Sure, it's not Labor Day yet, but all the movie moneymakers of the summer have already been released. So far, the top ten grossing movies of the summer (from May 1st on) are as follows:
1. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
4. The Hangover
5. Star Trek
6. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
7. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
8. Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
9. The Proposal
10. Angels & Demons
By the numbers:
- 7 of the 10 are sequels or franchise relaunches
- 2 are animated
- 1 comedy and 1 romantic comedy made the list
- 9 have a rating of PG-13 or lower
- the #1 movie made 3 times as much as the #10 movie ($400 million vs. $133 million)
- 4 of the 10 have colons in the title
- 7 of the 10 involve creatures with human properties (talking animals, machines, aliens...)
- The average score on Rotten Tomatoes was 57.6%; 4 of the 10 had approval ratings above this number
I love this information. From one perspective, you could look at the statistics and decide that if you want to make the next blockbuster, you need to find a franchise with human-like creatures, include a lot of action but not enough that it reads as a comedy, make it PG-13 or under, and use a colon in the title if necessary. And don't really worry too much about the critics. Just your audience.
The other way involves looking at all the ways these titles don't fit into the mold. The Hangover is the biggest outcast of the bunch, an R-rated comedy that came out of nowhere, with no franchise, pre-sold title, or even A-list stars.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was the #1 movie, but an absolute bomb (19% on Rotten Tomatoes) among critics. I know I still haven't fully figured that one out. Pixar's Up is an incredibly original movie, but it actually fits into the mold of a "top ten" film: it's rated PG, involves (ingeniously) talking creatures, and is an animated kid-to-adult movie. It's also part of a franchise, not one defined by repeating characters or plotlines, but by its studio, Pixar, which has cultivated a must-see reputation among its films.
There's still a chance for movies to rise into the ranks of the summer top ten, but right now the mix seems about right: a few CGI/animated movies that appeal to kids, action and action franchises, and at least one dark horse (in 2008, it was Mamma Mia!). The past few years, six of the movies in the top ten were released in the summer, three or so in the November-December holiday season, and a fourth in March, during the Spring Break holidays. At least six of these movies are going to hang around with Monsters vs. Aliens in the 2009 top ten. With summer movie season coming to a close, my eyes are on the three or so movies that will make their way into the top ten: New Moon? Avatar?