The Summer That Was

The good news about the box office for the weekend is that all three of the new releases were non-sequels, one of the few times that’s happened this summer. The bad news is that there’s probably already an Expendables 2 script being written right now, the other two were book adaptations and Scott Pilgrim laid its claim to the summer’s biggest bust. That’s probably more weighted in the bad than the good column, no?

lottery ticket won't be turning around the summer box office

lottery ticket won't be turning around the summer box office

The other part of the bad news is that it’s the end of the summer blockbuster movie season, unless you think Lottery Ticket is a potential $250 million keeper. I tend to fall on the side of “no.”

That leaves us to reflect on the summer movie season that was, a mish-mashed hodgepodge of flicks we probably won’t be talking about in 10 years and may not even remember:

BEST TREND: We’re starting to say no to Canned Hollywood. Movies like Sex and the City 2, MacGruber, the A-Team, Marmaduke, Cats and Dogs 2, Step Up 3D and Killers, movies that seemed to make no effort whatsoever to leave their mark on the cinema world and instead were conceived out of some money-making nightmare, all thankfully performed far below expectations. Inception, Dinner for Schmucks, The Kids Are All Right (gross is four times its budget), Get Him to the Greek, Salt, at least somewhat original movies that seemed to have some thought behind them, were successful. Keep this up, America, and we may end up getting a better product from Hollywood.

BIGGEST SURPRISE: Family movies are back. The summer is supposed to be all about flexing those testosterone-fed muscles, but just about every success story of the summer — aside from the ill-conceived Marmaduke — was a family movie. Toy Story 3 is now the biggest animated movie of all time, Shrek made $677 million worldwide, and Karate Kid is the seventh-biggest hit of the summer and Despicable Me came out of nowhere to push past $200 million. Even the worst reviewed movie of the summer, The Last Airbender, opened to $40 million. It’s a good time to have kids right now, even if you have to sit through a Karate Kid. OTHERS: Knight and Day bombs, Karate Kid kills, people actually know what The Last Airbender is, Expendables is a hit.

not even this outfit could keep jonah hex from bombing

not even this outfit could keep jonah hex from bombing

BIGGEST BOMB: Every summer has to have one — at least one. I’m sticking with my pick at the start of the summer, Jonah Hex, which has made all of $10 million and didn’t even get an international release. That’s pretty impressive. OTHERS: Scott Pilgrim, Cats and Dogs 2 and Sorcerer’s Apprentice aren’t that far behind.

BIGGEST WINNER #1: Christopher Nolan. Despite directing and co-writing one of the biggest movies of all time with Dark Knight, he still had to answer to the silent charge, “Yeah, well he still hasn’t opened a non-Batman movie.” Insomnia and The Illusionist didn’t exactly set the world on fire. But now that Inception became the talk of the summer and he doesn’t have another movie on his slate until Batman 3 (7?), he can pitch a script called Flying Feces and Warner Brothers will give him $200 million to make it.

BIGGEST WINNER #1aSteve Carell. The only person that had a July comparable to Nolan was Carell. Just months after he announced he’s leaving The Office at the end of its seventh season, he needed both of his summer movies to be hits to make sure he wasn’t making the wrong decision by walking away from the NBC paycheck. He had the sixth-biggest opening of the summer with Despicable Me, then went out and opened Dinner for Schmucks ahead of expectations. Now, people will be looking to get into the Steve Carell business. OTHERS: Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, Angelina Jolie.

BIGGEST LOSER #1: Jerry Bruckheimer, and it gives me great joy and pleasure to announce that. Prince of Persia ($90 million domestic gross, $200 million budget) and Sorcerer’s Apprentice ($60 million against $150 million budget) were two of the biggest disappointments of the summer, and he was behind both of them. That’s not even counting his TV failures of the last year in The Forgotten and Miami Medical. The questions are out there whether he’s lost his touch — but then Pirates of the Caribbean will open to $120 million next summer and they’ll stop.

not how the shrek people wanted to end

not how the shrek people wanted to end

BIGGEST LOSER #2: Jake Gyllenhaal. Quick! When was his last movie that made more than $100 million. Thinking … thinking … how about 2004 with the forgetable The Day After Tomorrow? Prince of Persia was his carefully crafted breakout action role, the one that was supposed to propel him to into the land of $20 million paychecks. For whatever reason, it didn’t, and right or wrong, the blame falls on Maggie’s brother. Can we call him that now? His recent career is littered with box office disappointments like Zodiac and Rendition. Perhaps he’s just an indie guy who’s born for roles like Donnie Darko and Brokeback instead of blockbusters. Fine by me. OTHERS: Shrek 4, which will end up only the third-highest-grossing animated movie of the summer, Russell Crowe, Nicolas Cage, Fox (which put out Marmaduke, Knight and Day and A-Team).

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