Though there are three wide releases this weekend, who cares? Summer’s over. Labor Day weekend is here. So let’s talk about the winners of the summer, and general trends. Cause that’s fun. And you’ll never guess who won the summer (Hint: it was The Avengers)

So here’s a top ten list of the highest grossing films that opened between May and now:

  1. Marvel’s The Avengers – $617,800,446
  2. The Dark Knight Rises – $424,652,000
  3. The Amazing Spider-Man – $258,498,943
  4. Brave – $230,254,753
  5. Ted – $215,002,000
  6. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted - $213,808,279
  7. MIB 3 – $178,515,577
  8. Snow White and the Huntsman- $154,949,265
  9. Ice Age: Continental Drift – $154,040,132
  10. Prometheus – $126,313,394

And now let’s talk about what these numbers mean. The Avengers is a culmination of something that Marvel’s been working on for over five years (cinematically), and it paid off brilliantly. Alas, it also set a tone of fun and good times that few movies could match this summer. And for much of May we saw a number of films come and go quickly. Whereas five or ten years ago we might have seen films like Dark Shadows or Battleship do closer to $100 just on principle, this year we’ve seen a number of expensive movies die outright. You could argue it was people’s excitement for The Avengers, but that’s not the way things played out. In fact the only other film from May to crack the top ten was Men in Black 3, which even with a 3D and Imax bump, couldn’t do as much business as the second film, which was mostly reviled.

On the grand scale of things, this list shows that kids films are still the best way to make money, as three of the titles are animated, while two of those are sequels. Brave ended up fending off Madagascar as the highest grossing animated film of the year, but internationally, both were trumped by Ice Age 4, which has made over $800 Million worldwide.

Of the list seven are sequels, or some form thereof. And this summer was replete with films that were sorta-connected. Prometheus was a prequel, and though its numbers allowed it to crack the top ten of the summer they may not be enough to turn a profit. The Amazing Spider-Man was a reboot, and is the third highest grossing film of the summer, but also the lowest grossing Spider-Man movie by nearly $80 Million. That’s a huge difference, but it could have been more painful – like Universal’s The Bourne Legacy, which may crack $100 Million, but won’t make the $120 Million that the first Bourne movie made ten years ago.

The three “original” movies all came with a brand. Pixar for Brave, Snow White (and to some extent Kristen Stewart) for Snow White, and Seth McFarlane for Ted. Perhaps the critical disrespect that The Family Guy has chalked up over the years is why the movie isn’t being talked about more as the huge f-ing success it is, but that also ties into the grand scheme of things.

The Avengers made $600 Million plus. But how much of the population actually saw it, and how many people care about it? Is there anything iconic about it, or – besides people’s love of the brand – is it just the best iteration of the superhero onslaught? In 1994 Pulp Fiction made a little over $100 Million dollars, but to this day people still quote it, dress like it for Halloween. It’s hard to argue any of these movies had that sort of saturation, even at six times the success. But perhaps that reflects where our culture and cinema culture is at, which is a state of perpetual overload that creates a white noise effect.

The Dark Knight Rises is also a perfect example of the summer. It made over $420 Million domestically and was one of the most hyped events of the summer. The last film made over $500 Million domestic, and a billion worldwide, and this will come close to the worldwide cume, but is stateside is looking at making a hundred million less than The Dark Knight. TDK hit the cultural zeitgeist. And though TDKR may have been dampened by the shooting, even its most rabid defenders couldn’t offer much of a defense of the film a week after release. This is partly the movies themselves, but it’s worth thinking about how audiences process cinema now. Cinema is now ruled by opening weekends, which is partly why everything feels so transitive. Much like most of movie journalism, the question isn’t “what’s this?” The question is ‘What’s next?”

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As for this weekend, The Possession, which I quite liked, has a good chance of taking the weekend. 2016 Obama’s America is expanding, the question is if that will help, and if curiosity will get it in front of more eyes, or if between the RNC and the original targeting of the audience for the picture if it will collapse on expansion. When a film like this exceeds expectations, it often is given a wider birth because it doesn’t behave like a romantic comedy or Oscar contender. In terms of tracking it’s just that much harder. Lawless also is opening. All have a very good shot of making around over or under ten million this weekend. So let’s go:

  1. The Possession - $10 Million
  2. The Expendables 2 – $8.5 Million
  3. Lawless – $8 Million
  4. 2012 Obama’s America – $7 Million
  5. The Bourne Legacy – $6 Million

We could see TDKR or The Avengers (which is being reissued) sneak back into the top five. But it’s a weak weak weekend, even with the holiday.

What are you going to see this weekend?