2016 In Review: What The Top 10 Films Say About The State of Cinema

If there is one constant in Hollywood, it’s that money gets things done. So, if we want some idea where Hollywood is going in the future, we have to look at the highest grossing films of the past year. What secrets do they hold? What truths do they tell? Let’s find out as we look at 2016 in review.

Below is the list of the top ten films of 2016, as of January 1, 2017, courtesy of Box Office Mojo:

1. All Bow Down Before The Computer Animated Feature:

I imagine a lot of “serious” film journalists are now scouring their hard drives, pulling up all their “When will the comic book film die? ” articles and replacing “comic book film” with “Computer animated film.” There are three CGI cartoons in the top ten, with four more on the list before you reach #20: Moana at #12, Trolls #16, Kung Fu Panda 3 #17 and Sing at #18. The films are beginning to challenge the superhero film for money making dominance. The films offer family-friendly fare–cute characters and gags for the kids, a decent plot for the adults–that really bring in and entertain the whole family. But there is also another thing these type of films offer…

2. CGI Cartoons Are The Last Bastion Of Crowd-Pleasing Originality:

When you look at that top ten list above, amidst the sequel and adaptations, you see to original concepts: The Secret Lives of Pets and Zootopia. If you expand your view to the top twenty films, your original concept count goes up to four, five if you don’t think Moana‘s expanding on Polynesian legend counts as an adaptation. One of those other original concepts is Sing.

Taking in consideration Pixar’s previous success with original concepts, it seems clear that audiences respond to original concepts in computer animated form.  Or, maybe, younger audiences are more accepting of new stories. Regardless, if you want originality, head to the animated film aisle.

3. DEADPOOL Might Be Proof That Comic Book Films Are Here To Stay:

As someone who writes a lot about comic book films, I cannot say enough about what Deadpool means to the genre. It pretty much bursts the genre wide open. Being an unabashedly comic book film that comments on–and mocks–the genre’s conventions could open the door for adaptations of other comics that do the same. It’s having an R-rating yet being a smash success means that film companies do not necessarily have to shy away from the more mature comic book fare. And it’s delivering blockbuster quality on a small (for the genre) budget means that studios have found a way to make comic book films even more profitable. All this adds up to a blueprint where the successful comic book movie genre, which, as you see above, dominates the box office, could survive and hills and valleys that it might face.

4. The Film Business Is Beginning To Look Like The Comic Book Business:

In the comic book business, DC Comics and Marvel Comics are “The Big Two.” They are the two biggest companies, hold the two largest market shares, and continually dominate the sales charts and leave the rest of the comic companies to scrounge for scraps.

Now, look at that list above. Disney, Marvel Comics parent company, hold six of the top ten spots, with Deadpool, a Marvel character licensed to Fox, making it seven. Warner Brothers, parent company of DC Comics, holds two spaces, with its Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them stationed at #11. That leaves only one spot for any other studio, a spot which this year it is taken by Universal.

Consider this a glimpse of the future. Both Disney and Warners have numerous franchises that earn mucho dinero. It is shaping up to be a battle between the two for box office dominance, with Paramount, Fox and Universal hoping to slip in any space they might leave behind.

5. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY Proves That Disney’s Money Was Well Spent:

Last year, I marveled at the fact that Star Wars: The Force Awakens became the second highest grossing film after just a few weeks of release. Rogue One didn’t do quite as well–it’s only the third highest grossing film of the year. But Rogue One was a film with a lead cast not featuring any familiar characters from the franchise. Essentially, the film was Episode 3.5, but it was still a tale from the periphery of the mythos and a somewhat uncertain prospect. Its success means that pretty much any film with Star Wars on it will make money, and a well made one will make a lot of it. That $4 billion investment  might have already paid off.


One of the many revenue chains that Disney has is the live-action adaptations of its classic cartoon film slate. 2014 brought Malificent, which ranked #6 with a $241 million gross. This year’s entry was The Jungle Book, which ranked #5 with $364 million. If this trend continues, next year’s Beauty and the Beast not only will earn a place in the top ten, but also it might claim the spot at the top of it. The film looks fantastic and I get goosebumps whenever I see the trailer. I expect big things from that film.

7. Another Disappointing Success Could Generate Disappointing Failures:

Back in 2014, I also spoke about Amazing Spider-Man 2 and how at a worldwide gross of $708 million, almost 3 times its budget, it was considered a disappointment because it didn’t break the $1 billion barrier. That perception threw Sony into turmoil, brought Spider-Man back into Marvel’s fold, and triggered yet another reboot of the character.

In 2016, we have Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, a film with a worldwide gross of $873 million dollar, more than three times its budget, yet it is considered a disappointment because it didn’t break the $1 billion barrier in a year where three films made that plateau (Finding Dory, Captain America: Civil War, & Zootopia). That perception threw Warner Brothers into turmoil, caused a shake up at the executive level, and triggered studio-mandated reshoots for Suicide Squad as part of its course correction.

Both ASM2 and BvS were hacked to pieces by critics, and I didn’t like the latter all that much either. But it should have made money. Going into panic mode because a film’s profit isn’t big enough just boggles my mind. Granted, I liked Suicide Squad a lot better, but whether the studio’s meddling had anything to do with that I can’t say. But for as much as I would like better DC Comics films, they are making money. Panicky course corrections could make things worse than better in the long run.

8. Say Hello To Every Marvel Sequel, If Not Every Marvel Film,  Becoming “Marvel Team-Up”

Back in May, I covered a rumor from JoBlo stating that every sequel to any Marvel solo hero’s film will become a team up with one or more members of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That top ten list up there is evidence that they might be on to something. Captain America: Civil War, which had just about every hero who has ever appeared in a Marvel film in it, earned $180 million more than Doctor Strange, which only starred the Doctor and his supporting cast in the main narrative.

And let’s look at the future we know. Robert Downey, Jr.’s Iron Man will be helping Spidey in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Thor: Ragnarok, which already had Hulk appearing in it, now will also have Doctor Strange as well. FBOL Head Honcho Rich Drees discusses where else this will lead:

But Doctor Strange’s involvement in Thor: Ragnarok also bring up the question as to how many of Marvel’s Phase Three films are going to feature crossing over for supporting roles? We have previously seen short crossovers in the previous two phases of Marvel’s films, but it seems as if they are increasing in size and number. In last year’s Captain America: Civil War, nearly every superhero that the studio has put into their shared universe showed up for the film’s big throw down. Robert Downey Jr has a supporting role in this summer’s Spider-Man: Homecoming that appears to bigger than just a quick cameo. Also, given how things ended in Civil War, it isn’t hard to suspect that there will be more heroes in 2018’s Black Panther than just the titular one. Can we expect some other Avengers to show up in 2018’s Ant-Man And The Wasp? (You know you want to see a return of Anthony Mackie as the Falcon, don’t you?) We’ll see as Marvel’s Phase Three continues to roll out.

To add to what Rich said, Marvel announced Brie Larson as Captain Marvel almost three years before her film is supposed to hit theaters. It seems logical that we will see at least Larson’s Carol Danvers, if not her full-on origin in a Marvel film before her solo film. And it has been reported that the Guardians of the Galaxy will be costarring in Avengers: Infinity War.

On the one hand, this is great. What’s the point of having a shared universe without seeing how it’s shared? But on the other hand, these heroes have a lot of great stories to tell that have to be put to the side for all of these team-ups. Marvel hasn’t has a problem with marrying a large cast to the individual stories they want to tell, but sometimes I’d like a Captain America story featuring  only Cap.

Avatar für William Gatevackes
About William Gatevackes 1983 Articles
William is cursed with the shared love of comic books and of films. Luckily, this is a great time for him to be alive. His writing has been featured on Broken Frontier.com, PopMatters.com and in Comics Foundry magazine.
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Michael Klein
January 3, 2017 7:04 pm

Well nothing for nothing but most individuals are going to see those films because they are easy to follow and entertaining. We aren’t all lovers of artistic cinema. Just some of us ☺