According to Hollywood's conventional wisdom, summer is the season for block-blusters, usually of the sequel variation. So last year when multiplexes were invaded by an assortment of web-slingers, pirates and a big, green thing named Shrek, nobody seemed to mind. "Last summer was all the sequel," says Jeff Bock, a box office analyst for Exhibitor Relations. "By the end of the summer, people were burnt out."
Which is why this summer, despite a number of sequels — such the long-overdue Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull — theatergoers have had plenty of other choices at the box office. "This summer it's about giving people something different," says Bock. That something different is the genre.
Don't get me wrong: sequels aren't dead — Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has grossed over $311 million domestically so far — but the highest-grossing film of the year and season is a genre film: Iron Man has grossed over $313 million to date. (Yes, Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man beat out pushing-70 Harrison Ford's Dr. Jones's latest). By now, everyone equates "tin head" with box office success, but, if you remember, Iron Man was hardly a surefire hit; most people were suspicious of a film about a B-list superhero, starring Robert Downey, Jr.
In fact, a quick survey of the current box office Top Ten reveals no less than seven of the films are genre flicks: there's superheroes (The Incredible Hulk, Hancock), comic book/graphic novel adaptations (Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Wanted); adventure (Journey to the Center of the Earth); the latest offering of the newest genre to capture Hollywood's imagination: the computer-animated/celebrity voice-over film CGI animation films (Wall-E, Kung Fu Panda). Number 11 on the list, by the way, is the above-mentioned Indiana Jones film, one of the best-known action/adventure genre franchises of all-time.
A genre-heavy film slate each summer might be the latest trend that hits Hollywood. And considering the success which studios, particularly Paramount whose Iron Man, Indiana Jones and Kung Fu Panda (though Dreamworks co-owns a piece of the latter) have collectively earned more than $1.6 billion globally to date, you can much bank on it. According to Bock, this summer movies has already earned 40% of Hollywood's total gross from last year — Hollywood's best ever.
So can we count on more genre flicks next summer? You bet. "Aside from Speed Racer," says Bock, "when it comes to genre films, there are no bombs."