Meow. What's that smell? It's time for the Labor Day reckoning, when Hollywood licks its wounds and counts its cash for the season that accounts for 40 percent of its yearly gross.
The big winners? Easy. That would be the retreads. The "Shrek" sequel ($436 million in box office receipts), the "Spider- Man" sequel ($367 million) and the "Harry Potter" sequel ($247 million).
Good for them. They not only were critically acclaimed, but found huge audiences.
But how about the bombs?
Cough up a fur ball for "Catwoman": Made for a reported $100 million, it took in $39 million at the multiplexes.
We wouldn't dwell on this kitty litter, except that a cultural pundit or two were pressed into service by the entertainment press to declare that the Halle Berry film was some kind of civil rights litmus test to see if an African American actress and Oscar winner could carry a blockbuster.
It didn't matter who starred in this movie -- you could have put Tom Cruise in leather chaps and handed him a whip -- the buzz was bad from the beginning.
"I would say that 'Catwoman' was expected to bomb, and it lived up to its potential," says Brandon Gray, founder and editor of BoxOfficeMojo.com, the box office tracking firm.
Why? "Catwoman" was panned by the critics. But often summer movies do not rise and fall by their critical acclaim -- 14-yearolds don't read the New Yorker. What killed "Catwoman" was that it did not inspire the comic book nerds, the kids who went to see "Hellboy" despite mixed reviews.
"It had none of the fan-boy base of support that many genre movies have. It alienated that crowd. It was too stupid and didn't distinguish itself from a bad MTV video," Gray says. "They worked the female empowerment thing. But that fell flat."
The summer season was remarkable for the surprise success of Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," at $117 million the biggest score for a documentary ever.
"Most everything else more or less performed as expected," Gray says. "Some a little bit better. Some worse."
Brad Pitt in "Troy" at $133 million: okay (and huge overseas). "King Arthur," a weird remake of the Knights of the Round Table fable, at $51 million: lame. "Dodgeball" was a nice surprise with $133 million. The dumb trick of "The Village" also made a passing grade, with $110 million.
Tom Hanks in Steven Spielberg's "The Terminal," was a $77 million disappointment for DreamWorks, which spent about $60 million making it. But what does one expect, in a post-9/11 world for a movie about a foreigner stuck at Kennedy Airport for months -- a setting "which is the most dreaded place on the planet, with the exception of being in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles," Gray says.
Also lagging: "The Manchurian Candidate," starring Meryl Streep and Denzel Washington, and "The Stepford Wives" -- both at $59 million. Both were hailed as politically sly. Alas, both were better in their original forms.
Gross domestic receipts were up a tick from last summer, at around $3.9 billion, but overall ticket sales were down. One reason: Prices are up at the multiplexes. Nationally, it cost $6.30 to see a movie this summer vs. $5.08 five years ago (averaging in matinees, senior and youth discounts).
There were a couple of indie standouts. "Napoleon Dynamite," the made-by-Mormons Sundance fave about a can-do nerd in Idaho, has hit $22 million. The shark muncher "Open Water" has made $23 million.
"In many ways, it was a pretty forgettable season. A very ho-hum summer," Gray says. "There were a ton of sequels, remakes, redos, and it felt as unoriginal as ever, which feeds into the whole malaise -- that, and these are trying times, with all the politics and war. So people were looking for escape, but I'm not sure they found it."