Summer 2002 Box Office Wrapup

Comic book heroes, Jedi knights, and alien crop circles led the way at the summer box office this year which set a new record, thanks mostly to higher ticket prices. North American grosses from Memorial Day weekend to the Labor Day frame (considered the traditional summer moviegoing season) totaled $3.14 billion, according to Exhibitor Relations, inching 2.5% ahead of 2001's $3.06 billion over the same period. Admissions, however, were off a tick from the summer of Shrek.

Sequels, Hollywood's summer staple, were abundant but were met with mixed results. Austin Powers in Goldmember was the standout performer becoming the biggest installment yet in the five-year-old franchise. However, most sequels failed to outgross their predecessors like Rush Hour 2, American Pie 2, and The Mummy Returns did last summer. Star Wars Episode II and Men in Black II were the biggest second-parters, but their tallies fell somewhat short of industry expectations given their huge marketing budgets. The pricey Stuart Little 2 has taken in less than half of the $140M of the 1999 original.

A new generation of action heroes made their mark as audiences made blockbuster hits out of Vin Diesel's XXX, Matt Damon's The Bourne Identity and Ben Affleck's The Sum of All Fears. Meanwhile, action stars of summers past like Harrison Ford and Nicolas Cage, bombed with their latest entries K-19: The Widowmaker and Windtalkers, respectively.

Sony Pictures was the market leader from the beginning with Spider-Man soaring above even the loftiest expectations. The webcrawler started the summer off with a bang with its record $114.8M opening weekend and set several speed records on it way to a $403.7M final putting it at number five on the all-time list. The studio also released Men in Black II, XXX, and Adam Sandler's Mr. Deeds which proved that the comedian wasn't yesterday's news after Little Nicky. Before the end of summer, those hits helped carry Sony past the $1 billion mark in year-to-date grosses putting it on track to possibly have the biggest year ever for a studio.

There was no bigger surprise in the summer than the longevity of the independent hit comedy My Big Fat Greek Wedding. The $5M film opened in late April with less than $600,000 from 108 theaters sneaking into the number 20 spot. It then stuck around the top 20 all summer and has spent the last three weekends at number two grossing over $100M along the way. The $150M barrier is sure to fall this fall and the sky is the limit after that. IFC Films continues to do a brilliant job distributing the still-expanding hit and has put itself on the map as a serious contender in the business. Greek Wedding has succeeded in part by appealing to audiences not catered to by other summer flicks. While other studios courted young males with green goblins and the dark side of the force, IFC brought in women, seniors, and whole families to its Wedding reception. Plus the ethnic comedy appealed to people of all backgrounds who could relate to the cross-cultural storyline.

Next summer will undoubtedly bring more sequels, more surprises, and maybe even another record. Studios have already earmarked tentpole pictures for key weekends - X-Men 2 on May 2, The Matrix Reloaded on May 15, The Hulk on June 20, and Terminator 3 on July 2. It looks like franchise fever will never stop!

Projected Final Grosses of Top 20 Films of Summer 2002

# Title Release Total ($M) Opening ($M) Theaters 1st Wk % Per Thtr. Distributor
1 Spider-Man May 3 404 114.8 3876 28.43 $104,231 Sony
2 Star Wars Episode II May 16 302 80.0 3161 26.41 95,856 Fox
3 Signs Aug 2 230 60.1 3453 26.14 66,609 Buena Vista
4 Austin Powers in Goldmember Jul 26 214 76.6 3613 35.64 59,507 New Line
5 Men in Black II Jul 3 190 52.1 3641 27.45 52,183 Sony
6 My Big Fat Greek Wedding Apr 19 180 1853 97,140 IFC Films
7 Scooby Doo Jun 14 153 54.2 3447 35.40 44,386 Warner Bros.
8 Lilo & Stitch Jun 21 144 35.3 3222 24.49 44,693 Buena Vista
9 XXX Aug 9 143 44.5 3536 30.69 41,007 Sony
10 Minority Report Jun 21 132 35.7 3001 27.03 43,985 Fox
11 Mr. Deeds Jun 28 126 37.2 3239 29.73 38,592 Sony
12 The Bourne Identity Jun 14 121 27.1 2663 22.41 45,437 Universal
13 The Sum of All Fears May 31 119 31.2 3230 26.24 36,780 Paramount
14 Road to Perdition Jul 12 104 22.1 2332 21.23 44,597 DreamWorks
15 Spy Kids 2 Aug 7 85 16.7 3307 19.66 25,703 Miramax
16 Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron May 24 73 23.2 3362 31.80 21,713 DreamWorks
17 Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood Jun 7 70 16.2 2507 23.43 27,523 Warner Bros.
18 Insomnia May 24 67 26.1 2610 38.68 25,824 Warner Bros.
19 Stuart Little 2 Jul 19 64 15.1 3282 23.99 19,196 Sony
20 Unfaithful May 10 53 14.1 2624 26.54 20,198 Fox

(still in strong release. Projected final could be higher)

Last Updated : October 3, 2002