Summer by the numbers
|Good (Metascore ≥ 61)||84 films|
|Mixed (40-60)||67 films|
|Bad (≤ 40)||30 films|
Labor Day brings the official end to Hollywood's summer movie season. Before we get too caught up in fall movies, let's take a moment to look back at the just-concluded summer season. As is usually the case, there is both good news and bad news to report.
The good news is that major films—the so-called "wide releases" that play on at least 600 screens—were generally better in the summer than they were earlier in the year. There were 14 well-reviewed wide releases (with Metascores at 61 or higher) this summer, and the average score for all major films was two points higher than it was in the spring, and over eight points higher than films released in the winter season.
However, the average Metascore for all 2011 movies actually edged downward in the summer, thanks to an unlikely culprit: limited release films. These indie, foreign, and art-house movies averaged just under 59. That mark was lower than the Metascore averages for limited release films in the spring and winter seasons, and it was the first time in five years that summer limited releases failed to average at least 61.
Here is a closer look at the Metascore averages by season for 2011 so far:
|Type||Summer||Spring||Winter||Year to Date|
How does this year compare to past years? The average Metascore for summer wide releases actually hit a five-year high in 2011, and the average Metascore for the top grossing films of the season was at its highest point since 2008. However, thanks to all those lackluster limited releases, the average for all summer films this year was lower than it was in each of the previous four years.
It seems like every major summer movie these days is either an action film, a sequel, or both. As it turns out, that may not be such a bad thing; this summer, action-oriented movies received higher Metascores, on average, than any other genre, and sequels (including remakes and prequels) fared better than movies based on original concepts. Here are the averages for each type of film released during the just-concluded summer season (wide release films only):
|Genre *||Avg.||% Good||Type||Avg.||% Good|
|Action||56||42%||Sequels, Prequels, Remakes||56||43%|
|Drama||51||50%||Other Adaptations (from book, etc.)||49||23%|
Best and worst films of 2011 so far
While summer certainly brings films with mass appeal, that doesn't have to translate to poor quality; all but two of 2011's best-reviewed wide release films were released during the summer months:
|1||Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2||Fantasy||87||7.8|
|2||Midnight in Paris||Comedy||81||7.9|
|5||Winnie the Pooh||Family/Animation||74||7.3|
|8||Crazy, Stupid, Love.||Comedy||68||7.5|
|9||Rise of the Planet of the Apes||Sci-Fi/Action||68||7.8|
|10||Kung Fu Panda 2||Family/Animation||67||7.8|
While the score for the final Harry Potter film was impressive, it is actually the lowest top score for a summer wide release in the last five years. It was also the first time in that span that the top spot hasn't been claimed by a Pixar movie. Interestingly, Pixar did have a summer release this year, but Cars 2 57 proved to be the worst-reviewed film in the studio's history. (In fact, it is the only one of Pixar's 12 films not to receive a Metascore in the green range indicating generally positive reviews from critics.)
|Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2||Toy Story 3||Up||WALL-E||Ratatouille|
While summer brought 14 wide releases that finished with green Metascores of 61 or higher, a total of 70 limited releases reached that mark during the season, which is the highest total in the past five years. However, only one of those summer films received a score high enough to qualify for our list of 2011's best limited releases (below). In other words, though there were a lot of good summer films this year, there were few great ones.
|3||The Arbor||Biography, Documentary||88||6.8|
|4||I Travel Because I Have to, I Come Back Because I Love You||Foreign, Drama||87||n/a|
|5||Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives||Foreign, Fantasy, Comedy||87||6.6|
|6||13 Assassins||Foreign, Action||87||7.4|
|8||Cave of Forgotten Dreams||Documentary||86||7.0|
|9||Of Gods and Men||Foreign, Drama, History||86||6.7|
|10||Nostalgia for the Light||Documentary||85||n/a|
The summer season also introduced several new titles into our list of the year's most terrible films, including the Dermot Mulroney-directed rom-com Love, Wedding, Marriage (starring Mandy Moore as a marriage counselor with a PhD in psychology), which is the lowest-scoring summer release since 2007's Daddy Day Camp.
|1||Love, Wedding, Marriage||Comedy||13||n/a|
|2||Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil||Family/Animation||20||3.7|
|4||A Love Affair of Sorts||Drama||22||n/a|
|6||Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son||Comedy||22||4.2|
|8||An Invisible Sign||Drama||23||n/a|
|9||Shark Night 3D||Horror||24||5.1|
|10||The Family Tree||Drama/Comedy||24||n/a|
Money matters: Summer's biggest successes and flops
At this point last year, eight movies had exceeded the $200 million mark (led by Toy Story 3's $400 million); this year, just five films have done so. Does that mean this summer has been bereft of hits? Far from it. Nine of the year's highest grossing films to date were released during the summer season, including big budget sequels in the Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Transformers franchises, comedies such as The Hangover Part II and Bridesmaids (the latter also doubling as summer's biggest box office surprise), and family films like Cars 2 and Kung Fu Panda 2.
Three of the top four films (all but the Hangover sequel) were massive foreign hits as well, each grossing more than $1 billion worldwide. Deathly Hallows: Part 2 was also notable for becoming the highest-grossing Harry Potter film in the series, and scoring the biggest opening weekend in movie history.
However, not all was well at the box office, even with some of the higher grossing films. On Stranger Tides is the worst performing entry in the Pirates franchise (ditto the underperforming X-Men First Class in the X-Men series, though that did just well enough to merit another sequel), while Cars 2 was not only a critical disappointment, but will also likely finish as the lowest grossing Pixar film in the studio's history (adjusted for inflation).
And then there were the outright flops. Remember Tom Hanks doing double duty as director and star of Larry Crowne? You probably don't; it grossed just under $36 million, placing an uninspiring 58th among 2011 releases so far. Are you among the Gleeks who checked out Glee The 3D Concert Movie? Probably not; that film suffered through the worst opening weekend of any major release this summer, and has grossed just $11.8 million to date. But the summer's biggest money-losing failures were comic book movies Green Lantern (grossing just $116 million domestically against a $200 million budget) and Cowboys & Aliens ($97 million against a $163 million budget), while both the Conan the Barbarian and Fright Night remakes also look unlikely to be profitable (though both had lower budgets).
|1||Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2||Jul. 15||87||7.8||$375,552,093|
|2||Transformers: Dark of the Moon||Jun. 29||42||5.9||$350,500,012|
|3||The Hangover Part II||May 26||44||5.7||$254,416,436|
|4||Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides||May 20||45||6.5||$240,794,584|
|5||Fast Five||Apr. 29||67||7.4||$209,837,675|
|6||Cars 2||Jun. 24||57||5.9||$189,256,895|
|8||Captain America: The First Avenger||Jul. 22||66||7.2||$172,272,760|
|10||Kung Fu Panda 2||May 26||67||7.8||$164,827,049|
Below, you can compare the total grosses for all summer releases and the year to date through Labor Day with the same figures for the previous four years. And there is some good news. While 2011 trails behind the previous two years for full year grosses earned through September 5, total revenue collected during the summer months (including for films originally released in the spring) is estimated at just under $4.4 billion, which is an all-time record high for the season.
That record does hide an uncomfortable fact for the movie industry, however: the number of tickets sold this summer was either declined slightly or increased by just 1% compared to 2010 (depending on whose estimates you trust). While summer ticket sales routinely topped 600 million between 1999 and 2007, only 543-550 million tickets were sold in the just-concluded summer season. These relatively flat attendance figures reveal the real reason revenues were so high this summer: rising ticket prices.
Still, the summer figures brought continued good news to exhibitors and studios who were hurting after a disastrous start to the year. Full year-to-date domestic receipts now trail the 2010 figures by about 4%, a marked recovery from early March, when 2011 trailed the previous year's grosses by over 19%.
|Year||Summer Grosses||Full Calendar Year Grosses to Date *|
What are your favorites?
Have you seen any good movies yet this year -- or any terrible ones? Let us know in the comments section below.