It has long been a fine American tradition to escape the awkward enclosure of your parents’ house over your holiday vacation and spend a few hours in the local movie theater, where everyone can shut up about politics and stop swapping passive aggressive comments on each other’s lifestyle for a few hours. 2016 was no different, with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Sing drawing in the big crowds while La La Land and Fences impressed in limited release. Not so impressive: Passengers, Why Him?, and Assassin’s Creed, each of which underperformed.
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.
This has been one of the strangest summers in recent memory when it comes to box office analysis, not because so many high profile movies have disappointed (although that has certainly been interesting), but because so many new releases are hanging out in the grey zone between hit and misfire. In an era where the success of so many movies is determined purely by opening weekend numbers, we’ve spent the past few months watching as movies has defied expectations after a weak opening or rode a solid opening into oblivion. The cut-and-dried successes can be counted on one hand.
That sound you hear is the folks over at Disney popping a couple dozen bottles of champagne — Zootopia didn’t just open at number one at the box office, it had the biggest opening of any film in the history of Walt Disney Animation Studios, beating out 2014’s Frozen. Unfortunately, the rest of the newcomers didn’t fare quite as well, with London Has Fallen and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot limping into second and fourth place, respectively.
Around this time last year, SNL presented a commercial parody centering around Totino’s Pizza Rolls, just in time for the Super Bowl. And it was a nasty piece of business, tearing apart the image of the NFL’s biggest game as a day for men and imprisoning Vanessa Bayer’s indefatigable housewife in the kitchen, where she was simply tasked with warming up more disgusting food. So when SNL aired another Totino’s sketch in last night’s episode, we simply assumed it would be a carbon copy of the first one. Boy, were we wrong.
It took Avatar two and half months to become the highest grossing movie of all time. Star Wars: The Force Awakens will surpass its domestic box office gross within the next day or two after less than three weeks in release. The big question now is when J.J. Abrams’ sequel will find its ceiling because as of right now, it’s showing no signs of slowing down.
SNL commercial parodies are at their best when they’re at their most scathing. The fake ad for a fictional dating app called Settl may not be as dark as that vicious, pro-gun parody from a while back, but it’s a different brand of cynical: Here is the app for people who are tired of trying to find the right person and just want to settle down with, well, any person.
As expected, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 topped the box office charts this weekend. But like the war in the movie itself, it all feels like something of a hollow victory. That may seem like a weird thing to say about a movie that broke $100 million in its opening weekend, but this is a new low for the series’ box office receipts…and it’s not even close.
With Star Wars: The Force Awakens less than a month away from release and anticipation reaching a feverish level unseen in movie fans since 1999, the timing is right for SNL to gently skewer the upcoming sequel. The sketch is really just an excuse for the cast to break out a bunch of impersonations they’ve obviously been keeping in their back pockets while letting them interact with actual Star Wars cast members, but c’mon, that’s all the excuse you need, really.
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