years, for the way they blew it with The Amazing Spider-Man, and then their desperate attempts to find other franchises. Well, they had the last laugh by joining with  Marvel for Spider-Man: Homecoming, reaping the benefits/profits ($747M) of Marvel's creative genius. They also found an original smash in Edgar Wright's Baby Driver, which was boosted by word-of-mouth to $208M. Here's hoping Sony doesn't stretch too far on a sequel for that one. Just take the win and quit while ahead! Not everything worked out, of course. The Dark Tower eked its way to $101M but that's obviously not what Sony was hoping for. You can put all of their ambitious multi-platform plans to bed now. Rough Night deserved better than the $46M it was barely able to get, and The Emoji Movie...well, $160M isn't bad but the reviews were harsh. It may still produce a sequel so...¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

5. 20th Century Fox- $800M

Releases: War for the Planet of the Apes, Alien: Covenant, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, Captain Underpants, Snatched

Okay, things aren't so good at this end of the list. 20th Century Fox didn't have the powerhouse movies of the other studios, but what they did have failed to perform as expected. War for the Planet of the Apes had some of the best reviews of the summer, but at only $366M worldwide it's the lowest-grossing of the trilogy by far. The same goes for Ridley Scott's Alien: Covenant, the film that was supposed to make up for Prometheus' middling reviews and box office. But the audience didn't come back and the sequel made $233M, which is even less. The Goldie Hawn/Amy Schumer R-rated comedy Snatched did alright with $60M, but Captain Underpants was an animated misfire at $101M and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul's $39M was the worst of the series. And it was a terrible movie.

6. Paramount- $781M

Releases: Transformers: The Last Knight, Baywatch

The only reason I didn't put Paramount ahead of Fox is that they only had two movies this summer, and both got ripped, even though I thought Baywatch was pretty funny. The beach comedy rode a strong international wave to $177M, which isn't too bad. I think Dwayne Johnson's rep as "Franchise Viagra" has taken another hit, but I'm not sure it would have done even this well without him. And it's clear audiences have worn out on Michael Bay's Transformers movies, with the latest one only earning $604M when previous films easily broke $1B. What we don't know is if the the franchise is dead or just in need of a fresh take. I guess we'll find out when Bumblebee opens next year.