For the movie biz, this was the summer without equal, and more precisely, the summer of the endless sequel, as the top five grossing films all supported Roman numerals or were reheated cinematic treats. While franchise flicks and reboots don’t differentiate 2013 from many other summers this past decade, the final tally had the overall box office sitting pretty with $4.75 billion–by far the top grossing season on record.
And before we start jibber-jabbering about adjusting for inflation and actual tickets sold and the scandalous price of a small popcorn these days, let’s focus in on some hard numbers. Straight. No chaser.
-At $4.75 billion, the domestic summer box office was up +10.5% over 2012.
-With 582 million tickets sold, attendance was up +7.75% over last year, and the highest mark since 2007.
With 17 films passing $100+M over the first weekend in May through Labor Day (compared to just 11 in 2012), it’s pretty obvious there was a lot of shared wealth and a multitude of films that pleased audiences this summer. None more so than fresh content –“This is the End,” “The Great Gatsby,” “The Conjuring,” “The Heat,” “World War Z,” “We’re the Millers,” and “Now You See Me.” Wow. Originality. Who knew? That’s the biggest difference from 2012, was that mid-range, non-franchise films really knocked it out of the park.
Now as the Coppertone spurts its final squirt and the last gooey s’mores are but a distant sticky memory on our fingertips, let us close our eyes, listen to the water lapping up against the shoreline one last time and encapsulate everything worth noting in a box office montage. Oh, how I love a good montage. For our trip down memory lane, I’ve cued up a couple different soundtracks depending on your mood.
If you feel peppy about the movies you saw this past summer:
If you feel melancholy about how it all went down:
If you feel like sticking a crow on your head:
Now, as you’re sonically-charged and rarin’ to go, we present you with our first-ever summer movie recap.
1. What were the Top 10 films of the summer?
#1 IRON MAN 3 (Disney) $1.2B – Marvel madness is oh-so mainstream now, as the threequel nearly doubled the last installment’s global take. You can personally thank Hulk, Thor, Cap and the rest of The Avengers crew for that, and there is no doubt “Thor 2” and “Captain America 2” will also see significant box office boosts. Luckily for all of us, Robert Downey Jr. has extended his contract to play the ol’ bucket of bolts in the next two Avengers sequels. Damnit, I just can’t quit you, RDJ!
#2 DESPICABLE ME 2 (Universal) $823M – It’s no surprise the mischievous minions took over the world as the sequel unleashed a merchandising and cross-promotional blitz that the first one sorely lacked, given it was a unknown commodity. Universal’s upstart franchise is very reminiscent of how “Shrek” put DreamWorks Animation on the map; make no mistake Illumination Entertainment is now playing in the big leagues. With a minions spinoff set for a holiday release next year, and certainly “Despicable Me 3” in the very near future, expect minions to become the Mickey Mouse of Universal Studios…if that hasn’t happened already. God, I love those little blobby beasties and their delightful dunderheaded-ness.
#3 FAST & FURIOUS 6 (Universal) $787M – Defying all odds and taking the road less traveled by franchises far and wide, the sixth film of the high-octane racing series became the biggest box office blazer of them all. Technically speaking, this is really the 4th film with all the original characters, but that’s still unprecedented. And if that weren’t impressive enough, Universal has put “Fast and Furious 7” on the fast track, aiming for next summer. Cue director James Wan (“The Conjuring”). Enter Jason Statham. Yep, this party is just gettin’ started folks.
#4 MONSTERS UNIVERSITY (Disney) $715M – The goldenest of golden streaks continued this summer as the “Monsters INC.” sequel became the 14th consecutive Pixar film to debut #1. The most surprising thing of all though, is that despite the fact that this is only the fourth Pixar flick to top $700+M worldwide, is that “Monsters University” was still #2 to “Despicable Me 2.” Pixar isn’t used to being runner-up in anything, to anyone. Cue “Toy Story 4.”
#5 MAN OF STEEL (Warner Bros.) $657M – The biggest story of the summer wasn’t the fact that Supes finally delivered a successful reboot, but that Ben Affleck is starring as Batman in the sequel, “Superman V. Batman.” Although the official, unofficial title is currently “Untitled Zack Snyder Superhero Film,” it is a little odd that WB doesn’t believe Superman has the might to carry a sequel squarely on his shoulders. They’re probably right though: “Man of Steel” was decent enough, but with Batman attached, this is billion dollar grosser and ultimately unearths a direct path for DC’s Justice League movie. And let’s be honest, Matt Damon as Aquaman and Casey Affleck as Robin would be pretty rad.
#6 WORLD WAR Z (Paramount) $532M – Going into the summer, Brad Pitt’s zombie flick probably had the most negative buzz surrounding it, yet it turned out to be one of the biggest box office shockers of the season. Credit Pitt and Co. for making the tough decisions and sticking to their guns as they cut the entire third act of the film and then reshot it…causing countless delays and big-time cash. Now they can legitimately talk sequel, as Pitt is turning out to be one of the shrewdest producers in the biz…and that won’t go unnoticed.
#7 STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS (Paramount) $462M – While Trekkies may still be smarting from the Vulcan death grip that J.J. Abrams laid on them when he announced his light-speed jump form “Star Trek” to “Star Wars,” he is wholly responsible for successfully rebooting Gene Roddenberry’s seminal sci-fi classic for a whole new generation. Hopefully, Paramount will find a new guide–aka anyone but Shatner–to boldly go forward…because the cast assembled on the deck of the Enterprise is pretty bad-ass.
#8 PACIFIC RIM (Warner Bros.) $404M – So, turns out, Guillermo del Toro’s monster mash-up wasn’t quite “Transformers,” but it wasn’t exactly “Battleship,” either. It barely eked out $100M stateside, however found a much more receptive audience overseas, especially China, where it has now grossed a staggering $111M. And now that star Charlie Hunnam has been cast as the lead in “Fifty Shades of Grey” maybe he can lend some eroticism, or maybe a little romance if a sequel does happen, because del Toro certainly got the action right, he just missed out on the human element.
#9 THE WOLVERINE (Fox) $358M – While it nearly matched the total of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” it’s obvious that after five tuns with Hugh Jackman playing the title character that audiences are feeling the burn-out, and maybe sequel-itis simultaneously. Still, that won’t stop Jackman from returning for next summer’s “X-Men: Days of Future Past” which will no doubt be the highest grossing film of the X-Men franchise.
#10 THE HANGOVER III (Warner Bros.) $351M – I think we can safely say this is the worst movie to ever gross over $350M. With $112M in the U.S., it didn’t even earn half of what the “Part II” did. Ouch. Parting is such sweet sorrow…but when the tag at the end of the film is the only laughing matter in what is being billed as a comedy…you’ve got serious, serious issues. Mr. Chow was right, this was always about one thing: “Gettin’ paid, beeaaaaches!”
2. What were the five best movies of the summer?
In no particular order: “Blue Jasmine,” “This is the End,” “The World’s End,” “The Great Gatsby,” and “Before Midnight.” Remember though, this is coming from a guy who thinks “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure,” “Waterworld,” “Stand By Me,” “Dead Poet’s Society,” “A Midsummer’s Night Sex Comedy,” and “You’ve Got Mail” are the greatest films ever, so use that as your filter.
On that note, don’t you think movie reviewers should always list their favorite films in their bylines. How else can you accurately gauge their MO? That way if you don’t like any of their films, or more accurately, have never remotely heard of them, you could just skip the review, and conversely, if you agree with their cinematic selections, you would probably be interested in their picturesque pontifications. Yeah? Ok. Let’s make that happen, people.
3. What were the box office bottom-feeders this summer?
There is no escaping the fact that “The Lone Ranger” was this summer’s highest profile misfire. Disney spent an estimated $215M just to produce the western, not to mention $100s of millions more in print and advertising, yet with all the marketing might of the Mouse House it has grossed just $239M worldwide. I mostly blame the dead crow on top of Johnny Depp’s head, but let’s be honest, it simply wasn’t a good movie and deserved the pine box it got. It was a tired, big-budget western that didn’t bring anything new to the genre, and somehow, through it all, even the Lone Ranger himself, Armie Hammer, came off as a Brendan Fraser clone.
But, as Yoda wisely said: “There is another.” Universal had a spectacular string of successes this summer with “Despicable Me 2,” “Fast & Furious 6,” and “The Purge,” however their huge misstep was the “Men in Black” wannabe, “R.I.P.D.” Depending on what reports you believe, it cost anywhere between $130M-$200M, and globally sits at just $64M. That sort of piddly gross makes “After Earth,” “White House Down,” and “Turbo” look like massive hits in comparison.
The following is a list of the worst wide release debuts this summer–films that opened in 2,000+ theaters.
#5 You’re Next (Lionsgate) $7M – Apparently it wasn’t next. Certainly not the next hot horror flick, that’s for sure. Still, it was pretty cheap, so will easily stay out of the red, but when you open a movie in 2,437 theaters and this is the result, well that’s nothing to brag about.
#4 Jobs (Open Road) $6.7M – 14.8 million Twitter followers can’t be wrong. Yup. They can. Ashton Kutcher’s Steve Jobs impression was about as good as Apple’s impression that they are still cutting edge…without their fearless leader.
#3 Peeples (Lionsgate) $4.6M – Although Tyler Perry produced this, he did not direct it. For awhile, he did have his name over the title, but that was removed before it opened. Smart man, that Tyler Perry.
#2 Getaway (Warner Bros.) $4.5M – 16.4 million Twitter followers can’t be wrong. Yup. They can. Selena Gomez’s foray into action flicks hit a wall in the face of those British blokes and their 3D concert flick, “1D: This is Us.” Say, a 3D concert movie…hmmm…now there’s an idea. Morgan Spurlock…meet Ms. Gomez.
#1 Paranoia (Relativity) $3.5M – When studio executives are fired the Monday after your film opens…you know things didn’t go so well. Harrison Ford, Liam Hemsworth and Gary Oldman…consider this your hall pass.
4. What films performed well enough this summer to get the sequel treatment?
Well, we already know about “Superman V. Batman,” but Lionsgate’s thriller, “Now You See Me,” after grossing over $300M worldwide, will also likely see a second adventure, as will horror hits “The Purge” and “The Conjuring.” The big question mark is “Pacific Rim.” While $400M worldwide is usually the magic number, this thing wasn’t cheap. Warner’s will have to gauge how well DVD sales do, and then see if they can sneak Godzilla in the sequel.
Disney’s car spin-off, “Planes,” already has another sequel landing next summer, so there’s that. And don’t be surprised if Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy lock and load again for another hot time in the city in “The Heat 2: Hot, Hot Heat,” as Paul Feig’s $43M production has already grossed $214M worldwide. Sadly, the Denzel Washington/Mark Wahlberg flick “2 Guns” likely won’t re-up, but how cool would that have been to see “2 Guns 2?” Or would they call it “3 Guns” and add Dwayne Johnson? He’s always up for kickstarting a franchise midstream.
5. What’s in store for us next summer?
You mean besides “Fifty Shades of Grey” starring Charlie Hunnam and Dakota Johnson? As long as the fans don’t disrupt filming by picketing the set; they are none-too-happy with the casting choices. Yup it’s worse than Bat-fleck, apparently. Wait? That would mean people would have to actually admit they’ve read the book. In public. Not happening. If Focus Features was smart…they would have the steamy adaptation be the first big Hollywood release that simultaneously debuts on VOD. Just sayin…