SURE-FIRE HITS – The Kings of the Box Office
*The Avengers ($623 m)
The Dark Knight Rises ($448m)
The Hunger Games ($408m)
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2** ($286m)
Between the numbers: The upside is that all these movies (except Twilight) were pretty great, so maybe the quality of the “sure things” will improve. The Twilight and Batman franchises are done for now. Let’s hope they keep it that way. And only the top grosser was in 3-D, so maybe that trend will die too.
SURPRISE SUCCESSES – They got there through word-of-mouth or succeeded where others failed
Magic Mike ($113m)
Pitch Perfect ($64m)
Between the numbers: The big surprise here is Ted, considering it came solely from the mind of its creator and isn’t a Family Guy movie. Plus, it was actually hilarious. Argo is my favorite success story, because it didn’t have to use great reviews as a springboard. People went to see it on its fascinating story, then told all their friends to go see it.
CONSOLATION PRIZES – Didn’t do so hot here, but made up for it overseas
*Ice Age: Continental Drift ($160m) – $713m
*Journey 2: The Mysterious Island ($103m) – $222m
American Reunion ($56m) – $177m
*Resident Evil: Retribution ($42m) – $179m
Between the numbers: When you see a project flop stateside, don’t assume it’s done for, especially when it comes to franchises.
DISAPPOINTMENTS – Movies that didn’t make back their budgets stateside
*Men in Black 3 ($179m) – $225m
Snow White and the Huntsman ($155m) – $170m
*Prometheus ($126m) – $130m
The Bourne Legacy ($113m) – $125m
Between the numbers: Men in Black 3 was almost destined to be a flop given its cost, but its international receipts saved it. All the others are likely to get sequels despite questionable box office, and in the case of Snow White, the director’s questionable life choices.
FLOPPIEST FLOPS – These cost a lot and didn’t come close to returning their investment
*John Carter ($73m) – $250m
*Battleship ($65m) – $209m
*Rise of the Guardians** ($90m) – $145m
The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure ($1m) – $20m
Bonus ultra-flop: Cloud Atlas** ($26m) – est. $100m
Between the numbers: Ruh-roh. Bad news for Taylor Kitsch fans (I include myself in that group). He definitely has the dreaded Box Office Poison label now, so his film career could really be in jeopardy. A real shame, considering his acting chops and swagger. It’s not his fault he was saddled with crappy movies. Cloud Atlas was independently financed and sadly proves that only Megan Ellison will fund ambitious projects in the future, and she can’t do it all by herself.
LOW BUDGET VICTORIES – Low-cost, high-yield successes
Chronicle ($64m) – $12m
The Devil Inside ($53m) – $1m
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel ($46m) – $10m
Moonrise Kingdom ($45m) – $16m
Bonus record-setting documentary: 2016: Obama’s America ($33m) – est. $2.5m
Between the numbers: I will never understand how The Devil Inside had such a killer opening weekend, eclipsing the total grosses of dozens of better movies. At least this was the exception about moviegoers’ intelligence, not the rule. By and large, most audiences chose good movies and let the lousy ones fall by the wayside.
**still in release
• Only one original live-action movie finished in the top 20, and even that had an animated bear (Ted).
• The Devil Inside, which received a rare F from CinemaScore, still made more than The Cabin in the Woods.
• Effing Battleship made more than The Grey. Guess audiences don’t want smart Liam Neeson movies.
• Silver Linings Playbook, the best movie of the year, made less than a documentary about chimps.
• Safe House made more than Denzel’s Oscar movie.