If it's Labor Day, then it's the end of summer - A summer that saw Hollywood bank on the geek vote in a way that it hadn't done before, with a record number of SF and fantasy movies crowding the blockbuster schedule (five of the top ten movies of the season were based on comic books, for example). But did gambling on the nerd dollar work out for the studios? It depends where in the world you are when you ask, apparently.The Hollywood Reporter is somewhat schizophrenic about the success of the summer's movies; in a piece called "Summer exceeds boxoffice expectations," they point out that despite three movies grossing over $300million domestically (The Dark Knight, Iron Man and, somewhat surprisingly, Indiana Jones And the Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull), fewer movies crossed the $200million mark this year when compared with 2007.
Internationally, the picture is slightly rosier, according to Variety, with Universal having their most successful year ever outside of the US, despite being third in terms of studio grosses (behind Warners, who were helped by The Dark Knight being the first massive blockbuster Batman movie in foreign markets, and Paramount, whose Indiana Jones is currently the top movie of the summer internationally). Interestingly, Variety mentions that part of this success is down to the non-genre fare (Sex And The City, Mamma Mia! and, stunningly, What Happens In Vegas) performing much more strongly than initially suggested (Hellboy II and Speed Racer both flopped internationally, showing that non-American audiences would rather watch Carrie Bradshaw try on wedding dresses than Guillermo Del Toro's imagination at work, which is depressing on multiple levels). Perhaps everyone else needs to get with America's superhero fetish; four out of the top ten movies this summer in the US featured men in tights. The reason? Perhaps the shitty American economy, believes Warner's Dan Fellman:
There's no question that the poor economy historically has given the motion picture a boost... Also, the [release schedule] was spread out and wasn't grouped together as it was in '07, when it was all in May. We opened ‘The Dark Knight' after the May crunch and had the marketplace pretty much to ourselves for a big tentpole film.
We're guessing that next year's going to be a much different affair; studios will have learned the lesson of spacing releases out, but the WGA strike - and still possible actors strike - may have made that lesson moot; the next Harry Potter movie has already been pushed back to next year because Warners have no other big movies ready for the summer, and it's unlikely that they'll be the only ones with that problem. This time next year, expect to see reports of a slower year... And maybe one where audiences got the time to revisit their favorite movies a lot more.