Hollywood 2006: Summer Hits, Misses and Anything in Between

Sep 5, 2006–The summer season, roughly from early May to Labor Day Weekend, is over, and we can all sigh with relief. It was not a particularly strong season for good movies or

Variety reports that, though only five films in 2006 passed the $150 million mark versus last summer’s nine, the season was still 6% ahead of 2005. The 2005 blockbusters grossed more than $1.9 billion; this summer’s quintet grossed just under $1.5 billion.

Even so, this year’s summer domestic box office, $3.74 billion, end up on a high note due to middle-range successes.

Last summer, only three pictures grossed between $70 million and $150 million by Labor Day, and their total gross was $232 million. This year, there have been eight with a combined gross of $868 million. That accounts for the entire shortfall of this year’s top grossers, as well as the difference between total summer 2006 and 2005 receipts.

While one tentpole in this mid-range, “Mission: Impossible 3,” is a disappointment for not breaking past $150 million, the rest–except for the animation “Monster House”–are moderately budgeted comedies that enjoyed moderate or better commerciul success.

Blockbusters

The best of these films, such as the fashionista comedy, the Will Ferrell laugher “The Devil Wears Prada,” “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” and “The Break-Up,” played a big role in not only the Box-office, but that of many studio bottom lines.

Disney is the one studio that bucked that trend. It had the top two grossing pics of the summer in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” and “Cars.” But Disney’s other two other major summer releases, “Step Up” and “Invincible,” are both well on their way to being solid performers.

This summer already has many studio execs questioning last year’s conventional wisdom that tentpoles with global appeal and low-budget indies are the future of the industry.

This summer, there were only four successful tentpoles: “Pirates,” “Cars,” “X-Men: the Last Stand” and “The Da Vinci Code.”

Big Flops

Warner, the studio that embraced the tentpole strategy most wholeheartedly, had the toughest time. “Poseidon” and “Lady in the Water” were clear failures, while the highly expensive “Superman Returns” was only a moderate player, failing to reach $200 million domestically.

Though it’s a significant improvement over 2005, this year’s summer box office is still only the third biggest ever, 3% behind 2004 and 1% off from 2003. Both those years had about as many mega-hits as this year, but they had even more mid-sized successes.