The Blockbuster Year That Was
Count the summer 2009 movie season as one for the box office record books. With a long list of high profile disappointments like Imagine That, Year One, Brüno and Funny People, it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume it was one of the worst. In a recent New York Times article, Brooks Barnes went so far as to declare that the days of the big budget star-driven vehicle are over, using Johnny Depp‘s Public Enemies and Will Ferrell’s Land of the Lost as evidence. According to Variety, however, it was actually the most profitable summer movie season ever, with gross receipts of over $4.17 billion, beating the previous record of $4.16 billion set in 2007.
Not exactly great news when you consider that the movie’s that triumphed at the box office were, for the most part, the bottom of the barrel. Terrible reviews (and semicolons) were an asset, in the case of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Which makes the fact that the studio’s that released each of those movies refusal to screen them for critics (a trend that seems likely to continue) seem more than a little paranoid.
In their top ten list of the most profitable movies of the summer, Variety names Transformers, which has taken in over $399.3 million as the highest grossing movie of 2009, followed by Harry Potter and Half-Blood Prince which, so far, has earned $294.3 million and Pixar’s UP which has taken in $289.6 million. Tired romantic comedies and lame brained family fare dominate the rest of the list. The dreary sitcom hijinks of the Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds rom-com The Proposal inexplicably managed to reel in ticket buyers to the tune of $160.6 million. And lame-brained kiddie fare like Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs ($193.3 million) and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian ($176.5 million) posted huge returns.
Not all the summer’s movies were reasons to despair though. With a small $35 million budget The Hangover was a surprise sleeper hit, taking in an astronomical $270 million. And J.J. Abrams Star Trek was a big budget science fiction blockbuster, that scored with audiences for one shocking reason. It was actually a good movie.