Another year done and dusted!
1. The Dark Knight - $530.8M - $996M
2. Iron Man - $318.3M - $581M
3. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - $317M - $786M
4. Hancock - $227.9M - $624M
5. WALL-E - $223.7M - $507M
6. Kung Fu Panda - $215.4M - $631M
7. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa - $174.2M - $460M*
8. Twilight - $16 4.1M - $239M*
9. Quantum of Solace - $163.4M - $537M*
10. Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! - $154.5M - $296M
Above Numbers - Domestic Gross - Global Total Including US Gross
* Films still on general release
Another year done and dusted, with great success on some sides, and awful failure on others, not all of it deserved either. While 2007 seemed to be the year of the sequel, one sequel above all other stood out in 2008, and it wasn't the one we all expected it to be. In dark and gloomy times, the box office shone brightly as one of the few places where people were willing to spend money - and they needed to as production costs continued to climb. That said it seemed, at least on the surface, that budgets had been tied under $200M and studios were relying more and more on that opening weekend take - a pattern that will continue to dominate as we enter 2009.
Of course, going in to 2008, no one suspected that The Dark Knight would dominate the box office in such a way as to begin to threaten even the mighty Titanic. With the death of Heath Ledger The Dark Knight was put on everyone's map, even if they couldn't care less about Batman. Upon release, the film broke practically every box office record going, too many to list here, and would stay in the top ten for ten weeks, no easy task considering the packed release schedule that followed its release. As the year closed, Warner Bros announced they'd be re-releasing the film in January in hope to push its box office over the $1 billion dollar mark (it sits at $996M currently) making it potentially only the fourth film to achieve such a task. Ledger's death might have pushed the reluctant into cinemas, but it was Nolan's direction and his faultless cast that kept people going back again and again. The only question that remains unanswered is whether Heath Ledger will receive a posthumus Oscar nomination.
A hugely successful showing at Comic-Con in 2007 made people sit up and take notice of Iron Man. In comic book terms, Iron Man was no Spiderman, and it took the near perfect casting of Robery Downey Jnr and the careful direction of Jon Favreau to make it work and get the general public to sit up and take notice. Iron Man kicked off the summer blockbuster season with style (remember, to the general public Iron Man was pretty much an unknown quantity unlike Indiana Jones or Batman) to the tune of $102M and would dig itself into the top ten for the next eight weekends, eight of the busiest of the year it's worth noting. Downey Jnr wasn't just acting as Tony Stark, he was Tony Stark and his role held the whole film together. Even as summer drew to a close, Iron Man was still ahead of everything but the Dark Knight, including the mighty Indiana Jones and when it finally left cinema screens at the end of September, no one was in any doubt who Iron Man was.
Ever since 1989's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, a fourth Indy film has been bandied about. Getting close to production a number of times in the years since, it took until 2007 before all the parts fell into place. While Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull would go on without Sean Connery as Jones' dad, Karen Allen would return from the wilderness to play the love interest, a role she had played with aplomb in 1981's Raiders of the Lost Ark. Expectations were running higher for this sequel than perhaps the Star Wars Prequels back in 1999, and like those films, there was no way Crystal Skull could be that good. The film did disappoint on a number of fronts, but not at the box office. Kicking off the Memorial Day weekend with $151M, it seemed that Harrison Ford had never been away from the role. Internationally the film would perform even better (a trait often repeated this year) but would have to settle for a distant third on the domestic top ten. Again, internationally the film outperformed most others and was only bested by The Dark Knight.
Coming off the huge I Am Legend with an action comedy must have been a no brainer for Will Smith. Hancock featured Smith as a down on his luck superhero and once again, Big Willy owned the July 4th weekend. The film opened to Smith's second best weekend gross after I Am Legend but would finish way behind the top three of the year. Critcally the film wasn't liked as much as his others and repeat business was harder to come by than usual for Smith's films, within three weeks the film was scoring sub $10M weekends. Globally the film far outgrossed its domestic total ($227M vs $396M) but would be in and out of the top ten within six weeks, mainly due to the glut of new releases (not to mention The Dark Knight) that were sent its way. Smith remains the world's biggest box office pull, within 8 months he's had two films with a total box office over $1 billion dollars.
Family films dominate the top ten this year - all CGI based animation. The masters of the art, Pixar, performed the best of the bunch but it was a close run thing, with Dreamworks' Kung Fu Panda biting at its ankles. Wall-E was a gamble for Pixar, who have seen a steady decline in box office since Cars in 2006, because its opening 40 minutes were dialogue free, featuring just the character of Wall-E. Critics adored it, and Wall-E's opening weekend take was strong. Unlike most Pixar movies, Wall-E's weekend to weekend drops, while completely acceptable for any other film, were a little high as it began to face off against Hancock, Wanted and Hellboy 2. The film would end the year having taken over half a billion dollars in total ticket sales and making more than few best of year lists. Pixar still rules the roost when it comes to animated tales, but even they can't deny that upstarts like Dreamworks are knocking on their door, at least in box office terms.
Dreamworks movies fill out places six and seven in our end of year chart. Kung Fu Panda has a hell of a voice cast, including Jack Black, Angelina Jolie and Dustin Hoffman to name just three. Turning up as things were cooling slightly at the box office (Skulls had shot its best, Prince Caspian stumbled at the blocks) gave Kung Fu Panda all the chance it needed. Being the only family friendly film in the top ten at the time didn't harm its chances either. The film had a couple of respectable weekend to weekend percentage drops and didn't face any direct competition until Wall-E three weekends later. But for all its success, like Hancock, Kung Fu Panda was done and dusted within six weekends, though it spent a further 12 weeks on general release, earning around half a million dollars a week.
Dreamworks other animated entry was the Madagascar sequel Escape 2 Africa, coming just three years after the original movie. We can see how quickly successful the film became too, having been released just 8 weeks ago and still managing a respectable entry in the top ten. All the voice cast of the original movie returned and with the box office being shy of family friendly films for a few good months, Madagascar 2 had time and space to clean up. Even when Quantum of Solace and Bolt joined the fray shortly after, Madagascar 2 dug in hard and prepared for the long haul. Its weekend drops were all over the place, off 44%, then 55%, the film recovered well for Thanksgiving (just a 9% drop) and sits roughly $18M behind the gross of the original movie. Madagascar 2 is still on general release, now in a somewhat limited capacity.
Our newest film to make the top ten benefitted from some 11th hour strokes of luck. First, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was pushed back to summer 2009, allowing Twilight room to breathe rather than going up against Potter-mania, but it also allowed the film to shift into Half Blood Prince's original release date, meaning Twilight wouldn't have to compete with christmas shoppers. Like Harry Potter, the world of Twilight had a large number of obsessive fans, all waiting for opening weekend. Twilight did indeed open strong, recouping most of its production budget by the end of its first Friday of release. Family friendly fare hampered its second weekend of release but while many analysts figured Twilight's heavy front loading would have left its opening weekend as its only good one, the film actually recovered in its third and fourth weekend of release.
2009 gave witness to the birth of a new franchise in Twilight, with the second book, New Moon, entering pre-production for a November 2009 release.
Bond was back in November and how! Quantum of Solace opened to the biggest weekend gross of any previous film in the James Bond series. On the international market the film performed even better, having opened a few weeks previous. However, its huge opening meant subsequent weekend takings were lower than hoped, with a pretty nasty 60% fall in only its second frame of release (up against Twilight and Bolt). Solace recovered very well over Thanksgiving while international gross continued to climb and climb. In terms of the rebooted franchise, Quantum of Solace is sitting just behind Casino Royale in terms of box office grosses, and may still surpass that film's $167M total before leaving theatres. Proving that Bond is still bigger outside the US, the films near final international gross more than doubled its domestic taking. While reviews weren't as stellar as for Casino Royale, most were eager to point out that Daniel Craig had now become James Bond in their eyes.
For our final film of the year's top ten we go all the way back to before the summer. Horton Hears a Who, utilising the voice talent of Steve Carrell and Jim Carrey, got off to a great start thanks in part to the box office going through a family film drought. Setting up its first weekend with $45M, Horton followed it with subsequent takes of $24M and $17M. The Dr Seuss adaptation, Carrey's second association with the author after starring as The Grinch, would finish up with a global total just shy of $300M. From a budget of $85M, Horton Hears A Who would become one of the most profitable animated features of the year.
What else set the box office alight? A pair of female orientated films sits just outside the top ten in the guise of Mamma Mia! and Sex and the City: The Movie. The latter got off to an incredible start back in May, opening to a huge $57M, much better than analysts predicted, having already written off the TV adaptation for coming too long after the show had finished airing. Mamma Mia! meanwhile doubled teamed with The Dark Knight, taking in the female audience who'd dropped the rest of the family at the Caped Crusader's door. Internationally Mamma Mia! would explode, becoming the biggest ever UK film with a taking of $132M.
The retooling of The Hulk franchise with Ed Norton starring as the Incredible Hulk didn't embarrass itself but hardly set the box office alight either, besting the original film by just $2M, while Prince Caspian, pushed back from a winter 07 release to Summer 08 had little of the appeal seen by The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (to the point that Disney have decided not to fund a third film). That said, similar to The Golden Compass, Prince Caspian excelled in the international market to the tune of $278M (against a domestc gross of $141M).
Other notables further down the chart include the action packed Wanted, the first R-rated film in the top twenty of 2008. The Angelina Jolie film was celebrated for its action sequences and unashamed old school violence. It ended up with $134M from a budget of $75M. Jolie has had an exceptional year - Wanted scored a big action hit, Kung Fu Panda provided a strong family release and she scored critical acclaim with Changeling in September. Meanwhile, after success with Horton, Steve Carrell found a potential franchise in the guise of Get Smart, a cinematic updating of the 60s TV show, clearing $130M.
Brendan Fraser had two $100M+ films in the shape of Journey to the Center of the Earth ($101M) and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor ($102M). Comedy in the guise of Tropic Thunder ($110M) and Step Brothers ($100M) helped prop up those who'd grown tired of The Dark Knight. On the family market, Bolt did its best with a bad release date and tough competition to score $104M, not a bad total given its disappointing third place/$26M start, while High School Musical 3, while exceptionally profitable, collapsed within seven day of release (the film took more than 45% of its total box office in its first weekend).
Right back near the start of the year, mystery film Cloverfield opened to $40M but like HSM3's performance, grossed half its final box office in that opening weekend. Once the cat was out the Cloverfield bag, a lot of the appeal wore off and fast. (The motion sickness issues probably didn't do the film any favours). The same could be said for Jumper, whose impressive trailer and central theme gave way to a disappointing film. Both movies finished within $100K of each other, for a total around $80M.
In the "what the hell?" stakes, Beverly Hills Chihuahua ruled the box office for two weeks and would only see a weekend to weekend percentage drop above 45% in its sixth weekend of release. The no-star family comedy ended up with $93M. In a similar vein, the Cameron Diaz/Ashton Kutchener 'wacky' comedy What Happens In Vegas took $80M, acting as perfect alternate programming to Iron Man and Prince Caspian back in May. Even the god-awful 10,000 BC made $93M.
Of the failures, the one that hit hardest is forum favourite Speed Racer. Made for $120M, the Wachowski brother's ultra colourful, action packed family film flopped straight out of the gate, ending up with just $43M. The return of Mulder & Scully fared even worse - The X-Files: I Want To Believe, opened a week after The Dark Knight and crashed and burned with a final total of just $20M. The critically maligned The Happening, so bad it was good, managed $64M while Mike Myers return to comedy in the guise of The Love Guru somehow scored $32M. Like Speed Racer, the much admired Hellboy 2: The Golden Army could only manage $75M.
There were more successes (Step Brothers, 21, Pineapple Express), at least two great returns to form (Rambo and The Wrestler) and more than enough outright failures (Sex Drive, Igor, Body of Lies, Clone Wars, Babylon AD & Bangkok Dangerous) to make up cinema going in 2008. As we entered award seasons we saw strong showings from the aforementioned Mickey Rourke starrer The Wrestler, Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire, Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino and Brad Pitt in David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
With the summer 2009 release slots already filling up fast (Transformers 2, Harry Potter & The Half Blood Prince, Wolverine, Star Trek, Angels & Demons, Up) not to mention Watchmen in March (all being well), Where The Wild Things Are in October and Shutter Island in September, the year is already setting itself up as another classic for cinema going.
All the best for 2009 and thanks to all for supporting the Box Office Reports.