'Super 8' Box Office: The Secrets Behind J.J. Abrams' Latest Success Story

Super 8FROM MTV MOVIES: As well as anyone, J.J. Abrams knew the challenges facing "Super 8" this summer. It's not a sequel or based on an existing property; it doesn't feature any major stars; its central conceit had to remain largely mysterious, and its release date plopped the flick in a crowded field of superheroes, robots and wizards.

"We're a complete anomaly in a summer of huge films," the director told the Los Angeles Times, "and we don't want to be so silent or coy that people don't care or don't hear about it."

As the film's June 10 release date neared, it seemed people might not have heard about "Super 8," nor cared to check it out if they had: Box-office tracking was said to be weak, with a possible opening weekend as low as $25 million. But as reviews continued to be strong, and Paramount staged over 300 Twitter-sponsored screenings at midnight on the Thursday before release, the tide seemed to be turning.

And it did. "Super 8" grossed $37 million domestically. That put the alien-invasion film roughly in line with one alien invasion film based on an original idea and starring lesser-known talent (2009's "District 9") but slightly below another (2008's "Cloverfield"). Yet what separates "Super 8" from these other movies is the talent behind the camera: Abrams in the director's chair and Steven Spielberg taking on a producer role for a film that is an undeniable homage to films like "E.T." With those names leading the charge, expectations were high as soon as the project was announced in May 2010. And now opinions among industry experts seem to be split. Is $37 million for "Super 8" a success or a disappointment — or somewhere in between?

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