Summer blockbusters: Turn off your brain
Another year of education is over and summer vacation begins. It’s the time for “summer blockbusters,” movies whose shoulders carry much of the weight for a studio’s annual profits. Make a gajillion bucks, like “Avengers: Infinity War,” and everyone keeps their jobs. Release a gargantuan stinker like Disney’s “The Lone Ranger” in 2013, which lost an estimated $190 million, and someone’s mowing lawns to make ends meet.
It’s generally accepted that the term “summer blockbuster” began in 1975 with the release of Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws.” Always on the lookout for ways to copy success, film studios began planning their schedules based on summer, releasing their so-called “tent poles” in those months.
Apparently, no one wants to think much over summer, so studios lean toward escapist fantasies, films that don’t require a lot of IQ to figure out. Look no further than the three “Transformers” films that are among the biggest summer moneymakers in the past 40 years. You don’t even need a brain for those.
While plots can be dark — “The Amityville Horror,” “Saving Private Ryan” and “The Dark Knight” — most hot-weather blockbusters over the past 40 years have been thrill rides, not deepthink, metaphysical ruminations on life.
Some of the biggest summer moneymakers are a bit on the “Huh?” side:
› “Grease” was 1978’s biggest moneymaker, and has grossed $395 million in the years since. I know fully grown adults who still think it’s one of the most wonderful movies ever.
› “Toy Shawn Ryan Story 3” grossed $415 million in 2010, and is the first animated film to gross more than $1 billion in ticket sales. A bit unusual since the third film in a trilogy often shows a downturn in sales because audiences have a been-there, seen-that feeling.
› “Transformers” (2007), “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” (2009), “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” (2011) have brought in just over $1 billion worldwide. Add “Transformers: Age of Extinction” from 2014 and “Transformers: The Last Knight” in 2017 and that figure jumps to $1.4 billion. C’mon y’all, it’s a bunch of robots that can turn into cars.
› “Saving Private Ryan” from 1998 is a great film (losing the Best Picture Oscar to “Shakespeare in Love” is a travesty), but it’s in no way a fun romp. Still, it made $481 million worldwide and was the highest-grossing film of the year.
› “The Amityville Horror” from 1979 is just a Really. Bad. Movie. But it was based on the best-selling novel, so it had a lot of its groundwork already in place. It has spanned another 14 films since. The work of demons, I say.