In lieu of writing about this week’s new releases, this week’s Weekend Warrior is going to look back at the past four months, see how things fared at the box office, look at a number of interesting trends we saw this summer, and The Weekend Warrior is going to share his favorite movies of the summer.
What a summer this has been with lots of big surprises, movies doing far better (and worse) than anyone expected as things kicked off with a bang and then slowly died down to the usual August “Dog Days of Summer.” Who foresaw that once golden box office stars like Will Smith and Johnny Depp, let alone directors like Roland Emmerich, would falter so badly this summer?
Back in April, I wrote a Summer Box Office Preview with my projections for the Top 15 and other than a few surprises (which I’ll discuss below), things panned out fairly close to where I had them with a couple of swapped placements and a couple of entries that few expected to see.
So first, let’s take a look at the Top 12 movies of the summer, the first number being opening weekend, the second being domestic gross and the third being worldwide, all in millions except where noted. (Note: these numbers were taken through August 22 and might not reflect the grosses at the exact time of posting.)
1. Iron Man 3 (Marvel Studios/Disney May 2)
$174.1 / $408.2 / $1.2 billion
For the second summer in a row, Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Pictures dominated the box office with the very first release of the summer, the early May slot proving to be quite lucrative as it racked up the second-highest North American opening of all time and became the only summer movie to rack up more than a billion dollars worldwide. We shouldn’t expect a three-peat next summer as they’ve opted to release Captain America: The Winter Soldier a month before the official start to summer, but 2015 should see further domination from Disney/Marvel with the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron.
2. Despicable Me 2 (Universal July 3)
$83.5 / $347.6 / $801.3
The most successful animated movie of the year and second-most successful sequel of the summer proved that the villainous Gru, voiced by Steve Carell, and his lovable Minions–who will get their own holiday movie in 2014–were still hugely popular among moviegoing audiences, giving the movie a huge opening over the 4th of July weekend and long-lasting legs through the last few months of summer. At the time of this writing it was entering the Top 25 highest-grossing movies of all time (without inflation) and edging closer to the likes of Pixar blockbuster Finding Nemo in terms of the highest-grossing animated movies.
3. Man of Steel (Warner Bros. June 14)
$116.6 / $289.8 / $649.3
The first Superman movie in seven years brought together 300 director Zack Snyder with an all-star cast that was fairly divisive among fans and critics but got moviegoers excited enough for only the third $100 million plus opening this summer. Even so, the movie struggled to get to $300 million and only got people excited again when it was announced that the sequel would pit Superman against Batman who we now will be played by Ben Affleck.
4. Monsters University (DisneyPixar – June 21)
$82.4 / $261.1 / $658.6
Disney’s Pixar Animation Studios still proves to be strong at the box office, having their second-biggest opening with the prequel to the 2001 animated hit that ended up just barely outgrossing the original domestically despite higher ticket prices. Either way, it ended up as one of the Top 5 grossing Pixar Animation movies, which is a good sign we’ll see more sequels and prequels featuring their popular characters, as long as moviegoers continue to flock to see them.
5. Fast & Furious 6 (Universal May 24)
$97.4 / $234.5 / $785.5
Normally, by the time a franchise gets to a sixth installment, interest has started to wane unless it’s a continuing story like the “Harry Potter” movies, but Universal once again proved that their popular formula of combining street racing with a high stakes heist movie has some of the most dedicated fans. Over Memorial Day weekend, the ensemble action flick brought in $117 million, the fourth-biggest opening for the summer holiday and that was after doing huge business overseas where the movie is the summer’s #3 international hit over some of the movies above. It also surpassed the gross of its predecessor one of the few sequels other than Iron Man 3 to achieve that this summer.
6. Star Trek Into Darkness (Paramount May 15)
$70.2 / $227.2 / $453.7
Considering the success of J.J. Abrams’ previous Star Trek, many thought the sequel would open much bigger, possibly even in the $100 million range, so when its sequel opened $9 million lower, there were certainly some concerns. The sequel ended up not doing as well as its predecessor, grossing $30 million less in total, which started things rolling on a summer where many sequels were tanking right and left. To add insult to injury, Star Trek fans voted “Into Darkness” as the worst movie in the franchise, although it generally did well enough that we’ll probably see another one in the future.
7. World War Z (Paramount – June 21)
$66.4 / $198.5 / $517.8
At the start of the summer, many assumed this long-delayed and reworked zombie actioneer starring Brad Pitt might falter, especially since it differed so much from the popular source material, but in fact it proved to be Pitt’s biggest opening blockbuster hit ever and is close to being his first $200 million hit based mostly on his name alone. This was quite an achievement for Paramount, which was facing may doubters and haters as summer began.
8. The Heat (20th Century Fox June 28)
$39.1 / $155.8 / $205.2
I had a feeling that this buddy cop comedy, which paired Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, might do well over the summer after being moved from April, because it was one of the few movies targeted more towards women, similar to McCarthy’s last movie with director Paul Feig, Bridesmaids. Even though there was a question whether women would have any interest in a normally male-driven genre like the police comedy, the starpower of the duo proved to be enough and after a solid opening in late June, it had significant traction to become one of the summer’s more profitable hits.
9. The Great Gatsby (Warner Bros. May 10)
$50.1 / $144.8 / $331.0
Now this one I didn’t see coming at all, despite being a huge Baz Luhrmann fan. Reuniting him with his Romeo+Juliet star Leonardo DiCaprio and putting them into a classic piece of literature like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s school staple (with a Jay Z soundtrack no less) proved to be a winning formula that few could have predicted would do so well among American moviegoers. Again, the opening was driven by women who flocked to see it, making more its opening weekend than many of Luhrmann’s have grossed in total in North America.
10. The Conjuring (Warner Bros. July 19)
$41.9 / $129.6 / $194.9
Probably one of the summer’s biggest surprises as well as the most profitable movie released was this low-key supernatural thriller based on the real life case files of Ed and Lorraine Warren. Made for $20 million and helmed by Insidious director James Wan, doing something slightly tamer this time around, the movie surpassed all expectations opening weekend and had the type of word-of-mouth legs that we rarely see with horror movies. (See the summer’s other big horror movie The Purge for example.)
11. Grown Ups 2 (Sony July 12)
$41.5 / $127.8 / $172.9
One of the last sequels of the summer that defied the ennui that hit in mid-July, the return of Adam Sandler and his friends ended up being one of the worst reviewed movies of the summer with a 7% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but fans of Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock et al didn’t care as they were just looking for dumb laughs and they got them. It opened slightly bigger than the original but then tailed off fairly quickly.
12. The Wolverine (20th Century Fox July 26)
$53.1 / $122.2 / $337.0
I really thought Hugh Jackman’s return as Wolverine would do much better than its predecessor being that it was a much better movie with director James Mangold (Walk the Line) at the helm, but like many of the sequels released in the second half of July and August, audiences just weren’t interested in seeing another solo movie with the character after the disappointing X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which is a shame since there’s huge excitement for Bryan Singer’s return to the X-franchise with next year’s “Days of Future Past.”
Also of note is that while Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim didn’t make it into the Top 12 for domestic grossing movies with just under $100 million, it has grossed $384.7 million worldwide, largely thanks to a huge release in China, and that puts it among some of the biggest movies of the summer. Others worth noting include Now You See Me, which grossed $116.1 million domestic and another $158 million overseas with a $75 million budget, one of the summer’s quiet sleeper hits for sure. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s apocalyptic ensemble comedy This is the End also came close to $100 million domestic with a budget less than half that–soon to be joined by New Line’s We’re the Millers–proving that comedy may not be pretty, but it didn’t necessarily need to be expensive either.