Summer 2011 Blockbuster Winners & Losers

With the arrival of the ninth month of the year, the Labour Day weekend nearby and the return of the kids to school next week, it’s time to admit an unfortunate truth:

Summer’s done.

So too ends the season of the big blockbuster movie, and this year there were a few big winners and surprise losers.

What three movies became the latest members of the box office billionaires club? What star lead two movies to the bottom of the summer heap?  Biff Bam Pop! breaks it down for you, right now.

The Losers

5) Conan the Barbarian – Despite a decent cast, reasonable story and plenty of action, director Marcus Nispel’s take on Robert E. Howard’s famed warrior bombed big time.

Made on a budget of $90 million, the film has only taken in $22.6 million worldwide and has been panned by critics around the globe with a 22% freshness rating at

With numbers like that, don’t even count on a sequel or even another reboot attempt for a long, long time.

4) Fright Night – Released the same weekend as Conan, this remake of the 1985 cult classic was dead on delivery. Despite a 74% fresh rating from and the likes of Colin Farrell, David Tennant and Anton Yelchin starring, the new Fright Night has only just made back half of its $30 million budget.

Clearly not meant for summer movie consumption, Fright Night should have come out in October, closer to Hallowe’en when scares and sentimental nostalgia more easily succeed at the box office.

3) Cowboys & Aliens – Note to dictionary editors: If you need a picture to go next to the word “fizzled,” just use this movie’s poster.

Director Jon Favreau’s first film since Iron Man 2 came and went at the box office with little fanfare, despite A-listers like Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and Olivia Wilde in starring roles.  Even with a search engine-optimized title, the film only made $130 million worldwide on a budget of $163 million.


2) Green Lantern – Ryan Reynolds’ first starring vehicle as a serious superhero was a dim light at the box office thanks to poor advanced reviews, a terrible script and Reynolds just not being up to the job.

What was supposed to be a tentpole movie of the summer ended up being its most remarkable failure.  Enough of the faithful showed up at the worldwide box office to help the film make back its $200 million production budget, but Warner Brothers is going to have to work very hard to win back the fan’s trust.

1) The Change-Up – Ryan Reynolds didn’t just star in one poor-performing vehicle at the box office this summer.  Following the successes of other R-rated comedies like Bridesmaids, Horrible Bosses and The Hangover Part 2, The Change-Up came at exactly the moment that moviegoers were sick of the genre.  Basically Freaky Friday with a single and married man, the movie made just $35 million on a $52 million budget and was ravaged by the critics despite boob jokes and a knife-wielding baby.

The Winners

5) Thor – Marvel Entertainment’s first of two blockbuster successes this summer kicked off the season in May and made $449 million worldwide on a budget of $150 million.

Surrounding an unknown star like Chris Hemsworth with the likes of Natalie Portman and Sir Anthony Hopkins under the guidance of Kenneth Branagh turned into a formula for success, and Marvel’s Hollywood cache continues to grow as it readies itself for 2012’s let’s-throw-all-our-heroes-in-one-movie extravaganza, The Avengers.

4) Bridesmaids – The biggest surprise hit of the season proved that women do like R-rated comedies as much as the guys – so long as they’ve got something to see that speaks to them.

Making over a quarter of a billion dollars worldwide on a budget of only $32.5 million, Kristen Wiig proved she could write and act her way to the top of Hollywood mountain, with a little help from producer and current gross-out comedy king Judd Apatow.

Sequel to come?  With a cost-to-earnings ratio like that, bet on it.

 3) Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – The first member of the summer billionaires club did solid business in North America, but made over three quarters of its worldwide box office gross on other shores with a total take of $1.04 billion on a budget of $250 million.

Despite stripping the principal cast down to Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush, On Stranger Tides proved that audiences still love their pirates, and that Depp is the definition of the international movie star.

2) Transformers: The Dark of the Moon – Despite an overly long runtime, over-the-top action, bad jokes, explosions galore and poor reviews all around, director Michael Bay’s third stab at the Transformers toy box turned into a box office goldmine to the tune of $1.1 billion worldwide on a budget of $195 million.

On top of a special round of IMAX screenings being promoted across North America two months after the film’s initial release, there’s already talk of another trilogy that will follow the storyline of the first, even if Bay and star Shia LaBeouf decide to pass on another trip with the pride of Cybertron.

1) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – The eighth and final film in the Harry Potter saga easily became the summer’s greatest success, taking in $1.3 billion worldwide.  The biggest question now is whether stars Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe can successfully move beyond child stardom and into Hollywood’s A-list.

Two out of three, at least, should make it.

Loved or hated, what were your best & worst movies of the summer?

JW Ward is a Toronto-based writer, media personality and professional cynic. Follow him on Twitter at @jasonwardDOTca, through his website at and every Thursday here at Biff Bam Pop! 

2 Replies to “Summer 2011 Blockbuster Winners & Losers”

  1. Loved Xmen first class, Captain America, Super 8, and Thor!

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