Summer box office: 2019's biggest winners and losers

Sam Ashurst
Contributor
The Secret Life Of Pets 2, John Wick 3 and Dark Phoenix (credit Universal, Lionsgate, Fox)

Yeah, yeah, we know, 2019 was the year of the Mouse in the UK, with Disney having four of the top five of the UK and Ireland’s biggest movies of the summer (and part-owning the fifth - thanks to Spider-Man: Far From Home’s £34.5m).

But the story of the UK summer is much more interesting than simply being ‘Disney owns entertainment’ - with signs of a shifting demographic bubbling underneath Disney’s domination.

So, who were the true winners and losers of 2019’s sunny season? Pull on your autumn scarf, grab your pumpkin spice latte, and let’s get into it.

Read more: Disney dominates the UK’s highest grossing film chart in 2019

Winners - ‘90s stuff

Keanu Reeves in Toy Story 4 (credit: Pixar)

We’ll move onto The Lion King and Aladdin in a moment, but they weren’t the only ‘90s hits in the UK box office this year.

Whether it was Keanu Reeves’ ubiquity - popping up in Toy Story 4 (£58.8m) and the overachieving John Wick: Parabellum (£10.4m) - or ‘90s swoon-boys Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio combining for Tarantino’s biggest UK box office release to date (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood’s £16.3m), the ‘90s were very much ‘a thing’ this summer.

Add in Pokemon: Detective Pikachu’s surprise success (£13.7m) and we suspect we’ll be seeing more ‘90s themed movies long after Sonic’s sped out of cinemas.

Losers - Non-MCU sequels

Godzilla: King Of The Monsters (credit: Warner Brothers)

Wooooah boy. It was a bad few months for anyone who wasn’t sprung from the imagination of Stan Lee (before being overseen by Kevin Feige), with every single non Marvel Cinematic Universe sequel underperforming.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix earned £7.3m, Godzilla: King Of The Monsters took £7m, and the Men In Black: International will want everyone to forget they made just £6.7m in the UK.

It’s enough to place all three in the top twenty, but not anywhere near the top-half placement they’d all be seeking. Each film underperformed worldwide, too - so don’t expect sequels to these sequels any time soon.

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Winners - Live-action remakes (mostly)

Will Smith in Aladdin (credit: Disney)

The Lion King and Aladdin both ended up in the top five films of the summer, with The Lion Kings £59.9m second only to Avengers: Endgame’s astonishing £88.7m, and Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin placing fourth with £36.5m.

But it wasn’t all good news for the ‘cartoons, but with real actors’ genre. Dumbo took home just £2.8m from UK audiences. With a worldwide gross of $353m, on a budget of $170m, that counts as a failure in a world where marketing budgets can exceed $200m.

Losers - Kids movies

LEGO Movie 2 (credit: Warner Brothers)

The Lion King and Aladdin did well, yay! That must mean it was a good year for kids’ movies, right? Wrong. The LEGO Movie 2 failed to follow up on the first film’s success, and didn’t even place in the UK top twenty.

The Secret Life Of Pets 2 may look like a success on paper - it earned £19.1m - but even with our help, it still made less than half of the original’s global box office.

Dora The Explorer couldn’t find her way into the top 20, despite the telly show being a popular export to the UK. And the less said about Sony’s Angry Birds 2 (which did place in the UK top twenty, but only just - with just £2.3m - despite hugely positive reviews) the better.

Thank goodness, then, for Toy Story 4, sandwiched between The Lion King and Aladdin at number three in the chart.

Winners - Dad rock

Taron Egerton as Elton John in Rocketman (credit: Paramount)

There were only two UK productions in the top twenty this summer, and they both revolved around musical acts you’d find on a CD in your dad’s car.

Elton John’s biopic Rocketman took an impressive £23.2m, which was almost double Yesterday’s £12.8m (a figure still good enough to place it in the top ten).

Going by this year’s trends, expect Oasis: The Movie to make a lot of money in 2021.

Read more: Boy George biopic may not star LGBTQ actor in lead role

Losers - Non-franchise movies

Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever in Booksmart (credit: United Artists Releasing)

If you think things were bad for kids’ movies, then spare a thought for original properties. Outside of the dad rock movies (which are arguably based on musical franchises), there’s only one original movie in the UK top twenty - Ari Aster’s Midsommar (more of that shortly).

Even The Hustle (£3.4m) was a remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (not that you’d really know it from the title). In a year where original movies like Long Shot and Booksmart were eligible for box office success, their absence from the top twenty is a real shame.

Winners - Horror

Florence Pugh in Midsommar (credit: A24)

There’s only a couple of horror movies on the list, but considering this year’s summer trends, it’s a miracle there were any at all.

Annabelle Comes Home earned £6.2m in the UK, which contributed to an impressive worldwide gross of $223m.

Meanwhile, miraculously, Midsommar made £2.6m, despite being a cult horror movie that’s two and a half hours long, without a single Avenger in the cast.

That’s now earned three times its original budget worldwide, with a director’s cut coming soon to copy Marvel’s tactic of re-releasing with new footage, to add to the tally.