Summer 2012, and comic book movies made lots of money.
So what else is new? Summer has become the season when the studios release their potential blockbusters, most of them franchise films or sequels. Audiences love to put their minds in neutral and generally come out in droves for these flicks, so it's no surprise that proven properties like Marvel Comics tie-ins and the latest in the Batman franchise made beaucoup bucks.
Yet, as always, this summer had not only its share of winners, but plenty of losers. Here are a few.
MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY AND CHANNING TATUM
After what seemed like years of dumb rom-coms co-starring Kate Hudson, McConaughey roared back with well-received and offbeat performances in "Bernie," "Magic Mike" and "Killer Joe." It's nice to have him back doing good work. And Tatum, who seemed to be waiting a long time for the vehicle that would make him a legitimate star, found it as the title character in "Magic Mike" (which, incidentally, earned more than $100 million on a $7 million budget). He was hot and sexy, and gave a thoroughly convincing and sensitive performance.
Who'da thunk it? "Ted," a film featuring a potty-mouthed CGI Teddy bear, grossed more than -- hold your breath now -- $200 million.
One of the film industry's most ignored demographics, folks over 50, really rocked the box office this summer. They turned out in bunches to see "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," a film made for only $10 million but that grossed more than $45 million in the United States and $130 million worldwide. It ain't "Avengers" business, but still pretty good bang for the buck. Then, there was "Hope Springs," featuring the 60-something pairing of Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep, which is well on its way to profitability. And "The Expendables 2," featuring a cast including AARP-eligible Sly Stallone (66), Chuck Norris (72) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (65), hit No. 1 at the box office on its opening weekend. Who said boomers are irrelevant?
Collectively, "The Avengers" and "The Amazing Spider-Man" grossed more than $2 billion globally. Two. BILLION. Dollars. With "Iron Man 3" already in production, and a "Thor" movie in the works, the Marvel juggernaut just keeps rolling on.
"The Dark Knight Rises" seemed like a sure success when it opened, and then the Aurora, Colo., theater shooting happened. Speculation was that this might put a damper on the film's box-office take, but that hasn't really happened. The film has already surpassed "The Dark Knight's" overseas take, and domestically it has grossed more than $400 million. A $1-billion global gross is within reach. Batman remains a superstar.
Perry's films have made more than $600 million, and his latest, "Madea's Witness Protection," copped more than $60 million on a $20-million budget. To quote that famous line from "Death of a Salesman": "Attention must be paid!"
"Moonrise Kingdom," made for $16 million, took in more than $40 million in box-office bucks. This director's highly stylized films have a solid cult audience.
INDIES, FOREIGN-LANGUAGE AND DOCUMENTARY FILMS
"Beasts of the Southern Wild" earned stellar reviews and has already brought in triple its production costs. "The Intouchables" grossed nearly $7 million, terrific business for a foreign-language flick. And the documentary "The Queen of Versailles" has been a box-office success. Proving that even in the summer, there's room for the little guy.
The pop singer's concert documentary, "Katy Perry: Part of Me," earned a solid 76 percent positive on the rottentomatoes.com scale, and grossed more than $25 million on a budget of $12 million. Add in the inevitable DVD and TV sales, and stardom never looked so lucrative.
The concept of Honest Abe fighting bloodsuckers seemed brain-dead from the get-go, and an insult to this great president's legacy. So the fact that "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" tanked -- less than $40 million box office on a $69 million budget -- shows there is some justice out there. Unfortunately, that does not guarantee we will be spared the film version of "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies."
"Prometheus" didn't exactly bomb -- it grossed more than $300 million worldwide -- but that's on a $130 million budget. The film was cold, confusing and, if the blogs can be believed, a real disappointment to "Alien" franchise geeks.
Guess fans of Foreigner preferred not to see Tom Cruise singing "I Want to Know What Love Is" in "Rock of Ages." Can you blame them?
The young actor starred in "John Carter" and "Battleship," two of the biggest bombs of this, or any other, year. And "Savages," which got mediocre reviews and less than average business, didn't exactly buff his career credentials. Not a good sign.
Finally, a Sandler film that was torched by the critics -- not exactly news -- and underwhelmed at the box office. Turns out "That's My Boy" was nobody's boy, and showed that audiences may finally be tiring of Sandler's dumber than dirt man-child shtick. Not that Sandler has gotten the message: his next film is the sequel to "Grownups," which earned a stellar 10 percent positive from rottentomatoes.com.
THE DEPP-BURTON PARTNERSHIP
"Dark Shadows" cost $150 million to produce and grossed less than $80 million. After making eight films together, maybe it's time for this collaboration to say bye-bye.
REMAKES AND RETREADS
"Total Recall" limped into theaters and hasn't even recovered half of its $125 million budget. And though "The Amazing Spider-Man" grossed more than $250 million domestically, it was by far the least successful of the four webslinger films. Memo to studio heads: Try to come up with original material.