The summer movie season is moving slowly with few contenders expected to surpass the $300 million mark

By Jeff Jensen
Updated May 29, 2009 at 04:00 AM EDT

By this time last year, the summer movie season had already delivered two of the biggest hits of all time: the surprise smash Iron Man (total gross: $318 million) and the no-shock-here Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (total gross: $317 million). (The Dark Knight joined the $300 million-plus club later, with a total gross of $533 million.) Yet while the first month of this summer movie season has seen five hotly anticipated films deliver decent openings — X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Star Trek, Angels & Demons, Terminator Salvation, and the Night at the Museum sequel — none could muster even $90 million out of the gate, and none is expected to cross the $300 million mark. If that’s the new benchmark for certifiable pop-phenom status, then that leaves only three contenders for 2009: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince — although its predecessor, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, narrowly missed, conjuring up $292 million — and Avatar. (The last time the industry failed to churn out even one $300 million movie? Back in 2000, when Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas topped that year’s box office with $260 million.) Of course, the absence of a true megahit does have one silver lining: fewer SOLD OUT! signs.