And then there's the overseas market, which has become a huge player in the box office game.
It's not just action movies, which are supposed to travel well. Simanton points out that "Despicable Me 2" has done better overseas than in the United States. So has "Now You See Me" and "The Great Gatsby." The international box office, he says, "will continue to grow as a multiplier."
In the overseas success of those unlikely films may be a sign that Hollywood's current blow-'em-up summer strategy may change. Right now international audiences still love the action films -- as Obst notes in her book, China and Russia built all these movie theaters, and they like to fill them with the latest 3-D bells and whistles -- but even non-U.S. audiences may be growing weary of so much destruction, she says.
"If you look at the Chinese market since the time I wrote the book, they've made three blockbusters of their own, none of which rely on these special effects. They're romantic comedies (and) movies with nuance," she says. "The market in China wants of their own filmmakers the same kind of movies we love from our best filmmakers."
Maltin agrees. "It's always story and character that wins out," says the critic. "Even in an action movie. Witness 'The Avengers.' "
And it wasn't as if character was completely ignored this summer, he adds. Maltin enjoyed "World War Z," which faced down gossipy vultures and emerged a success with both critics and audiences. He liked "The Heat," another demonstration of Melissa McCarthy's comedic skills. Obst credits "Fast & Furious 6's" success to the camaraderie between the film's crew.
So will summer 2013 have any impact on future summer seasons, which (hello, Ben Affleck!) already have their own tentpoles in development? Much was made of Steven Spielberg's pronouncement that the failure of a few tentpoles could change the American movie business, but it's still a long way down. Besides, the August releases that have succeeded, including "The Butler" and "We're the Millers," indicate that playing small(-budget) ball can still pay off handsomely.
Simanton suspects that, in fact, late August and Labor Day -- traditionally the dregs of the movie season -- might start proving viable for certain kinds of films. The One Direction concert film, which opens August 30, will test his theory about redefining the bounds of the summer season, he says.
And if not? Well, there's always revisionist history. Already the French are praising "Lone Ranger" and the Chinese are boosting "Pacific Rim." Meanwhile, "Star Trek" fans named "Into Darkness" the worst of the "Trek" films at a Las Vegas convention -- despite its standing as one of a handful of summer films to top $200 million at the box office.
As screenwriter William Goldman put it in the truest words ever written about Hollywood, "Nobody knows anything."
So, when you think about summer 2013 -- for all the CGI destruction, for all the sequels, for all the superheroes and space visitors and foolproof studio strategies -- the past may be no guide to what will work in the future.
"The lessons are," says Maltin, "there are no lessons."