Here are the final results of the 2008 summer blockbuster contest announced about four months ago. To remind you, the point of the contest was to predict how well six big summer movies would do, and to choose the film not on that list that would do the best. The six films I chose and their final grosses were:
The eligible film not on this list that performed best over the summer was Kung Fu Panda, which made $214,301,367. The runner up on the sleeper film was Sex and the City, which made $153 million by the contest end date. The most popular sleeper choices were Kung Fu Panda, The Incredible Hulk, and Mamma Mia!. 11 contestants selected Kung Fu Pandacorrectly.
This year, 28 people entered the contest, down one from last year.
And the winner is Jeff Lau, kicking butt for the second straight year, with 57 points, this time. Jeff selected the sleeper correctly, got lots of points for The Dark Knight, Hancock, and Wall-E, and got at least a couple points for every film. Congratulations, Mr. Lau!
The runner-up was Yan Wong with 55 points.
This year, nobody guessed a gross on the nose.
Here are the complete results, in increasing point order:
Thanks to all who entered.
This year, I did not choose any real dogs. Get Smart was only a moderate hit (at least four films not on my list outperformed it), and Prince Caspian disappointed. Since the contest started after the Hollywood definition of the beginning of summer, it left out Iron Man, clearly one of the big hits of the season. Kung Fu Panda was my bit blind spot, this year. Nonetheless, I chose the top four grossing films of the summer in my list (not counting Iron Man), and all of my choices were in the top ten grossing films for the season.
This was another summer with a lot of successful films, with a particularly large number hitting in the intermediate range of $100-$150 million: Prince Caspian, Sex and the City, Mamma Mia!, Wanted, Get Smart, You Don't Mess With the Zohan, and The Mummy: Curse of the Dragon Emperor. Tropic Thunder, Step Brothers, and Journey to the Center of the Earth are all within spitting distance of topping $100 million, and most of them certainly will. Throw in a few really big hits (Wall-E, Kung Fu Panda, Hancock, Iron Man, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull), and top it off with one monster hit that is still going strong (The Dark Knight, if you pay no attention at all to theatrical grosses, and yet, for some inexplicable reason, are reading this anyway), and you have an extremely successful summer. Most of these films also did very, very well overseas.
There were flops, but relatively few of them. The summer got off to a bellyflop with Speed Racer, and Mike Meyers clearly wasn't any too thrilled by the reception of The Love Guru. The X-Files: I Want to Believe demonstrated that very few people did want to believe any more, and it should be the last we see of that series. Nobody wanted to Meet Dave, a film whose concept and advertising campaign certainly made me, and obviously a lot of others, want to stay out of the theaters. Swing Vote was one of the more surprising out-and-out flops, since it seemed to be hitting a market segment that wasn't being served, and it didn't get terrible reviews. Still, not much of anyone wanted to see it. The Happening did surprisingly well for a film that got awful reviews and poor word of mouth, suggesting that people are still quite willing to see an M. Night Shyamalan film, but would prefer to see a good one.
This year, the big movies squeezed out the small ones to an even greater degree than last year. The Visitor kept making money over much of the summer. Brideshead Revisited made a little money, and the French thriller Tell No One did pretty well, but no other foreign or independent film could make as much as $5 million, even some very well reviewed ones like Frozen River and Transsiberean. Even obvious Oscar-bait documentaries like Young@Heart didn't do so well.
So, what did audiences like and what didn't they like, and what dread implications do those answers have for summers yet to come? Well, audiences liked good films, though not all good films. The Dark Knight, Iron Man, and Wall-E were all very well reviewed, and made a ton of money. But Prince Caspian got better reviewers than its predecessor, yet clearly didn't please audiences to the extent that Disney and Walden Media had hoped. On the other hand, the reviews for The Mummy: Curse of the Dragon Emperor were scathing, but it still did quite well, so clearly quality was neither sufficient nor necessary.
Sequels did well, sort of. The Mummy up, Prince Caspian down. The Dark Knight slaughtered, Star Wars: The Clone Wars got slaughtered. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull demonstrated how to keep a series alive, The X-File: I Want to Believe demonstrated how to kill one. There were clearly enough winning sequels to keep studios telling themselves that they're still safe bets.
What about stars? Will Smith is still currently the safest bet in motion pictures. People want to see Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, though perhaps not in any other role. Robert Downey has established himself as a quirky (but not quite as quirky as Johnny Depp) performer who connects with audiences. Adam Sandler still has a few comic licks in him, and audiences are moderately interested in Steve Carrell. Within his range, Brendan Fraser can contribute to the opening of a large scale film. On the other hand, it appears audiences have seen as much of Kevin Costner as they care to see, Eddie Murphy is not exactly the freshest thing in Hollywood, and quite possibly no one is much interested in Mike Meyers any more unless he's hiding behind a giant green ogre animation.
Speaking of animation, winner or loser? Mostly a winner, with Kung Fu Panda kicking pixel-butt and Wall-E continuing Pixar's amazing string of financial and critical successes. On the other hand, hey, Hollywood, crap-o computer animated films about sending animals into space are not a good idea, regardless of what animal gets sent. More seriously, the studios that invested heavily in their animated films were rewarded, and those that dipped their toes in got dope-slapped. Animation isn't for dilettantes.
On the whole, box office was up this summer, but, like many summers and years where that has been true lately, it's largely because of rising ticket prices, not larger numbers of admissions.
The preceding paragraph is a direct repeat of a paragraph from last year, since it's all still correct.
Next summer? Well, that's already completely set, at least in terms of the likely blockbusters. Studios nowadays stake out dates more than a year in advance. So we know we're getting an X-Men film focussed on Wolverine, a new Star Trek movie, the sequel to The Da Vinci Code, the Night in the Museum sequel, the next Pixar film, and a new Terminator film. And that's just in May. Later, we get the next Harry Potter film, the Transformers sequel, a third Ice Age movie, 2012 from Roland Emmerich, and more comedies from Jack Black, Adam Sandler, and Eddie Murphy. Plus the typical dumb ideas, like a big screen version of a TV show (The A-Team), an unnecessary remake (The Taking of Pelham 123 - rent the original instead, as usual), a sequel beyond one sequel too many (Fast and Furious), and a toy-based film (G.I Joe: Rise of Cobra - I think we can blame this one on Transformers). Gee, I can hardly wait. Overall, it sounds very much like more of the same, so we can only hope for good execution.
In the longer term, nobody in Hollywood is likely to take a sharp left turn in their film strategy as a result of this summer's box office results. Some were up, some were down, some did better than could have been predicted, some disappointed. But the conventional wisdom of how one goes about making money in the film industry worked out pretty well. Hollywood is, politics aside, a deeply conservative place, so nobody's going to shake the boat if they don't have to, and it seems to be floating along pretty placidly on a river of money. Of course, the Internet rapids, or is it waterfall, aren't that much further ahead . . .
Back to the film contest page.