We take a look at what’s been on fire this season — and what’s been flaming out
Winners The kids are all right — and not just in the indie by that name (starring Julianne Moore and Annette Bening) that’s racking up great grosses in limited release. Young ‘uns are behind most of summer’s biggest hits, whether it’s 12-year-old Jaden Smith high-kicking his way to $169 million in The Karate Kid or the hordes of tykes turning Toy Story 3 and Steve Carell‘s Despicable Me into blockbusters. And let’s not forget the teen fans of Eclipse, which is on track to, well, eclipse last year’s New Moon as the Twilight series’ biggest hit.
Losers Bet we won’t be seeing many sand dunes next summer: Sex and the City 2 and Prince of Persia were both desert-set duds. And Persia producer Jerry Bruckheimer whiffed a second time last weekend when The Sorcerer’s Apprentice conjured an un-magical $17.6 million debut. At least he’s got a megahit franchise (Pirates of the Caribbean) to fall back on — which is more than we can say for Megan Fox, who was replaced in Transformers 3 just a month before her Jonah Hex bombed at the box office. — Adam Markovitz
Winners Viewers are turning to cable in droves this summer, thanks to an impressive bunch of shows that make us wonder why we even bother tuning in to broadcast TV right now. Besides audiences’ growing love of HBO’s True Blood (which was up 38 percent from season 2’s premiere), TNT’s Rizzoli & Isles, USA’s Covert Affairs, and TV Land’s Hot in Cleveland (costarring none other than Betty White) all posted stellar debuts. And the tragic passing of Capt. Phil Harris has resulted in record ratings for Discovery’s six-year-old reality show Deadliest Catch: The July 13 episode, in which Harris succumbed to a pulmonary embolism, pulled in 8.5 million viewers.
Losers No matter how the shows are promoted, summer scripted fare on the Big Four still look and feel like postseason burnoffs. ABC’s The Gates (with Rhona Mitra as a vamp, no less!) and Virginia Madsen-starrer Scoundrels have failed to impress, CBS’ The Bridge has drawn meager Saturday-night audiences, and NBC’s Persons Unknown managed to scare up only 3.67 million viewers. — Lynette Rice
Winners Who says blockbuster album sales are a thing of the past? Not Eminem, whose Recovery sold a whopping 741,000 copies within a week of arriving in June — the biggest single-week haul by anyone since AC/DC in 2008. For anyone with a radio, Katy Perry‘s smash ”California Gurls” (No. 1 for six weeks and counting on the singles chart) is close to locking up the race for this summer’s most ubiquitous jam, though Usher‘s ”OMG” (No. 1 for four weeks) is another strong contender.
Losers Teen-pop divas of all ages have been hurting this summer. Miley Cyrus‘ Can’t Be Tamed entered the charts with a disappointing 102,000 copies sold, while Christina Aguilera‘s Bionic fizzled with just 110,000 in first-week sales. Aguilera also postponed her entire summer tour till next year, jumping aboard a concert-canceling bandwagon that counts Lilith Fair, Rihanna, the Eagles, and the Jonas Brothers as unlucky members. — Simon Vozick-Levinson
Winners With over one million copies sold, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, the final novel in Stieg Larsson‘s trilogy, exploded as the season’s must-read. And while vampires have been unstakable (see: recent chart-toppers from Stephenie Meyer and Charlaine Harris), Justin Cronin‘s literary take on the creatures, The Passage, also stalked the best-seller lists.
Losers Underwhelming sequels underperformed, including Innocent by Scott Turow and Committed, Elizabeth Gilbert‘s follow-up to Eat, Pray, Love. Also on the downswing: monster mash-ups, like dead-on-arrival Android Karenina. Guess the public wasn’t jonesing for 538 pages of robot Tolstoy after all. — Keith Staskiewicz