Did everybody have a good summer? Did you at least go outside once or twice, in between munching popcorn and blockbusters and scanning through the better-than-ever selection on VOD? Did you at least see one movie you liked… and avoid everything Ryan Reynolds put out there?

It's been an up and down summer movie season for sure, with some predictable things happening-- superheroes like Iron Man, Superman and Wolverine dominating-- and some totally unpredictable ones too-- who saw Despicable Me 2 being the year's second-biggest movie? We're not here to rehash all the headlines of the summer, since you can revisit the box office figures for Iron Man 3 or debate over Pacific Rim on your own time. But as summer finally slips away into fall we want to take a step back and really look at how it all shook out, and who we can fairly call the winners and losers of the summer season. Forget the obvious winners, like those aforementioned superheroes, or endlessly harping on The Lone Ranger. Let's figure out why these things happened, and maybe what we can learn from them for next time. After all, summer 2014 is only about 250 days away.

Winner: Horror
Horror movies have scared up some serious box office and critical praise this entire summer. The Ethan Hawke-fronted The Purge kicked off the season earning a whopping $34 million on opening weekend, pulling in more than eleven times its budget in just three days. Not to be outdone, James Wan dominated in July with The Conjuring. The deeply creepy haunted house tale took in an outstanding $41 million its opening weekend, has since gone on to earn more than $220 million worldwide, and won over critics with a striking 86% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Finally, an honorable mention goes out to horror director Adam Wingard, who released two scary flicks that may not have made strong box office stands but were widely praised by critics. The found footage anthology V/H/S/2 earned a 69% on Rotten Tomatoes, while his just unveiled slasher-comedy You’re Next netted 79%.

This is an intriguing trend. Horror is a genre that tends to get a fair amount of scorn from critics, but the filmmakers above are clearly winning this hard-to-please audience over. On top of that, the model of horror is very different from the tentpole releases that demand overwhelming audience drawing power to just break even. Far from the bloated budgets of $100-200 million, the most successful of these spooky pictures cost between $3 million and $20, meaning their producers take on less risk, and are winning greater rewards. Expect these successes to lead to a swell in horror coming to theaters soon.

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