Summer box office report -- ''Transformers,'' ''Up,'' ''Land of the Lost,'' and other movies that hit or missed this season


With the recession in full swing, who could blame some Hollywood worrywarts for fretting over a potentially lackluster summer season? But as it turned out, a familiar slate of robots, aliens, and mutants — not to mention one grumpy old man, a teenage wizard, and four blacked-out bachelor partiers — managed to save the day quite nicely. (It’s blockbuster season, after all. You gotta have a happy ending.) In fact, even a week before Labor Day, this year’s summer crop had already reaped a record-breaking $4.17 billion.

The studios kept audiences well sated with a steady diet of cinematic comfort food. Old favorites like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen($399 million), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince ($294 million), Star Trek ($257 million), Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs ($193 million), X-Men Origins: Wolverine ($180 million), and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian ($177 million) dominated the box office chart all season. Other than Up ($290 million), the few original ideas that cracked the top 10 — The Hangover ($270 million) and The Proposal ($160 million) — succeeded largely thanks to adult moviegoers. ”The Hangover started out with college-age kids,” says Dan Fellman, president of marketing and distribution for Warner Bros. ”Then word of mouth was so good, it spread to the older audience.”

Of course there were a few films that didn’t live up to expectations. As Jack Black (Year One), Will Ferrell (Land of the Lost), and Adam Sandler (Funny People) learned, moviegoers are more reluctant to fork over $12 just to see stars stumble through humiliating situations. (Their movies all stalled out at around $50 million.) Even Johnny Depp — the big screen’s answer to a rock star — couldn’t push Public Enemies past $97 million or bring the drama genre out of its doldrums.

Still, it seems nothing — not even a few duds from once-failproof A-listers — can dampen Hollywood’s cautious optimism. ”Going to a movie theater and laughing or screaming is an experience rooted in our culture,” Adam Fogelson, Universal’s president of marketing and distribution, tells EW. ”People don’t want to stay home all the time. Never have and never will.”

Summer’s Top 20 Movies Overall
The record-setting season’s big earners (domestic gross, in millions, as of August 30, 2009)

1. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen $399.4
2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince $294.3
3. Up $289.6
4. The Hangover $270.2
5. Star Trek $256.7
6. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs $193.3
7. X-Men Origins: Wolverine $179.9
8. Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian $176.5
9. The Proposal $160.2
10. Angels & Demons $133.4
11. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra $132.2
12. Terminator Salvation $125.3
13. G-FORCE $111.8
14. Public Enemies $97.0
15. District 9 $90.4
16. The Ugly Truth $85.7
17. Inglourious Basterds $73.0
18. Julie & Julia $70.6
19. The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 $65.5
20. Brüno $60.0