From 'Avengers' to 'X-Men,' 'Hobbs' to 'Hollywood,' here are the 2019 summer box-office winners and losers

Ethan Alter
Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
Hobbs & Shaw, Avengers: Endgame and Godzilla: King of the Monsters. (Photo: Universal Studios; Marvel/Disney; Warner Bros.)

One day, the Walt Disney Company will be tired of winning... but it is not this day. With the summer movie season winding down, the Mouse House is standing tall, and largely alone, at the box office. The studio’s entire slate of summer blockbusters — Aladdin, Avengers: Endgame, The Lion King and Toy Story 4 — are all among the top 10 earners of 2019 so far, and it seems unlikely that they’ll be forced out before the end of the year. Even though Disney is the reigning champ, the season had its other success stories, as well as some high-profile failures. Here’s Yahoo Entertainment’s recap of the summer’s winners and losers.

Winner: Mighty Marvel Studios

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in Avengers: Endgame. (Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / Marvel Studios / courtesy Everett Collection)

Avengers: Endgame — the culmination of Marvel’s three-phase, 23-film master plan — isn’t just the highest-grossing movie of 2019: It’s also the highest-grossing movie of all time, officially slipping by James Cameron’s Avatar in July with a global total gross that’s closing in on $2.8 billion. While Marvel’s colorful heroes are generally mightiest when they’re together, both Captain Marvel and Spider-Man crossed the billion-dollar mark with their solo adventures. (Of course, future Spidey movies may only line the pockets of Sony Pictures.) They did it, Mr. Stark!

Loser: Dark Phoenix leads a group of 20th Century Fox flops

Sophie Turner as Jean Grey in Dark Phoenix. (Photo: Doane Gregory/ Marvel / 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved. /courtesy Everett Collection)

This is the way Fox’s X-Men franchise ends: not with a bang, but with a whimper. Simon Kinberg’s saga-capper, Dark Phoenixsurvived extensive reshoots and editing room changes to die a quick box-office death, with a franchise-worst domestic gross of $65 million. But it wasn’t the only Fox movie to bring down the bottom line of the studio’s new owners at Disney: Stuber and The Art of Racing in the Rain each earned only $22 million in theaters. The lone bright spot on Fox’s summertime slate was the smaller-budgeted faith-based movie Breakthrough, which crossed the $50 million mark.

Winner: Whether animated or “live action,” Disney toons are tops

We may not have seen an elephant fly at the box office when Tim Burton’s live-action redo of the controversial Disney classic Dumbo hit theaters in March, but the Mouse House’s updates of Aladdin and The Lion King both soared, even in the face of mixed reviews. With more than $500 million in the domestic bank ($1.5 billion around the world), Jon Favreau’s photorealistic retelling of Simba’s journey to Pride Rock’s throne is the second-highest grossing movie of 2019. Guy Ritchie’s streetwise hero Aladdin isn’t far behind at $350 million domestic ($1.04 billion worldwide), already spawning sequel talk. Speaking of sequels, Toy Story 4, is sitting pretty at $427 million domestic ($1.03 billion worldwide). At this rate, it won’t be long before we get a “live-action” version of Woody and Buzz’s adventures.

Loser: Families are avoiding non-Disney family fare

Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish lent their voices to The Secret Life of Pets 2. (Photo: Universal / Courtesy Everett Collection)

Disney has always been the first name in family entertainment, but in the summer of 2019 it was practically the only name. Uglydolls, A Dog’s Journey, The Angry Birds Movie 2 and Dora and the Lost City of Gold were just some of the kid-oriented pictures that failed to woo kids and their parents away from multiple viewings of Avengers: Endgame, The Lion King and Toy Story 4. Even Disney’s closest competitor, Illumination Entertainment, couldn’t break the Mouse House monopoly. Although The Secret Life of Pets 2 cleared $150 million, it’s still the studio’s lowest-grossing earner since 2011’s Hop.

Winner: Once upon a time in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino made an unlikely summer blockbuster

Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt as Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. (Photo: Andrew Cooper / Columbia Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection)

Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film didn’t have a number after its name, a costumed superhero on the screen, or the Disney logo on the poster. But Once Upon a Time in Hollywood did have two of the town’s last movie stars — Leonard DiCaprio and Brad Pitt — front and center, along with critical acclaim and controversy-generating moments, all of which tempted discerning moviegoers away from their streaming services and into the theater. With a domestic tally of $125 million, Hollywood is Tarantino’s second-highest-grossing feature after 2012’s Django Unchained. That’ll buy you plenty of Red Apple cigarettes.

Loser: Reboots that no one asked for… and no one went to see

Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth in Men in Black: International. (Photo: Giles Keyte / © Columbia Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection)

Tarantino aside, it was a grim summer for original movies. But it was an equally grim summer for franchise reboots. Men in Black: International was the highest-profile miss; despite reuniting the popular Thor: Ragnarok duo of Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth, the expensive would-be MiB franchise re-launcher stalled out at $80 million. Coming in well below that was the Child’s Play remake with $30 million, while the multi-generational Shaft revival grossed a mere $21 million. In other words, don’t expect that Speed reboot anytime soon.

Winner: The Keanussance continues

Actually, there is one way that Speed could … well, speed back into theaters: if Keanu Reeves decided to get back on the bus. The 54-year-old actor has been a movie star for some three decades, but he’s arguably never been more popular than he is right now. With a $320 million global gross, Reeve’s third John Wick film is the franchise’s highest-grossing entry to date, and he also had scene-stealing roles in Toy Story 4 and the Netflix hit Always Be My Maybe. Better yet, his new box office swagger means that we’ll soon see new sequels to Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and The Matrix. Pop quiz: whose ready for The Devil’s Advocate 2?

Loser: The box office for horror movies was seriously scary

Jack Reynor and Florence Pugh witness a ritual suicide in Midsommer. (Photo: A24 Films)

Horror films are generally reliable sources for thrills and chills during the warm weather months, but this summer lacked a big fat horror movie hit. Annabelle Comes Home — the third film in The Conjuring spin-off franchise — came the closest with a $72 million gross, but that’s still a decline from its two predecessors. Otherwise, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Crawl, Brightburn, Ready or Not and the aforementioned Child’s Play struggled to scare up business. And while Ari Aster’s Midsommar became the cult horror movie of choice, earning $26 million on a $6 million budget, that’s roughly half of what his first film, Hereditary, grossed at the same time last year.

Winner: Hobbs & Shaw successfully expanded the Fast & Furious cinematic universe

The Fast & Furious family tree grew a new branch with the release of the franchise’s first spin-off picture, which easily raced over the $600 million global box-office line. That guarantees we’ll be seeing more butt-kicking adventures with bickering duo Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw (Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham), and learn the secret identity of the corporate supervillain looking to make their lives difficult. It also means that Universal’s F&F garage is officially open for more spin-offs, including a female-led team-up. We’re just waiting for the Hackers remake starring Tej and Ramsey.

Loser: Warner Bros. needed a box-office hero

Elisabeth Moss, Melissa McCarthy and Tiffany Haddish in The Kitchen. (Photo: Alison Cohen Rosa / © Warner Bros. / courtesy Everett Collection)

Marvel’s Distinguished Competition sat this summer out, which is shaping up to be a smart decision. After all, Shazam! flew to a $365 million global gross after its spring launch, and Joker is expected to make a killing at the box office when it opens in October. But without any superheroes in its utility belt, Warner Bros. largely found itself sidelined from May to August. Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Shaft, The Sun Is Also a Star and The Kitchen all underperformed, and the studio’s splashy Sundance acquisition, Blinded by the Light, didn’t become the word-of-mouth phenomenon that many hoped. On the other hand, the studio may have launched a new live-action Pokémon franchise with Detective Pikachu, and they’re expected to devour the September box office when Pennywise returns in It Chapter Two.

Winner: Rocketman and Yesterday were music to audience’s ears

Taron Egerton stars as Elton John in Rocketman. (Photo: David Appleby / © Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection)

Nostalgia for the 1990s may be in vogue right now, but when it comes to music-based movies, the ’60s and ’70s are where it’s at. The long-awaited Elton John biopic Rocketman blasted off to a nearly $200 million global gross, and will almost certainly be in the awards conversation for its costumes and star turn by Taron Egerton. Meanwhile, Danny Boyle’s Beatles-themed fable Yesterday earned $130 million internationally, which just demonstrates the staying power of Liverpool’s Fab Four. And Hollywood has only just begun to raid the music industry’s back catalogue: don’t be surprised to see movies about or inspired by the Rolling Stones, the Stooges and Pink Floyd coming your way soon.

Loser: Non-fiction features were non-events

The legendary rock singer, David Crosby, is the subject of David Crosby: Remember My Name. (Photo: Sony Pictures Classics / courtesy Everett Collection)

2018 was a lucrative year for documentaries as films like RBG, Three Identical Strangers and Won’t You Be My Neighbor all played to packed houses during the summer months. This year’s crop of summertime docs — including Pavarotti, David Crosby: Remember My Name and The Biggest Little Farm — aren’t similar success stories, earning strong reviews, but largely middling box office.

Winner: The Good Boys did good

What’s funnier than the misadventures of 12-year-old kids? The misadventures of 12-year-old kids who swear! The Seth Rogen-produced Good Boys used its R-rating to its advantage, luring enough curiosity-seekers into the theater to score a chart-topping opening weekend. That’s enough to make it the summer’s most successful comedy that stars actual humans, rather than animated toys.

Loser: Moviegoers didn’t fall in love with Long Shot

Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron in Long Shot. (Photo: Philippe Bosse / © Lionsgate / courtesy Everett Collection)

It’s no secret that romantic comedies have mostly migrated to streaming services, and not even the combined star power of Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen — appearing onscreen rather than behind the camera — could tempt couples into spending date night at the multiplex. Jonathan Levine’s well-reviewed rom-com only earned $30 million during its theatrical run, a steep plunge from Rogen’s Knocked Up days. Here’s one small consolation: audiences will probably re-discover the movie on Netflix or Amazon Prime.

Winner: The Farewell was the Sundance indie that could (and did)

Awkwafina heads up the ensemble cast of The Farewell. (Photo: A24 /courtesy Everett Collection)

Lulu Wang’s semi-autobiographical first feature was the toast of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, alongside movies like Brittany Runs a Marathon, Late Night and The Last Black Man in San Francisco. Unlike those Park City pick-ups though, The Farewell found a wide audience back at sea level. Wang’s tenderly told story about her own Chinese-American family resonated with families of all backgrounds, powering the movie to a $15 million gross.

Loser: Where’d you go, Annapurna?

Blanchett in Where'd You Go, Bernadette. (Photo: Wilson Webb / Annapurna Pictures)

The critical and commercial shrug that greeted the release of Richard Linklater’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette capped a rough summer for Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures. Despite bankrolling such acclaimed movies as Phantom Thread, The Sisters Brothers and Destroyer, Annapurna is still looking for a breakout hit. Unfortunately, the positive buzz surrounding Olivia Wilde’s hilarious comedy Booksmart didn’t translate into summertime box-office dollars, and Bernadette was similarly ignored. According to some reports, at least, Annapurna’s woes may soon include bankruptcy.

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