The Summer of 2010

As I started to write this Summer 2010 recap, my first step was to begin talking about how it was yet another strange summer for movies. It was my first reaction to the summer that was. After several sentences, I […]

by Chris Neumer

As I started to write this Summer 2010 recap, my first step was to begin talking about how it was yet another strange summer for movies. It was my first reaction to the summer that was. After several sentences, I realized that deeming the recent summer as ‘strange’ was precisely how I had started three of my last four summer recaps. Apparently, strange now means normal. No matter how I looked at it, this didn’t seem quite right, particularly if it meant that the inverse would also be true; normal is the new strange. And thus, I began pondering how ‘unusual’ could have become the ‘usual’.

This is not a line of thinking that produces anything remotely resembling tangible results and I soon turned to questioning what a ‘normal’ summer actually was. After some deliberation, I came up with the following list of qualities that a normal summer movie season would possess:

• 1 Huge Movie (think: The Dark Knight)
• 1 Indie that Could (think: Little Miss Sunshine)
• 1 Documentary that Makes Waves (think: Fahrenheit 9/11)
• 1 Adaptation of a Popular Novel (think: Jurassic Park)
• 1 Will Smith Blockbuster (think: Men in Black)
• 1 Romantic Comedy that Strikes a Nerve (think: Sleepless in Seattle)
• 2 Successful Super Hero Movies (think: The Dark Knight, Iron Man or X Men)
• 1 Damn Funny Comedy (think: The Hangover)
• 3-5 Damn Unfunny Comedies (think: The Proposal, anything starring Jeremy Piven)
• 2 Well-Received, Animated, Box Office Smashes (think: Up or Shrek)
• 4 $100 Million Hits Released in May (think: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Terminator Salvation, The DaVinci Code)
• 2 Huge Flops (think: Land of the Lost, Evan Almighty)
• 2 B-Movies that get Positive Word-of-Mouth (think Inglorious Basterds)
• 1 Movie Starring a Former A-Lister that Gets Released and Dies (think: Mr. Brooks, License to Wed)

To me, those are the 15 generic descriptions of movies that should probably be present in a normal summer. Even possessing 10 of the 15 seemed like it would suffice as a ‘normal’ summer. I quickly grabbed my notebook and began comparing the summer that was with the summer that should be. The results were interesting to say the least.

THE HUGE MOVIE: NOT PRESENT

The temptation is to give this designation to Inception. It’s my knee-jerk reaction and one that probably wouldn’t be argued with a whole lot by members of the public. The problem is that Inception wasn’t that huge. It only grossed $265 million. Yes, only.

This is big, but it’s not huge. It’s certainly not huuuuuuuuuuuggggggge. By the end of summer, Inception was the fifth highest grossing movie of the year. Looking forward, it’s entirely possibly that Inception will be the year’s 8th or 9th highest grossing movie. It’s hard to give that the designation of ‘Huge’.

Oh yeah, it was also out grossed by Meet the Fockers. Not huge.

THE INDIE THAT COULD: NOT PRESENT

I’m sure some independent films came out this summer, but I don’t remember what any of them were. Helping nothing was that Lionsgate sometimes acts like an indie distributor (Splice) and sometimes acts like a major studio (The Expendables), which serves only to further muddy the water. Regardless, it’s not like there was another Hurt Locker out there that no one heard about.

THE DOCUMENTARY: NOT PRESENT

Babies kind of got a little word of mouth going at the beginning of summer. The very, very beginning of summer. That said, I can’t recall hearing anything about it in more than three months. And while it did gross $7 million, this is not the Fahrenheit 9/11 or An Inconvenient Truth way of doing things. Truth be told, I could be swayed on this one, but…

THE ADAPTATION OF A POPULAR NOVEL: CHECK

Technically, I suppose Eclipse counts here, but it does feel slightly hollow.

THE WILL SMITH BLOCKBUSTER: NOT PRESENT

I’m not saying that Will Smith isn’t keeping busy, but he isn’t scheduled to appear in a movie again until 2012 with the release of Men in Black 3. And that hasn’t even started production yet.

With the release of Men in Black 3, Smith’s then four-year hiatus from the silver screen will end. This is a huge chunk of downtime, given that Smith is the biggest box office draw in the world and did at least one movie a year every year from 1992-2008.

TWO SUCCESSFUL SUPERHERO MOVIES: NOT PRESENT

Unless I’m missing something, there were only two superhero movies released this summer: Iron Man 2, which was immensely successful, and Jonah Hex, which was not. Even if you consider The Last Airbender or The Sorcerer’s Apprentice to be superhero movies, they still weren’t successful.

THE ROMANTIC COMEDY THAT CAPTURES THE HEARTS OF AMERICANS: NOT PRESENT

Letters to Juliet? No. Just Wright? No. Knight & Day? Can a romantic-comedy have a body count in the triple digits?

THE DAMN FUNNY COMEDY: NOT PRESENT

Get him to the Greek was good. The Other Guys had moments. And so did Dinner for Schmucks. In the big picture though, these movies didn’t provide anywhere near the laughs of upper echelon comedies like The Hangover, Knocked Up or Borat

THE DAMN UNFUNNY COMEDIES: NOT PRESENT

(Don’t get me wrong, this is very much appreciated, but it ain’t normal.)

The summer of 2009 featured such wonderfully unfunny comedies as The Proposal, Land of the Lost, I Hate Valentine’s Day, Year One and The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard.
The summer of 2010 featured, uh, Grown Ups, I guess… and, uh, well… uh…

THE WELL-RECEIVED, ANIMATED BOX OFFICE SMASHES: CHECK

Despicable Me and Toy Story 3 both earned enormous amounts of critical praise and money. In what has to be one of the weirdest trends in Hollywood, animated movies aimed at kids are consistently landing better reviews than live-action movies aimed at adults.

THE $100 MILLION HITS OF MAY: NOT PRESENT

Financially, May is the best month of the year to release movies. It’s collective total is higher than any other month and, as of last year, 8 of the 11 biggest openings of all time took place in May. I’ve long said that if I were a studio head, I’d only release movies in May, June and December. So, naturally in 2010, the month of May produced only two real hits, Iron Man 2 and Shrek Forever After.

Robin Hood squeaked passed the $100 million mark, to nab a $105 million cumulative, but this is not anything that anyone is going to praise. Prince of Persia opened on Memorial Day weekend and couldn’t even surpass Robin Hood, only taking in $90 million domestically. Ditto for Sex and the City 2.

THE HUGE FLOPS: NOT PRESENT

I’m still getting mileage out of Evan Almighty’s horrific belly flop more than two years ago. It was just that big a flop. A $250 million budget for a comedy that only grossed $100 million? You remember those things.

I thought Jonah Hex would comfortably nab this honor in 2010 until I learned that its budget wasn’t even $50 million. Sure, it only took in $10 million at the domestic box office, but its budget was only $50 million.

Robin Hood and Prince of Persia look like spectacular failures in the States, but both movies grossed more than $200 million apiece overseas, bringing their total worldwide box office numbers to more than $300 million.

THE B-MOVIES WITH GOOD REVIEWS: CHECK

Piranha 3-D and Predators both earned positive word-of-mouth for their admittedly B-Movie-esque productions.

THE MOVIE STARRING A FORMER A-LISTER THAT IS RELEASED AND QUICKLY DIES A PAINFUL DEATH: CHECK

This former A-lister’s movie died such a quick death that I overlooked it when I first put this list together. Upon second glance, I realized that this particular summer specific was most certainly present.

Say hello to Jennifer Aniston and The Switch.

The weekend that The Switch opened, it opened seventh with a box office take of just under $8.5 million. That was some $29,000 more than Nanny McPhee Returns and about $600,000 more than Inception, which was, at the time, in its sixth week in theaters.

Hell, even Kevin Costner’s Mr. Brooks opened with a $10 million weekend.

Thus, in the end, the summer of 2010 only possessed 4 of my normal 15 qualities. Maybe designating it ‘strange’ was the right way to go after all.

Strangest of all? I can end my Summer 2010 recap with the very sentence I originally started it with: The Summer of 2010 was a strange season for movies.

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