Summer Superlatives ’09: 5 Biggest Flops

With the end of Summer 2009 fast approaching  (only two more August release dates), it’s time to wrap up the most fun four months of movies each year, the films that entertain us when the weather is too rainy (or too hot) and end up stuffing stockings come the holiday season instead of vying for Academy Awards. Well, those films deserve some love — or in this case a mark of degradation — so I thought I’d take the next couple weeks, starting now, to recognize the highs and lows of an overall exciting summer at the movies.

I decided to start with the lows, or in this case, the summer’s biggest flops: films that failed both critically and at the box office despite their hype that were released between May 1 and today. It’s not a precise formula, but I think it works well. What I discovered? It was tough to be a comedy this year, unless the name of your movie was “The Hangover” or “The Proposal.”

5. “My Sister’s Keeper” (June 26)

It was a safe assumption that the movie adaptation of the novel by beloved sap-writer Jodi Picoult wouldn’t have to compete with “Transformers 2” for the mature female or date crowd, but debuting at No. 5 with just $12 million considering all the gooey trailers and Cameron Diaz, “My Sister’s Keeper” was a disappointment. Either that, or it was a terrible choice for a summer release (ding ding!). With date movies “The Proposal” in its second week and “The Hangover” still going strong, this movie flatlined despite decent marketing. Maybe not giving away the whole movie in the trailer to get people to cry their way to the box office to buy tickets would’ve helped. It was probably better off being a Hallmark movie on Lifetime. That said, I’m sure they made back most of the money with a $65 million worldwide gross.

4. “Terminator Salvation” (May 20)

Critics ripped “Charlie’s Angels” direct McG for pumping the fourth Terminator installment full of gratuitous action and said that the story was pretty much all over the place, despite last-minute help from “Dark Knight” writer Jonathan Nolan. Action junkies got their fix with “Salvation,” but most people I knew who went said they were mostly unimpressed. “Salvation” also fared the worst of all the early-summer big-budget blockbusters at the box office, opening below newly released competitor “Night at the Museum 2” with just over $50 million over a long Memorial Day weekend. Currently, the film sits at about $75 million under its estimated budget. For all the hype and looped video footage of Christian Bale screaming at crew members, this movie definitely flopped.

3. “I Love You, Beth Cooper” (July 10)

It didn’t open in a lot of theaters or get intense promoting, but this typical and stupid (according to critics) teen comedy starring “Heroes” star Hayden Panettiere was the only new competition to R-rated “Bruno” the July 10 weekend and managed to end up at No. 7, a death sentence with “Harry Potter” coming out the following week. It’s total gross was about $14 million, not even making back its estimated budget. Oh, and other countries spent a total of just over $100,000 on it. I certainly didn’t expect great things from “Beth Cooper,” but that might’ve been one of the worst no. of screen:first weekend take ratios of the summer.

2. “Aliens in the Attic” (July 31)

The way CGI movies were raking in dough this summer, albeit in part thanks to 3D, I figured why would this terrible-looking “Aliens in the Attic” at least compete with guinea-pig blockbuster “G-Force”? Well, because it looks like another dumb alien movie with kids and aliens doing stuff together. Debuting with $8 million, less than half of what “G-Force” made in its second week with no other new films minus “Funny People,” “Aliens”  is just halfway toward meeting its estimated $45 million budget and it’s already been three weekends. It’d be another thing if Fox knew they had crap, but they opened this thing on over 3,000 screens. Half those theaters trashed it after the second weekend and it now sits at No. 17, making less money last weekend than an 11-week old “Hangover,” which taken literally, still sounds like a better time than sitting through that movie.

1. “Year One” (June 19)

Harold Ramis’ return to the director’s chair in this Mel Brooksian style comedy did not get much love in June, typically a month reserved for what looks to be the best of the summer’s comedies. Another film I didn’t bother seeing (since I don’t get paid to see movies), but with a 5/10 rating on imdb and a 16% on Rotten Tomatoes, I think that’s justified. With supposedly big stars in Jack Black in Michael Cera, this film was an embarrassment for a June 19 release date, debuting at No. 4 with less than $20 million behind both “Up” in its fourth week and “The Hangover” in its third. Unquestionably the poorest performance — given advertising and release positioning — of the summer, and in the hands of Judd Apatow no less.


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