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Best of Summer 2011: Hollywood's Winners and Losers

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The summer blockbuster season is like a giant roulette table. You pick your numbers and colors, spin the wheel and pray to the powers that be that your movie comes out unscathed. Box office is only one factor—evolving technology, the waning of theatrical experience and creativity all play a part in a movie's "success." Want to know what you might be seeing more or less of in the next few years? These are the winners and losers that will influence the movie biz:


Winner: Marvel

This year, the movie division of the comics giant took a big risk: release two property-based movies in one summer, both of them second-tier characters with an uphill battle to get non-comic fans in the seats. No one was sure Thor and Captain America had legs, but they had to—Marvel was gearing up for the team-up movie Avengers in 2012, and if the movies didn't find audiences, neither would their most expensive endeavor to date. Now Summer 2011 has whizzed by and Marvel's wallet is stuffed thick, with both movies being box office and critical hits. Let's not forget they also had stakes in X-Men: First Class, a prequel to an already successful franchise.

Loser: DC

The Dark Knight blew blockbuster audiences' collective brains when it swept into theaters in 2008, but besides Bats, the WB/DC parternship has never really amounted to anything in the last decade (unless you're like me and think Superman Returns is the bees knees). But this year the collaboration gave it another go with Green Lantern, a movie that touted itself as more Star Wars than Iron Man. Unfortunately, the final product didn't click with audiences and the movie quickly faded into the background of summer. The studio insists there's still franchise potential, but GL certainly can't be considered a winner this season.


Winner: The R-Rated Comedy

Studios tend to shy away from an R rating. The thinking is that the ghastly red branding cuts down on sizable audiences, meaning less moolah to be made. Not so this season, when studios took gambles on R-rated comedies like Bridesmaids, The Hangover Part II, Horrible Bosses, and Bad Teacher. Forget that most of them are raking in boatloads of cash—audiences ate up this summer's crude humor as they took a break from action-oriented blockbusters and copious amounts of 3D. Anyone who thinks you can't pull off poop jokes with a bit of heart needs to go back to the beginning of the summer.

Loser: The Safe Bets

On that note, the movies that should have been easy. enjoyable counterprogramming like Tom Hanks' Larry Crowne and the for-the-kids Zookeeper never picked up the momentum—thanks in most part to the sub-par quality of the films. Talking gorillas and TGIFridays product placement can only take you so far.


Winner: 3-D, the Money-Making Tool

Audiences' receptiveness is a difficult thing to measure. On one hand, 3-D is proving to be a valuable tool for marketing a movie and helping a modestly performing tentpole bump up its numbers. That may sound ruthless, but in the end, it could be the deciding factor on whether or not a franchise you love gets a second installment. On the other hand, a ticket costs $15. A "winner" with an emphasis on the quotation marks, for sure.

Loser: 3-D, the Art Form

So for people who enjoy carefully produced 3-D, the kind demonstrated in Avatar and even last year's Resident Evil: Apocalypse…well, they lost. Most of the 3-D this summer, in movies like Thor, Priest, Green Lantern and Cars 2, either went barely noticeable or turned our eyes to mush from improperly converted footage. The best of the year was Transformers 3, which barely pushed the popping sensation to its limit. By the time Conan the Barbarian and Final Destination 5 rolled around, people started giving up, the idea of an immersive, 3-D experience becoming almost as fantastical as the films that could utilize it.

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