Summer is supposed to be Hollywood’s grand showcase.
Yet the May through August cinema onslaught thus far has been anything but.
While this summer’s film crop has performed well at the box office — May produced a record $1.14 billion haul — notably absent has been any movie with cultural resonance that has everyone talking, like The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises last year, and the Harry Potter finale and the surprise comedy smash Bridesmaids in 2011.
What summer, 2013, needs are event films — movies that you not only want to see, but feel like you’re missing something special if you don’t.
So what if you could program your perfect summer film schedule? What movies would you choose and why? Before you answer, to make things more challenging, and therefore more fun, here are my guidelines:
* All eligible films must have opened in the summer (May through August) between 1975 through 2012.
* Each film has to be scheduled to open on a Friday — with the Wednesday, July 3, holiday as the lone exception —and follow the summer 2013 schedule, which began May 3 and runs through Aug. 30.
* Each film selection must also run as close as possible to its original opening date. For example, Jaws, which debuted June 20, 1975, would open on June 21, 2013.
* Also, there can be only one film per Friday, which often makes the choices difficult; June 14, for instance, offers E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, The Lion King, and Grease.
With all this in mind, I put together my own summer film schedule and included up to four alternates, with considerations given to a film’s box-office performance, genre, studio diversity, and, in some instances, personal preference. All box office numbers are via the box-office tracking site boxofficemojo.com and represent total domestic revenues when adjusted for inflation.
May 3: Marvel’s The Avengers. Original opening date: May 4, 2012. Total domestic box office adjusted for inflation: $609,539,700. Studio: Buena Vista (Disney). Alternates: Spider-Man and X2: X-Men United. The opening weekend of May belongs to Marvel and its successful superhero brand, and its mighty titan team-up, The Avengers, is its crown jewel franchise.
May 10: Friday the 13th. Original opening date: May 9, 1980. Box office: $117,342,600. Studio: Paramount.
Alternates: Bridesmaids, The Crow. The slasher series spawned 11 sequels, earned hundreds of millions, and made the hockey mask an iconic part of Halloween.
May 17: Shrek. Original opening date: May 16, 2001. Box office: $375,487,600. Studio: DreamWorks.
Alternates: Top Gun, Conan the Barbarian. Summers usually produce two big animated hits. This is the first on the list.
May 24: Star Wars. Original opening date: May 25, 1977. Box office: $1,414,269,600. Studio: 20th Century Fox.
Alternates: Alien, The Road Warrior, Rambo: First Blood Part II. Star Wars didn’t create the summer blockbuster. It just changed it … forever.
May 31: Finding Nemo. Original opening date: May 30, 2004. Box office: $489,293,700. Studio: Disney/Pixar.
Alternates: Rocky III, Up, The Untouchables. No summer film list is complete without Pixar, and when adjusted for inflation Finding Nemo is the studio’s biggest (and arguably best) film.
June 7: Ghostbusters. Original opening date: June 8, 1984. Box office: $561,601,100. Studio: Columbia.
Alternates: The Hangover, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Poltergeist. Ghostbusters helped unleash a new era of comedies as big-budget spectacles (for better or worse) and was a cultural phenomenon.
June 14: E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. Original opening date: June 11, 1982. Box office: $1,126,323,400. Studio: Universal. Alternates: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, The Lion King, Grease. In a nearly impossible choice of classic summer films, E.T. gets the nod on the strength of its box-office performance and broad appeal.
June 21: Jaws. Original opening date: June 20, 1975. Box office: $1,016,945,800. Studio: Universal.
Alternates: Batman, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Blues Brothers. Jaws is the film that created the summer cinema event for movies like Tim Burton’s Batman to follow nearly 15 years later.
June 28: Do the Right Thing. Original opening date: June 30, 1989. Box office: $55,090,900. Studio: Universal.
Alternates: Airplane!, Apollo 13, The Omen. Airplane! is deliriously funny comedy classic, but Do the Right Thing is that rare summer film that makes you think.
July 3: Independence Day. Original opening date: July 3, 1996. Box office: $549,994,900. Studio: 20th Century Fox.
Alternates: Men in Black, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Back to the Future. Independence Day wins out because of its marketing tie-in with the holiday, that, and what’s a summer without an alien invasion?
July 12: Die Hard. Original opening date: July 15, 1988. Box office: $160,362,600. Studio: 20th Century Fox.
Alternates: X-Men, Forrest Gump, Ghost. In a series run into the ground, Die Hard remains matched as pure 1980s action-film bliss.
July 19: The Dark Knight. Original opening date, July 18, 2008. Box office: $591,175,600. Studio: Warner Bros.
Alternates: Inception, Aliens, Robocop. Decades from now, Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning turn as The Joker will still be a source of inspiration for other actors.
July 26: National Lampoon’s Animal House. Original opening date: July 28, 1978. Box office: $475,528,700. Studio: Universal.
Alternates: Caddyshack, Vacation, Saving Private Ryan. Without the success of Animal House, there is no Caddyshack or Vacation.
Aug. 2: Risky Business. Original opening date: Aug. 5, 1983. Box office: $160,165,600. Studio: Warner Bros.
Alternates: The Bourne Ultimatum. This coming-of-age comedy/drama made Tom Cruise a star, and forecast a decade and more of our cultural obsession with material success and excess.
Aug. 9: The Sixth Sense. Original opening date: Aug. 6, 1999. Box office: $457,178,300. Studio: Buena Vista.
Alternates: Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Stand by Me, The Fugitive. Forget After Earth, and remember filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan’s brilliant debut with a twist ending that had stunned audiences flocking into theaters again to figure it out.
Aug. 16: Apocalypse Now. Original opening date: Aug. 15, 1979. Box office: $249,221,100. Studio: MGM.
Alternates: Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Superbad, Fast Times at Ridgemont High. August is typically such a wasteland of studio dreck; Francis Ford Coppola’s classic changes that dynamic.
Aug. 23: Natural Born Killers. Original opening date: Aug. 26, 1994. Box office: $95,513,200. Studio: Warner Bros.
Alternates: Barton Fink, Rock ’n’ Roll High School, Dirty Dancing. In a battle of mostly cult classics, Oliver Stone’s violent and controversial film wins.
Aug. 30: Gallipoli. Original opening date: Aug. 28, 1981. Box office: $16,372,900. Studio: Paramount.
Alternates: Hamburger Hill, The Constant Gardener, C.H.U.D. Months before The Road Warrior was released, Mel Gibson was on his way to stardom with director Peter Weir’s sobering World War I film.
Contact Kirk Baird at: email@example.com or 419-724-6734.
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