As reported yesterday, Summer 2013's $4.76 billion in domestic earnings was a new high mark for the movie industry's most important season. Of course, not all movies are sharing equally in that windfall.
As part of our series of Box Office Mojo's series of Summer recap stories, we're breaking down this Summer's releases in to three categories: Winners, Losers, and Toss-Ups. Judgments are being made based on a combination of factors, including historical comparisons, budgets, and expectations. Many of the categorizations are pretty self-explanatory—with over $1.2 billion worldwide, Iron Man 3 is obviously a winner—though some are a bit more controversial. We encourage you to share your thoughts with us and other Mojo fans on Facebook. Winners Iron Man 3: The first movie of the Summer, Iron Man 3, also wound up being the highest-grossing movie by a long shot. Typically, the third movie in a franchise earns less than its predecessor at the domestic box office; that wasn't the case with Iron Man 3, which wound up being viewed more as a spin-off of mega-hit The Avengers than as a sequel to the underwhelming Iron Man 2.
While Iron Man 3 did fantastic business domestically (over $408 million), the real upside was overseas, where its $806 million haul was more than double that of its predecessor. Worldwide, the movie's $1.2 billion total ranks fifth all-time. Overall, this is a huge win for Disney, who has high hopes for Phase 2 of the Marvel Universe movies.
Despicable Me 2: Building on goodwill from the beloved first movie, Despicable Me 2 has become one of the most successful animated movies ever. Domestically, it ranked second for the Summer with $355 million, which is over $100 million more than its predecessor. It saw even bigger gains at the overseas box office, where it has earned $467 million so far. With a few major markets left to open, Despicable Me 2 should ultimately bank over $900 million worldwide, which will make this Universal's highest-grossing movie ever (during its initial run, at least).
Monsters University: While Monsters University was runner-up to Despicable Me 2 among Summer 2013 animated movies, that shouldn't take away at all from its massive success. Among Pixar movies, it ranks fourth all-time with $264 million, and it's also only the fourth Pixar movie ever to earn over $700 million worldwide.
Fast & Furious 6: The 12-year-old Fast & Furious franchise clearly still has gas left in the tank—the latest entry, Fast & Furious 6, dominated Memorial Day weekend this Summer and went on to earn over $238 million (an all-time best for the series). It also set a new high mark at the overseas box office ($549 million). Universal is clearly thrilled with these results: the studio has fast-tracked the next installment, which is due in July 2014.
The Heat: In a Summer packed with successful comedies, the biggest of them all was June's The Heat. With Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy and Bridesmaids director Paul Feig, The Heat was a strong option for underserved female moviegoers, and ultimately grossed an incredible $157.4 million at the domestic box office.
The Conjuring: With a confident, aggressive marketing effort, The Conjuring kicked off its run with $41.9 million, which is the highest opening ever for an R-rated horror movie. From there, word-of-mouth was so strong that it managed to overcome the horror genre's front-loading problems, and consistently had weekend drops below 50 percent. Through the end of Summer, The Conjuring had earned over $134 million, which made it the top supernatural horror movie in over a decade.
Now You See Me: Opening on the heels of a handful of high-profile sequels—and going up against a Will Smith sci-fi adventure—it seemed like Now You See Me was going to get lost in the shuffle. Instead, what appeared to be a scheduling disadvantage turned out to be the opposite: tired of expensive franchises and star-driven vanity projects, audiences flocked to this original magician thriller. To date, Now You See Me has earned over $117 million at the domestic box office, which makes it Lionsgate/Summit's highest-grossing movie ever outside of the Twilight and Hunger Games franchises. It has also done surprisingly robust business overseas, where it will ultimately close with well over $200 million.
We're the Millers: Benefiting from good scheduling and a strong premise, road trip comedy We're the Millers got off to a solid start in early August. The movie then held well thanks to strong word-of-mouth, and ultimately became the highest-grossing movie of August 2013. Through the end of Summer, We're the Millers had earned $113.2 million, and is on pace to close with over $130 million. Lee Daniels' The Butler: Recognizing that there was nothing to fill the mid-August adult counterprogramming slot, The Weinstein Company moved Lee Daniels' The Butler up from October. That turned out to be a shrewd move, as The Butler dominated the box office during the second half of August. Through less than three weeks the movie has earned over $79 million, and should blow past $100 million by mid-September. Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain and Instructions Not Included: Lionsgate scored with two modest releases targeted at underserved audiences this Summer. Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain grossed $32.2 million, which made it the fourth-highest-grossing stand-up comedy movie ever. Meanwhile, Spanish language comedy Instructions Not Included—technically a Summer release—debuted to over $10 million over Labor Day weekend despite opening in just 347 theaters.