Hollywood had a lousy time at the box office this summer with domestic ticket sales for the season coming in at their lowest level since 2006. But that doesn't mean there weren't some standout releases. Most of the season's biggest hits came in the form of franchise pictures, but summer's most successful film could surprise you. And its incredible performance gives some interesting insights into the state of the global film market.
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Read on to see which films from companies, including Time Warner (NYSE: TWX), Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS), Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA), and Sony (NYSE: SNE) made the list, and which dark-horse picture seemingly came out of nowhere to deliver one of the most surprising box office performances ever.
Time Warner's DC Extended Universe (DCEU) had already recorded solid commercial performances with Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, but concerns about the franchise's future were mounting following audience disapproval of those films and a variety of production setbacks for other projects. Thankfully, the outlook for the DCEU improved dramatically over the summer thanks to a downright wonderful performance from Wonder Woman.
The picture has made over $400 million at the domestic box office and roughly $810 million internationally -- currently the second-highest debut for a superhero origin film, trailing only 2001's Spider-Man. Wonder Woman also landed great reviews, and its strong critical and commercial performance bodes well for the release of Warner's Justice League in November and other entries in the broader cinematic universe.
With at least 16 other DCEU films in the works and massive merchandise opportunities tied to the property, Wonder Woman's heroic turn stands out as one of the most significant box office developments of the year.
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Despicable Me 3
With roughly $970 million in ticket sales, Comcast's Despicable Me 3 is the summer season's highest-grossing film and the year's third highest-grossing movie so far. Made on a production budget of just $80 million, the latest outing for Gru and the Minions will turn a big profit for Comcast and its Universal Pictures division on ticket sales alone -- and the picture is likely to generate substantial merchandising opportunities and solid results on home formats as well.
Including spinoff film Minions, the four entries in the Despicable Me series have grossed roughly $3.65 billion in combined ticket sales -- making it the most successful animated film franchise ever. The excellent performance for Despicable Me 3 makes it likely that Minions 2, which is set to release in 2020, will be another box office juggernaut and points to the ongoing strengthening of Comcast's film segment.
Guardians of the Galaxy 2
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 continued Disney and Marvel's streak of box office success, grossing over $860 million in worldwide ticket sales and eclipsing its prequel's gross of $773 million. With the exception of Avengers: Age of Ultron, every sequel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has managed to out-gross its immediate prequel -- an impressive feat and one that highlights the power of this franchise.
Strong sales for the Guardians' latest space outing have brought the lifetime theatrical gross of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films to $12.5 billion -- a tally that makes it the top-selling movie franchise of all time.
Sony delivered a successful return to the big screen for Peter Parker and his costumed alter ego with Spider-Man: Homecoming. The picture has grossed roughly $740 million and has yet to play in China, which suggests that it has a good chance of clearing $800 million before its theatrical run draws to a close.
The film was also a nearly unanimous hit with critics, earning the approval of 92% of reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes. Homecoming's box office run is still on track to fall short of the franchise's high marks, but strong receptions from critics and audiences, along with continued tie-ins with Disney's Marvel Cinematic Universe, suggest that the film's upcoming sequels are positioned to do even better. So while it might not reach the heights of the original Sam Raimi-directed trilogy, Homecoming can be counted as a much-needed win for Sony's film division.
Wolf Warrior 2
Ten years ago, the notion that one of the summer's top-grossing films could have made less than $3 million in stateside ticket sales would have been virtually unfathomable. The incredible success of Wolf Warrior 2, which has generated nearly all of its roughly $800 million gross in China, is almost hard to believe. However, it highlights the incredible growth of the film industry in the Middle Kingdom over the last decade.
A co-production from companies including China Film Group and Bona Film Group, Wolf Warrior 2 now holds the record for the highest-grossing film in China and the second-best single-market performance in history. Made on a roughly $30 million production budget, Wolf Warrior 2 also stands as one of the most profitable movies ever, absolutely dwarfing its predecessor's $81 million in ticket sales. The record-setting picture's performance was likely aided by a six-week ban on import releases during the year's biggest movie season, but even so, its box office run is incredibly impressive.
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Keith Noonan has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends Time Warner. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.