How to Make a Summer Blockbuster

Thelma Adams
The Reel Breakdown

So you want to generate thrills, chills, and, above all, lots and lots and lots of ticket sales.

You want to make a summer blockbuster.

You're in the right place.

A review of Hollywood's top 25 highest-grossing summer-movie-season hits of all time has revealed 10 ironclad secrets of success.

1. Release your film during an economic boom. Conversely, don't release your film during a recession. (See: the hit-starved summers of 2002, 2003, and 2009.) To date, the sunny, precrash summers of 2007 and 2008 have produced the most all-time hits, with three apiece.

2. Release your film in May. June and July are pretty solid, too. August, on the other hand, is where "Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure" goes to die.

3. Option a comic book (preferably one produced by either DC or Marvel). No medium has generated more summer blockbusters than the comics -- fully 8 of the summer top 25 are ripped from the pages of "Spider-Man." Or "Batman." Or "The Avengers." Or "Iron Man."

4. Option something, anything. Outside of sequels, "Star Wars," "E.T.," "The Lion King," and "Finding Nemo" are the only all-time summer hits that are not based on something -- that is, a comic, a novel, a toy, a ride at Disneyland.

5. Invent summer. That's what "Star Wars" did for Hollywood back in 1977. While it can be argued that "Jaws" got the popcorn popping two years earlier, it can't be argued that it was George Lucas's space adventure that showed how megamarketing was done.

6. Reinvent summer. That's what "Spider-Man" did for Hollywood in 2002, proving that a $100 million opening weekend was possible (if not preferable).

7. Smash stuff. Michael Bay's "Transformers" movies constitute the only franchise, besides the Tobey Maguire "Spider-Man" adventures, to land each and every one of its installments in the summer top 25. (Robert Downey Jr.'s "Iron Man" series may get there yet.)

8. 2D is fine. "Dark Knight" director Christopher Nolan didn't jump on the 3D bandwagon, and neither have summer audiences. Just a few of the beach season's biggest hits, including "Toy Story 3" and "The Avengers," were blown up to the pricey format.

9. If audiences are hungry for something, they'll feast on anything. How else to explain the box-office riches bestowed upon the fanboy-reviled likes of "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace" and "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"?

10. The "Forrest Gump" rule: Just make a really good movie. It won't matter if your hero wears a cape or a seersucker suit; your audience will find you. (Unless, you know, you're "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World," in which case your audience will find you later.)

Here's a look at the top 25 summertime box-office hits, per domestic stats as compiled by and The Numbers:

1. "The Avengers," 2012
2. "The Dark Knight," 2008
3. "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace," 1999
4. "Star Wars," 1977
5. "The Dark Knight Rises," 2012
6. "Shrek 2," 2004
7. "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial," 1982
8. "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," 2006
9. "The Lion King," 1994
10. "Toy Story 3," 2010
11. "Spider-Man," 2002
12. "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," 2009
13. "Jurassic Park," 1993
14. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II," 2011
15. "Finding Nemo," 2003
16. "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith," 2005
17. "Spider-Man 2," 2004
18. "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," 2011
19. "Spider-Man 3," 2007
20. "Forrest Gump," 1994
21. "Shrek the Third," 2007
22. "Transformers," 2007
23. "Iron Man," 2008
24. "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," 2008
25. "Iron Man 2," 2010