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Box Office 2016 Winners & Loser

Who won and who lost at the box office this year?

Regardless of your political persuasion, 2016 was a year of tumult and uncertainty. At least the movies gave us an occasional break from the headlines. Feel-good animated films triumphed at the box office this year, with Finding Dory at No. 1, while superheroes found a darker groove (the hard-R comedy Deadpool, the villain-driven Suicide Squad) and familiar franchises — Harry Potter, Star Wars — put down new roots. Before we toast the arrival of 2017, here’s a list of the biggest box-office winners and losers of 2016.


WINNER: The Wonderful World of Disney
Mickey Mouse had a good year. Five of the studio’s divisions (Disney, Marvel Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Animation, and Lucasfilm) managed to crack 2016’s list of highest-grossing films, with Finding Dory at No. 1 with $486 million, Captain America: Civil War at No. 2 with $408 million, and The Jungle Book, Deadpool, Doctor Strange, Moana, and Rogue One all delivering huge numbers. Globally, Walt’s triumph was even bigger: In December, Disney became the first studio ever to reach $7 billion at the worldwide box office in a single year.


WINNER: La La Land
This Ryan Gosling-Emma Stone musical, which began generating Best Picture buzz at film festivals this fall, is off to a swinging start: On its limited opening weekend in December, the movie scored the year’s best per-theater average. (The film goes wide on Christmas Day.)

LOSER: Video- game movies
This year’s game-inspired films Warcraft and Ratchet & Clank both lost at the box office, as did the first-person-shooter-esque action film Hardcore Henry. (It’s too early to tell for December’s Assassin’s Creed, but the reviews for the highly anticipated adaptation have not been kind.) Only The Angry Birds Movie escaped the game-to-film curse in 2016 … but that won’t stop Hollywood, which has more than 50 video game films currently in development. One reason for the continued push: These films — Warcraft being a prime example — do much better overseas.


WINNER: Expanded universes
Can a beloved franchise thrive without the audience’s favorite characters? This year, Warner Bros. and Lucasfilm both tested the waters, introducing new casts for the standalone Star Wars film Rogue One and the Potterverse spin-off Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Judging from the numbers ($172 million and $208 million, respectively, and counting), audiences are happy to explore new corners of their favorite fantasy worlds, with or without Luke Skywalker or Harry Potter to show them the way.

LOSER: Will Smith
Less than a decade ago, Will Smith was single-handedly steering I Am Legend and Hancock over the $200 million mark. Now he’s struggling to get his mojo back. Though Suicide Squad did well, his performance as Deadshot was lost in the noise of negative reviews — and his big awards-season star vehicle Collateral Beauty, which received some of the year’s worst reviews, has made only $8 million so far. At least he passed on this summer’s Independence Day sequel, which took a nosedive without him.

WINNER: Original animation
More than ever, major studios are reluctant to put their money into films that aren’t based on existing brands or franchises … unless those films are animated. Original animated films thrived this year, including The Secret Life of Pets ($368 million), Zootopia ($341 million), Moana ($165 million), and the adults-only Sausage Party, which grossed $97 million on a $19 million budget. Unfortunately, originality wasn’t a guaranteed formula for success: The stop-motion film Kubo and the Two Strings made only $48 million despite glowing reviews.

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