Best way to describe the 2012 summer box office? The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.
Just below the $4.3 billion take from last summer, this year had 13 movies that were under the prequel, sequel, or spin-off category (last summer had 10) and comic book adaptations fared much better than last year's crop. Animated features continue to rack in the dough, and we found the answer to the age-old question: what's a bigger draw, male strippers or Abraham Lincoln killing vampires?
For the last three months we've been dazzled by amazing 3D effects, seen records shatter, scratched our heads over how awful some of the movies were, and came across some surprising underdog earners. Here's how it breaks down.
*All figures listed are the movie's domestic earnings.
First, let's get the big money-makers out of the way.
The biggest turned out to be the first summer blockbuster out of the gates, "The Avengers." Joss Whedon's celebration of Marvel's greatest heroes came out strong with a record $207 million opening weekend (over $600 million to date), annihilating the previous record set by "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2," which had an opening weekend box office of $169 million. "The Avengers" went on to make over $100 million the following weekend, the first time in box office history a movie surpassed the $100 million mark for a second straight week. By the third week, "The Avengers" had comfortably surpassed the $400 million total.
A big reason for the film's dominance was its appeal beyond fanboys.
"I don't think people expected this to be a family film," Boxoffice.com editor Phil Contrino told The Wrap back in May. "But what we're seeing is exactly that at the multiplexes. You have to give Disney credit, they've made this a family movie."
Though there were a handful of impressive openings following "The Avengers," the next big earner wasn't until July 4 when "The Amazing Spider-Man" took in around $140 million over five days (totaling over $250 million to date). A big jolt was its Tuesday opening of $35 million, which set a new record for a Tuesday release held by 2007's "Transformers."
Then there's "The Dark Knight Rises," which will always be shrouded in the horrible shooting spree that occurred at one of the film's midnight screenings in Aurora, Colorado. Despite that the film still raked in $161 million it's opening weekend, making it the third biggest opening of all time. It stayed number one at the box office the next two weeks and currently is over the $400,000 million mark.
Oh, were there ever some stinkers!
A week after "The Avengers" made history, the reteaming of Johnny Depp and Tim Burton for "Dark Shadows" didn't fair well, only taking in $29 million in its opening weekend and currently under an $80 million cume. That followed with two of the summer's most anticipated titles, "The Dictator" and "Battleship," both failing to open any higher than $25 million. At least the board game adaptation starring Taylor Kitsch, Rihanna, and Liam Neeson found success overseas, currently having made over $237 million abroad as opposed to its $65.2 million domestic take. Sacha Baron Cohen's latest shock-and-awe comedy had as little interest worldwide as it did here in the States.
But the real disappointments came in June as "Rock of Ages" and the Adam Sandler/Andy Samberg comedy "That's My Boy" both opened on the same weekend to miniscule numbers, $14.4 million and $13 million, respectively. Deadline's Nikki Finke noted in her Sunday box office recap that for "Rock of Ages," movie-goers aren't particularly fond of Russell Brand, and perhaps they found Tom Cruise's role as Stacee Jaxx a little too hard to swallow. As for "That's My Boy," Sandler "can't go unchastized" for the major drop in losses from his previously reliable box office takes, and it's possible that "Jack & Jill" did some damage to his rep.
The biggest was Channing Tatum rehashing his saucier days as a male stripper in "Magic Mike." With a staggering buildup for its release that included groups of girlfriends heading to their local multiplex for some dirty fun, the movie had an impressive $39 million opening and has currently grossed over $110 million.
Another surprise was the take for "Snow White and the Huntsman." Having earned over $150,000 million to date, the film took in an eye-popping $56 million in its opening weekend. Its strong turnout made everyone forget the other Snow White movie that came out earlier in the year, "Mirror Mirror." Wasn't Julia Roberts in that?
On the specialty side, Wes Anderson's seventh film, "Moonrise Kingdom," has been one of the top earners this summer, having grossed over $40 million to date; it's his second largest grossing film behind "The Royal Tenenbaums" (over $52 million). And thanks to the unbelievable momentum from the Sundance Film Festival, word-of-mouth, and ongoing coverage from the likes of Oprah, "Beasts of the Southern Wild" made $169,000 in four theaters its opening weekend, breaking down to an astounding $42,250 per-screen average. With a current gross of almost $9 million, this indie success story is likely to ride its good fortune all the way to award season.