2011 in Review: Box Office Report

Attendance was way down in 2011, and it’s not hard to see why. Between exorbitant ticket prices (the closest theater to me regularly charges $10.50 for an adult to see a non-3D film) and a glut of terrible choices (many of which were somehow hits), plus a short window between theatrical and DVD release – usually three to four months – more consumers than ever are opting to wait it out. Here’s a rundown of what hit and what missed.

All numbers rounded up and taken from Box Office Mojo for the calendar year.

SURE-FIRE HITS – The Kings of the Box Office
*Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 ($381m)
*Transformers: Dark of the Moon ($352.5m)
The Hangover, Part II ($254.5m)
Fast Five ($210m)
Between the numbers: You may say you want more original stories, but the grosses for these sequels prove otherwise.

SURPRISE SUCCESSES – They got there through word-of-mouth or succeeded where others failed
**The Help ($169.5m)
Bridesmaids ($169m)
Horrible Bosses ($117.5m)
*Gnomeo and Juliet ($100m)
Between the numbers: All fairly low-cost ventures for their respective studios, with the Help and Bridesmaids being the most talked-about. Both are on their way to Oscar nominations, along with thinkpieces about how this means more women-centric movies will get released. (Spoiler alert: they won’t.)

CONSOLATION PRIZES – Didn’t do so hot here, but made up for it overseas
*Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides ($241m) – $803m
*Cars 2 ($191m) – $368.5m
*Kung Fu Panda 2 ($165m) – $500.5m
*Rio ($144m) – $341m
Between the numbers: The latest Pirates movie didn’t make its budget back in America, but it was one of three movies to hit the billion-dollar benchmark worldwide (along with HP7.2 and Transformers 3)

DISAPPOINTMENTS – Movies that couldn’t even make back their budgets stateside (and this is before you factor in marketing costs)
X-Men: First Class ($146.5m) – $160m
Rango ($123m) – $135m
I Am Number Four ($55m) – $60m
The Change-Up ($37m) – $52m
Between the numbers: The first two are critically acclaimed, but they didn’t return that initial investment. The other two are rightly reviled and failed despite what seemed to be a sure-fire cash in on trends (adaptations of YA series and raunchy comedies).

FLOPPIEST FLOPS – These cost a lot and didn’t come close to returning their investment
*Green Lantern ($117m) – $200m
Cowboys & Aliens ($100m) – $163m
Sucker Punch ($36.5m) – $82m
*Conan the Barbarian ($21m) – $90m
*Bonus ultra-flop: Mars Needs Moms ($21.5m) – $150m (ImageMovers, which made the film for Disney, has now shut its doors. Sad, but it also saved us from Bob Zemeckis mo-capping a remake of Yellow Submarine.)
Between the numbers: Yikes. All the studios have to be bummed about these movies, which all sought to give fanboys EXACTLY what they wanted, which it turns out they didn’t want at all.

LOW BUDGET VICTORIES – Low-cost, high-yield successes
Paranormal Activity 3 ($104m) – $5m
Insidious – ($54m) – $1.5m
50/50 ($35m) – $8m
**Courageous ($34m) – $2m
Between the numbers: Aside from Paranormal Activity 3, all the others are distributed by small studios and they’ve got to be pretty proud of their little films that could, and did.

*in 3-D
**still in release

SADDEST STATISTIC: The Muppets ($84m) made less than either The Smurfs ($143m) or Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-wrecked ($98m). If you took out the 3-D grosses for either of those two, Disney still has to look at the Muppets as a significant dud, which means we may not get any sequels from Kermit and co. but can look forward to more from Papa Smurf and Alvin, Simon & Theodore. Ugh.

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