Summer 2013 was the Season of the Big Box-Office Bomb, so named because seven films whose total combined budgets topped $1 billion failed to earn back their production costs in U.S. theaters. And in at least one case, Disney's mega-budgeted ($215 million) "The Lone Ranger," the studio could be hit for a loss of nearly $200 million.
The reasons for this? Too many films that cost too much, and too many of them in theaters at the same time.
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Yet the situation isn't nearly as bad as it seems. That's because foreign box-office, thanks to emerging markets in Asia and Latin America, is now more important than North American ticket sales. Which means several films that underperformed in the States -- notably "Wolverine" and "After Earth" -- made back their investments overseas. But it also means that films are now being made so they appeal to the overseas market, which seems to like its flicks big, loud and familiar -- sequels, reboots and spinoffs accounted for 70 percent of box-office gross this summer, compared to 35 percent in 2002.
So it goes. Like every film summer, you take the bad with the good. And like every summer, there are winners and losers.
'FAST & FURIOUS 6' Fast cars + hot guys and girls + exotic locations = box-office bonanza. Worldwide gross: nearly $800 million. The series seems to be getting better as it goes along -- the last two films have been the best of the bunch.
MELISSA MCCARTHY "The Heat" grossed more than $150 million on a $43 million budget. After her hit turn in "Bridesmaids," it's time to call this woman a legitimate superstar.
INDIE FILMS AND DOCUMENTARIES In a summer when a slew of big-budget films failed to live up to expectations, smaller, more adult flicks managed to do solid business. "20 Feet From Stardom," "Fruitvale Station," "Blue Jasmine" and "The Way, Way Back" all pulled in respectable grosses.
'DESPICABLE ME 2,' 'MONSTERS U' Combined domestic gross: more than $600 million. Animation lives.
SALT-AND-PEPPER DUOS "Lethal Weapon" set the template: a black guy and a white guy team up to take down the baddies. Cut to "2 Guns," in which Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg join forces to earn solid box-office business. Looks like this genre is alive and healthy.
ADAM SANDLER AND BUDDIES "Grownups 2" got some of the worst reviews of the century -- only 7 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes, with one critic calling it "a movie of fools, by fools, for fools." Yet, it managed to take in more than $120 million on an $80 million budget. Sandler remains critic-proof.
HORROR "The Conjuring" grossed $130 million on a $20 million budget. Now that's scary. Verrrry scary.
STONER COMEDIES "This Is the End," "We're the Millers" and "The Hangover Part III," all featuring the ingestion of controlled substances, managed to hit box-office gold. Somewhere, Cheech and Chong are exchanging high-fives.
THE BUTLER DID IT Solid reviews, major media coverage, an important story and Oscar buzz added up to excellent business for "Lee Daniels' The Butler" -- the film earned back its entire production budget in only five days.
ZOMBIES "The Walking Dead" is the hottest show on cable. And "World War Z," despite well-publicized postproduction problems, pulled in more than $500 million worldwide. Looks like you can't keep a good nightwalker down.
'WHITE HOUSE DOWN,' 'THE LONE RANGER,' 'PACIFIC RIM,' 'R.I.P.D.,' 'AFTER EARTH,' 'TURBO,' 'ELYSIUM'
How many times can you say, "Domestic Box-Office Disaster"?
THE VINCE VAUGHN-OWEN WILSON PARTNERSHIP "The Internship" wasn't exactly another "Wedding Crashers," was it? Which is why audiences stayed away.
WILL AND JADEN SMITH "After Earth" earned a dreadful 12 percent positive on the Rotten Tomatoes scale, and pulled in a lame $60 million domestically on a $130 million budget. Smith the elder is still a major star, but maybe he needs to give Jaden a rest. Let him be a kid for a change.
RYAN REYNOLDS It's been a tough summer for the good-looking Canadian. "R.I.P.D." was a major critical and box-office disaster, and "Turbo," for which Reynolds did some voice work, was another loser. With the 2011 bomb "The Green Lantern" also on his resumé, you have to wonder about Reynolds' viability as a theatrical draw.
SMURFS " 'The Smurfs 2' has everything you hated about the first movie, and more," said a typical review. Which is why its Rotten Tomatoes rating was a wretched 15 percent positive.
PORN STARS "Lovelace." No one cared.
HARRISON FORD Ford was one of the stars of the corporate thriller "Paranoia," which earned a ghastly 3 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and stunk up America's multiplexes with a measly $3.5 million gross despite opening on more than 2,400 screens. That's one of the worst openings ever for a film in such wide release, and the worst opening in Ford's long career.