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Box Office Autopsy: The Summer of 2012 - May
Posted by Patrick Sauriol on Wednesday, September 5, 2012
With the passing of Labor Day, I can say that the summer movie season of 2012 has come and gone. Now comes the time to examine what this summer season meant to us, the movie lovers, and to Hollywood, the ones that profited (or not) from the films.
For this endeavor I don’t want to look too closely at the creative stamp of a movie as judging whether a movie is good or bad for you is subjective and entirely personal. Instead, I want to cast a stronger eye towards the box office results and try to augur what it means for us. Will we see a sequel, or has a profitable movie made enough of a dent in the zeitgeist that we’ll get to see a bunch of copycats in two years time? That’s the sort of thing that I’m interested in with my analysis.
So where do we begin? Well, have you heard the one about a billionaire, a god and a soldier that walk into a Manhattan deli looking for sharwarma?
The Avengers – May 6
Not only did this prove to be a tremendous hit for Marvel Studios, it also paid off handsomely for director/writer Joss Whedon and his creative entourage. Whedon signed a nice big deal with Marvel that will see him make Avengers 2 (due in summer 2015) as well as poke around when he wants to with ABC’s S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series. With $1.5 billion dollars made by this superhero Wrestlemania-like event, it’s also pushed rival movie studio Warner Bros. to dust off their Justice League movie and try to develop it some more.
The Fallout: Heightened interest in the upcoming Thor and Captain America sequels; Nathan Fillion getting to play superhero in Guardians of the Galaxy or Avengers 2; someone at Warner Bros. losing their job if their Justice League movie doesn’t get a decent script; and everyone that worked at one time with Joss Whedon calling him up to do lunch. Things are good in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s corner.
Dark Shadows – May 11
This one came and went without much of a whimper. With only $79 million domestic, Johnny Depp and Tim Burton’s goth fetish streak may be finally over. Don’t cry too much for them though, as they have plenty of other work to fall back on. Instead, the guy who may be going back to his old job is screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith; it’s not like his Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter tore down the house when it opened one month later. These days audiences don’t want to see their vampires all bloody; like a donut, they want them with sparkles.
The Fallout: Burton returns back to animation and smaller budgeted dramas for a while, with maybe the Beetlejuice sequel as his shot at redemption. Helena Bonham Carter is reduced to finding work in movies that her husband isn’t directing.
The Dictator – May 16
Sacha Baron Cohen tried to make it three-for-three but it didn’t work; The Dictator only grossed $59 mil, a far cry from those Borat and Bruno box office returns. Maybe audiences felt that his Quaddafi-inspired despot came too soon after the Arab Spring uprising, or maybe the joke wasn’t good enough to merit three acts.
The Fallout: Cohen’s a creative guy and he’s still got a long way to fall before Hollywood turns their eye from him. Still, it would help his stock if he decided to do something unexpected and show that he’s capable of more than shtick, like playing Freddie Mercury in the proposed Queen biopic. Now that would be a bohemian rhapsody worth seeing.
Battleship – May 18
Universal’s $250 million dollar board game movie bombed big time. Even before Battleship opened, the studio knew that the writing was on the wall for this niche, giving up the movie rights to other Hasbro board games. If Taylor Kitsch was hoping that this one would make up for the clubbing his career took over John Carter, well, at least he still had that Oliver Stone movie opening later in the summer. That one couldn’t fail too, right? Oh, snap.
The Fallout: The only winner here was The Asylum crew who made American Battleship. You just sunk my battleship.
Chernobyl Diaries – May 25
Touted as from the makers of Paranormal Activity, this was Warner Bros.’ entry in the horror/found footage genre. Those things make money and they’re cheap to make, so there’s no way we can lose here, right guys?
Well, with a domestic gross of just $18 million, Chernobyl Diaries is just under the break even mark for WB. Home video will push it into the black, but no one’s getting wealthy from this one. Meanwhile, those guys over at Paramount are wiping the sweat from their foreheads and thanking God that teenagers still want to see ghosts haunting little kids every Halloween. Sometimes the difference between one successful horror movie franchise and another can’t be explained.
The Fallout: Found footage fright films aren’t going away anytime soon but Oren Peli’s name isn’t enough to convince a studio to bankroll one. And hey, where’s that Area 51 movie of his anyway?
Men in Black III – May 25
Will Smith backed away from owning the July 4 weekend this year. Plagued with script problems, MIB 3 could have very well turned out to be a stinker – but it wasn’t. We wanted to check out Josh Brolin doing his Tommy Lee impersonation, and it worked. The jokes were OK, the effects were good (thanks Mr. Rick Baker) but that Pitbull theme song made us wish that a cover of Big Willie’s original Men in Black tune had been approved instead.
The Fallout: Even though it earned the lowest of all MIB movies ($178 million domestic vs. MIB 1’s $250 mil), Sony isn’t going to say no to a MIB 4 if Smith’s price isn’t unreasonable. If it is, they go the Spider-Man route and reboot it. There ain’t a shortage of aliens.
Moonrise Kingdom – May 25
If Woody Allen had his commercial comeback with 2010’s Midnight in Paris, Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom was the 2012 version of it. Opening in just a tiny handful of theaters, this comedy-drama slowly expanded across America and drew audiences even as it faced the marketing budgets of hundred-million dollar blockbusters. With a $44 million dollars gross it’s the second-highest grossing of Anderson’s movies after The Royal Tenenbaums. And besides, it’s a good film too.
The Fallout: God bless Wes Anderson and the company he keeps but a respectable theatrical gross will help him push his next quirky misadventure through the studio development system. Plus, it keeps Bill Murray and Jason Schwarzman working. Keep on truckin’, Wes.
Next up: the movies of June get dissected. It will get messy.
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