Movie Maniac

Grading the summer movie crop at the halfway point

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, 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 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” –



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


be released near Independence Day?