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Hollywood rebounds, but family-friendly offerings still limited

By Jeff Peterson

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, July 5 2013 11:32 a.m. MDT

Even though darker, grittier summer movies are all the rage, the recent success of the G-rated “Monsters University” shows there is an audience for lighter fare without all the world-ending destruction and wanton violence that have become commonplace in modern studio tent poles.

The prequel to 2003’s “Monsters, Inc.,” which opened June 21, scored the second-highest opening weekend in Pixar history (right behind “Toy Story 3”) with $82 million.

In the process, it beat out “World War Z,” which nevertheless managed a respectable $66 million in its opening weekend — enough for Paramount to greenlight a sequel.

Even more impressively, Mike and Sully managed to hang on to the No. 1 spot for a second weekend with only a 44 percent drop in ticket sales. (By way of comparison, “Man of Steel” fell more than 64 percent from weekend to weekend.)

“Monsters'” two-week total has already crossed $300 million worldwide.

Unfortunately, with only one other exception — Blue Sky Studio’s “Epic,” which opened in May — there have been virtually no other movies that cater to family audiences, although that should pick up soon with releases like “Despicable Me 2,” “Disney’s Planes,” “Turbo” and “The Smurfs 2” just around the corner.

For slightly older audiences left numb by the usual summer cocktail of fast cars, super-powered fistfights, terrorist plots and R-rated hijinks, the last few months have also seen a welcome uptick in variety, including a few literary adaptations (“The Great Gatsby,” “Much Ado About Nothing”), an indie coming-of-age drama (“Mud”) and a Best Foreign Language Oscar nominee from Norway (“Kon-Tiki”).

However, with so many big-budget movies crowding theaters this year, a lot of the smaller films have struggled to find the audiences they arguably deserve.

For instance, two of the highlights of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, the documentaries “20 Feet from Stardom” and “Pandora’s Promise” — both of which opened in limited release in June — barely made a dent in the quarter’s overall box-office figures.

Meanwhile, a film like M. Night Shyamalan’s “After Earth" has pulled in more than $188 million worldwide despite an abysmal 11 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating.

With some of the biggest movies of the summer still on the horizon, though, including a large number of family-oriented titles, the 2013 box office looks like it might stand a decent chance of overtaking last year’s record — which, at the very least, means the movie industry probably won’t implode on itself just yet.

A native of Utah Valley and a devoted cinephile, Jeff Peterson is currently studying humanities and history at Brigham Young University.

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