As far as Hollywood is concerned, school's start spells summer's end.
Time to tally up the winners, losers, surprise hits and bombs for the summer. The season's North American box office total of $4.1 billion is down a bit from 2011, though final figures aren't in yet.
It might have been worse, were it not for the phenomenal success of “The Avengers.” The movie packed with superheroes earned more than $1 out of every $7 in domestic revenue this season, a whopping $618 million. That seems like a natural cue to swing into the lists:
“The Avengers,” just shy of $1.5 billion in global box office, earned a 92 percent fresh (approval) rating from critics and 98 percent fresh from fans on the Rotten Tomatoes website.
Right behind: two more superhero movies from the comic-book pages. Director Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy capper, “The Dark Knight Rises,” hauled in $422 million domestic. “The Amazing Spider-Man,” No. 3 at $258 million, also garnered strong reviews and fan satisfaction. Two animated movies also scored with critics and fans, as well as at the box office. Pixar's medieval mother-daughter story “Brave,” at $230 million, was No. 4 for the season, and “Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted” revived the franchise, finishing No. 6 with $214 million.
“Ted,” starring man-child Mark Wahlberg and his foul-mouthed teddy bear, proved the R-rated comedy is still alive and well. “Ted” earned $215 million, tons of outraged laughter and the summer's No. 5 spot. “Magic Mike,” Channing Tatum's male-stripper tale, was another R-rated winner, at No. 11 and $112 million.
Smaller-budget surprises included “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” at No. 21 — but a solid hit with older audiences. “Hope Springs,” in which Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep get marriage counseling, earned an almost identical $45 million. “Moonrise Kingdom,” director Wes Anderson's tale of pubescent love, nearly matched them at $44 million and notched a 94 percent critic-approval rating. No. 40, “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” earning just $9 million, was still an overachiever, since it cost just $1.3 million to make.
SUCCESS, SORT OF
“Men in Black III,” at $178 million and No. 7 for the summer, was OK, but not the sensation of the original. Kristen Stewart's kissing habits may make “Snow White and the Huntsman” more notable over time than its tepid-to-positive reviews, though it finished No. 8 at $154 million.
“Ice Age: Continental Drift” ranked No. 9 and made $153 million, but only 39 percent of critics and 61 percent of fans on Rotten Tomatoes gave it a thumbs-up.
“Prometheus,” widely touted as a prequel to “Alien,” was visually arresting but had story problems, earning $126 million and a 10th-place finish. “The Bourne Legacy,” another action tale, had a decent finish and middling scores at No. 12, taking in $85 million — but was widely reviewed as inferior to the three previous Bourne movies.
“The Campaign,” another R-rated comedy in which Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis play politicians who go negative, earned a solid if unspectacular $65 million at No. 16.
Tim Burton got the Gothic vibe right, but his penchant for camp over story didn't play well with “Dark Shadows” fans. The Johnny Depp movie drew $80 million and subpar approval scores. A remake of “Total Recall,” another expensive special-effects vehicle, made $55 million and couldn't match the reviews of the 1990 original.
“Sparkle,” also a remake and Whitney Houston's last movie, earned just $19 million. Woody Allen's “To Rome With Love,” his followup to the Oscar-nominated “Midnight in Paris,” proved no match at $16 million.
Not every R-rated comedy did well. Adam Sandler's “That's My Boy” grossed out critics, who gave it a 21 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Two more comedy stars, Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn, bombed even worse. Killing aliens in “The Watch,” they earned a 17 percent from Rotten Tomatoes' critics.
“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” proved dead shortly after arrival, finishing No. 27 at $37 million.
“Rock of Ages,” a musical starring Tom Cruise as an aging 1980s rock star, earned just $38 million and finished 26th. “Battleship,” an expensive digital-effects movie, took in just $65 million domestic, finishing 14th.
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