What Defines A Surefire Box Office Hit In 2015?

When the American public is no longer wooed by the promise of time traveling Arnold Schwarzeneggers and half-naked Channing Tatums, what is left to believe in? This past Independence Day, a release date once reserved for surefire top dollar blockbusters, we instead got two of 2015’s most prominent box office disappointments: Terminator: Genisys, which grossed only $44.1 million over the span of its five-day opening weekend, and Magic Mike XXL 's box office intake, which amounted to only $26.7 million. Aside from those films, the week also offered some big questions about what the country is looking for in terms of its entertainment, because it seems like standards are changing.

Disappointments like Entourage proved audiences are inching away from "bro culture" movies, but apparently we haven't completed the 180-degree turn. Progressivist pilgrim Magic Mike XXL came up shy of hope and expectation in its opening week, and that has us wondering about the prospects of other forthcoming revived properties, most of all Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens. While it’s tough to imagine the next Star Wars floundering whatsoever, the modern films to which it best compares — the Marvel movies — have shaken confidence in the cinematic “givens.” Avengers: Age of Ultron, while hardly a disappointment by anyone’s estimation, grossed shy of its 2012 predecessor: a rarity in the realm of blockbuster cinema.

Magic Mike XXL’s outcome might also cause concern for the performance of predominantly female-oriented comedies, including the upcoming Trainwreck and Ricki and the Flash. Adding to this worry is the intake of this year’s Melissa McCarthy feature Spy. Though no slouch at $97.9 million, the film humbles in comparison to previous McCarthy outings like Bridesmaids and The Heat, both directed by Spy helmer Paul Feig, as well as Identity Thief. However, in defiance of that same fear, Cinderella, Pitch Perfect, and Fifty Shades of Grey remain three of the highest grossing domestic features of 2015, which means all hope isn't lost just yet.

More than any other year in recent box office history has '15 been one of surprises. No one expected Jurassic World to topple Age of Ultron, or Fifty Shades to breach $560 million worldwide. With these surprises of success come other box office surprises: Spy didn't quite live up to expectations. Entourage and Ted 2 followed in its footsteps. And now Terminator: Genisys and Magic Mike XXL join the latter community, proving that we live no longer in an era of guarantees. Comic book fervor and nostalgia... these are things that, just one, two, three years back, were golden tickets to box office splendor. Now? It's anyone's guess, but dinosaurs seem to be a good way to go.

Images: Universal Pictures; Warner Bros; Disney/Marvel