Meryl Streep emerges as summer box-office sensation

Fri Jul 31, 2009 4:27am EDT
 
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By Jay A. Fernandez

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - A partial list of this summer's best box-office bets: Optimus Prime, Manny the Woolly Mammoth and Meryl Streep.

It's understandable if that prompts a double take, but the actress most synonymous with Oscar quietly has become one of the most reliable warm-weather draws at the multiplex. Streep, who turned 60 in June, drummed up nearly $1 billion in worldwide revenue from her previous two summer outings: Fox's "The Devil Wears Prada" in 2006 and Universal's "Mamma Mia!" in 2008.

She puts that streak on the line next weekend when Columbia's "Julie & Julia" opens opposite Paramount's testosterone fest "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra."

The female- and food-friendly pic, tracking to open in the $20 million range domestically, with older females driving interest, could solidify her status as the industry's only serious veteran actress who, in the right vehicle, can carry a midbudget movie to blockbuster status.

With movie-star reliability continuing to buckle and such younger male actors as Eddie Murphy, Will Ferrell and Jack Black recently receiving the back of the hand from audiences, Streep's success in nontraditional summer fare is delicious indeed. It was enough that Forbes recently listed her among the industry's top female moneymakers. By the magazine's estimation, Streep placed behind only Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston in 2008 with income of $24 million.

"Isn't that magnificent?" Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman Amy Pascal says. "It's just awesome. It makes us all really happy."

ACADEMY ACCOLADES

Sony (Columbia's parent company), which has fielded some notable underperformers this summer, is banking on an actress who has been nominated for 15 acting Oscars -- 12 lead and three supporting. On average, that's one every other year from 1979 ("The Deer Hunter") to 2009 ("Doubt"). She won statuettes for supporting turns in "Kramer vs. Kramer" (1980) and for her lead performance in "Sophie's Choice" (1983).   Continued...

 
<p>Actress Meryl Streep arrives for the premiere of "Julie &amp; Julia" in New York July 30, 2009. REUTERS/Jamie Fine</p>