With a strong overall performance in 2016, Universal Pictures and Focus Features’ film slates showcased global stories featuring diverse casts, writers, producers, and directors. The year’s biggest success was Illumination Entertainment’s summer blockbuster The Secret Life of Pets, which featured the voice of actor/comedian Kevin Hart. The movie delighted audiences of all ages, boasting the best opening ever for an original film, animated or otherwise, at the domestic box office.
With a worldwide box office of $125 million, Ride Along 2, from producers Ice Cube, Will Packer, and Matt Alvarez, defied the precipitous drop that many comedy sequels experience and dethroned Star Wars: The Force Awakens from its four-week reign at number one. The multicultural cast included Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, Ken Jeong, Benjamin Bratt, Olivia Munn, Sherri Shepard, Carlos Gomez, and Itkarsh Ambudkar.
Producer Arianne Sutner was an Academy Award nominee for Kubo and the Two Strings, an Oscar-nominated Best Animated Feature Film from animation studio LAIKA, distributed by Focus Features. The movie, which included George Takei and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa in its voiceover cast, also received an Oscar nomination for Best Visual Effects, the first animated film to be so honored in 23 years. Kubo and the Two Strings won the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Award for Best Animated Film.
The true story of Mildred and Richard Loving, who paved the way in the 1960s for marriage equality, was told in Focus Features’ Loving, produced by Sarah Green and Nancy Buirski. Ruth Negga’s portrayal of Mildred Loving earned her Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, and NAACP Image Award nominations. Recognizing the Lovings’ courage, the Governor of Virginia announced that starting in 2017, June 12th will be known as Loving Day to recognize and commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Supreme Court decision that ruled in favor of the couple and reaffirmed the very foundation of the right to marry.