Folks, please try to hold back those tears ... but the summer movie season is officially over. That means that for quite some time to come there will be a distinct lack of $200 million-budgeted movies about Megan Fox's chest, er, gargantuan robots or about a boy wizard grappling with a messianic calling (and puberty) or about an iron-clawed mutant suffering from memory loss. And while for some moviegoers, any tears shed would be of joy over this fact, of one thing there is no doubt: Summer 2009 was epic at the box office. Get the scoop on this summer's B.O. winners ... and losers.
There was no single movie this season to rival last summer's phenomenon 'The Dark Knight,' but 'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,' 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,' and 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine,' as well as surprise hits such as 'The Hangover,' picked up the slack and then some, making for record-breaking box office both at home and abroad.
Led by Warner Bros.' $1 billion in B.O. earnings, U.S. ticket sales reached $4.35 billion this summer, besting the record of $4.16 billion set in 2007 (when 'Spider-Man 3,' 'Pirates of the Caribbean 3,' 'Shrek 3' and the original 'Transformers' all hit theaters). In similar fashion, the worldwide love for 'Potter,' 'Transformers' and 'Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs' propelled the foreign box office to record-breaking receipts totaling $5.8 billion, up 7% over 2007's heretofore record tally. Below, we break down this summer's biggest box office winners ... and losers. (All numbers are as of Sept. 8, 2009.)
Sequels: Audiences liked things big, loud and familiar at the box office this summer, as 'Transformers 2' and 'Harry Potter 6' dominated the B.O. 'Transformers' battled its way to $400 million domestically to become the year's highest earner to date, and 'Potter' cast a spell on U.S. moviegoers to the tune of $297 million (and counting). Overseas, 'Half-Blood Prince' and 'Revenge of the Fallen' have also raked in the dough, but they've proved no match for 'Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.' The 3-D animated flick has earned a whopping $657.5 million to date, putting it on pace to become the third highest-grossing film on foreign soil ever behind 'Titanic' ($1.24 billion) and 'The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King' ($742 million).
Four Idiots on a Vegas Bender: In a summer where Will Ferrell, Jack Black, Sacha Baron Cohen and Adam Sandler headlined box-office duds, the surprise comedy hit of the season starred four relative unknowns: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Justin Bartha. We're talking about 'The Hangover,' of course, which is laughing all the way to the bank with $272 million domestically and $440 million worldwide. If $272 million sounds astounding, that's because it is. That tally makes the raunchy flick the top-grossing R-rated comedy of all time.
3-D: Despite an actual 1.5% decrease in the number of tickets sold between last summer and this one, the 2009 domestic summer box office earned 4% more money than last summer's B.O. The reason: 3-D ticket sales for such hits as Pixar's 'Up' and 'Ice Age 3' caused the average ticket price to jump 5.5% to $7.54, making for a hot $4.35 billion summer that smoked last summer's $4.13 billion and the previous record of $4.16 billion set in 2007. Talk about adding another dimension to the box office.
Nostalgia: J.J. Abrams dusted off the ailing 'Star Trek' franchise and proved that Trekkers and mere mortals alike were still game to pay top dollar for James T. Kirk-Spock big-screen adventure. The reboot won critical praises and launched itself into box-office hyperspace with $257 million in U.S. earnings. Similarly, grown-up fanboys pining for their action-figure-playing youth have spurred the critically maligned 'G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra' to $141 million at home and nearly $280 million worldwide. Now filmmakers know that nostalgia sells ... and knowing is half the battle (sorry, we had to go there).
Star-Driven Comedies: As we noted before, proven comedic draws Jack Black, Will Ferrell, Sacha Baron Cohen and Adam Sandler all headlined comedies this summer, and they all underperformed ... big time. Baron Cohen's 'Bruno' was the most successful of the bunch, taking in $60 million domestically, while Ferrell's 'Land of the Lost,' Black's 'Year One' and Sandler's 'Funny People' all stalled out in the $43 million to $51 million range.
Man-Terminating Cyborgs: Though it grossed a respectable $125 million at home and $371 million worldwide, McG's reboot of the 'Terminator' franchise, 'Terminator Salvation,' has to be considered somewhat of a letdown. With Christian Bale starring, 'Salvation' was supposed to be the salvation of the thinking-man's action movie this summer. But it was more show than substance and failed to remotely recoup its estimated $200 million budget (not including marketing) domestically. Let's hope its disappointing performance doesn't mean the franchise is terminated for good.
2009's Top 5 Highest-Grossing Summer Movies in the U.S.
1. 'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen' - $400.7 million
2. 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince' - $297.6 million
3. 'Up' - $290.9 million
4. 'The Hangover' - $272.2 million
5. 'Star Trek' - $257.2 million
2009's Top 5 Highest-Grossing Summer Movies Worldwide (Foreign + Domestic)
1. 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince' - $917.2 million
2. 'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen' - $830.7 million
3. 'Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs' - $808.0 million
4. 'Angels & Demons' - $484.4 million
5. 'The Hangover' - $440.5 million
What do you think were the biggest box office winners and losers of summer 2009? Sound off below.