Here’s a sobering thought (as if we needed one): Fox’s action-comedy sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle, opening Friday, could do as well as its 2015 predecessor and this still would be the worst year for live-action screen comedy since, possibly, ever.
As of this week, only one live-action comedy has cracked the year’s top 20. That would be Girls Trip, which has taken in $114.5 million since Universal released it in July, putting it at or near the No. 19 spot, just ahead of Fifty Shades Darker. The previous summer wasn’t great for comedy, but the July release Ghostbusters had $128.4 million in domestic ticket sales, slightly better than the $128.3 logged by Kingsman: The Secret Service in 2015. And every year in the past 20 — when we stopped counting — has seen a much bigger comic hit by the middle of September. (As for history, even 1942, a particularly grim year, brought what turned out to be a comedy classic, Ernst Lubitsch’s Hitler spoof To Be or Not to Be.)
In 2015, Pitch Perfect 2, released in May, had more than $184 million in domestic sales. The year before, 22 Jump Street, a June release, neared $192 million. In 2013, we had The Heat; in 2012, Ted; in 2011, The Hangover Part II; in 2010, Grown Ups; and so on. Until now, the weakest year for movie comedies in the past two decades was 2004, when 50 First Dates, released in February, took in about $121 million for Sony Pictures; but the Box Office Mojo inflation adjuster ups that to $173 million at today’s prices, a mark Girls Trip is unlikely to top.
Without getting all sociopolitical, it’s obvious that we could use a collective laugh. Later in the year, A Bad Moms Christmas or Pitch Perfect 3 might help. But virtually nothing (except, of course, animated comedies like Despicable Me 3) has cracked audiences’ sour mood to date. Not Baywatch, not Going in Style, not Logan Lucky, not CHiPS — all of which came up short.
So here’s to Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Or it’s off to cable television for those back-to-back showings of Hot Shots! and its Part Deux, either one of which is a whole lot funnier than mother! or the box-office sales for Rough Night.