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Grading the summer movie crop at the halfway point

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, July 12, 2013, at 10:55 a.m.
  • Updated Sunday, July 14, 2013, at 7:23 a.m.

Hollywood’s summer movie season lasts from the first week of May through Labor Day. And since we’re at about the midway point, let’s take a look at some of the winners and losers of the first half of the season.

Winners we expected

•  “Iron Man 3” – Tony Stark rules. “Iron Man 3” hauled in more than $400 million (all figures here are domestic totals), according to boxofficemojo.com, easily the summer’s biggest success. Perhaps because the film wisely played more like a sequel to last summer’s gargantuan “The Avengers” rather than being a continuation of the limp “Iron Man 2.”

•  “Fast & Furious 6” – The franchise only picked up more steam in its sixth outing, racking up more than $235 million so far. That’s surprising, but what’s more surprising is while these films never do well with critics, this one’s score on rottentomatoes.com is a solid 70 percent.

•  “Monsters University” – Mike and Sulley went back to school and Disney/Pixar went back to the bank to take in more than $218 million so far.

•  “Despicable Me 2” – It was predicted that Gru and his minions would take in about $100 million in the film’s opening weekend. It instead made about $142 million, easily knocking its opening competition, “The Lone Ranger,” to the dirt.

Winners we didn’t expect

•  Female-driven films — Typically there isn’t a lot of female-centric fare in the summer, Hollywood is too preoccupied with blowing things up in action movies. But two films that had a large female appeal did sensationally well: “The Great Gatsby” has taken in about $143 million since its May debut and the Sandra Bullock/Melissa McCarthy comedy “The Heat” has already earned almost $90 million after being in release for only two weeks. Wake up and smell the estrogen, Hollywood.

•  “Now You See Me” – Now no one saw this coming! The magic caper has so far made $110 million, thanks to an appealing marketing campaign. Abracadabra, indeed.

•  “The Purge” – The Ethan Hawke thriller came out of nowhere for a shocking $34 million opening weekend (it cost just $3 million to make). Never mind that the film was panned by critics, a sequel is already in the works (duh). Never underestimate the appeal of violence.

•  “World War Z” – Despite bad press about the film’s production troubles, “WWZ” had a very solid $66 million opening weekend. It proved it had legs, too (as well as other body parts), and has so far made $161 million, star Brad Pitt’s biggest hit. Never underestimate the power of zombies.

•  “Man of Steel” – We hoped it would be good, but this reboot of Superman was easily the summer’s biggest risk, and it paid off critically (mostly) and commercially, taking in more than $272 million so far.

•  “Star Trek Into Darkness” – Things looked grim at first, with an opening as unspectacular as a Klingon love letter, but it stuck around to find its audience and has so far made more than $223 million.

•  “This is the End” – An unusual comedy setup: Actors playing themselves grapple with the apocalypse. But audiences bought it, thanks to strong word-of-mouth approval (and the actors’ willingness to be so self-deprecating). It’s this summer’s biggest sleeper hit, taking in $86 million so far (with a budget of 32 million).

Losers we sort of expected

•  “Peeples” – Tyler Perry’s attempts to step out of Madea’s shoes, literally, don’t usually go too well, and this didn’t either, only grossing $9 million.

•  “The Lone Ranger” – Westerns are a hard sell, and one based on a character than no kid knows today was an even harder one. Pile on negative reviews and you get a disappointing $51 million so far, with a budget that exceeded $200 million. Ouch.

Losers we didn’t expect

•  “The Internship” – Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson struck comedy box office gold in 2005, with “Wedding Crashers.” They failed to rekindle their success with “The Internship,” which has grossed only $42 million so far.

•  “The Hangover Part 3” – People needed a third “Hangover” movie about as much as a real hangover. The third flick’s haul was still about $111 million, but far below the first two films’ grosses of more than $250 million each.

•  “After Earth” – Anything Will Smith touches in the summer usually turns to gold, but not this sci-fi actioner that he built as a starring vehicle for his son Jaden. It also marks another dud in a long line of them for director M. Night Shyamalan. The film has grossed only $58 million, while it cost about $130 million to make.

•  “White House Down” – What was thought to be the better White House-in-peril movie this year (after spring’s “Olympus Has Fallen”), proved to be the least successful, despite a star turn from Channing Tatum. The film cost about $150 million to make, but so far has taken in only $58 million. Maybe a movie where the U.S. government is brought down by terrorists shouldn’t be released near Independence Day?

Reach Rod Pocowatchit at 316-268-6638 or rpocowatchit@wichitaeagle.com.

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