The hits and misses at the summer box office

Robert Downey Jr. stars as Tony Stark/Iron Man in a scene from Marvel's "Iron Man 3."    


Four sequels and a reboot prequel. Two comic-book tales, three cartoons, one literary remake, one horror and one R-rated comedy. (One more comic-book sequel might sneak in, bumping the horror flick.)

That's the top-10 mixology of box office hits at the movies for the summer of 2013. And it's an almost exact echo of the top-10 mix for summer 2012, minus the literary remake.

On the eve of Labor Day weekend, it's time to tally the cinematic winners, losers and surprises of the summer, which is Hollywood's most lucrative season at the box office.

Final numbers are not quite in, since the movie summer season is officially defined as running from the first Friday in May through Labor Day weekend. But this summer is on track to slightly top last year's $4.3 billion domestic box office total. With one weekend to go, it's at $4.37 billion.

Here are the summer's likely top 10 movies at the North American box office:

1. “Iron Man 3,” $408.2 million

2. “Despicable Me 2,” $350.7 million

3. “Man of Steel,” $289.9 million

4. “Monsters University,” $261.8 million

5. “Fast & Furious 6,” $238.5 million

6. “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” $227.4 million

7. “World War Z,” $198.9 million

8. “The Heat,” $156.4 million

9. “The Great Gatsby,” $144.8 million

10. “The Conjuring,” $131.7 million

The movie that could bump “The Conjuring” to claim the No. 10 spot is “The Wolverine,” which opened two weeks after it and is at $125.1 million. All of the top 10 are still playing in theaters, according to Box Office Mojo.com, but most have been open so long they're down to discount theaters by now. Their numbers won't bump up much more.

Just like last summer, 2013 saw six movies cross the $200 million mark. But last summer's top hit, “Marvel's The Avengers,” topped all of 2013 at $623.3 million.

However, this summer had more movies pass the $100 million mark, 16 or 17 compared to a dozen last year. The question mark is “Elysium,” the Matt Damon sci-fi thriller that opened just three weeks ago and has taken in $69 million.

The rest of the $100 million-plus titles, in order of box office finish, are “Grown Ups 2,” “The Wolverine,” “Now You See Me,” “The Hangover Part III,” “Epic” and possibly “Pacific Rim,” which is teetering at $99.2 million.

What were the pleasant surprises for studios this summer? “The Great Gatsby,” starring Leo DiCaprio, has to be one. It's the only movie in the top 15 that doesn't depend on frenetic action to propel it forward. And 90-year-old novels are not usually the stuff top-10 summer movies are made of.

“The Heat,” a rare original screenplay, rarer still because it boasted two female leads, was the little R-rated comedy that could, starring Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock as mismatched cops. But with “Bridesmaids” director Paul Feig at the helm, most prognosticators expected this one to make that top 10.

Brad Pitt proved a zombie movie could make the cut, and “World War Z” did better than many thought it would. I'm sorry to say that Adam Sandler's lowbrow comedy sequel “Grown Ups 2” also beat the oddsmakers, nearly cracking the top-10 list.

A Box Office Mojo article posted in April picked the top 7 in almost the exact order they finished. Only three titles predicted to land in its top 20 didn't get there: “After Earth” (a rare miss for Will Smith), “2 Guns” (Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg) and “The Smurfs 2.”

Besides “After Earth,” underachivers predicted to finish at 8, 9 and 10, were “The Hangover Part III” (No. 14, bad reviews), “Pacific Rim” (No. 16) and “White House Down” (No. 20). And they were expensive to make, especially the latter two.

But don't feel too bad for “Pacific Rim,” which made up for its low domestic take with a global total of $384 million, or “The Hangover Part III,” at $351 million global. “White House Down” couldn't make up its disappointment overseas, totaling just $131 million.

Johnny Depp's “The Lone Ranger,” which neither audiences nor critics liked, finished 19th ($88 million) domestically but 12th globally at $218 million. “Planes,” an underperformer for animation legend Disney, now is 27th domestic at $45 million but may rise a bit.

What were the critical hits that didn't rake in the dough? I'd say “The Butler,” “Fruitvale Station,” “Blue Jasmine,” “Before Midnight,” “20 Feet From Stardom,” “Frances Ha,” “Blackfish,” “The Way, Way Back” and “The Spectacular Now,” all of which are generating at least some award-season buzz.

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