Then there are the animated films, released by studios such as Pixar and DreamWorks, which are basically candy for young kids out of school and their weary parents eager to entertain them. As mentioned, "Despicable Me 2" walloped "The Lone Ranger," and "Monster University," the recent "Monster's Inc." prequel, beat its big-action competitor "World War Z" in their opening weekend. Even a non-franchise animated film such as "Epic" has been able bring in more than $200 million worldwide.
Of course, there have been plenty of conventional, action-filled super hero movies that have met or exceeded expectations. Like "The Lone Ranger," "World War Z" was delayed many months due to production issues, yet the extra time filmmakers spent retooling the story appeared to pay off.
It was met with decent reviews and appears to be on track to recoup its rumored $200 million-plus investment, despite speculation that its failure was inevitable. And there are the various franchise reboots and sequels, such as "Star Trek Into Darkness," "Man of Steel" and "Iron Man 3," all topping the box office during their respective opening weekends.
"[Studios] will get a little nervous about spending a bunch on a star if he's not in a franchise that's already proven successful," Stone says. But as the opening of "Iron Man 3" – the second-highest ever – proves, it's still often worth it the money to bring on a known commodity like Robert Downey Jr.
Furthermore, the Marvel franchises do particularly well abroad – as their characters are often internationally known – and foreign markets often end up making what Stone estimates to be 65 percent to 70 percent of a successful blockbuster's total haul. This was one of the reasons why funders were rumored to be nervous about "The Lone Ranger." Stone notes: "There is no connection with a Western overseas."
It's unlikely that "After Earth" and "The Lone Ranger" will scare studios away from the tried and true formula.
"It's good to remember that this business is extremely cyclical," Stone says. Cyclical is a descriptor that Nikki Finke, industry tea leaf reader, used in her own analysis of the last year in box office hits and misses. As she notes, Universal, the studio behind 2012's big summer flop "Battleship," has been on a 10-film winning streak since that film.