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Summer Movie Recap: The Hits & Misses
The summer 2012 movie season is officially over with The Apparition and Premium Rush riding out the dog days of August. Which superhero movie was the biggest hit of the summer? Which film was the biggest box-office disappointment? Which was an indie surprise, and which is destined for a sequel? Read on for our Summer 2012 Movie Recap.
Summer movie season technically starts Memorial Day weekend, but this year it summer officially began on May 4, when The Avengers exploded into theaters and never looked back, leaving all other contenders in the dust. The superhero team triumphed with a $203 million opening weekend and took in close to $620 million at the domestic box office when all was said and done. The Joss Whedon-directed film was expected to do well, but the feat is extra special given that for every Hunger Games hit in Hollywood there's a John Carter just around the corner. Other big box office hits of the summer included The Dark Knight Rises (a solid hit and a big newsmaker after the tragic Colorado shooting, but it was still expected to do much better), The Amazing Spider-Man (another solid double at the box-office stadium, but didn't hit it out of the park given the size of its budget), Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (which opened to a strong $60 million), Ice Age: Continental Drift (which made more overseas than stateside), Brave (another solid winner for Disney-Pixar), Magic Mike (which stuffed more than $100 million down its already tight pants), the always reliable Tyler Perry and his Madea's Witness Protection (which tripled its budget at the box office) and the fuzzy sleeper hit of the summer, Ted (which opened at a strong $54 million for an R-rated comedy, and crossed the $200 million mark domestically).
On the Fence
20th Century Fox
Will Smith usually hits it out of the park with a big summer tentpole like Men in Black III, but perhaps too much time came and went between the sequels. The film opened to a respectable $54 million and has grossed over $600 million worldwide, but did not generate enough excitement to clean out the MiB III toys off the Target shelves. Kristen Stewart's Snow White and the Huntsman off-screen affair generated more headlines than the film itself, and when the last snowflake fell, the film cleared approximately $390 million worldwide, warranting sequel talk despite the film's reported $170 million budget. Ridley Scott's Prometheus started off with a promising start as the summer's most-talked about movie (and not necessary in a good way, as fanboys decimated the Alien prequel's cryptic narrative and Swiss cheese logic). The film cleared more than $125 million -- $5 million short of its reported budget, but still the highest gross for an Alien-related movie in years. And The Bourne Legacy starring Jeremy Renner had a lot to live up to given the phenomenal success of the first three films starring Matt Damon, and audiences have so-far shown tempered interest, given the film's healthy-but-not gangbusters $38 million opening weekend.
The Indie Surprises
There are always one or two breakout indie hits during the summer, representing alternative programming for the more discerning crowd. While they may not have cleaned up at the box office compared to The Avengers and the big, loud summer fare, two films distinguished themselves as bonafide hits given their grosses compared to their budgets: Wes Anderson's quirky Moonrise Kingdom and India travelogue The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Moonrise cost only a reported $17 million to make, but has made $42 million in theaters, while Marigold, a $10 million production, has made $45 million. Moderate indie successes worth mentioning include Woody Allen's To Rome With Love and Beasts of the Southern Wild.
One of the most interesting games of the summer blockbuster season is trying to determine which will be the biggest hits and which will miss the mark, but sometimes a "guaranteed" hit can become the bomb of the summer. Case in point: Tom Cruise's Rock of Ages (Cruise always pulls in big numbers, and this big-budget rock musical limped off the stage with less than $40 million); Battleship, while not expected to be the brainiest flick of the summer, still had a Transformers vibe, yet audiences chose to stay away in droves; whatever you may think of Adam Sandler's humor, his audience remains loyal – except for That's My Boy, which couldn't top $40 million; Colin Farrell's derivative Total Recall remake prompted audiences to likely rent the superior Arnold Schwarzenegger original; and perhaps most surprisingly, Johnny Depp's Dark Shadows got buried – which may have had to do with its proximity to the box office shadow of The Avengers. Other films that notably disappointed this summer, given their stars' box office track record, were Sacha Baron Cohen's The Dictator and The Watch with Ben Stiller, Jonah Hill and Vince Vaughn.