Labor Day is a still a few weeks away, but the summer box office season is more or less over, with no big films coming out between now and fall's award season dramas. Even with many blockbuster bombs, it's still looking like a banner year for Hollywood. But not everyone is winning with its biggest successes:
Franchises and Sequels
Eight of the top 10 grossing films this summer were sequels or franchises, including super hero action films and family oriented animated movies. Among the biggest disappointments were big budget original outings, like "After Earth," "White House Down" and "R.I.P.D." No matter what the critics say, the sky is the limit for "Fast and Furious" sequels.
Brad Pitt's very expensive pet project "World War Z" was shrouded in doubt after reports of a bloated budget, production dramas and an ending that had to be entirely reshot. Many worried that the rumors – which earned magazine covers – would overshadow the film, even with its solid to good reviews. But Pitt's star power prevailed, and "World War Z" raked in more than $500 million worldwide, making it Pitt's highest grossing movie.
Woody Allen's still got it. Though far darker in tone than his last two outings, "Blue Jasmine" was Allen's biggest opening weekend of his career, with $100,000-per-theater average in its debut. Now up to almost $10 million, it is leading among this season's smaller, anti-blockbuster films and is expected to continue to gain momentum as it expands to 1,000 theaters this coming weekend.
Despite all the talk of flops, the movie industry is poised for at a record summer this year. Variety ran the numbers a couple weeks ago, and found that all signs point to 2013 beating 2011's record season at the box office. Definitely not the full on industry implosion Steven Spielberg was predicting earlier this summer.
The failure of his film "After Earth" was so bad it had some critics wondering whether Will Smith's career was over. Not only did Smith star in the film – wasting his on-screen charisma by playing an emotionless ship captain near death – he also wrote it, produced it and hired his son to play the lead. Furthermore, its many allusions to Scientology attracted some suspicious attention to Smith's connection to the controversial church, which he still denies.
Sony claimed some of the biggest flops, including "After Earth" and "White House Down." Its "Elysium" did marginally better, winning its opening weekend with a mediocre $30.5 million (less than the filmmaker's last movie, which cost considerably less). The rocky summer has caused unease among Sony's investors and some personnel shuffling at the executive level.
This summer was crowded with macho action movies, many of which, unsurprisingly, would not pass the Bechdel test. In a startling survey, NPR's Linda Holmes found that one weekend mid-June, 90 percent of showings in the Washington D.C.-area were movies about men, with females only playing supporting roles. Furthermore, a Vulture analysis of the trend found that 2013 was one of the worst years in recent history for women on screen, but representative of a decades-long trend. There is some hope though, with the female-buddy cop movie "The Heat" pulling strong returns on its mid-sized budget. This summer also a featured a number of micro-sized, women-centric films by female filmmakers, like "In A World," "Girl Most Likely," and "The To Do List" – which, even in limited release, appear to be turning a profit.
When shaping their big summer films, studios are becoming less and less dependent on American audiences, looking to Asia and other international markets to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars. This means more generic action films (as critics joked "Pacific Rim" might as well have referred to the film's target audience) and less comedies, which don't play well abroad.