It’s been the summer of sequels, remakes and adaptations. And it’s been slow.
Last week's No. 2 spot went to "The Last Airbender," which has gotten savage reviews. Roger Ebert said he hopes "that the title proves prophetic." And that's one of the kinder remarks.
"Airbender" actually did well at the box office, but others, such as the absolutely abysmal take for "Jonah Hex," are examples of how, for whatever reason, moviegoers have been staying away from the cinema in 2010.
Even “Sex and the City 2” sat $7 million shy of making its $100 million budget back after more than a month in theaters. Though that’s no cause for panic, it falls short of the first installment, which raked in $136 million in the same amount of time.
What else has tanked this summer?
How about the Ashton Kutcher/Katherine Heigl action comedy “Killers,” which has limped to $44 million of its $75 million budget.
Or “The A-Team,” which sits at $63 million after three weekends and came in second to a remake of -- seriously? -- “The Karate Kid” on its opening weekend.
The family comedy “Marmaduke,” issued a month ago, has regained three-fifths of its $50 million budget.
“MacGruber,” borne from the “Saturday Night Live” skit, skipped out of theaters within a month after earning only $8.5 million of its $10 million budget.
Even Cruise is not a bankable, reliable star anymore. Having him as the leading man used to mean it would rain money, but this film, co-starring Cameron Diaz, looks hard pressed to recoup its $117 million budget.
Even before the summer started, it was an ugly year at the box. Thirteen of the year’s first 18 weeks before were down compared to 2009, according to Boxofficemojo.com.
There are exceptions. “Iron Man 2,” “Toy Story 3” and “Shrek Forever After” are doing well and have turned profits.
But they speak to the problem I have with this year’s slate. Those are the second, third and fourth installments in their respective series. We’ve been to those worlds and visited those characters before and all suffer diminishing returns with each return trip.
As “Knight and Day,” “MacGruber,” “Marmaduke” or “Grown Ups” demonstrates, new material hasn’t exactly been blowing anyone’s hair back either.
Though the summer slate has largely kept me away from the cinema, I’m not a total skeptic or snob.
This week comes “Despicable Me,” an animated feature with Steve Carell’s voice work, as well as “Inception,” the first film from Christopher Nolan since he directed “The Dark Knight.” Both look appealing or at least interesting.
So I remain hopefully and optimistic that this summer won’t be a total disaster. I mean, there always are movies to see. But for the most part, if past summers have taught me anything, it’s that I will find little refuge from the heat of summer in the air conditioning of the movie theater.
Looks like I’ll have to have to wait for that Oscar push at wintertime.