While this is a bit of a cliche, it truly was feast-or-famine at the domestic box office this Summer. The Top Five titles accounted for over 41 percent of total grosses for the season, which is the highest share in at least 20 years. In comparison, the Top Five only contributed 32 percent of last Summer's box office.
Using historical comparisons and pre-release expectations, I've compiled a list of the winners, losers, and everything in between for Summer 2012.
The Avengers: Everyone knew The Avengers would be big, but no one expected it to be this big. The long-anticipated superhero team-up obliterated the opening weekend record when it scored $207.4 million over the first weekend in May, and it held well throughout the rest of the Summer to wind up with an incredible total north of $620 million. That's nearly double the highest gross among its predecessors (Iron Man at $318.4 million) and is more than Captain America: The First Avenger, Thor and The Incredible Hulk combined. The movie was also a super-sized hit overseas as well, earning over $880 million for a worldwide total north of $1.5 billion (ranking third all-time). Reinforcing just how much money Disney/Marvel made on this, they currently have five follow-up movies on the calendar for the next three years, including a sequel scheduled to kick off Summer 2015.
The Dark Knight Rises: Expectations got out of hand for the conclusion to Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy (I predicted it would earn over $1.3 billion worldwide—whoops), but that shouldn't take away from the movie's many achievements. The Dark Knight Rises set an opening weekend record for a 2D-only movie with $160.9 million, and it's on pace for a strong domestic tally around $450 million. More importantly, it saw solid growth overseas, and over Labor Day weekend became the 13th movie ever to earn over $1 billion worldwide.
Ted: In a Summer packed with all kinds of expensive special effects, the most memorable one may be that of a foul-mouthed teddy bear ripping a giant hit off a bong. By the end of Summer, Seth MacFarlane's raunchy R-rated comedy Ted ranked eighth all-time for an R-rated movie (and fourth all-time for a comedy) with $216.1 million, and it also was an overseas success with $168 million and counting. The movie serves to emphasize how valuable an original comedy idea can be: Ted will ultimately earn over $400 million worldwide, which will make it Universal's highest-grossing movie of 2012 ahead of mega-budget movies like Snow White and the Huntsman ($394 million) and Battleship ($303 million).
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted: It's amazing what a few circus afros can do for a movie's box office: while most franchises see declining domestic grosses for the third entry, Madagascar 3 became the top movie in the series with $214.8 million. It's also made $388 million overseas, and should at least come close to passing Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa's $423.9 million. Don't be surprised if DreamWorks puts in to production Madagascar 4: Adventures in Asia in the near future.
Ice Age: Continental Drift: The fourth Ice Age movie was the lowest-grossing entry in the series domestically with $156 million. That really doesn't matter, though, considering it earned an incredible $672.4 million overseas. A fifth Ice Age movie should be on the way soon.
Magic Mike: Coming off The Vow and 21 Jump Street, Channing Tatum was already having a pretty great year the box office. He pulled off his most impressive feat yet, though, by turning micro-budget male stripper movie Magic Mike in to his third $100 million hit of 2012.
Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection: After a few mild box office disappointments, multi-hyphenate entertainer Tyler Perry returned to his most popular character in Madea's Witness Protection. It wound up being Perry's second highest-grossing movie ever with $65.3 million, and proved that his brand can work as solid counter-programming even in the middle of Summer.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Moonrise Kingdom: Most Summers have at least one crowd-pleasing limited release that crosses over in to mainstream success. Last year it was Midnight in Paris ($56.8 million), while this year it was both The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel ($46 million) and Moonrise Kingdom ($44.3 million).
2016 Obama's America: Ahead of the 2004 presidential election, Michael Moore unleashed anti-Bush screed Fahrenheit 9/11, which went on to become the highest-grossing political documentary ever with $119.2 million. 2016 Obama's America is filling the anti-Obama slot this election season, and while it won't match Fahrenheit 9/11's gross, it is already the highest-grossing conservative documentary ever by a large margin with over $22 million.
Continued with Summer 2012's "Losers" and "Toss-Ups" >>
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• Awful August Ends Summer 2012
• Five $50 Million Debuts Propel June Business
• 'Avengers' Accounts for Over Half of May 2012 Grosses
• Summer 2012 Domestic Forecast
• Summer 2012 Foreign Forecast
• Summer Calendar Grosses
• 2012 Grosses (2012-only releases)
• Year-to-Date Comparison