Summer Movie Recap: Best Films, Prediction Results, and Box Office Stats

  • Publish Date: September 2, 2014
  • Comments: ↓ 2 user comments

Film quality

2014 vs. past years

A total of 16 positively reviewed films hit the cineplex this summer in wide release, led by the highest-scoring film of the year (or, for that matter, any year), Richard Linklater's 12-years-in-the-making chronicle of one family's life, Boyhood. By comparison, 2013 saw a greater number of good films (topped by yet another Linklater drama), but 2014 was otherwise the best year since 2007 in terms of the number of quality films.

# of good summer wide releases by year (Metascore = 61 or higher)
2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
16 22 11 14 11 13
Best-reviewed summer wide release by year
2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
Boyhood Before Midnight The Dark Knight Rises Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 Toy Story 3 Up
100 94 78 87 92 88

In limited release, 86 films this summer met or exceeded the 61 cutoff indicating that critics generally liked the film. We tracked a total of 179 films in limited release this summer with at least 7 reviews from professional critics, and that equates to a success rate of 86/179, or 48%. Add in the 51 films released nationwide, and this summer critics gave positive reviews to 102 of 230 films, or 44%. By contrast, critics hated 15 wide releases (scoring 39 or less), and also panned 29 limited releases, meaning that 19% of all summer releases received negative reviews from critics.

But those percentages were inferior to last year's results, and the median score for all wide releases this summer was just 48, a full 7 points lower than the summer of 2013. Here's how all those figures compare to recent years:

% of summer films with positive and negative reviews, by year
  ALL FILMS   WIDE RELEASES ONLY
Year Total % Good % Bad   Total % Good % Bad Median
2014 230 44% 19%   51 31% 29% 48
2013 213 46% 18% 51 42% 22% 55
2012 191 44% 14% 42 26% 17% 52.5
2011 175 48% 16% 43 33% 21% 50
2010 147 48% 12% 42 26% 21% 51

Good films have a Metascore of 61 or higher based on reviews from professional critics. Bad films are scored 39 or lower. (Percentages are not given for the 40-60 range, which equates to mixed or merely so-so reviews.) Only new films with at least 7 reviews are included.

Best-reviewed films this summer

Below are the highest-scoring films (with a minimum of 7 reviews from professional critics) released during 2014's summer months (May-August). Note that a wide release film is one that screened in at least 600 theaters.

Best summer wide releases - 2014
Movie Genre Score DVD/Blu-ray
1 Boyhood Drama 100 Amazon Add to Netflix Queue
2 Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Sci-fi/Action 79 Amazon Add to Netflix Queue
3 How to Train Your Dragon 2 Animation/Family 76 Amazon Add to Netflix Queue
4 Guardians of the Galaxy Sci-fi/Action 76 Add to Netflix Queue
5 X-Men: Days of Future Past Sci-fi/Action 74 Amazon Add to Netflix Queue
6 A Most Wanted Man Thriller 74 Amazon Add to Netflix Queue
7 22 Jump Street Action/Comedy 71 Amazon Add to Netflix Queue
8 Edge of Tomorrow Sci-fi/Action 71 Amazon Add to Netflix Queue
9 Get on Up Drama 71 Amazon Add to Netflix Queue
10 The Fault in Our Stars Drama 69 Amazon Add to Netflix Queue
...and the worst:
51 Persecuted Drama 11 Amazon Add to Netflix Queue
Best summer limited releases - 2014
Movie Genre Score DVD/Blu-ray Streaming
1 Ida Foreign/Drama 89 Amazon Add to Netflix Queue iTunes
2 Life Itself Documentary 87 Add to Netflix Queue iTunes Amazon
3 We Are the Best! Foreign/Drama 87 Amazon Add to Netflix Queue iTunes Amazon
4 Manuscripts Don't Burn Foreign/Drama 87 Add to Netflix Queue  
5 Stand Clear of the Closing Doors Drama 86 Add to Netflix Queue iTunes Amazon
6 Love Is Strange Drama 84 Add to Netflix Queue  
7 Snowpiercer Sci-fi/Action 84 Amazon Add to Netflix Queue iTunes Amazon
8 Burning Bush Foreign/Drama 83 Amazon Add to Netflix Queue iTunes Amazon
9 Starred Up Drama 83 Add to Netflix Queue iTunes Amazon
10 Archipelago Drama 82    
...and the worst:
179 Septic Man Horror 7 Amazon Add to Netflix Queue iTunes Amazon

Summer box office performance

2014 vs. past years

Here's one thing you probably didn't do much of this summer: go to the movies. Domestic box office receipts were down this summer—so much so that 2014 proved to be the lowest-grossing summer in 17 years (adjusting for inflation). Industry reports put this summer's North American grosses below $3.9 billion, a 15% decline compared to 2013. Though experts had been expecting a drop in revenues, they were caught by surprise at how steep it turned out to be. And the summer's highest-grossing film, Guardians of the Galaxy, failed to surpass $300 million domestically—the first time that's happened since 2001.

Total domestic summer box office grosses by year
2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
$3.81 billion $4.85 billion $4.31 billion $4.33 billion $4.22 billion $4.30 billion
Highest-grossing summer film by year
2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
Guardians of the Galaxy Iron Man 3 The Avengers Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 Toy Story 3 Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
76 $280 million 62 $409 million 69 $623 million 87 $381 million 92 $415 million 35 $402 million

That said, despite the presence of many films that are barely pushing the break-even mark or finishing slightly in the red, there weren't all that many out-and-out disasters this summer. Even the Tom Cruise sci-fi action flick Edge of Tomorrow, which had an extremely poor North American showing given its enormous budget, performed well enough around the globe (with an extra $264 million in foreign grosses) to recoup most if not all of its costs.

This summer's best and worst performers

Highest grossing summer movies - 2014
Movie Score Domestic Box Office
1 Guardians of the Galaxy 76 $280,475,000
2 Transformers: Age of Extinction 32 $244,431,000
3 Maleficent 56 $238,715,000
4 X-Men: Days of Future Past 74 $233,265,000
5 Dawn of the Planet of the Apes 79 $205,520,000
6 The Amazing Spider-Man 2 53 $202,853,933
7 Godzilla 62 $200,672,193
8 22 Jump Street 71 $190,267,743
9 How to Train Your Dragon 2 76 $173,470,000
10 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 34 $166,356,000


All grosses are domestic box office receipts through September 1, 2014 for films released between
May 2, 2014 and August 29, 2014. Source of box office revenues: Box Office Mojo.

Notable summer flops - 2014
Movie Score Domestic Box Office Estimated Budget
Edge of Tomorrow 71 $99.9 million $180 million
The Expendables 3 35 $33.1 million $90 million
Hercules 47 $70.8 million $100 million
Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return 25 $8.5 million $70 million
A Million Ways to Die in the West 45 $42.7 million $40 million
Sex Tape 36 $38.0 million $40 million
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For 45 $10.8 million $60-$70 million

Production budget figures are estimates from various industry reports and do not include marketing expenses
(which add considerably to the film's costs). Note that some of these films are still in theaters.

Best opening weekends for summer movies - 2014 *
Movie Score 1st Weekend Gross Per-Screen Avg
1 Transformers: Age of Extinction 32 $100.0 million $23,633
2 Guardians of the Galaxy 76 $94.3 million $23,118
3 Godzilla 62 $93.2 million $23,580
4 The Amazing Spider-Man 2 53 $91.6 million $21,186
5 X-Men: Days of Future Past 74 $90.8 million $22,729
Worst opening weekends for summer movies - 2014 *
Movie Score 1st Weekend Gross Per-Screen Avg
1 The Rover 64 $481,214 $791
2 The Railway Man 59 $551,943 $920
3 Persecuted 11 $851,391 $1,157
4 What If 59 $854,364 $1,086
5 Wish I Was Here 43 $1,154,548 $1,847


* Wide opening weekends (at least 600 theaters) only.

Metascore prediction results

For the fifth year in a row, we asked our users to predict the Metascores for the biggest summer releases prior to the start of the summer movie season. On average, those user guesses were 9.2 points away from the eventual score—not great, of course, but actually a slight improvement over last year's average 10.9-point differential.

Users were expecting a much better summer movie slate than what we actually received. Our users overestimated the score for 19 of the 29 films (a 30th film was pushed back into 2015 and thus not counted), overshooting the mark on those 19 films by an average of 10.4 points. Guesses were highly accurate (within 5 points) for 8 of the films, including a pair of films where user predictions were off by just a single point.

But our users were expecting just 2 of the major summer films to receive overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics. In fact, 9 of these films were panned, and only 11 of the 30 films wound up receiving positive reviews (users had predicted that critics would like 15 films). The most welcome surprise here was Edge of Tomorrow, which scored 13 points higher than user expectations. The biggest disappointment was Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, which users had predicted to score a solid 68. Instead, that belated sequel to Sin City received lousy to mediocre reviews, scoring a mere 45.

User Metascore predictions vs. actual Metascores for 30 key summer movies
Movie Predicted Actual Difference
Lucy 62 61 –1
Million Dollar Arm 58 57 –1
Think Like a Man Too 40 37 –3
Blended 35 31 –4
Get on Up 67 71 +4
X-Men: Days of Future Past 70 74 +4
Maleficent 60 56 –4
How to Train Your Dragon 2 72 76 +4
Godzilla 68 62 –6
22 Jump Street 65 71 +6
Hercules 41 47 +6
The Fault in Our Stars 62 69 +7
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 41 34 –7
Guardians of the Galaxy 69 76 +7
The Rover 73 64 –9
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes 70 79 +9
The Purge: Anarchy 39 49 +10
Transformers: Age of Extinction 43 32 –11
Let's Be Cops 41 30 –11
The Expendables 3 47 35 –12
The Hundred-Foot Journey 67 55 –12
Edge of Tomorrow 58 71 +13
Tammy 52 39 –13
Sex Tape 50 36 –14
Jersey Boys 68 54 –14
A Million Ways to Die in the West 60 45 –15
The Giver 62 46 –16
And So It Goes 61 39 –22
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For 68 45 –23
Jupiter Ascending 58 release delayed to 2015

Predicted scores are averaged from 2,255 user predictions made in April, prior to the start of the summer movie season.

What do you think?

What were your favorite movies this summer? Give us your list in the comments section below.

 

Comments (2)

  • DanBurrito  

    GODZILLA DESERVED A 30.
    I can't believe you guys predicted Sex Tape would get a 50 that was obviously gonna be crap from the beginning, I'd have predicted a 27.

  • LamontRaymond  

    Brutal summer of films - seriously. God-awful. If not for Guardians of the Galaxy, Love is Strange, and Boyhood, it would have been a total loss. That second Amazing Spider-man was sickeningly bad. Interminable. Right there with it was the un-ending Transformers: Age of Extinction.

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