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Who Were The Winners And Losers Of The Summer Of 2011?

Who Were The Winners And Losers Of The Summer Of 2011?

As the summer winds die down with a flat and uninspired whimper, the realization sets in: the summer of 2011 was for the birds. “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” was the last major tent-pole to open, followed by sleeper hits like “The Help” and the not-so-successful R-rated action comedy, “30 Minutes or Less.” Many had forecast that the overstuffed summer would prove disastrous, with Jon Favreau predicting that, “There’s not a weekend where there won’t be teeth on the floor,” but ironically it’s Favreau’s film that proved to be one of the biggest box-office disappointments. Financially, films did very well with three billion-dollar blockbusters – “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2,” “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”– helping the industry set a summer box-office record and nearly rebound from a horrible start to 2011 (Currently, 2011 revenue is running only 4 percent behind 2010, but in March, things were looking grim – 19% lower than the year previous).

With seventeen movies that broke the $100 million barrier, against last year’s 14, plenty of smaller scale hits like “Bad Teacher” and “Friends With Benefits” that should turn a healthy profit, and those three billion-dollar grossers entering the all-time top ten, as far as the bottom line was concerned, 2011 was spray-tanned and sitting pretty. But as ever, some people did better than others in the season; stars were born or confirmed, careers were revived, while others are going to have to knock it out of the park next time in order to maintain their quotes and corner table at Spago. As usual, the studios generally had a mixed season: Warner Bros. had two mega-grossers with ‘Potter’ and “The Hangover Part II,” but “Green Lantern” heavily disappointed, Sony had no tentpoles, but their films turned a profit, while Fox had two moderate successes and a big franchise reboot, but likely a lower total gross than any of the big studios. So, without further ado: who had a great few months, and who needs to do some rethinking?

Actors: Winners

Michael Fassbender, Chris Evans & Chris Hemsworth
The superhero movie has proven to be a good launchpad to big-screen stardom, so long as your name doesn’t contain the words Routh or Brandon. This season saw three on-the-rise actors cement their status on the A-list with superpowered turns, and all three will be even more in demand than they were before. Both Fassbender and Evans have been promising to break out for a while, but they’ve ensured it now: Fassbender was the highlight of a strong “X-Men: First Class” cast, and is now familiar to the general public for the first time, while Evans nailed a tricky role in “Captain America: The First Avenger” in a manner that should see him pick up all kinds of new offers. Hemsworth wasn’t nearly as well known as either before the summer began, but, like Evans, in “Thor” the Aussie actor was charming and convincing in a difficult part, and his imposing figure should make him, at the very least, an action star to be reckoned with.

Cameron Diaz, Melissa McCarthy & Kristen Wiig
Diaz has had a rough few years: her last bona-fide hit was 2006’s “The Holiday,” but it was followed with several disappointments in a row including “My Sister’s Keeper,” “Knight & Day” (though ultimately a financial success) and “The Box,” reducing her to one of the most thankless female roles in cinema history at the start of the year in “The Green Hornet.” But as she approaches forty, any doubts about her star power were quashed with “Bad Teacher” the low-budget R-rated comedy. Sold almost entirely on her name, it opened to a hugely surprising $30 million figure, and has continued to perform well both at home and abroad, proof that in the right role, Diaz is still a force to be reckoned with.

Bridesmaids” was one of the greatest pleasures of the summer, and considering the mean ensemble of the film, it’s no surprise that plenty of the actors have done well out of it already, most notably the film’s M.V.P. Melissa McCarthy. She’s already on top-rated sitcom “Mike and Molly,” but she’s on her way to becoming an unconventional leading lady, with two projects in development, one with “Bridesmaids” writer Annie Mumulo, the other with director Paul Feig and co-star Jon Hamm. We wrote about our concern that Kristen Wiig wasn’t cashing in in the same way a few months back, but thankfully our worries weren’t fulfilled: she might be heading to “Saturday Night Live” for one more season, but the smash-hit success of her self-penned vehicle has meant that she’s been able to get financing for dark project “Imogene,” which is now in front of cameras.

Owen Wilson
Wilson had two high-profile ass-kickings as 2010 turned into 2011: James L Brooks‘ “How Do You Know” and the Farrelly Brothers‘ “Hall Pass,” neither of which were much liked by audiences or critics, and it seemed a long time since “Wedding Crashers.” But redemption has come from an unlikely source: namely, Woody Allen. Playing the Allen-surrogate has been a rite of passage for actors from John Cusack to Will Ferrell, but few have done it as well as Wilson, who made the neurotic archetype feel fresher than most. More importantly, the film was Allen’s best-received and most successful in a decade, and it’s Wilson who’s the biggest winner from that.

Minor success stories to keep an eye on:

Justin Timberlake
The former popster won over many doubters with his turn in “The Social Network,” but that was a supporting role, and one close to his public persona; it remained to be seen if he was the bona-fide movie star that studios wanted him to be. He’s not there yet, but he’s not entirely floundering either. He’s not yet had a mega-hit on his own back, but with two modest comedy hits in the space of a few months, between “Bad Teacher” and “Friends With Benefits,” he’s shown that he’s got an audience, and that he can carry the film. The fall’s questionable-looking “In Time” will be the next test, moving away from the comedy genre into true leading man status, but at the very least, he’s a punchline no longer.

Hayley Atwell
Atwell’s been a rising star in the U.K. for a while now, but was virtually unknown in the States, beyond appearances in the much-derided “Cassandra’s Dream” and “Brideshead Revisited.” But beating out Keira Knightley, Emily Blunt and Alice Eve to the female lead in “Captain America” seems to have been the making of her: the actress was an unusually strong, spunky love interest, bringing both wit and weight to the film, and was easily one of its highlights. Her star will have risen considerably as a result, and we’d expect to see her going on to far greater things, particularly as she’s unlikely to be constrained by multiple Marvel movies.

Actors: Losers

Ryan Reynolds
The former sitcom actor has been touted as a megastar-in-waiting for a while now, but only had a single real hit to his name, the Sandra Bullock rom-com “The Proposal.” As such, the summer of 2011 was a big test for the Canadian actor, and one that he doesn’t seem to have passed. The failure of “Green Lantern” could have been forgiven: the film, after all, reeked of disaster, was badly marketed, and received poisonous reviews. But the disappointing opening for “The Change-Up” (it’s only grossed $34 million in 4 weekends) doesn’t help Reynolds case in the least. The R-rated comedy had a high concept and good pedigree, and co-star Jason Bateman had a hit in the same genre only a few weeks earlier with “Horrible Bosses,” but no one seemed to want to see Reynolds play naughty. Next February’s “Safe House” should be a reprieve, as it’s the kind of middlebrow thriller that co-star Denzel Washington specializes in, but studio bosses have got to be a little nervous about 2013 would-be-tentpole “R.I.P.D,” and chances of that “Deadpool” solo movie ever happening are dropping by the day.

Olivia Wilde
Like Reynolds, Wilde has been on the rise for a while, but took a hit this summer with two big failures: “Cowboys and Aliens” and “The Change Up.” Neither film was sold on her, so the brand hasn’t been tarnished too horribly, and Wilde has plenty more in the works, particularly now that she’s freed herself from duties on “House.” But chances of her carrying her own movie are slipping, and there’s little on her dance card that’ll help that, although hopefully indie-type projects like “Butter” and “Blackbird” have the potential to surprise.

Tom Hanks
In the 1990s, a romantic comedy starring Hanks and Julia Roberts would have been as close to a surefire hit that you could get. But “Larry Crowne,” while admittedly cheap, never found its audience despite the two A-listers, and, with Roberts taking “Eat Pray Love” to $200 million worldwide last year, it’s Hanks who takes the bullet here, leaving him in an unusual position for the actor: he’s not had a real hit outside the Dan Brown or “Toy Story” franchises for close to a decade, the days of a $200 million toll for “Cast Away” long behind him. He’s not going anywhere, but he could use a home-run some time soon.

Directors: Winners

J.J. Abrams
Abrams might be one of the busiest people in Hollywood, and was coming off a big hit in “Star Trek,” but this summer was the biggest test of his name to date. Even in TV, his hits have been based around high-concepts (“Lost,” “Alias“), and he doesn’t hit it out of the park every time, with shows like “Six Degrees” and “Undercovers” getting swift cancellations. “Super 8” was certainly a risk — a rare relative original in a slew of adaptations, without anything even close to a big name in the cast. And sure, Steven Spielberg‘s name was all over the ads, but that didn’t help “Cowboys & Aliens” much, did it? The film’s strong reviews and impressive success mean that Abrams is now one of the few directors who’ll essentially be allowed to do whatever the hell he likes these days — including pushing back the release date for “Star Trek 2.”

Rupert Wyatt
As dicey a proposition that “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” looked at one stage, those of us who knew “The Escapist,” the debut feature from ‘Apes’ director Rupert Wyatt, held out a little hope. With the film landing surprisingly excellent reviews, and a far-better-than-expected opening weekend, it’s not lead James Franco who’ll take the credit (it’s a much-needed boost after the death of “Your Highness,” but the film wasn’t sold on the actor, and most reviews called him the weak link). Instead, it’s Wyatt who’ll take the credit here — critics overwhelmingly praised his visual abilities and handling of the third-act action, and he’ll shoot to the top of director wish-lists for big properties from now on. Indeed, by following a terrific thriller with a reinvigoration of a long-tarnished franchise, he seems to be following the Christopher Nolan career path, and we won’t be the only people to make that comparison.

Justin Lin
Lin is a veteran of “The Fast and the Furious” franchise, having helmed the last three entries, and the returns have been increasing every time, with “Fast Five” being easily the most successful, and, crucially, most enjoyable, of the series. Lin’s been on the up for a little while now, but he’s now breaking through in a big way, particularly as he’s been appointed as the man to save the “The Terminator” franchise. He’s not quite A-list yet: he needs to have a hit that doesn’t star Vin Diesel and/or Paul Walker first. But if his witty, energetic work on “Community” is anything to go by, there’s plenty more to come from the helmer.

Woody Allen
As you’ve likely heard, Woody Allen‘s lite and enjoyable little soufflé, “Midnight In Paris,” surpassed the $50 million mark at the U.S. box office this summer, making it Allen’s biggest grosser ever. Not his best work, but a very enjoyable little comedic and sweet trifle, ‘Paris’ hit a sweet-spot with older audiences that hadn’t come out to support him in years and it’s still doing brisk box-office business ($85 million worldwide). With a wide release on the way, and a potential Oscar campaign coming from Sony Pictures Classics, whether Allen can score one of the coveted 10 Oscar Best Picture slots or not is moot; he’s had a banner year either way.

Directors: Losers

Jon Favreau
Who doesn’t like Jon Favreau? He’s always been an enjoyable screen presence, and he proved with “Elf,” “Zathura” and “Iron Man” that he was a commercial filmmaker to be reckoned with, with a Spielberg-ian sense of how to push an audience’s buttons. But “Cowboys & Aliens” wasn’t just one of the biggest flops of the season, it was also Favreau’s second bad movie in a row, after the rushed “Iron Man 2.” That one was put down to behind-the-scenes clashes with Marvel, but the “Swingers” star has no one to blame but himself this time out: the dour tone never connected with audiences, not even the geek crowd it was intended for and it was far more boring than any film with the face-off promised in the title should be. Budgeted close to $200 million, the expensive film couldn’t even crack the $100 million mark domestically. It’s failure won’t derail his next film, Disney’s “Magic Kingdom,” but he’s no longer the safe pair of hands he seemed to be after “Iron Man.”

Rob Marshall
Surely the director of a billion-dollar hit like “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” can’t have had too shitty a summer? Well, no, but Rob Marshall can’t take too much credit for his first foray into tent-pole territory. The film lived and died on the public’s continuing adoration for Johnny Depp in his most beloved character, but ‘Tides’ was even more poorly received by critics than the last two installments, and Marshall showed no real capacity for big-canvas filmmaking. Depp seems to like him, hiring him to direct the in-development “The Thin Man” remake, but it seems that his services won’t be retained for ‘Pirates 5,’ and other heavy-hitters may think twice about giving Marshall another blockbuster any time soon. In the court of critical opinion, Marshall definitely needs a film that doesn’t make audiences wince.

The Film Winners

Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 2
While Warner Bros. said goodbye to its most lucrative franchise this year, the parting was made much less difficult when Harry and co. said adieu with a whopping $1.2 billion gross worldwide — the third highest grossing film of all time. Not too shabby. While it feels like a reboot will be a fait accompli in maybe 4-5 years, WB is certainly sitting pretty for the next few years thanks to ‘Hallows Part 2.’ And take note, worldwide audiences love ‘Potter,’ the film’s international gross was a whopping $923 million. And counting, ‘Deathly Hallows Part 2’ is still only 6 weeks deep and its conceivable it could still rack up a few more millions before its worldwide run is done.

The Help
Generally speaking, August is the summer equivalent of January for the major studios: a dumping ground for the movies that they’re not sure what to do with. However, over the past couple years, this frame has proven hugely successful with movies aimed squarely at the Oprah crowd. “Eat Pray Love” (over $200 million worldwide) and “Julie & Julia” (over $125 million worldwide) have exposed a segment of the population that is both usually underserved by Hollywood, has money to spend on the movies and moreover, generates great word of mouth. So no surprise then that “The Help,” just three weeks into release, is not only still in the number one slot, but is looking to surpass $100 million by the time September arrives this weekend. While bloggers and critics wrung their hands about the possible problematic racial issues of the film, audiences were less discerning and came out of the picture smiling and recommending it to their friends which likely accounts for the strong week-over-week hold that has seen the pic stay under a 30% drop thus far. So what happens next August? Well, Disney has already set “The Odd Life Of Timothy Green” for a August 15, 2012 bow and with the trailer unspooling in front of “The Help” it’s only the start of what will be a very targeted marketing campaign with the hopes they can build on this year’s success.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon
$1.1 billion and counting and now the 5th highest worldwide grossing film of all time: say what you will about Michael Bay, but “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” cemented the fact that Bay can make senseless, clamoring pictures with little wit or narrative and audiences will still come out in droves to see his noisy, action spectacles. Especially international audiences. $757 million of that $1.1 billion cume came from overseas audiences who just love to see shit blow up real good. And while 3D took a hit this year, when all is said and done, the proselytizers will point to ‘Dark Of The Moon’ and ‘Deathly Hallows 2’ as two important success stories.

R-Rated Comedies: “The Hangover Part 2,” “Bridesmaids,” & “Horrible Bosses”
If there was any doubt that R-rated comedies were a new cash cow for Hollywood, the summer of 2011 put those questions to rest, as audiences turned out in droves for a string of foul-mouthed comedies. There was no question that “The Hangover Part II” was going to be big, and in fact, the only question was just how much of a money maker it would be. Well, taking in nearly $600 million worldwide, the film made over $100 million more than its predecessor, ensuring that drunken hijinks will never get old and guaranteeing a third installment. But that wasn’t the only R-rated laffer that scored big for Warner Bros., as the lower budgeted “Horrible Bosses” found audiences dreaming of vicariously offing their employers to the tune of $170 million worldwide. Once again, a smart concept, sold and marketed to big bucks. But the story of the year belongs to “Bridesmaids.” Earning over $270 million worldwide, it’s ample proof that it’s not just guys who enjoy bawdy humor and that guys don’t care if the filthy laughs come from men or women. Paul Feig, long standing in the shadow of pal Judd Apatow, finally emerged as a director with mulitplex chops. Equally heartening, the film launched the big screen careers of two of its stars — Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy — thus ensuring that there will be more smartly written hilarity coming down the line.

The Film Losers

Proof that nostalgia doesn’t instantly guarantee an audience or box office clout, the reboot of the character that made Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s career took a mighty big swing but missed widely. Handing the reins to director Marcus Nispel probably wasn’t the best idea. Sure, he probably works for cheap, but his resume is littered with films like “Pathfinder“, while the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Friday The 13th” reboots speak for themselves. Though he ambitiously went for an R-rated take on the material, audiences didn’t seem to care for Jason Momoa being the one to unleash the violence and critics were even far less impressed. The actor, who was somewhat prematurely given the CinemaCon Rising Star award this past spring from industry types has yet to prove he’s earned that status. His stint on the first season of “Game Of Thrones” didn’t require him to speak many lines, and after the paltry performance of “Conan” — the $90 million movie has made a sad $22 million worldwide — he won’t be headlining any major tent-poles any time soon. Lionsgate are likely smarting from the hit they’re going to take on this one, and you can bet the producers on the developing “Red Sonja” reboot will be rethinking their approach after the dismal performance of “Conan.”

Green Lantern
We won’t harp on about it too long, as we discussed this film at length throughout this piece. Yes, it was tonally off, confused, plodding and just too simplistic even for easy-lay audiences (we called it “a tale of good and evil for dummies” in our review). But what’s important to remember about “Green Lantern” is that on paper, the character was akin to “Iron Man.” Both were B-characters in the comics world, but thanks to Robert Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau, “Iron Man” is is now without question Marvel’s most popular and successful character. D.C. and Warner Bros. were surely trying to replicate this success: Turn a B-level character (don’t forget audiences scratched their heads and chuckled at the thought of an “Iron Man” film at first, thinking he was a character that couldn’t lead a film on his own) into an A-list star and then lead the way for other B-level characters to come. But WB/D.C. stumbled hard here and this is going to cause problems in their universe. Had Hal Jordan succeeded, films from “The Flash” and “Wonder Woman” might not be that far behind. But with this very expensive lesson learned ($250+million), it’s doubtful we’ll see these films on screen anytime before 2014 at this rate, since it’s likely back to the drawing board for many of these projects before they proceed forward (that’s the case for the mooted “Green Lantern” sequel too; expect a major rewrite and a jettisoning of the old script).

Attack The Block
One of the best genre films of the year (one of our favorite films of the year, period) — an inspired mix of “The Goonies,” “Critters” and “Gremlins” — the British sci-fi film, “Attack The Block,” was loudly trumpeted by the geek set and critics, but after being snatched up by Screen Gems after the film’s U.S. debut at SXSW, the mini-studio seemed at a loss at what to actually do with the picture. They rushed the film into theaters in July, next to “Cowboys & Aliens,” and audiences just didn’t respond to either genre film. Poor Edgar Wright. Last year, he had the heavily touted “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” in a similar position. That film made tons of media noise, especially in the vociferous, but niche geek set, but didn’t connect widely with audiences. As an exec-producer on “Attack The Block,” the filmmaker experienced the same unfortunate fate with this picture. Directed by Joe Cornish, the sci-fi film set in the British projects was a major accomplishment for any director, let alone a directorial debut. But after almost 5 weeks in theaters, the film has only made a rather sad, $715,000 domestically. Worldwide the film has grossed $4.9 million, but off a $13 million dollar budget, plus marketing and the type of amazing-worth-of-mouth you can’t buy, “Attack The Block,” is just another example of the disparity between geek buzz and audience reception (and lost in translation language barriers and a clueless studio). Not to mention a major disappointment. That said, surely this dazzling and energetic picture is going to end up on many year-end-lists, so maybe like “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World,” hopefully Cornish’s ‘Block’ will become a cult classic on DVD.

Glee: The 3D Concert Movie
Opening in over 2,000 theaters for what was supposed to be a limited event screening type affair, the Gleeks stayed at home for “Glee: The 3D Concert Movie.” Granted, the cost of the filming a concert, cutting it, converting it and putting it up in theaters was tiny, but surely Fox was hoping it would open better than 11th place. Total box office? $14 million. While “Glee” may be a powerhouse on TV, that seems to be where the brand is going to stay for now and some blame should be foisted upon the marketers of this movie, who failed to convey that it wasn’t just a concert movie, but also a chronicle of die hard fans of the show and what it means to them. Is the power of “Glee” waning? We doubt it, but Fox was mistaken if they thought there was a big mainstream audience ready to see them at the multiplex.

R-Rated Comedies: “The Change-Up,” “30 Minutes Or Less”
Okay, so not every high concept foul mouthed comedy was a success. Confirming Ryan Reynolds‘ bummer summer, “The Change Up” marked the actor’s second flop in a row after “Green Lantern” and put into serious question his leading man status. Audiences just didn’t care for the “Freaky Friday” premise and even though the film was actually quite funny, word of mouth didn’t help, and the movie opened at #4 and continued to sink faster and faster each week, barely passing $30 million worldwide — a dismal number by any standard. Meanwhile, Sony‘s freewheeling “30 Minutes Or Less,” about a guy who is forced to rob a bank and enlists his friend to help him out found Jesse Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari floundering for somebody to watch the movie. We love Aziz, but we’re not sure who decided he’s ready to co-star in a movie nor is Eisenberg yet primed to lead a summer movie. That said, it was a relatively low budget project and it should make back its budget and turn a small profit, but you can bet the studio was hoping for a lot more, especially given the heavy push they gave the movie (is there anybody Ansari and Eisenberg didn’t talk to?). Still, a $31 million gross so far, just doesn’t cut it.

The Business: Winners

The comic company-turned-movie studio have had an unusually ambitious game plan in effect, with roughly a movie a year heading into next summer’s team-up effort “The Avengers.” 2011 was the make-or-break year: “Thor” and “Captain America” were both risky, one a bolder, weirder, more fantastical superhero flick than had been seen in a while, the latter a period piece that may not have played well internationally, and neither looked hugely promising for movie fans in advance. The joke that, if both flopped, “The Avengers” might be rebranded as “Iron Man 3” was a common one. But, to their great delight, the risks paid off: both picked up far better reviews than expected, and have proven to be big box office hits, birthing two new franchises, and positioning “The Avengers” to be a massive tent-pole in 2012.

Paramount & Warner Bros.
Most studios, as is usually the case, had a mixed summer: Warner Bros, for example, had huge hits with ‘Harry Potter,’ “The Hangover Part II” and “Horrible Bosses,” but should have opened “Crazy Stupid Love” to much more, and got burnt on “Green Lantern.” Still, with ‘Potter’ and ‘Hangover II’ successes, the companies $1.3 billion domestic gross this year is just behind Par’s $1.41 billion (both companies are over $2 billion internationally). But only one studio knocked it out of the park every time: Paramount. They didn’t just distribute the two Marvel superhero flicks, but also DreamWorks‘ “Kung-Fu Panda 2,” and had home-grown hits both in the hugely profitable “Super 8,” and the billion-dollar “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” It’s something of an ending of an era for the studio: the Marvel movies move to Disney next year, their deal with DreamWorks Animation is over and Michael Bay is done with “Transformers,” so they’ve got to be worried for the future — the summer of 2012 holds only “World War Z” and a “G.I. Joe” sequel. But for now, they’re sitting pretty.

20th Century Fox
Long thought of as the most interference-happy studio in town, with few critical darlings in recent years, this was the year when 20th Century Fox started taking some risks, going for filmmaker-led rebirths of some of their biggest properties. And for the most part, it paid off. “X-Men First Class” didn’t do gangbusters numbers, but as a virtual starting-from-scratch approach to the superhero franchise, it did just fine, with numbers akin to “Batman Begins,” and it’s certainly put them back in fans’ good books after the widely loathed “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” And “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” was perhaps the biggest gamble of the summer, but the surprising opening weekend numbers ($54 million) and the totals since ($305 million worldwide with a healthy $148 million domestically), it’s clear that risk has paid off. Hopefully “Prometheus” and “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” will continue the upward critical trend next summer.

The Business: Losers

The studio have had a rougher time than most in recent years, having rolled the dice on ambitious projects like “Green Zone” and “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” that didn’t pay off. And they had a storming start to the year, with “Fast Five” and “Bridesmaids” both setting the box office alight; indeed, if we’d written this feature two weeks ago, they’d have firmly been in the winner’s category. But those two weeks have brought two high concept films that were safe bets on paper: Daniel Craig + Harrison Ford + Jon Favreau + Steven Spielberg for “Cowboys & Aliens,” and Ryan Reynolds + Jason Bateman + the director of “Wedding Crashers” + the writers of “The Hangover” for “The Change-Up.” But both will number among the biggest disappointments of the year, expensive, misjudged pictures that will struggle to make a profit. The studio might be getting back on the right track, but we’re not convinced that they’ve mastered the art of greenlighting movies that people actually want to see just yet, and with 2012’s great hope “Battleship” already a punchline, it may be some time before they’re restored to former glories. Keep in mind they’re self-aware. This is the reason they pulled the plug on Guillermo del Toro‘s “At The Mountains of Madness,” Ron Howard‘s “The Dark Tower” and their Hasbro properties, “Clue” and “Ouija“: because they were all simply expensive risks to take.

It feels odd to be planting the golden boys of animation among the losers: after all, their entry for this year, “Cars 2,” will sell a huge amount of merchandise, and has taken $400 million worldwide. But, to put it in context, $400 million makes it the studio’s lowest grosser in well over a decade, and it’s unlikely to go up significantly, the film having already opened in virtually every major territory. Perhaps more importantly, their streak as critical darlings has been broken: the sequel was even less well received than its predecessor, marking Pixar‘s first ‘rotten’ film; the luster is starting to come off the dream factory. Next year’s offering “Brave” looks infinitely more promising, but with key figures like Brad Bird and Andrew Stanton starting to be tempted away for live-action fare elsewhere, we wonder if “Cars 2” will be looked back on as the end of an era for the CGI giants.

D.C. Comics
Marvel might have had the more consistent run, of late, but let’s not forget that it’s a D.C. Comics character who starred in the all-time top grossing superhero flick, “The Dark Knight.” Parent company Warner Bros have, with the end of the “Harry Potter” series, pinned their hopes on D.C. providing them a wealth of new franchises, but things got off to an ignominious start with “Green Lantern,” which had the lowest opening of the four superhero flicks of the season (on the biggest budget), a steep drop-off, and a meager international haul. A sequel is being pushed on with (although how far it’ll progress remains to be seen), and other characters like “The Flash” remain in development, but despite new Batman and Superman pictures on the way, D.C. have a long way to go before they match their great rivals’ position in the movie world.

Not a studio as such, but the post-“Avatar” 3D revolution has been as major a development in the film industry as anything in recent years. But the honeymoon was firmly over as of this summer, at least domestically. The format clearly helped “Transformers,” “Harry Potter” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” to hit $1 billion a piece internationally, but at home, the films mostly didn’t overwhelmingly outpace their predecessors and, crucially, the trend started to develop of audiences choosing 2D over 3D screenings: 70% of ‘Pirates’ showings were in 3D on opening weekend, but only 40% of the box office came from them. It’s unlikely to be the format’s death knell, but the days of every potential tentpole getting an extra dimension are likely to be in question from now on. 3D’s not dead by any means, but it’s definitely going into reassessment mode.

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