Beyond the expected hits like Rogue One and Finding Dory (and the year’s biggest flops), there were a number of unexpected box-office successes in 2016, or movies that made more than anyone expected. Here are a few lessons we can learn from their success.
Worldwide, Deadpool grossed $90 million less than Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice ($873 million to $783 million), but it cost $190 million less to make ($250 million to $58 million). What’s more, promoting Deadpool came at a fraction of the cost, thanks to viral marketing. Deadpool is what happens when filmmakers are given the freedom to make the superhero movie they want to make without being constrained by the demands of a larger overall universe (despite a loose connection to Fox’s X-Men films). It wasn’t just the biggest success of 2016, it was the second highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time, falling just behind The Passion of the Christ. Deadool is proof that a superhero film doesn’t need an extended universe, expensive effects, and a huge marketing budget: It only needs a compelling character and an original (for a superhero movie) script.
In 2014, TriStar tried to reach out to moms with Patricia Heaton’s faith-based Moms’ Night Out. It grossed $10 million. With Mother’s Day, Open Road Films tried to throw Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts and a bunch of big stars at moms. It grossed $32 million. It turns out, moms aren’t as interested in hearing how great they are, but in commiserating over the difficulties of parenting. The R-rated Bad Moms remained in theaters for 13 weeks over the summer and fall and capitalized on moms going out en masse for drinks and a movie to become one of the biggest sleeper hits of the year, grossing $180 million worldwide (and $113 in North America) on a scant $20 million budget. The film demonstrates that moms — like superhero fans — just want to be spoken to on their level, and that 14 years later, the spirit of The Sweetest Thing finally cashed in at the box-office.