2011 Summer Movie Review Part II

HollywoodNews.com: This summer was supposed to be the first real test for the mainstream viability of the 3D format in cinema. While the format had been a fringe indulgence for horror films and animated movies, it obviously became a full-on sensation following the release of Avatar in December, 2009. 2010 saw a handful of high-profile 3D conversions, as studios hastily converted some of their big-budget tentpoles (Clash of the Titans, The Last Airbender, Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader) and/or low-budget cult pictures (Piranha 3D, My Soul to Take) into the format under the delusion that Avatar made $2.7 billion worldwide only because it was in 3D.

But this was the supposed to be the sink-or-swim year for the 3D film. Was it merely a passing fad, or was it here to stay? The answer is, alas, more complicated. First and foremost, as long as studios can spend $5-$10 million to convert a film to 3D and then charge an extra 33% or so per ticket, 3D isn’t going away. So while 3D was not the answer to studios’ prayers domestically, it took the industry by storm in overseas markets, which mattered all the more this year, the first summer on record where domestic box office was all-but beside the point. And of course, the embrace of 3D was always about more than just that $3-$5 up-charge. It was about countering overseas piracy, and on that front, it was a HUGE success. But when you look at the films that scored in 3D and the films that flopped in 3D, you notice something that should have been obvious. The films that hit were always going to be big hits, while the 3D flops never stood a chance in any dimension.

If you were to take a guess at the top films of summer 2011, they would probably include some combination of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II ($370 million), Transformers: Dark of the Moon ($350 million), Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides ($240 million), Cars 2 ($187 million), Thor ($181 million), Captain America ($169 million), and Kung Fu Panda 2 ($164 million). In the realm of 2D, The Hangover part II ($254 million), Fast Five ($209 million) and X-Men: First Class ($146 million) were also destined to join the club, while Bridesmaids ($168 million), Rise of the Planet of the Apes ($149 million and climbing), and The Help ($96 million and climbing even faster) were relative surprises (all were expected to be hits, but not mega-smashes).

And if you were to take a stab at which summer films just wouldn’t click with audiences, among the films on your list would likely be Priest, Conan the Barbarian, Spy Kids: All the Time in the World, and Fright Night. You’ll notice three of those titles were released just two weekends ago. That’s because the studios, up until the end of the summer, generally reserved the 3D format for their biggest films, rather than use it to allegedly ‘add value’ to their smaller releases. Green Lantern and Cowboys and Aliens were always 50/50 propositions. But Green Lantern ($116 million) didn’t tank because of its 3D conversion (one of the better ones, ironically) anymore than Cowboys and Aliens ($94 million) flopped due to its 2D existence. Super 8 ($126 million) did about as well as could be expected, as its primary fault was betting to be the one good movie in a summer full of bad genre entries (most of the would-be tentpoles were actually pretty good, while Super 8 was not).

Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures

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