It's finally Labor Day Weekend, which means the summer movie going season is officially closed for business starting this Monday. As summer winds down, and we head into September, many movie fans have made one thing very clear. They think this summer has been a complete wash! But is this summer any different than last summer, or the summer before that? How about a decade removed? Did we have bombs as big as The Lone Ranger, R.I.P.D. and After Earth ten years ago? (Yeah, we did, and it was called Gigli.)
We've decided to take a look at how this summer stacks up to a bygone era. Was 2003 a better year for movies? Or did we actually have it pretty good here in 2013 with Iron Man 3, Man of Steel and Elysium (just to name a few of the better one that have played out over the past three months)? Both summers sure did have a lot in common. In both 2003 and 2013 we saw plenty of CGI animated family films, as well as movies starring an Avenger, The Wolverine, Brian O'Conner, Roman Pearce, and Tej. Maybe nothing has changed!
Let's take a look at who wins the big brawl in: 2003 Vs. 2013!
First and Second Week of May: Summer 2013 started off with a bang as Robert Downey Jr. returned to reprise the role of Tony Stark for a fourth time in what is one of the best fan-reviewed movies of the summer. It opened at #1 with $174 million, going on to make $408 million to date. It earned 78% on the Tomatometer, rendering it fresh. Ten years earlier, Bryan Singer's X2: X-Men United was equally praised for breaking the comic book mold. It was the second time Hugh Jackman would play the Wolverine, with the movie opening at #1 with $85.5 million. It went onto make $214.9 million, and earned a Tomato ranking of 87%, gaining the edge over Iron Man 3 with critics. Both movies would go onto be #1 in their second weekend as well. The only other notable 2013 movie released in this window was The Great Gatsby, while 2003 gave us The Lizzie McGuire Movie and Daddy Day Care. The winner: 2013!
Third Week of May: Here, we have two sequels going head-to-head, which proves summer movies haven't changed a bit in ten years. Star Trek Into Darkness opened at number #1 with $70.1 million. It would go onto make $227.2 million over its summer run (and counting). It however didn't fare so well with some critics, who complained that it was scientifically defiant. Fans also didn't like the mystery surrounding its villain, but that didn't stop it from racking up an 87% on the Tomatometer. The Matrix Reloaded actually earned quite a bit more on its opening weekend, taking in $91.7 million, going onto earn $281. 5 million during its run in theaters. It also faced harsh criticism from fans and critics alike, but stayed strong with 73% on the Tomatometer, certifying it fresh. This is a tough race to call. No other notable movies opened this weekend in 2013, nor did they in 2003. Thing is, while both movies proved to be pretty stupid logic wise, The Matrix Reloaded had huge chunks of really boring exposition. Star Trek Into Darkness had a lot of things wrong with it, but one thing it never was, was boring! And that's what we want in a summer movie. F*ck logic! The winner by a close margin: 2013. (We're sorry, Keanu! We still love you...)
Fourth Week of May: Both 2003 and 2013 gave us The Fast and the Furious sequels. Too bad their release weeks are a few days removed from each other. Fast & Furious 6 would win the contest, as this is one franchise that just keeps getting better and better with each new installment. The latest entry didn't disappoint, bringing back pretty much everyone that was ever in the cast. It opened #1 with $117 million, taking in $238.4 so far this summer. It has the lowest Tomatometer rating so far in this contest, with 69%, but that's still enough to certify it fresh. Jim Carrey was able to open his comedy Bruce Almighty during the same window at #1, raking in $85.7 million, with a total of $242 million during its run. It has a Tomatometer rating of 48%, which makes it the first rotten movie to be found in this competition. While critics didn't like it, it proved to be a big hit with fans, spawning a sequel of its own. Still, it's no Fast & Furious 6 . Other notable movies opening on this weekend in 2013 include The Hangover Part III, one of the worst comedy sequels ever made, and Epic, a quickly forgotten animated adventure neither kids nor parents seemed able to stomach. The only other notable release in 2003 was the all-but-forgotten remake The In-Laws. Without a doubt, even with the Wolf Pack's stench lingering about...The winner is: 2013!
First Week of June: So, Fast & Furious 6 was #1 in its second weekend, pulling in just $35 million. Pixar, on the other hand, was hitting its stride in 2003, releasing the beloved animated classic Finding Nemo to the tune of $70.2 million. It would go onto make $339.7 million during its theatrical run, and earned an impressive 99% on the Tomatometer, rendering it nearly untouchable. This week in 2013 saw one of the summer's biggest bombs unleashed with the M. Night Shyamalan directed, Will Smith starring After Earth. Now You See Me debuted too, but it proved to be too little, too late. Especially considering this weekend in 2003 gave us the fan favorite The Italian Job and the franchise launching horror hit Wrong Turn. The winner by a clear mile: 2003!
Second Week of June: Here we are, back at The Fast and the Furious franchise again. While 2 Fast 2 Furious isn't the best installment in this lucrative series, most people would argue its better than The Purge. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. This 2013 thriller does have an original premise, and it was fun (kinda, if you were drunk and really bored). Plus, it made back its tiny budget by nearly triple, making it a notable anomaly in the summer market place. Made for only $3 million, it pulled in a whopping $34 million opening weekend. Not big numbers for June, until you consider its pedigree. So far, it's only gone onto make $64 million. But you do the math. Is there any question why it's getting a sequel? Hopefully it will be a little better executed. We all like an underdog story, but the film only earned 38% on the Tomatometer, certifying it pretty rotten. Not the worst, but bad. 2 Fast 2 Furious earned $50.4 million opening at #1, less than half of what Fast & Furious 6 brought in on its opening weekend. It went onto take in $127 million during its theatrical run, but it did gangbusters on the home video market. It currently has 36% on the Tomatometer, rendering it a tad more rotten than The Purge. Though, it should be noted that its not the lowest rated film in the franchise. That distinction goes to 2009's fourth chapter Fast & Furious, with only 27%. Ouch (And weird, as this fourth installment is what rejuvenated the franchise). Other notable movies released on this weekend in 2013 include the stink bomb The Internship and Joss Whedon's hardly seen Much Ado About Nothing. 2003's only other notable release was the beloved family film Whale Rider, which launched the career of Keisha Castle-Hughes. This is a tough one to call, but we have to give it to...The winner yet again: 2003! 2013 better do something quick!
6Man of Steel Vs. Finding Nemo
Third Week of June: Okay, so Finding Nemo flip-flopped and floundered its way back to the top of the charts in 2003 after sitting out its second weekend somewhere else in the top ten. People just couldn't get enough of this Pixar family adventure. But Nemo in its third week of release is no match for the debut of a new Superman movie with Man of Steel! And it was a damn good Superman movie, too! It wasn't, however, the box office record breaking champ some wanted it to be. It tried, though, bringing in a respectable $116 million on opening weekend. It went onto pull in over $290 million over the course of the summer. Critics weren't as excited about the movie as audiences, with this DC Comics adventure grabbing a 56% on the Tomatometer, rendering it, gasp, dare we say rotten? That's no good. Finding Nemo managed to pull in just $28.3 million during its third week on the charts, which is a pretty low number square in the middle of summer. Though, it opened against three noticeably forgotten movies, including Rugrats Go Wild!, Hollywood Homicide and the awful prequel Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd. 2013 not only gave us Man of Steel on this weekend, it also gave us the best comedy of the season with This Is the End...Clearly marking 2013 as the big winner.
7Monsters University Vs. Hulk
Fourth Week of June: Yes, the Avengers initiative has been in play since 2003. And director Ang Lee's Hulk might be considered the worst installment in this franchise. Like Rob Zombie's Halloween II, Hulk isn't a bad movie. It's a misunderstood movie, and like a balding idiot savant, folks are unsure how to approach it. For god sake, it has mutant poodles running through a good chunk of its storyline. What is that? We have to remember it was 2003, and Marvel Studios was just starting to come into its own, taking baby steps to world cinema domination, which it's clearly achieved here, ten years later. We can't really fault it for what it is, and it takes a unique approach to the comic book genre, one that hasn't been attempted since. That said, its no match for Pixar, even when we're dealing with one of their half-baked sequels. Hulk opened with $62 million, going onto make a respectable $132 million, so no one considers it an outright bomb. On the ol' Tomatometer, it ranks higher than Man of Steel with 62%, which makes it fresh. Monsters University pulled in $82 million on its opening weekend, taking in $262. It was actually kind of edgy for a Pixar movie, which may have turned some families off. It didn't quite reach the heights of past Pixar outings, but for a sequel, its enjoyable enough. It ranked high with audiences and critics alike, pulling in 78% on the Tomatometer. This weekend in 2003 gave us one of the greatest bombs of the 00s with From Justin to Kelly. 2013 gave us World War Z and the horror remake Maniac. The winner: 2013!
Fifth Week of June: Hold up, hold up! I already know what you're going to say, but please go back and re-watch Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. It is pure, adrenalized summer schlock! And it's a glorious glow to bathe in. Its three stars have never looked better, or sexier, and if you want to turn your mind off and just guzzle a bucket of popcorn sprinkled butter, this is the best thing to do it too. Some called it the death of cinema, but it's a non-stop blast of pure funcore from the word go. So we're not going to be too hard on it. Cleary Monsters University is the better movie. It managed to collect another healthy $45 million in its second weekend. Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle actually earned less than that on its opening weekend, taking in a mere $37 million for a summer total of $100 million. Critics thought it was downright rotten with 44% on the Tomatometer. To call a winner here, we have to look at what else was released in this time frame. In 2003, we also got the horror classic 28 Days Later. 2013, on the other hand, gave us the very funny comedy The Heat, the action-packed White House Down, which will find a loving audience on the home circuit, and one of the coolest documentaries of the year with A Band Called Death. Clearly the winner without biased: 2013!
First Week of July: Ugh. It went from one animated family adventure being number one at the box office two weeks in a row to another animated family adventure being number one at the box office two weeks in a row. It's enough to make you sick. But someone out there loves it. CGI animated movies are bigger business now then they were ten years ago, which means we'll probably see more of them in the future. This one's another sequel. Despicable Me 2 pulled in $83 million on its opening weekend, going on to make a whopping $351 million domestically. That's crazy! Audiences liked it a little bit more than the critics, though it still managed to earn 76% on the Tomatometer, rendering it fresh. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was the last movie Arnold Schwarzenegger would appear in before taking office as the Mayor of Hollywood, or Governor of California, for nearly nine years. Whatever it was, we've forgotten now. At the time, people were sort of indifferent to this action-packed franchise sequel. Over the years, that indifference has turned into pure hate, and no one ever talks about the movie in good terms. It made a disappointing $44 million on its opening weekend, only going onto make a low $150 million throughout its entire run. Its no wonder people thought the franchise was dead at this time. It did pull in a fresh rating, with 70% on the Tomatometer, but fans just didn't dig it. In our opinion, its better than Despicable Me 2 any day of the week. Others might disagree, so once again; we're going to pull in the other releases to call this one. What else did 2003 give us? One really bad sequel with Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, & Blonde and the forgotten DreamWorks animated effort Sinbad: Legend Of The Seven Seas. Sorry, 2003. We're going to have to give it to 2013, which also saw the release of this year's best stand-up comedy movie Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain, and the great indie comedy The Way, Way Back. So what if The Lone Ranger, the biggest financial flop of the summer, was also released here. Guess what? It's not that bad of a movie. Its better than Legally Blonde 2. We'll give it that much.
Second Week of July: What? Despicable Me 2 is number one again, you say? With another $43 million? Well, it doesn't stand a chance against Pirates of The Caribbean: The Curse of The Black Pearl, which kicked off one of the most popular and lucrative franchises of the past couple decades. Here, we were introduced to Johnny Depp as the iconic Jack Sparrow, and it was love at first sight. The movie only pulled in $46.6 million on opening weekend, but that's because people thought a movie based on an amusement park ride was going to suck. Word of mouth quickly spread, and the rest is history, with this first chapter taking in $305 million. It was fresh on the Tomatometer with 79%, and audiences seemed to love it even more than critics. It was a far cry removed from The Lone Ranger ten years later. 2003 pretty much wins this weekend by default. Also released in 2003 was the poorly received comic book adaptation The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. 2013, on the other hand, got the very awesome Pacific Rim (which opened at #3, if we're keeping track) and the only Adam Sandler sequel to ever be birthed into existence, Grown Ups 2. Still, come on. The first Pirates movie? Even with Pacific Rim chomping at the bit, 2003 wins.
11The Conjuring Vs. Bad Boys II
Third Week of July: Wow. This is a tough one. The Conjuring is one of the best horror films seen in years, and Bad Boys II has gone onto reach legendary status as an action milestone. One finds James Wan at the top of his game, while the other helps solidify Michael Bay as one of the greatest visual artists of our time. This one is too tough to call, so we're going to have to go directly by the numbers. Let's start with 2003. In its opening weekend, Bad Boys II pulled in $46.5 million to eventually earn $138 million that summer. It earned a 23% on the Tomatometer, which makes it as rotten as they come. The Conjuring earned a close $41 million in its opening weekend, pulling in $132.4 million thus far this summer. It, on the other hand, is certified fresh with 86% on the Tomatometer, giving it the edge. 2013 saw quiet a few new releases into theaters this weekend, with the mediocre sequel Red 2, the supernatural flop R.I.P.D., and the DreamWorks animated comedy Turbo, the only major animated summer release not to open at number one. Kristen Wiig also made her dramatic debut with the indie Girl Most Likely. Ryan Gosling gave us the artsy action thriller Only God Forgives, and there was the excellent killer whale doc Blackfish. That's a merry Christmas. 2003, on the other hand, gave us, gasp...Johnny English and How To Deal! How did we ever make it through that summer? The winner: 2013!
Fourth Week of July: We got Logan in 2003, and we got Logan in 2013. Both, I'd say, were equally revered upon release. Hugh Jackman has come a long way, playing this same character six times, and we'll get to see him again next summer, too. Thing is, The Wolverine made considerably less than X2: X-Men United, which, if you remember, pulled in over $80 million its opening weekend. This solo Logan adventure only pulled in $53.1 million, going onto make $126 million since its July debut. Have people lost interest? Sort of. Seeing Wolverine on the big screen is not an immediate event anymore. While the movie is quite good, a lot of folks are going to wait for home video, or its eventual debut on FX. It is fresh with 68% on the Tomatometer, and the true fans seemed to enjoy it. Now lets talk about Spy Kids 3D: Game Over. It, too, was reaching its zenith as a franchise, and this particular installment had the dubious distinction of introducing 3D back into the marketplace, although you still had to wear those corny red and blue glasses of a bygone era to enjoy it. These movies were successful because they brought a lot of action, humor and excitement into something both kids and parents could enjoy equally. Sadly, this was before Sylvester Stallone made his big comeback. Witness one of his all-time worst performances! The movie brought in $33.4 million, going onto make $111 altogether. Not bad for a live action kiddy flick. We certainly don't see that happening in 2013. It was actually rendered rotten with 45% on the Tomatometer. It's pretty obvious that 2013 wins this weekend. Of note, the sequel Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life opened and bombed on this weekend in 2003, and we saw the release of the critical darling Seabiscuit. 2013, on the other hand, gave us two comedies that will continue to grow a strong audience as more people see them on the home circuit, with The to Do List and Blue Jasmine both making their debuts.
132 Guns Vs. American Wedding
First Week of August: Now, we enter the final month of summer. The dregs. 2 Guns brings together Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg in one of the few comic book adaptations not involving superheroes. The strong marquee value of its leading men helped push the film to a debut of $27 million, one of the lowest earning weekends of the summer season. So far, it's only gone onto make $66.7 million. Will it top $100 million before the end of the year? Doubtful. Is it a bomb? Nah. It did alright for what it was. Its fresh on the Tomatometer with 63%. But does it have enough juice to beat the third installment of a popular teen franchise that kicked off at the tail end of the 90s? American Wedding took in a bit more this weekend, with $33 million, going onto earn a respectable $104.5 for its entire run. It was marked rotten with 55% on the Tomatometer, though. Most likely for its gruesome dog poo eating scene which is still able to give off nightmares. This weekend is notable for unleashing one of the greatest bombs into the pop consciousness way back in 2003. You think all the news surrounding Ben Affleck as Batman is bad? You must have not been around for the release of Gigli. The movie is legendary, and makes 2013 the winner by default. 2013 gave us the so-so sequel The Smurfs 2 and the quite beloved coming-of-age romantic adventure The Spectacular Now. Is it starting to come into focus how this year might be a little bit better than a decade ago? Just a little?
Second Week of August: No contest here. Elysium is a neo-classic in the sci-fi genre, and one of the most, if not the most, original movies of the year. And one of the most entertaining. S.W.A.T. is a meandering TV-to-Movie reboot of a series no one cares about now, and no one cared about then. No one even remembers it came out until they breeze past Samuel L. Jackson or Colin Farrell's resume on IMDB. Elysium only made $29 million on its opening weekend, but has reached $72 million thus far, and is on its way to $100 million for sure, which means we'll get more movies from its inventive director Neill Blomkamp. Its fresh with 68% on the Tomatometer. S.W.A.T. , on the other hand, actually pulled in a bit more on its opening weekend, taking in $37 million. It would go onto make $116, which makes me wonder why we haven't ever seen a sequel. Oh, yeah, cause no one cares! (To be fair, there have been some direct-to-DVD sequels). Critics saw through it, giving it a rotten score of 48% on the Tomatometer. What else was released on this weekend? 2003 gave us the audience friendly remake Freaky Friday, which showcased a promising young star by the name of Lindsay Lohan. 2013, on the other hand, gave us a ton of new releases on this weekend, including the serviceable comedy We're the Millers, Disney's Planes (which was originally meant to go straight to DVD), and the pretty cool franchise follow-up Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters. The indies Lovelace and Prince Avalanche were also released. This was 2013's weekend, hands down.
Third and Fourth Week in August: Call us racist, call us what you will, but Freddy vs. Jason beats Lee Daniels' the Butler any day of the week. Horror fans waited a lifetime for this match-up. And it delivered in the moment. Looking back on it now, maybe it's not so great. But at midnight, drenched in liquor, the audience had a ball! The same can't be said for Lee Daniels' the Butler, no matter how important or great it pretends to be. This is summer, damn it! And Freddy vs. Jason is the end-all, be-all Drive-in summer movie if there ever was one. 2003 knew how to go out on top, with this franchise sequel pulling in $36.4 million its first weekend, followed by $13 million its second weekend. Critics might not have liked it, calling it rotten with 41% on the Tomatometer. Again, sorry for saying this, it has nothing to do with the contents of the movie itself, but Lee Daniels' the Butler is a lousy way to end the summer. It pulled in less than Freddy and Jason, with just $24.6 million on its opening weekend, but it fared better in its second weekend with $16.5 million. Its Tomatometer rating? Fresh at 72%. We don't care, though, we're giving these last two summer weekends to 2003. Whether you like it or not! Other notable movies released at this time in 2003 include the Western Open Range, the forgotten Uptown Girls, and the skateboard drama Grind. We also saw Jackie Chan in The Medallion, got the Ashton Kutcher flop My Boss's Daughter, and, lord save us, Marci X. 2013, on the other hand, actually gave us movies way better than Freddy vs. Jason! We got Kick-Ass 2, Jobs, Paranoia, The World's End and You're Next...We demand a recount! It looks as though 2013 actually wins these two weekends just with its secondary releases alone. Sorry Freddy! Sorry Jason! Damn, we called that one too early.
So, who is the true winner? 2013 by a long shot! It had 11 fresh #1 releases against 2 rotten #1 releases, and triumphed 12 weeks out of summer's golden 15. That left 3 weeks where 2003 had better releases. Plus, 2003 only had 6 fresh #1 releases against its 8 rotten #1 releases. There were more movies in 2013. And they were better. So, what do you think? Does 2013 still look like a bad summer for movies to you? Or are you happy its just not 2003? Let's have this conversation again next year. Maybe that will help put some things in perspective!
Thanks for playing!