Despite high expectations and a few blockbusters, Hollywood underperformed this summer.
Summer is the season to get studio executives richer. Hollywood’s offerings during the out–of–school months generally gross the most, even if the hits’ artistic qualities are lacking. By all accounts, this summer was slated to shatter more records than ever. While certain films knocked it out of the park, the number of box office duds brought total ticket sales down 4% from last summer. And that’s not even including perpetually increasing admission prices. Let’s take a look at what went right and what went wrong at the cinema this summer:
Studly Superhero Semi–Sequels = Success
Without a doubt, the biggest winners at the box office this summer were the superheroes.
Marvel’s record–breaking blockbuster “The Avengers” was the highest–grossing film of the summer and set the record for biggest opening weekend in U.S. box office history. The movie is a semi–sequel, as it revolves around a team of superheroes, many of whom have had their own films before (“Captain America,” “Iron Man,” “Thor”). The eye candy returns as well: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johannson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Hemsworth.
“The Dark Knight Rises,” unsurprisingly, was a financial and critical success. Starring Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon–Levitt, the final film in the Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” trilogy did not surpass “The Avengers” but still recently crossed the $1 billion mark at the worldwide box office.
While not a sequel, but rather the opening of a new series, “The Amazing Spider–Man” feels like a reboot, as Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst graced screens not long ago. Still, on–and–offscreen couple Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone garnered praise and their spidey senses made a box office hit. (Sally Field, secret weapon.)
But the other big budget, well–cast, highly marketed releases…
Besides the three superhero smashes, this summer was full of disappointments that contributed to the season’s lower total grosses.
The biggest failure is largely considered to be sci–fi war film “Battleship,” based loosely on the classic board game. The attractive cast of Alexander Skarsgard, Taylor Kitsch, Brooklyn Decker and Rihanna couldn’t save this sinking vessel. Looks like RiRi should’ve sang “SOS” to save her cinematic debut.
Other box office losers included action remake “Total Recall,” Tim Burton/Johnny Depp comedy–horror collaboration “Dark Shadows,” Sacha Baron Cohen’s “The Dictator” and “Rock of Ages,” an all–star adaptation of the jukebox Broadway musical of the same name. (Tom Cruise was part of that last one’s cast, Katie Holmes filed for divorce two weeks after its release…)
Low–Budget Critical Darlings = Surprise Winners
While the summer’s indie offerings couldn’t make up for the bigger studio disasters, many of these little gems outperformed expectations on a lower budget and more limited release.
Mad props to tiny–budget success story “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” which premiered at the Sundance and Cannes film festivals and is now getting Oscar buzz from viewers and critics alike.
Other indie hits include dark comedy “Bernie” starring Jack Black, Woody Allen’s ensemble romantic comedy “To Rome with Love,” Wes Anderson’s latest whimsical delight “Moonrise Kingdom,” and (perhaps not as surprisingly) “Magic Mike,” the male stripper flick starring Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer and Matthew McConaughey.
Perhaps if quality movies are doing better than their lackluster counterparts, studio executives need not worry. Hollywood will make up for its financially dismal summer in December’s Oscar season, with highly anticipated films like “Les Miserables,” “Life of Pi” and “Lincoln.” Just blame this summer on the Olympics?