1. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen - $402M -- $834M
2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - $301M -- $929M
3. Up - $293M -- $683M
4. The Twilight Saga: New Moon - $282M -- $664M
5. The Hangover - $277M -- $459M
6. Star Trek - $257M -- $385M
7. Avatar - $250M -- $726M
8. Monsters vs. Aliens - $198M -- $381M
9. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs - $196M -- $887M
10. The Blind Side - $189M -- No Worldwide Release Yet
11. X-Men Origins: Wolverine - $179M -- $373M
12. Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian - $177M -- $412M
[First Number = US Take Second Number = Total Worldwide Take Inc US figures] [Numbers correct as of 7am - 31st December 2009]
And so here we are again. It seems like only 10 minutes since I was writing the year-end report for 2008 when suddenly the end of 2009 shows up. It's been another record breaking year in cinema and the stories of piracy destroying the industry seem a little overblown when you consider this is the first time that total ticket sales have surpassed $10 billion dollars. We've had the usual surprises, a fair few disappointments and more than a couple of "What the hell?" moments. There have been huge successes and some really unexpected disappointments, along with the usual sleeper successes. The global box office would play an even bigger role in 2009 with a number of films surpassing their domestic take and at least one film being saved from outright failure thanks to its international tally. You may not have enjoyed them all, but here's the box office report for 2009.
It's quite difficult to fast track a film as big as Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen but that's exactly what Paramount did. The first film had barely made general release in 2007 before a sequel was greenlit and quickly put into action. All the key players would be returning including director Michael Bay who planned to throw even more robots onto the screen. Filming began smoothly and early shots revealed a clash of robots at some kind of electricity plant. Unfortunately filming had to be halted for a fortnight when star Shia LeBeowulf was injured in a car crash and his subsequent hand injury had to be written into the plot of the film. From then on things progressed smoothly and the first trailer showed that Bay had been true to his word and ramped up everything to eleven and beyond. Whether you could actually see what was going on in the trailer would be something that would come back to haunt the full length film.
Transformers 2 opened on a Wednesday, which can be a risky move as it means the illustrious weekend’s records are generally out of contention. Taking $62M from that first day (with a few late Tuesday screenings added into the total) the film set the record for a film opening on a Wednesday. Before the weekend had begun proper the film was already sitting on $127M and would finish the five day release with an astonishing $200M. An impressive figure however you want to look at it but perhaps worryingly for the studio, they were facing an epic front loaded fall in the following weekend. (How concerned they were is open to debate given that Transformers 2 had already recouped its production budget). The 61% drop the following weekend wasn't actually as harsh had some had predicted and by the third weekend the fall had stabilised to a very acceptable 42%. Critically it had been a disaster and the fan base weren't too impressed either but a spectacle film like this is not sold on review copy. What was of note by the end of its theatrical run was in those three weekends Transformers 2 had made over three quarters of its final box office total. Globally the film was hand in hand with its domestic tally and would finish the year just $30M ahead.
As the weeks went by the film slowly crawled towards $400M and a place on the all time domestic charts, removing Return of the King in the process. Transformers 2 ended up being the biggest film of the year in the US and the second biggest throughout the rest of the world, finishing its theatrical run with a combined total of $834M. So quick was the DVD release to cash in on the hype surrounding the film's theatrical release that it was still in a number of theatres as it hit the shelves. Transformers 3 is set for release in the summer of 2011.
The time between Harry Potter films is always too long for fans but when Warner Bros chose to delay the Half-Blood Prince by over six months, the fans were baying for blood. When the film was finally released they were more than ready and it looked as though Transformer's Wednesday opening record was going to be short lived. Half-Blood Prince ended up with a still mightily impressive $58M and would finish its first weekend with a running total of $158M. Again, like Transformers 2, HP6's Wednesday opening put pay to taking any weekend records and also makes comparisons with other films in the series harder to put into perspective. Unusually for a Harry Potter film, the second weekend drop was very high, a worrying 62%, meaning the fans had turned out in their droves opening week but then failed to show for repeat performances the weekend after. The third weekend drop was much more acceptable and at the time of writing the film is still in a handful of locations in the US even though its DVD release has already taken place.
In terms of success and the rest of the series, HP6 took a good while to reach heights of being the second biggest film. For a time it looked like it would stall somewhere between Chamber of Secret's $261M and the $290M amassed by Goblet of Fire. But as we'll see again and again, the domestic figures pale when compared to what the film did internationally - more than doubling the domestic take with $627M. Warner’s, knowing their safe bet is nearly at an end have taken the controversial choice of splitting the final film into two parts, to be released November 2010 and June 2011. Expect similar strong numbers for both films.
Speaking of safe bets, Pixar films are generally a licence to print money but even before its release, Up was attracting some worrying headlines - could a film whose main character was a grumpy, elderly man have the same appeal as a group of talking toys or a family of superheroes? As we had witnessed the year before with Wall-E, Up was being billed as Pixar's riskiest movie yet. The look of the film was never in question but while the initial trailers and stills entranced the adults, there seemed to be little to appeal to the younger market. Would the parents bring their children with them, and if they chose not to, would the adults bother to turn up at all? Looking back now it's funny to think what all the fuss was about but before the film hit gold, there was real worry that while not becoming Pixar's first flop, Up could be its first major disappointment.
Reviews were exceptional, even for Pixar, whose films regularly see 90%+ ratings at RottenTomatoes. In fact, at the time of writing Up is Pixar's most successfully reviewed movie and sits at a staggering 98% fresh on the aforementioned site. Opening early in the summer put the film up against some major competition but Up quickly proved it could stand on its own. After an opening weekend take of $68M (Third biggest for a Pixar film) there was a sigh of relief amongst the nervous. When the subsequent weekend drop was just 35%, followed by an even better third weekend drop of 30%, eyes turned towards Pixar's previous box office hits. How high could Up go? Pixar's more recent films were the first to be beaten, with Up taking just five weeks to see off the likes of Ratatouille, Wall-E and Cars. A few more weeks and the only record that was left standing belonged to Pixar's biggest hit, Finding Nemo, with $339M. Internationally there was more good news even when you factored in Pixar's antiquated release pattern (The UK, for example, saw the film just a month before its US DVD release) and while the film is still on general release in a number of foreign territories (Japan not seeing the film until Mid-December) it's already seen another $400M. There'll be less worries with next year's Toy Story 3 obviously, but that's also nowhere near the risk Pixar took on Up.
One of the newest entrys into the top ten of 2009 was released just six or so weeks ago. That alone should tell you how well Twilight: New Moon performed. Twilight had been released in the November of 2008 and had gone on to become a huge hit for Summit Entertainment, amassing almost $200M from a budget of just $37M. Realising they were on to an even better thing than even they'd thought, Summit fast-tracked the sequel for release just a year later. Filming began quickly with all of the key players returning and during this time it was announced that the third in the series, Eclipse, would go into production just six weeks after New Moon's filming was completed (thanks in part to the films having different directors). Success was of course assured, but no one was quite sure how big that success would be. Twilight had scored almost half of its final take during its first three days. At the start of November the online ticket seller Fandango announced New Moon had sold more advanced tickets than The Dark Knight, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and the original Twilight movie. Records were set to be smashed.
The first record would fall within just a couple of hours of New Moon's release - that of the midnight show takings. The aforementioned Dark Knight and Harry Potter held the record which New Moon smashed with $26M. A day later, once Friday ticket figures had been released, it was revealed that New Moon had now taken the biggest single day take record by more than $4M. By Saturday afternoon all eyes were on the three day total record held by The Dark Knight and while ultimately Batman retained the record, New Moon put up a hell of a fight and ended up with $140M. And all from a budget of just $50M. Obviously this was the mother of front loading and the film fell hard the following the weekend, down 70%, but even at that point it didn't really matter. Subsequent drops would be equally harsh and at the time of writing it does appear that the film will have followed the same path as Twilight and amass roughly half its final take in that first weekend of release. Internationally the film was even better and within a month of being on general release the film had taken over $350M from that release arena, making New Moon a half a billion dollar enterprise. With Eclipse seeing a release mid-summer, it'll be interesting to see whether it can shatter New Moon's records amongst some bigger competition than the previous films have encountered.
Hype started to build for The Hangover following the R-rated trailer's successful debut at the Showest Festival back in March. When news filtered through that Warner Bros had already begun work on a sequel, a few months before the film had premiered, people sat up and took notice and more than a few alarm bells started to ring. What the hell had The Hangover, a film with a no-name cast, got that many others hadn't? Unless films are shot back to back or part of a very well established series, there's little chance of a sequel being greenlit months before a film debuts. When a second trailer appeared, featuring an appearance by Mike Tyson singing along to 'In The Air Tonight', The Hangover had got the public's full attention. Hype built up further when the film's release date was brought forward but that put it directly in line with Will Ferrell’s sure to be big sci-fi comedy Land of the Lost. The scene was set for what would become the most successful R-rated comedy in box office history.
The Hangover took everyone by surprise, even those who were expecting it to be a great film. It ended its first weekend having destroyed Land of the Lost, taking $44M in the process. This first weekend success was put down to hype and front loading but when the film dropped just 26% the following weekend, crossing the $100M mark in the process, it seemed word of mouth was coming strongly into play. That said, the second weekend competition was thriller The Taking of Pelham 123 and comedy Imagine that, so a win wasn't too much of a surprise. When the third weekend drop was even lower, the summer had found its first sleeper hit and potentially the first $200M comedy since The Wedding Crashers. The Hangover would remain in the top ten a further six weeks, its biggest drop being just 37%, a figure any film would be happy to settle for during its run, let alone on its fourth weekend of release. By the end of summer The Hangover, from a budget of just $35M, had amassed $277M and had become the biggest R-rated comedy in cinematic history, besting the long standing record held by 1983's Beverly Hills Cop. In fact, only two other R-rated movies, The Passion of the Christ and The Matrix: Reloaded have taken more money. Signing the cast up for a sequel before they became white-hot properties made a lot more sense by the end of July.
Rebooting a franchise can work well for horror movies, especially when your now key demographic weren't even alive during the original films heyday. Rebooting a much loved series with a fan base that makes Twi-Hards look like casual fans is something else altogether. When you're looking to recast iconic characters with a mass of history attached to each and every one, you've got one shot at it and the knowledge that every choice is going to be analysed to the nth degree. And that's before you've shot one frame of footage. This was the task set before J.J Abrams and his Bad Robot production company when they took on Star Trek - recasting icons, rebooting a franchise while being loyal to the fans and roping in new and non-fans would take all the skills they could muster. The first initial trailer revealed little but an old style logo alongside shots of the Starship Enterprise being constructed. Apart from a few stills production had been kept fairly low key, so when an action packed trailer debut earlier in the year it managed to catch almost every one off guard.
Star Trek opened between what were expected to be two of the biggest films of the year, Wolverine and Angels & Demons. The first surprise actually took place a few days before the film's release in the guise of near-universally stellar reviews. Opening weekend was something of an unknown - if the fans stayed away it would harm the film, but consequently if the general public stayed away it would do the film even more damage. It appeared by Sunday night that not only had the public and the fans shown up, they managed to convince friends and family to join them. Star Trek's opening frame saw an impressive $75M and while it lost the top spot to Angels & Demons the weekend after, it would remain in the chart long after that film had vanished. In fact, Star Trek would still be at 250+ locations when Angels & Demons hit DVD in early September. At the height of summer with at least one major release every weekend, Star Trek managed an amazing nine weekends inside the top ten, seeing $200M by its fifth weekend on general release. Globally the film didn't strike so high but still managed nearly $200M in total takings. With plans already afoot for a sequel sometime in 2011, the Star Trek franchise can be considered well and truly rebooted.
Avatar is one of two films in the top ten that is still in a wide release at the time of writing. While it currently occupies seventh position, there's every chance that by the end of its theatrical run the film will be in the top five, if not top three films of 2009. James Cameron certainly took his time choosing a follow up project to Titanic. Avatar had actually been bandied about by Cameron around the time of True Lies but at that point technology had yet to catch up with his vision. After Titanic he swapped feature films for documentaries, and seemed content in his new lot. Then around 2006 word got round that Cameron was looking to finally bring Avatar to the big screen after witnessing the recent advances in motion capture techniques. Instead of licensing existing technology though, the visionary director decided to create his own and with a Titanic style budget (that's still yet to be accurately reported) the scene was set for the return of the king of the world.
Avatar didn't quite set the world on fire when the trailers were finally unveiled for the general public and general apathy set in as to whether Cameron had still got 'it'. Had Fox just co-funded the biggest box office bomb in history? Epic snowstorms wouldn't stop the film opening within grasping distance of the December opening record and when the dust has settled on that first weekend, Avatar was already up by $232M. Since then Avatar has dominated the box office, suffering only minor blips in the guise of Alvin & The Chipmunk's return and Sherlock Holmes. Its holiday opening gave it almost two weeks of "Saturdays" and the higher price of 3D screenings had helped the film make the top ten biggest releases of 2009 after just twelve days on general release. Instead of falling hard in its second frame Avatar dropped just 2% and by its tenth day on general release was looking at a global total of over $612M. Where the film goes from here, no one is quite sure. It's unlikely the Titanic record will fall, the cinematic landscape is quite different to when those records were set, but the film will face no major 3D competition until March which should be of concern to the second biggest movie in domestic history, The Dark Knight.
For the past few years DreamWorks Animation has been gaining ground on Pixar, at least in terms of box office. Last year's hit Kung Fu Panda some would say, was their best attempt at rivalling them in the storytelling stakes too. With no Shrek movie for another year, DreamWorks needed something to keep their hand in the game and that came in the guise of Monsters Vs Aliens. Steering well clear of competition from Pixar's Up not to mention all the other summer releases, the studio chose the relatively quiet March period to release the film onto the world. Initial stills and trailers hadn't really done the film any favours and no matter how talented a voice cast you choose to employ, they don't sell a film like this. On its side, March held only one other family film, Race to Witch Mountain, and that had already come and gone, while the Hannah Montana movie was still a few weeks away.
March rewarded the film with a $59M opening weekend and that lack of competition managed to keep the film in the top ten right through to a weekend in late May, just before Up was released. While it would see $100M a weekend later the film would struggle to recoup its huge $175M budget, a real damaging factor on the film's quest for success (and ultimately its downfall). The foreign market helped shore the film up and DreamWorks would end up relying on those figures to help cover the costs of printing the film and advertising it. By the time of Up's release the film had covered its budget by less than $20M. DVD sales for the film were strong, as they generally are for most family films but even that wasn't enough for the studio to greenlight any kind of sequel, leaving Monsters Vs Aliens a moderately successful one-off. Next year, like Pixar with Toy Story 3, DreamWorks return with the series that put them on the map in the first place - Shrek Forever After hits screens just a month before Buzz and Woody's return. Expect a battle of epic proportions to ensue.
Our third and final CGI-animated movie sits within breathing distance of Monsters Vs Aliens and marks the third outing for the Ice Age cast of characters. The first two films had been hugely successful but this would mark the first film in the series to be released outside of the easy-money March period. As we saw with Prince Caspian and would see with Night at the Museum 2, a film breaking its safe release period can often take something of a kicking. Another potential problem appeared in the guise of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which would open two days before and dominate a number of screens. What Ice Age 3 did have going for it was its low budget (for the genre at least - $90M) and the fact that Up should have come and gone by July 3rd.
Ice Age 3 is the only film in top ten whose international take makes more interesting reading than its domestic one. The film opened in the US to a quite strong $41M up against the aforementioned Transformers sequel. It even held well on the weekend that Harry Potter 6 saw its release but would be out of the charts in the space of just five weekends, having made $182M by that point. Normally the story ends there but then, perhaps starved of family films thanks to Up's release being staggered over the next six months, the international market took to Ice Age 3 in a very big way. So big a way, in fact, that it became the second highest grossing film on the international market in 2009, surpassing everything except Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The film ended up with a global total just shy of $890M, almost guaranteeing a fourth film would go into production in the process. It also ended up being the biggest film of the Ice Age series, beating the first film's domestic take by just over a million dollars. For a film that could have struggled amongst the bigger films of the summer, Ice Age 3 came up trumps.
Sandra Bullock hadn't been seen in a major release since March 2007's Premonition. Even before that, she'd made just two films in two years, only one of which, The Lake House, saw any kind of wide release. Who knew that by the end of 2009 she would be the biggest female star on the planet, having not one but two $160M+ releases. The summer had given us the romantic comedy The Proposal, which ended up making $163M and becoming Bullock's biggest release to date. The Blind Side certainly lived up to its title prior to release - very little publicity and a fairly basic trailer were all that introduced the film to the general public. It was a dramatic, real life story about a homeless African-American guy who was taken in by a well-to-do family who helped him realise his potential both on and off the football pitch. Reviews were surprisingly strong for what could have been a very run-of-the-mill movie.
Box office expectations weren't high and the film would open up against the juggernaut that was Twilight: New Moon but by the end of that first weekend, when it was revealed that The Blind Side had opened even bigger than The Proposal, all bets were off. Instead of dropping in its second frame The Blind Side actually increased its box office take by nearly 18%, crossing the $100M mark in the process. While the third frame wasn't as impressive, the film managed to rise above New Moon and take the top spot. Since that weekend its biggest percentage drop has been just 33% and on Christmas weekend the film yet again saw an increase in takings on the previous frame. At the time of writing The Blind Side is just a stone's throw away from $200M, a figure it should surpass in the first weekend of 2010, propelling it further up the top ten.
An X-men spin off had been bandied around since before the release of X-3. After that film's financial success, but critical failure, it was decided to move forward with a spin off and with Wolverine being the most popular character (at least amongst cinema-goers); it made sense for him to take on the first film. If perhaps a more honest reason were needed, it would possibly be that a fourth X-men movie would require contract re-negotiations across the cast as many had only signed for the initial three films. Hugh Jackman would once again take on the titular role with a group of popular but as yet largely unseen characters making up the rest of the cast. Shooting was not without its problems and news quickly spread regarding on-set disagreements that director Gavin Hood had had with Fox executives. Talk of 11th hour reshoots did little to calm nerves as the film’s release drew near. If all that wasn't enough to tarnish the film, a near finished work print of it appeared online almost two months before its proposed release date. How much this ultimately affected its box office is open to endless speculation but Fox claim it stopped the film opening to $100M. What could be argued did the film more damage were the reactions and reviews from those who had seen the work print.
Thankfully for Fox, while the reviews didn't improve, the leaked work print didn't appear to have kept people away from the film. Wolverine opened the summer box office for 2009 with a very strong $85M but saw a nasty 70% drop the following weekend with the release of Star Trek. A portion of that drop could easily be accredited to the crossover of fans between the two genre releases. Still, Wolverine took just under half of its total box office in those first three days. Subsequent drops were much more acceptable and the film managed a month and a half in the top ten up against some pretty big players and direct competition. On the foreign market the film performed on par with its domestic release, ending up about $13M better off. After all the furore Fox couldn't have been too upset with the film's performance - a sequel is already in the works and further spin offs are planned, the first of which is expected to feature Deadpool, a character introduced during Wolverine and played by Ryan Reynolds, who is set to reprise the role.
The original Night At The Museum had the winter of 2006 all to itself and closed many months later having amassed $250M domestically and a further $323M internationally. A sequel, Battle of the Smithsonian, was quickly greenlit and seeing how well the film performed during the winter, Fox figured a sequel could do even better if released during the summer when cinema attendance is at its peak. The main cast would all return along with Amy Adams as Amelia Evehart and Hank Azaria as bad guy Kahmunrah. The film would open up against Terminator: Salvation and have to face Up a week later, not to mention the strong return of Star Trek the week before. The winter of 2006 this was not.
The Labour Day holiday gave the film what is essentially an extra 'Saturday's' worth of box office on the Monday. That gave the film a solid four-day total of $70M, much better than the first film's opening effort - though it must be noted that that film opened on the 22nd December. The following weekend the film took a higher than expected dip thanks to the release of Up and while subsequent drops weren't as harsh, the film showed signs of struggling thanks to the increased competition. At the time in its release that the original film had begun to flourish, the sequel floundered. Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian left the top ten with $167M in its pocket, just $17M more than the film cost to produce. Internationally the film fared better with $235M in takings but the relative disappointment of the film in the US seemed to signal that a winter release might have seen the film emulate the takings of the original film. While the film did make $178M, more than many released this year, its actual profits were certainly lower than many films too thanks to its high production budget.
Biting at the ankles of the top ten are a number of films, spanning the full length of the year. The Proposal is amongst the most notable of these releases. The film marked the return of Sandra Bullock after an absence of a few years. Any thoughts on whether she'd been superseded by younger stars were immediately cast aside upon the film's $30M+ opening at the height of summer. With weekend to weekend drops that resembled The Hangover, The Proposal would go on to make an astonishing $163M from a budget of just $40M. While Bullock suffered a bump in road with the release of her next film, All About Steve ($33M finish) she ended the year on another high with a dramatic turn in The Blind Side, which, as mentioned above, is still on general release.
The start of year bought us two vastly different films with two things in common - both ended up hanging around the charts for far longer than many expected, taking in far more than analysts had predicted. Thriller Taken had opened in the rest of the world late in the summer of 2008 but had to wait until the start of 2009 to see a US release, upon which it opened to $24M before then heading to an astounding $145M finish. Paul Blart: Mall Cop, the Kevin James comedy saw similar results - opening to $31M in mid January before hanging around the top ten for nine straight weekends, which included one instance of the film actually moving back up the charts on its way to $146M.
With the return of all four principle leads, Fast and Furious opened surprisingly strong back in April with a three day take of $70M and final finish of $155M. The film would become the most successful of the entire series and the $187M the film made from international audiences didn't do any harm either. For Universal, it would be their only major hit until October's Couples Retreat, which managed to score $107M. The film's sun-kissed beaches helping to entice a cold October audience. As alternate summer programming the Meryl Streep / Amy Adams comedy drama Julie & Julia, managed seven weeks in the top ten and scored $94M in the process. Meanwhile, the raunchy R-rated comedy The Ugly Truth managed $88M from a budget of $38M and marked Katherine Heigl's third straight hit in a row.
Summer hits that narrowly missed out on a top ten place included the follow up to the Da Vinci Code. Tom Hanks returned with Angels & Demons and while it reviewed much better than its prequel it could only muster a $133M finish. As we saw with the first film, the international tally far exceeded the domestic one, giving Angels & Demons another $352M on top of its domestic figure. CGI action extravaganza G.I Joe, which had been worryingly dumped into August, turned out to be anything but the flop many had predicted. While its excessive budget almost certainly cut down on the potential profit, the Stephen Sommer's film still managed $150M from a $54M start. Add in another $150M from overseas and things ended up looking very rosy for the action figure adaptation.
Two more August releases also did sterling business. The low budget science fiction thriller District 9 amazed many with low price, high end special effects, coupled with a decent, R-rated story. The $30M film from director Neill Blomkamp and producer Peter Jackson impressed most that saw it and marked the director as one to watch. The film ended its theatrical run with $115M. Director Quentin Tarantino's long time coming Men on a Mission movie, Inglourius Basterds, ended up being the fastest production he'd ever worked on - less than a year from the first shot taking place the film had debuted to some acclaim at the Cannes Film festival. Upon release it garnered a number of strong reviews and would go on to become the director's biggest film to date with $120M in takings. Not bad for a two and half hour war epic, half of which was subtitled.
Back in November Roland Emmerich returned to once again destroy America, along with the rest of planet in the disaster epic 2012. While the film performed well in the US, its international tally is the real talking point here, over $555M and counting. The end of the world was also dealt with, at least in theory, in Zack Snyder's controversial Watchmen adaptation. The two hour and forty minute film divided many who saw it and ultimately struggled to find an audience. Its $107M take from a budget of at least $130M was a disappointment for all concerned but especially Warner Bros, who had invested heavily in the movie and left Snyder to his own devices during production, only to end up splitting what little money they might have made with 20th Century Fox when the studio bought up a last minute claim to the Watchmen rights.
On the opposite end of the budgetary scales, the title for ultra low budget hit of the year must surely go to Paramount and their pick up Paranormal Activity. Made for just $11,000, the studio paid a further $300,000 for the right to release the film. Opening at just a select few locations, the film had some of the best ticket to screen ratios ever witnessed. Word of mouth and an internet campaign to get the film screened in 'your town' worked wonders and it managed to break into the top while being shown at just 160 locations. Further expansion saw the film rise to the top spot and become, according to some sources, the most profitable movie ever produced. A few weekends later and we saw a repeat of the phenomenon with the limited release of Precious, an Oprah Winfrey produced drama. While costing somewhat more than Paranormal Activity at $10M, the film saw some impressive returns from a similarly small location count. Unfortunately, Lionsgate chose not to expand the film beyond 1,000 locations, leaving many to wait for the DVD release instead. Rounding out the low budget successes is 500 (Days of Summer) which managed $32M from just over a thousand locations. The film which starred Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt was produced for $7.5M.
Other moderately budgeted successes included the Paul Rudd/Jason Segal comedy, I Love You, Man, seeing $72M back in March. Henry Selick returned with Coraline and saw $75M for his hard work, with the increased ticket costs for 3D screenings helping toward that figure. Yearly staple Tyler Perry saw success not once but twice in 2009. First up was Madea Goes To Jail which would become the biggest hit of his career so far. He followed this up in September with the $50M hit I Can Do Bad All By Myself. The Nic Cage end of the world thriller Knowing ended up being a $173M worldwide hit, $79M of that total coming from U.S ticket sales. Before summer kicked off Beyonce scored $68M with her Fatal Attraction style drama, Obsessed. Michael Mann's Public Enemies fell just shy of its $100M production budget but Johnny Depp's appeal overseas gave the film another $100M. One unexpected release was the Michael Jackson concert movie, This Is It, quickly assembled and released by Sony to cash in on the star's death earlier in the year managed a global total of a quarter of a billion dollars back in October. Finally the slow burn hit Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs saw $122M after many weeks on release.
As with everything, to have winners you've got to have losers. Two films stuck out more in this category than any others but depending on how you want to look at it, only one of them actually failed to make money. McG's Terminator Salvation was actually beginning to look like it had potential, fake ending and Bale on-set madness stories aside. Things didn't pan out quite so well upon the film's release back in May. Sandwiched between Star Trek and Up, Salvation lost the opening weekend to Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian and things didn't improve from there. While $123M is a lot of money, the film cost at least $200M to produce and at least that again to print and advertise. Interestingly, outside the US the film received much better treatment and managed to amass just over $246M, leaving Terminator Salvation not a flop as such, but a franchise-threatening disappointment.
Judd Apatow and Funny People would have killed for $123M. The much touted third movie from Apatow was headlined by Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen, ably backed up by Eric Bana and Jason Schwartzman. Reviews were above average but what did the film the damage was its extended run time and the fact that the studio had tried to sell it as a laugh out loud comedy when in fact it turned out to be more thoughtful drama than comedy. Funny People made just $51M from a budget of $75M and appears to have been largely ignored internationally. Seth Rogen would see similar disappointment with Observe & Report, another film that was by and large mis-sold to the public.
Two much-hyped comedies also failed to make much of an impact in the summer. Land of the Lost, the big budget TV adaptation starring Will Ferrell had to take a firm backseat against The Hangover, a film it had been expected to largely trounce. The $100M comedy made just $49M and had fallen out of the top ten after just three weeks on general release. The Jack Black/Michael Cera comedy Year One fared little better though had the advantage of being $40M cheaper to produce. It too was out of the top ten after three weeks, making just $41M.
Bruno only disappointed when compared to the previous film from Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat. The film opened well in July, taking in $30M but fell hard just one week later. By week three it could barely manage $3M and ended its run with $60M. Internationally the film fared a little better, selling $77M worth of tickets. The Clive Owen thriller The International was dead on arrival, taking just $10M and a number eight spot in the top ten of that week. Thanks to its international tally of $34M and budget of $60M, the film wasn't a total failure. Fame took a tumble prior to production starting when High School Musical's Zack Efron ruled himself out of the running for the lead. Upon release it struggled to make back its $18M budget. The Gerard Butler action thriller Gamer, which had been delayed for a least a year, performed in a similar vein, making $20M from a production budget of $12M. Forum favourite Crank: High Voltage saw even less money from a slightly higher budget.
The year wasn't without its out and out failures either. Inkheart was gone before anyone had even realised it had been released, making just $17M in January. The same goes for Streetfighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, which had a worldwide total of just $12M (See also Dragonball: Evolution’s $9M finish). The Megan Fox headlined Jennifer's Body was more a victim of Fox and writer Diablo Cody's overexposure than actually being a bad film. The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard appeared out of the blue in August and disappeared just as quickly.
Final disappointments included Summit's Push, which made just $31M and the April release State of Play, which saw $34M. Fortunately the later performed better internationally, seeing a further $50M. Family films weren't immune either, with both Astro Boy and Robert Rodriguez's Shorts failing to attract much business. See also Fantastic Mr Fox whose dynamic look appeared to have offended more than it entranced, sadly.
Costly true life drama The Soloist, starring Robert Downey Jnr and Jamie Fox saw just $31M in takings, though this was largely blamed on the increased competition around at the time, with more than one analyst wondering why the film had been moved out of the Oscar contention period into a busy April. Surrogates, the Bruce Willis futuristic thriller also failed to make much of its time in the charts, taking just $38M from a budget of at least $80M. Fan favourite Where The Wilds Things Are finally made an appearance in October but struggled to find its place in the market, vanishing quickly with its $75M in takings.
Horror was represented this year with a mixed bag of new material and reboots. Friday the 13th returned triumphantly and would become one of the biggest horror releases of the year, seeing $65M from its February release. My Bloody Valentine 3D's gimmick helped it to make more than $50M but the remake of Sorority Row failed to make much of an impact even with plenty of pre-release hype. Rob Zombie, who swore off the Halloween franchise after his rebooting suddenly did a u-turn a signed up for the ultra-fast tracked sequel. While the film was seen off by The Final Destination, its low budget did allow it to make a comfortable profit. Speaking of the Final Destination, the film ended up being the most successful of the entire series with $65M in takings. God bless the increased price of 3D tickets.
Later in the year horror comedy Zombieland didn't disappoint despite what seemed like the vast majority of the film being released in online clips and extended trailers. Having recouped its production budget during its opening weekend on release, The Woody Harrelson flick managed to see a total of $75M by the end of its theatrical run. Saw VI a few weeks later didn't fare nearly quite as well, but as with previous entries into the series, its low budget allowed the film to make a profit within a couple of weeks of being released. Disappointment would be the order of the day for the return of one of the genre's masters too. Sam Raimi's Drag Me To Hell, not just one of the best reviewed horror films of the year, but one of the best reviewed films of 2009, would take ten weeks to make just $42M. Having sat on the shelf for nearly two years (never a good sign) The Haunting In Connecticut somehow managed to make $55M thanks in part to its odd looking poster.
Two films set to become cult favourites hardly troubled the cinemas at all - in fact one didn't even make it to screens, Trick 'R' Treat was dumped unceremoniously onto DVD after sitting on the shelf at Warner Bros for two years. The other, 70s Blaxploitation tribute Black Dynamite saw a limited two week run and will see a DVD release in February. A shame neither film got the wide-audience release they deserved.
And that's the lot. There's probably another fifty films I could have included or mentioned in some way but the report is already far too long. I'd like to take this time to thank everyone who reads and comments on the Box Office Reports each Sunday. They do take some time to put together and any and all comments are appreciated. Personal thanks go to my caring wife and daughter, who still can't understand why I get up early on Sunday to finish the report. The good people at BoxofficeMojo for their facts, the folks at Box Office Prophets for their early estimates and Gitesh Pandya of the Box Office Gurus, for the early studio numbers via Twitter. The Film/TV cats of RLLMUK, Lord Cookie, Vemsie, FishyFish, Rowan, Kerraig, Eighthours, The Sarge, γρυψ, Gambit, Ghost, Silent Runner, Graham S, Charles, Dr lha, Red Squirrel and the many, many more who make it one of the best film forums on the Internet. Final thanks to the BP mailing list folks and JamesB.
I began this report in early December, little suspecting Avatar or The Blind Side would force a last minute re-shuffle. I'd spent a fair amount of time before that gathering up all the Box Office Reports of 2004/5 into one document, adding comments to each one on how the report had evolved from just a few lines each week to what you see now. Hopefully I'll do the same with the rest of the year's reports and compile them into some kind of book. Even if no one else reads it, it would be nice to have a record of something I've spent two to three hours writing every weekend, for the past six years.
Happy New Year, here's to 2010!
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