From ''Man of Steel'' to women behind bars, our breakdown of the projects that soared — and sank

By James HibberdStephan LeeJosh Rottenberg and Ray Rahman
Updated September 06, 2013 at 04:00 AM EDT



Superheroes For comic-book do-gooders, this summer was downright heroic. Iron Man 3 proved the season’s biggest blockbuster, earning $1.2 billion worldwide, while the Superman reboot Man of Steel took off with $650 million globally and The Wolverine has clawed its way to $351 million and counting.

Brad Pitt Despite a wave of bad prerelease buzz about its production woes, Pitt’s zombie-apocalypse epic World War Z became the biggest hit of the actor’s career, earning more than $526 million worldwide.

Melissa McCarthy Though it received less fanfare than 2011’s Bridesmaids, McCarthy’s buddy-cop movie The Heat — which teamed her with Sandra Bullock — generated nearly as much box office heat with a $157 million U.S. take.

Low-Budget Horror While many a bloated tentpole fizzled, cheap horror flicks The Conjuring and The Purge scared up nearly $200 million combined in the U.S.

Fast & Furious 6 Six films deep into its run, the high-octane franchise — like the biceps of stars Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson — just keeps getting bigger. FF6 more than tripled the global gross of the 2001 original.


Box Office Giants Johnny Depp and Will Smith have starred in some of the biggest summer movies of all time, but this year — no such luck, kemosabe. Depp’s The Lone Ranger flopped, earning $88 million in domestic grosses, while Smith’s After Earth fared even worse, pulling in just $61 million.

R.I.P.D. Poor Ryan Reynolds. Not only was his sci-fi actioner DOA at the box office, but the very same weekend he had another flop with the animated kids’ movie Turbo, in which he voiced a snail.

Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn Eight years after Wilson and Vaughn scored a massive hit with Wedding Crashers, the much-anticipated reunion of this comic duo in The Internship failed to get the job done, earning just $45 million domestically.

3-D A few years ago, 3-D movies routinely drew 60 percent or more of their opening-weekend grosses from 3-D ticket sales. But this summer, movies like World War Z, The Great Gatsby, and Turbo saw the 3-D piece of the pie shrink to as little as 25 percent.



Sharks! Syfy’s fish-flinging horror comedy Sharknado stirred up a gale force of nearly 5,000 tweets per minute, and repeat airings improbably got more popular; meanwhile, Discovery caught record ratings for the 26th edition of Shark Week by airing documentaries that were fictional, like one about scientists on the hunt for an extinct megalodon. Lesson: Fake sharks > real ones.

Orange Is the New Black Netflix’s dramedy from Weeds creator Jenji Kohan was streamed more times in its first week than the ultrahyped Arrested Development return, giving it bragging rights as the only show so bingeworthy that it made people want to spend their summer in a women’s prison.

Breaking Bad The final return of Walter White doubled last year’s premiere numbers, with an impressive 5.9 million viewers. For once, critics, online fandom, and Nielsen ratings all agree on something: Heisenberg!

Under the Dome CBS broke the summer curse with this Stephen King thriller series, which has broadcasters rethinking the postseason. Now will somebody please order The Stand?

Duck Dynasty Quack, quack! Who’s there? 11.8 million viewers! A&E’s stealth sitcom proves once again that a loving family is always fashionable (even if fatigues are not).


NBC Survival Shows There was the ”real” one (Get Out Alive With Bear Grylls) and the fake one (Siberia). Both failed to find an audience. Maybe they can send out a search party?

Time Warner Cable Customers The contract standoff between CBS and TWC left viewers wondering if a dome had been lowered over their cable box. Luckily, the dispute ended before we had to start making Hostages jokes this fall.

Whodunnit? Whowatchedit?

Kris Jenner You know a talk show is in trouble when cancellation rumors are already swirling. (Hurry up and have another baby, Kim!)

Winner And Loser

Big Brother Ratings are up for cycle 15. But when interest is spiking in the wake of obnoxious racist behavior from the contestants, it’s like winning the Indy 500 by blowing up the other cars.



Robin Thicke, Miley Cyrus, Daft Punk And the song of the summer is… a three-way tie! The year’s hottest warm-weather hits belonged to a retro-R&B singer (”Blurred Lines”), a twerk-happy ex-Disney star (”We Can’t Stop”), and a pair of French robots (”Get Lucky”).

Pharrell Williams Speaking of songs of the summer, props to this guy for being a featured artist on two of them: He co-wrote and sang on ”Get Lucky” and ”Blurred Lines,” and also produced the latter.

Imagine Dragons, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Given that their singles had been simmering on the charts for months, some might’ve expected these artists to start slowing down. Not so: ID’s ”Radioactive” had 52 weeks on the Hot 100, while M&RL had three separate singles spending 20 or more weeks on the charts.

Katy Perry ”Roar” was a late entry, but Perry made up for it by breaking her own sales record for the most digital song sales in a week: 557,000, to be exact.

Luke Bryan Justin Timberlake, Jay Z, and…Luke Bryan? The country star met the ”Suit & Tie” duo at the top with his Aug. 13 album, Crash My Party, which sold nearly 528,000 copies in its first week, the third-biggest debut week of 2013.


Jay Z Yes, we know, Magna Carta… Holy Grail sold more copies than anyone this side of Timberlake. But the album’s Samsung app upset many fans by prying into their personal info. And the poor reviews caused some (okay, us) to wonder if it was phoned in. (Sorry.)

Lady Gaga It’s early, but reaction to her new single ”Applause” has been tepid at best — it sold 218,000 downloads in its first week, not even half the number for Perry’s ”Roar.”



Zealot, by Reza Aslan When Fox News correspondent Lauren Green and scholar-writer Aslan jousted during a train wreck of an interview, Aslan clearly came out ahead. The televised scuffle pushed Zealot, a biography of Jesus Christ, to the top of the charts.

J.K. Rowling Getting unmasked as the writer of The Cuckoo’s Calling did wonders for sales: Her propulsive thriller shot to No. 1 in the U.S. and Britain.

F. Scott Fitzgerald The box office for Baz Luhrmann’s glitter-strewn adaptation of The Great Gatsby was respectable, but the receipts for Fitzgerald’s classic went through the roof — the 1925 novel reached No. 1 on Amazon.


Revenge Wears Prada, by Lauren Weisberger Fans of The Devil Wears Prada were looking forward to some more delicious one-liners from fashion editrix Miranda Priestly in this sequel, but all they got was more whiny Andy Sachs. Revenge made an initial splash on the best-seller list with a No. 4 debut on Nielsen BookScan, but it quickly became so last season.