Over the past ten years, the summer season has usually managed just one breakout $20 million-plus specialty hit. Seventeen summer specialty releases have hit that mark since 2003, and two of those came from this summer: Sony Pictures Classics' "Blue Jasmine" and Roadside Attractions' "Mud," with two more -- Fox Searchlight's "The Way, Way Back" and Lionsgate and Pantelion's late summer Spanish-language breakout "Instructions Not Included" -- all but assured to join them. That will give this summer a record four $20 million+ specialty titles, one more than last year's very impressive summer for specialty titles.
Last summer notably had two $40 million+ hits in "Moonrise Kingdom" and "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." In the end, "Blue Jasmine" should probably fall slightly short of that as the season's top grosser (we'd bet it ends up with $30-35 million, making it one of Woody Allen's 5 highest grossing films ever), unless the week old "Instructions Not Included" ends up continuing to surprise and pushes past it in the end (which is not out of the question -- it averaged $22,593 per theater from 347 theaters last weekend, no small feat for a film few had even heard of a week earlier). But either way, this summer had a slightly more extensive spread of profitable specialty releases than last year (and was a huge improvement over the two summers before that), as these little comparative charts make clear:
There were an impressive mix of success stories amidst those 2013 numbers, including three million dollar docs ("Blackfish," "Stories We Tell" and the huge $4.4 million grossing "20 Feet From Stardom" -- now one of the 40 highest grossing docs ever), a handful of foreign language hits (in addition to the aforementioned "Instructions," "The Grandmaster," "Fill The Void" and "The Attack" all found strong numbers), and a very diverse selection of American narrative films, with female-driven stories ("Blue Jasmine," "The Bling Ring," "Frances Ha"), African-American stories ("Fruitvale Station"), coming of age sagas ("Mud," "The Way Way Back," "The Spectacular Now"), a indie second sequel that outgrossed both its predecessors ("Before Midnight"), and a Shakespeare take from the director of the second highest grossing film ever ("Much Ado About Nothing").
Specialty films grossing $20 million-plus:
2010 - 1
2011 - 1
2012 - 3
2013 - 4*
Specialty films grossing $10 million-plus:
2010 - 1
2011 - 2
2012 - 5
2013 - 5
Specialty films grossing $1 million-plus:
2010 - 14
2011 - 19
2012 - 20
2013 - 26**
*- Assumes "The Way, Way Back" and "Instructions Not Included" cross that mark, which they certainly will.
**- Assumes "Austenland" will cross that mark, which it certainly will.
Grosses as of September 2, 2013, for all films released on or after April 26, 2013. Click on the film titles for more information and stories about each film.