Upstart stop-motion animation studio Laika hasn’t been doing so hot as of late. Though such early efforts as Coraline and Paranorman generated healthy grosses, the box-office receipts have been in a steady decline with The Boxtrolls and last summer’s Kubo and the Two Strings. Though their films have been marvels to behold across the board, their expenditures have increased as they’ve expanded and invested in new technologies, and Kubo ended up as their first flop when it needed to be their biggest hit. In what might seem like the most dire sign of all for the studio, Kubo director and Laika President/CEO Travis Knight has now taken high-profile work elsewhere.
Kubo and the Two Strings
With Oscar season just around the corner, now is the time for all the smaller award shows to announce their big annual winners. Earlier this weekend, we saw the Directors Guild of America give their biggest honors to movies and television shows such as La La Land, Game of Thrones, Veep, and O.J.: Made in America. And now it’s time for the animation industry to share their selections for the best animated films and television shows of 2016.
Too much time and effort in Cinemaland is wasted turning film into a game of winners and losers; Movie X made Y dollars so it matters more than Movie Z. But a film is way more than its box-office total. Some of the best movies released in 2016 failed to meet their financial expectations.
2016 is almost over and with everything else going on in the world, you probably don’t have too much time to devote to picking through all the movies that are available and deciding which one to watch. That’s where our new series, On Demand With ScreenCrush, comes in. Every two weeks, ScreenCrush Editor-in-Chief Matt Singer joins you to recommend three handpicked new titles you can watch at home right now from Movies on Demand. These are big new releases you won’t find streaming on Netflix, and the choices run the gamut from indie favorites, to major blockbusters, to insightful documentaries, and everything in between — all available with your remote.
Since the introduction of the Best Animated Feature Oscar at the 74th Academy Awards in 2002, we’ve seen a steady exponential increase in animated movies over the years. Pixar, and, by extent, Disney, has usually dominated the competition, with eight wins out of ten nominations, followed by DreamWorks and Disney’s animation studio. This year, we have a record 27 movies eligible for the award, and while the Academy can pick only five to nominate, for now it’s anyone’s game.
September has arrived and this notoriously slow month at the movies often spells instant death for new releases. It certainly meant on a dead-on-arrival start for The Light Between Oceans and it spelled total disaster for Morgan, which debuted at number 17 on the box office charts despite being released into more than 2,000 theaters. But this week isn’t all doom and gloom! This slow week gave some much-needed breathing room to a few August releases while allowing Don’t Breathe to have a strong second weekend at the box office.
In a summer filled with misfires and box office disappointments, the horror genre has kept its head above the water. The Conjuring 2 crossed the $100 million mark. Lights Out was a gigantic sleeper hit. And now, Don’t Breathe has closed out August with a surprising bang, dethroning Suicide Squad with a very strong opening weekend.
Pixar may get most of the headlines, but fans of slightly more off-beat animation have always loved the movies released by Laika Studios. With a list of movies that includes Coraline, ParaNorman, and The Boxtrolls, Laika has a string of critical hits that focus on the supernatural and magic experience of growing up. And while Kubo and the Two Strings brings their movies to unprecedented heights — our own review called it the best Laika movie yet — a new interview with director and Laika CEO Travis Knight made it clear we shouldn’t expect to see any sequels anytime soon.
And thus the 2016 summer movie season ended in a manner that reflected these past few months as a whole : with a whimper. Despite three new releases, the rapidly tumbling Suicide Squad clung to the top spot, with last week’s runner-up, the raunchy animated film Sausage Party, once again coming in second place. It was a tough weekend for War Dogs, Kubo and the Two Strings, and Ben-Hur, each of which limped into the top 10 with unspectacular numbers.
Okay, so it was one of the worst summer movie seasons in recent memory. Trying to find the good blockbusters amongst the last four months releases sometimes felt like trying to find a needle in a stack of s---. But even this year there were diamonds in the rough. Today we’re celebrating the ten best, the summer movies of 2016 that didn’t make us weep for the future of cinema — and note that this list is just movies that got wide releases in at least 500 theaters. We’ll have a separate piece on under-the-radar summer films you might have missed next week on ScreenCrush. In the meantime, let’s celebrate the highlights from a depressing summer before we clear the decks and get ready for the fall.