UPDATE: 11/20/2013 – This article has been updated to reflect the current box office figures for each of the discussed films.
This has been an incredibly strange and unpredictable summer movie season, more so than normal it seems. However, with each passing week we are further removed from the hype of the moment and can rather quickly forget just how much one film failed and another succeeded in terms of box office gross. We more remember the general things like Iron Man 3 made a crap-ton of money and broke records, Despicable Me 2 out-grossed Monsters University but both made Scrooge McDuck-style money, and a lot of big budget movies with actual big movie stars failed (see: The Lone Ranger, White House Down, etc.)
However, as the summer movie season officially winds down let’s actually cut through all of the studio-driven p.r. claptrap and look back at what the actual experts predicted would happen. According to the people with years of experience with box office market analysis and no studio-driven agenda, how surprised should we have really been this summer? I refer, specifically, to the guys over at BoxOfficeMojo.com and The-Numbers.com. At the end of April, BoxOfficeMojo made domestic and foreign predictions for what it thought would be the 20 highest grossing films of the summer, and The-Numbers has been doing monthly domestic box office predictions each month this summer (May, June, July, August).
So, the following is a list of the big movies of the summer with what they made versus what the experts thought they would make categorized by the films which did better, worse, and just as expected. Please note that only BoxOfficeMojo made predictions as to potential foreign gross meaning that for the films which only received predictions from the-numbers the foreign gross does not factor. Also, it didn’t seem fair to include more recent releases like Percy Jackson, Kick-Ass 2, Elysium, and Mortal Instruments. So, the most recent release on this list is 2 Guns, which came out domestically 8/2:
Did Better Than Expected:
- What It Was Expected to Make: $75 million domestic
- What It’s Actually Made So Far: $137 million domestic/$179 million foreign
It was supposed to be a definite sleeper hit, but instead it became one of the stories of the summer.
Despicable Me 2
- What It Was Expected to Make: $275-300 million domestic/$410 million foreign
- What It’s Actually Made So Far: $365 million domestic/$550 million foreign
It was supposed to do good, sure, but not quite this good.
The Great Gatsby
- What It Was Expected to Make: $110 million domestic/$150 million foreign
- What It Actually Made: $144 million domestic/$204 million foreign
The experts were far closer on this one than I. With the studio pushing it back from its original Christmas release and the puzzling decision to do it in 3D, this looked like it had bomb written all over it. Some of us were already writing the obituaries for the careers of some of the involved parties. However, nobody saw The Great Gatsby making $50 million its opening weekend, but that’s exactly what happened.
Iron Man 3
- What It Was Expected to Make: $400 million domestic/$600 million foreign
- What It Actually Made: $409 million domestic/$804 million foreign
Technically an Iron Man sequel, this was the first post-Avengers Marvel film and thus felt more like a sequel to the Avengers that just happened to only focus on Iron Man. As such, you were pretty safe predicting it would make around $1 billion in total worldwide gross. However, where it really surprised was overseas where its foreign gross of $804 million was a lot closer to the foreign gross of The Avengers ($888 million) than most had expected.
Now You See Me
- What It Was Expected to Make: $55 million domestic
- What It’s Actually Made So Far: $117 million domestic/$234 million foreign
Absolutely nobody saw this one coming. It appeared to have little to no buzz mere weeks before its release, and it was not particularly well-reviewed thus not benefiting from a strong critical word-of-mouth. What went right here? Holdover Avengers love for Mark Ruffalo? Hunger Games love for Woody Harrelson? Delighting in seeing Jesse Eisenberg playing Mark Zuckberg as a magician? The presence of Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine and topic of magic tricking some into thinking it was a Christopher Nolan film? The French director and presence of international actors like Melanie Laurents offering enhanced appeal to foreign audiences? It’s a mystery, for sure, but it’s one that helped a sequel get greenlit.
- What It Was Expected to Make: $45 million domestic
- What It Actually Made: $64 million domestic/$24 million foreign
At only $19 million difference between prediction and performance, The Purge probably performed around as expected. However, it’s opening weekend gross of $34 million back in early June caught most people by surprise, even if its subsequent plunge in the following weeks followed the expected downward trajector of most horror films at the box office.
World War Z (Being Re-Released This Weekend as a Double Bill With Star Trek Into Darkness)
- What It Was Expected to Make: $135 million domestic/$285 million foreign
- What It’s Actually Made So Far: $202 million domestic/$337 million foreign
Brad Pitt is a movie star who is not actually a reliable box office presence and never has been. Add that to the well-publicized troubles the production World War Z experience, and it certainly appeared as if it would result in one of the biggest bombs of the summer movie season. Instead, it performed exceptionally well, even better than Star Trek Into Darkness (from the same studio) overseas. However, Paramount was desperate for WWZ to get to $200 million domestic so they can charge more for the TV rights. So, they re-released it as a double-bill with Star Trek Into Darkness. It worked.
Did Worse Than Expected:
- What It Was Expected to Make: $110 million domestic/$95 million foreign
- What It’s Actually Made So Far: $75 million domestic/$55 million foreign
Ouch, although it should be noted a combined worldwide gross of $131 million on a $61 million budget should have been enough to turn a profit.
- What It Was Expected to Make: $105 million domestic/$310 million foreign
- What It Actually Made: $60 million domestic/$183 million foreign
Expectations were low on the domestic side but high on the foreign end, and After Earth massively failed on both sides.
- What It Was Expected to Make: $130 million domestic/$245 million foreign
- What It Actually Made: $107 million domestic/$153 million foreign
The experts were pretty close with how it would perform here, but it clearly massively under-performed overseas. The funny thing is that among the many animated films of the summer, Epic is the one I had completely forgotten about until doing this list. I am apparently not the only one.
- What It Was Expected to Make: $150 million domestic/$300 million foreign
- What It Actually Made: $112 million domestic/$238 million foreign
That The Heat, Grown-Ups 2, and potentially even We’re the Millers will have ended up making more domestically than Hangover 3 is certainly an indication of just how much audiences had finally had enough of Bradley Cooper and the Hangover gang. Even overseas audiences declined to embrace it the way they had Hangover 2, which grossed over $300 million foreign.
The Lone Ranger
- What It Was Expected to Make: $135-145 million domestic/$270 million foreign
- What It Actually Made: $87 million domestic/$171 million foreign
This looked like it was going to have to do Pirates of the Caribbean type money to turn a profit, but would do good but not Pirates of the Caribbean good. Instead, it bombed harder than almost any other movie of the summer.
- What It Was Expected to Make: $145-150 million domestic/$330 million foreign
- What It Actually Made: $101 million domestic/$301 million foreign
This was a film tailor-made for us geek-leaning internet writers (beloved director Guillermo del Toro with a huge budget and anime-influenced storyline and Idris Elba!), and as such we all collectively wanted so badly for it do well. Then pre-release tracking indicated the film was heading toward a rocky time at the box office, and that’s exactly what happened in the U.S. and Canada where it barely eclipsed $100 million. However, thanks largely to its record-setting performance in China it has rebounded enough overseas that they are at least discussing a sequel. On both sides it has thus far failed to perform as expected.
- What It Was Expected to Make: $75 million domestic
- What It’s Actually Made So Far: $53 million domestic/$76 million foreign
That $51 million domestic isn’t really going to go up much further. Similar to Kick-Ass 2, this is a sequel to a film which did okay but was supposedly a kind of cult classic on home video. So, that meant a sequel should break out and do well. However, the experts weren’t buying it, predicting it would do worse than the first Red, and that’s exactly what went down…just even worse than expected.
- What It Was Expected to Make: $50 million domestic
- What It Actually Made: $32 million domestic/$44 million foreign
No one is surprised this film bombed. That it bombed so hard, though? Yeah, that’s at least vaguely surprising.
- What It Was Expected to Make: $115 million domestic/$460 million foreign
- What It’s Actually Made So Far: $71 million domestic/$275 million foreign
Well, the first Smurfs really had no business doing as well as it did. So, the sequel was expected to drop-off due to the many people who actually saw the first film realizing they hated it, and could not be talked into taking their kids to see the sequel no matter what. Plus, there were just too many family films released in too little time thus maxing out family budgets and forcing them to prioritize which films to see and films like Smurfs 2 and Turbo landed low on the list. However, due to product placement and rich advertising deals it is thought that they are actually making a pretty huge profit on this film even with its diminished box office returns. Heck, even without that we are still talking about a movie that made $346 million worldwide on a budget of $105 million.
Star Trek Into Darkness
- What It Was Expected to Make: $250-325 million domestic/$400 million foreign
- What It’s Actually Made So Far: $228 million domestic/$238 million foreign
Some people had seriously predicted this was going to perform almost as strong as Iron Man 3 while others were more conservative, thus the $250-325 million prediction for domestic. However, even thought Into Darkness ended up becoming the highest worldwide grossing film in franchise history its performance is still one of the bigger curiosities of the summer. I, for one, though don’t know why anyone would have predicted it would have made $400 million overseas when the first J.J. Abrams Star Trek only made $127 million foreign and the Star Trek franchise in general has never played well overseas. That domestic total has a chance to go up a little more since Paramount, in a bid to boost World War Z‘s total to $200 million, is re-releasing Into Darkness and World War Z as a double bill in North America.
- What It Was Expected to Make: $105-115 million domestic/$205 million foreign
- What It’s Actually Made So Far: $82 million domestic/$194 million foreign
Similar to Smurfs 2, Turbo suffered from coming out at the exact wrong time. Plus, it probably looked too similar to Cars, whose most recent sequel had left a bad taste in people’s mouth. It did come very close to reaching expectations at the foreign market, though, and ended with a $277 million worldwide gross on a budget of $115 million.
White House Down
- What It Was Expected to Make: $140 million domestic/$190 million foreign
- What It’s Actually Made So Far: $73 million domestic/$132 million foreign
It can’t entirely be because it was so similar to Olympus Has Fallen that White House Down under-performed, can it? It ended with a worldwide gross of $205 million when it was expected to end with $330 million.
Performed Pretty Much As Predicted
Fast & Furious 6
- What It Was Expected to Make: $215 million domestic/$500 million foreign
- What It’s Actually Made So Far: $250 million domestic/$548 million foreign
At this point, never bet against a Fast & Furious movie. They aren’t Pirates of the Caribbean or Transformers-level hits, but the franchise is a hit-making machine nonetheless.
- What It Was Expected to Make: $105-110 million domestic/$125 million foreign
- What It’s Actually Made So Far: $133 million domestic/$112 million foreign
It did better domestically but not as good as internationally. The end is a worldwide gross of $246 million for a film predicted to make around $235 million, which is certainly above expectations but not significantly so. After bombing with That’s My Boy and Jack & Jill, this was supposed to be the real test of whether or not Adam Sandler’s moment as a box office presence had passed. The answer, much to the dismay of Sandler-haters, is that he appears to have achieved at least a brief reprieve.
The Heat (Still Out in Theaters Overseas)
- What It Was Expected to Make: $155 million domestic/$125 million foreign
- What It’s Actually Made So Far: $159 million domestic/$70 million foreign
The experts were almost exactly right about the film’s domestic performance. However, it somewhat stalled overseas meaning it both did almost exactly as expected and nowhere near as well as expected. It’s still a big hit though, sitting at a worldwide gross of $229 million on a $43 million budget.
- What It Was Expected to Make: $45 million domestic
- What It Actually Made: $44 million domestic/$48 million foreign
Not all of these predictions are positive. The Internship did rather poorly, but the experts thought it was going to. So, no big surprise here. If this had come immediately after Wedding Crashers, it would have not only been a much bigger hit but also seemed far more timely. As it is, the performance of The Internship is part of a trend of disappointing films that add up to creating serious doubts about both Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn’s respective statuses as leading men. This does not bode well for Vaughn’s comedy coming out later this year.
Man of Steel
- What It Was Expected to Make: $290 million domestic/$360 million foreign
- What It Actually Made: $291 million domestic/$371 million foreign
It opened huge but then it fell off. The rate at which it fell off was a little surprising, but in the end it made almost exactly what the experts thought it would.
- What It Was Expected to Make: $280 million domestic/$470 million foreign
- What It’s Actually Made So Far: $268 million domestic/$475 million foreign
Despicable Me 2 is the story of the summer on the animated side, but Monsters University is a close second as it has been killing it, grossing nearly $175 million more overseas than Pixar’s last film (Brave) did last year.
This is the End
- What It Was Expected to Make: $95 million domestic
- What It Actually Made: $101 million domestic/$23 million foreign
I was surprised at how well it did; the experts were not. It originally ended its domestic run at $96 million, but Sony re-released it later in the summer to get that total over $100 million.
- What It Was Expected to Make: $125 million domestic/$250 million foreign
- What It’s Actually Made So Far: $132 million domestic/$282 million foreign
Based on its opening weekend, I thought The Wolverine was set to end up finishing with around $140 million, falling just behind X-Men: The First Class. However, it fell off even more than I thought it would, as audiences just abandoned it in droves. It did exceed expectations overseas, and is now the second-highest worldwide grossing film in X-Men franchise history, trailing only X-Men: The Last Stand.
Subsequent to the original writing of the above article, BoxOfficeMojo did the same thing, looking back at their summer predictions and grading each individual prediction. You can read it here.
Any movie’s performance surprise you? Disappoint you? Hate that I’ve thrown so much math at you? Let us know in the comments.