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IndieWire's 2013 Summer Movie Season In Review: The Winners and The Losers



While we're only a few weeks into August, summer blockbuster season is pretty much winding down for the year. Last weekend brought "Elysium," the last major tentpole for the moment (albeit an underperforming one), and the rest of August is mostly made up of lo-fi programmers and would-be-franchises that, if their studios had any confidence in them, would be coming out at a different time. So it seems like a good time as any to take a look at the summer box office over the last few months, and discuss who had a good May-August in 2013, and who really didn't.

The box office conversation has been dominated by a few high-profile flops, but on the whole, it's actually been a strong summer. While the profit from the hits might have been dented by the money-losers, theaters have been packed out, and Variety reports that we're running 12% ahead of the previous record-breaking year, 2011. That said, there are plenty of lessons to be learned here, and below, you can see who'll be popping open the champagne to celebrate come Labor Day, and who'll be drowning their sorrows. Let us know your own thoughts in the comments section when you're done.



GOOD SUMMER : THE WINNERS



Superheroes





Just for a change, this summer's been dominated by costumed crime-fighters. Last year featured the big names of Batman, Spiderman and the Avengers, so it would have been hard to top that, but superheroes remained highly reliable box office performers in 2013. There'd been some question of how much of a bump, if any, Marvel's movies would get after "The Avengers," but "Iron Man 3" provided the answer: a lot. Shane Black's picture is the biggest film of the year, by far (it's almost half-a-billion ahead of its closest summer competition, though that gap may close), and suggested that Marvel may come to rival or surpass Pixar in terms of being a reliable brand—at least while they have Robert Downey Jr. on hand. "Man Of Steel" perhaps didn't quite hit the sky-high expectations that some had (outgoing Warner Bros. president Jeff Robinov predicted it would be the studio's biggest ever hit), but nearly $300 million domestic and $647 million worldwide is nothing to be sniffed at, especially when put against under $400 million for "Superman Returns" or even under $375 million for "Batman Begins"—though inflation and 3D bumps help close the gap a little. Finally, "The Wolverine," while still rolling out, is the smallest grosser of the three, but with China & Japan still to come, it should overtake its predecessor and end up somewhere near $400 million, and given that it cost less than other blockbusters (about $120 million), that's a win for Fox, albeit a smallish one.



Horror





Horror tends to be confined to January, August or October, where a cheap buck can be made with something crappy to fill up a theater. But expect to see a lot more of it in the summer after this year, when a pair of films proved surprisingly strong and outperformed much more expensive competition. First up, "The Purge" landed in theaters at the beginning of June, and the $3 million picture made a whopping $34 million in its first weekend (more than the new movies that starred Will Smith, Johnny Depp and Matt Damon in the same season, embarrassingly). As is common with the genre, it peaked early, failing to double its first three days, but for a film that cost as little as it did, Universal have to be delighted. Meanwhile, "The Conjuring" was even bigger: aided by unexpectedly great reviews, James Wan's film has had legs almost unheard of in the genre, and is about to overtake "The Ring" to become the fifth most successful film in the genre to date. The film cost a little more—$20 million—but was still cheaper than almost anything else this summer, so Warner Bros. have to be delighted with the result here.



The Indie Scene





While nothing proved as successful as a mini-blockbuster like a "Midnight In Paris" or a "Moonrise Kingdom," arthouse theaters have had a decent breadth of fairly successful films to pick from over the warm months. "Mud" and "The Place Beyond The Pines" remain the biggest indies of the year so far, and were still playing into May, while behind them, "The Way Way Back," "Fruitvale Station," "Before Midnight," "The Bling Ring," "Much Ado About Nothing" "Frances Ha" and "20 Feet From Stardom" all performed strongly, while "Blue Jasmine" has a good chance of supplanting "Midnight In Paris" as Woody Allen's top grosser by the time it plays out. With an atypically strong August to come, things aren't looking too bleak in the indie world, even if not everything landed (we lament that CBS Films didn't do a better job with "Kings of Summer," which deserved to be a crossover hit).




BAD SUMMER : THE LOSERS



Will Smith, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, & Matt Damon





Ten years ago, even five years ago, these four were pretty much atop the stardom treehouse—Smith had an unbeatable run of box office hits, Cruise hadn't yet alienated fans with his 'quirky' behavior, Depp had just been revived and made bigger than ever thanks to the first "Pirates of the Caribbean," and Damon was suddenly an action star thanks to "The Bourne Identity." They've had their ups and downs in the intervening years, but none had a great time over the last few months. Cruise came off the best—an April release for 'Oblivion" meant it got to nearly $300 million (it likely would have been crushed had it gone later), and the film was actually one of the better movies of the summer. But it was still the actor's third film in a row not to cross $100 million domestically, and the backers of his next sci-fi picture "Edge Of Tomorrow" have to be a little nervous at this point.  Smith's vehicle, the M. Night Shyamalan-directed "After Earth," fared even worse domestically, barely clearing $60 million, though international box office (particularly in China) again came to the rescue, taking it to a more respectable $240 million worldwide. But coming off a long absence, pre "Men In Black 3," it shows that the Smith brand's been a little tarnished, and the star could do with picking his next move carefully. Meanwhile, "The Lone Ranger" was a disaster all around, and with "The Tourist" and "Dark Shadows" still fresh in the memory, certainly calls into question the Depp brand. It'll be more interesting to see how "Pirates 5" performs in a few years—have we reached a general fatigue with the actor's showboating? Whatever the answer is, next year's "Transcendence" was probably a good choice. Finally, Damon vehicle "Elysium" only just opened this weekend, and has the benefit of being one of the summer's last movies, so there's a slim chance it could be redeemed by the international box office. But there's no denying that it's opening is a disappointment—given that it opened nearly $7 million less than "District 9," it gives the impression that audiences would rather see a movie with no stars than one with Damon (that's unfair, but still). It's been a long while since Damon had a real hit, so a return to the "Bourne" series becomes more feasible all the time.



Channing Tatum & Ryan Reynolds





It's not just the old guard of stars who had a rough few months: two bright hopefuls from the last year had a pretty rough time of it, too. Ryan Reynolds has been tipped for seemingly forever, but after a pretty good year with "The Proposal" in 2009, the actor had a rough time in 2011 when both "Green Lantern" and "The Change-Up" flopped. But 2011 was a triumph compared to this summer, when "Turbo" and "R.I.P.D" tanked on the same weekend. The former wasn't such a problem—animated films barely count, and it's not like he was getting the credit when "The Croods" was a hit earlier in the year. But "R.I.P.D" was a bruiser, and if Reynolds leads another tentpole, it'll be after a Colin Farrell-esque spell in the indie wilderness. Tatum was on a hotter streak, with several big hits in 2012. But while *spoiler* his fearless cameo in sleeper hit "This Is The End" was good fun *end spoiler*, the Tatum train was briefly derailed when "White House Down" underperformed. The film was essentially sunk when spoiler picture "Olympus Has Fallen" proved to be a hit a few months earlier, so Tatum won't be blamed too badly, and he has more indie cred with "Foxcatcher" and a near-sure-fire thing with "22 Jump Street" on the way. But a lot will ride on the Wachowskis' "Jupiter Ascending" next year; it could be the next "Matrix," or could be the next "Speed Racer."




More mentions of other Summer Movie Season winners and losers at the ( SOURCE )



Who do YOU think were this year's Summer Movie Season winners and losers, ONTD?

Tags: discussion, film - action / adventure, film - comedy, film - drama, film - fantasy, film - horror, film - suspense / thriller, review, sci-fi
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