Summer box office wrap-up: How’d I do?


Summer is over -- at least by the somewhat skewed metric of motion-picture exhibition -- and that means it’s time for me to compare my box-office predictions with the way reality actually shook out. Most entertainment writers don’t do this, you’ll notice: Their end-of-season post mortems conveniently ignore the forecasts they themselves had issued just four months previous. But I firmly believe you can’t own your successes without owning your failures, too. That’s why I was running Bain Capital by age 26.

And then he told her, "No, ma, we're going to see the Madea movie."
  • And then he told her, "No, ma, we're going to see the Madea movie."

Marvel’s The Avengers (Actual rank: 1; My prediction: 2) -- The summer’s biggest hit broke through the $400 million ceiling simply by dint of the Hulk/Loki confrontation -- the kind of moment that causes opening-weekend viewers to tell their friends, “There’s a scene in this thing that’s just awesome, but I’m not gonna spoil it for you. You have to see it for yourself.” It also helped that nobody could hear what in the hell the Hulk was saying over the raucous laughter and cheers resounding throughout the theater, which meant that those first-weekenders had to make immediate mental plans to re-view the movie themselves four or so weeks down the line, after the surprise had worn off. Every summer movie would have such an unexpected gem of a sequence, but to write one, you have to be smart, audacious and firmly plugged into the zeitgeist. If that description fit Hollywood as a whole, we wouldn’t have had Battleship.

The Dark Knight Rises (Actual rank: 2; My prediction: 5) -- I’m probably the only guy in America who thought DKR might underperform in a big way -- and that was long before Aurora could even be conceived of as a contributing factor. Now, I’m in the position of defending both the quality of the movie and its commercial success. Warner Bros., having shown absolute class in pulling their advertising on that ill-fated first weekend, have since taken to grumbling that they might have “left some money on the table” in so doing. (Kudos for that seven lonely weeks on the high road, fellas!) But really, how many threequels manage to do 86 percent as much business as the top-grossing entry in their series? The bottom line is that DKR has done as well as anybody had a right to expect -- no matter how much the media loves a good, wistful “What if?” story.

The Amazing Spider-Man (Actual rank: 3; My prediction: 3) -- This one I nailed, in terms of both ranking and marketplace arc: respectable initial splash, followed by a noticeable dearth of repeat business. What nobody has yet figured out is that the film attracted even less eyeballs than its box-office tally would seem to indicate -- simply because of all of those unaccompanied under-18s who bought a ticket for Spidey and then sneaked into the R-rated Ted instead. Sony has already fast-tracked a sequel, but it’s still just a matter of time before the money Disney is offering for the rights to the character eclipses the ever-more-modest profit Sony can eke out by doing these things on the cheap.

Brave (Actual rank: 4; My prediction: 4) -- Another, sadder bulls-eye for me, with the lukewarm (by Pixar standards) Brave take reinforcing the conventional “wisdom” that heroines don’t sell. I could really get on my high horse here, except that I never got around to seeing the thing myself -- which puts me closer to Todd Akin than to Sandra Fluke along the continuum of feminist bean counters.

Ted (Actual rank: 5; My prediction: 1) -- So maybe I was a bit bold in predicting the furry, foul-mouthed Ted would nab the top spot. But at least it gave me bragging rights when everybody else was asking, “Who could have predicted a haul north of $200 million?” Me, shit-for-brains! And anyway, I’m still pushing that Spidey theory.

If it weren't for that $5 popcorn minimum, moviegoers would have no idea who this is.
  • If it weren't for that $5 popcorn minimum, moviegoers would have no idea who this is.

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (Actual rank: 6; My prediction: NA) -- I’ll admit it: I didn’t see this animated dead-horse-beater cracking the top 10. Mea culpa. Maybe people need their Schwimmer after all?

Men in Black 3 (Actual rank: 7; My prediction: 10) -- A bit better showing that I expected for the unforgivably Frank-less MIB3. But still not by much. Our pals at Sony (them again!) are claiming their latest MIB outing turned a profit, but you know that’s not what they’re going to tell Josh Brolin’s accountant. The party stops here.

Ice Age: Continental Drift (Actual rank: 8; My prediction: NA) -- Another one that didn’t cross my prognosticatory radar at all. Maybe a bunch of 20-year-olds who wanted to see Ted got really stoned, got the theater numbers mixed up, and

no, no, I got nothin’.

Snow White and the Huntsman (Actual rank: 9; My prediction: NA) -- Oh, sure. Go ahead and crucify me because I didn’t anticipate that Americans would turn out in big numbers for the second Snow White “reimagining” of the year. At least the latter-day Liz Taylor/Eddie Fisher story that went on behind the scenes ensured that we won’t have to go through it all again. Thanks, trampy!

Prometheus (Actual rank: 10; My prediction: 6) -- I honestly thought Ridley Scott was going to have a better summer (and no, that’s not a Tony Scott joke. Brrrrr!). Just goes to show you what happens when the word of mouth on your picture revolves mainly around the consensus that it’s preposterous bullshit.

And just for fun, let’s look at three movies that made my chart but nobody else’s:


Rock of Ages (Actual rank: 27; My prediction: 8) -- Apparently, the nation’s lingering affection for Starship does not run as deep as I thought. Huh.

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter --(Actual rank: 29; My prediction: 7) -- I figured America’s Goths would sit out Dark Shadows (actual rank: 13) in favor of the summer’s other Tim Burton/Seth Grahame-Smith collaboration. Instead, they gave both movies the bony white finger. Turns out, the only experience those folks shared as a community this summer was mourning the loss of Jerry “The Count” Nelson. (Of course, Paramount and MGM have Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters coming, because you don’t get to live in L.A. unless you’re skilled at learning from your mistakes.)

Sparkle (Actual rank: 34; My prediction: 9) -- And apparently, you can’t even count on good old-fashioned morbid curiosity anymore. I don’t know what this world is coming to, but people were a lot easier to read back when I was still at Bain Capital.




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