1. Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Pt.2 - $381M - $947M - $1.3B
2. Transformers: Dark of the Moon - $352M - $770M - $1.1B
3. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Pt.1 - $266M - $381M - $647M
4. The Hangover: Part 2 - $254M - $327M - $581M
5. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - $241M - $802M - $1.043B
6. Fast Five - $209M - $416M - $626M
7. Cars 2 - $191M -$360M - $551M
8. Thor - $181M - $267M - $448M
9. Rise of the Planet of the Apes - $176.6M - $304M - $481M
10. Captain America: The First Avenger - $176.6M - $191M - $368M
Domestic Position - Film Title - Domestic Take - International Take - Total Global Take
As 2011 comes to a close, it's time to look back on the year's US box office, both domestically and internationally. We've had the expected hits, the surprising flops and more than a hint that the 3D dream is coming to an end. As witnessed in previous years, the international market continues to play a major part in a film's success, even when all seems lost in North America. Sequels were back with a vengeance, but they were joined by a number of original properties - though based on existing characters or stories. Animation also returned, but perhaps not quite as strongly as in previous years, at least not on the domestic market. On top of all that, we had the usual sleepers and more than a few disappointments, some quite costly. So, without further ado, the 2011 Box Office Review.
Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2 was always going to open big. It was the final part of the long running series and the conclusion to the story that had begun six months earlier with the release of Deathly Hallows Part 1. In the past, Harry Potter films had dabbled with a summer release but often found it too crowded - something that nowadays could be levelled at Thanksgiving (Potter's general release date of choice). Deathly Hallows Part 2 turned everything up to eleven after the somewhat lacklustre Part 1. This would be the last time Harry and friends would be on the big screen in a new (and final) adventure and the early word pointed out that even those who had skipped cinema visits for the other films in the series, would be showing up for this one last time - and they'd have the chance to see it in 3D (a first for a HP film). Reviews for this final film were strongest of the entire series, even eclipsing the great reviews for Prisoner of Azkaban. Warner Bros. opted to release the film in the middle of July, a few weeks after Transformers: Dark of the Moon had hit, and the week before Captain America would see its release. With the exception of the Twilight series, there were few films that could offer Harry Potter anything in the way of competition. All the other studios knew this - but were also aware that the series, while not quite a one-weekend wonder, would pretty much have the wind knocked out of it in the second frame due to the huge front loading associated with the series. Either way, records were set to be smashed and The Dark Knight's weekend haul was starting to look nervous.
Warner Bros. opened the film on July 15th and the records began to fall almost instantly. The first to go was the midnight take record, previously held by Twilight: Eclipse, with Deathly Hallows Pt.2 making an astounding $43M. Even at that early stage, the film looked set to take the weekend record from the aforementioned Dark Knight. A day later and it was revealed that the film had gone on to break the single-day take record by over $20M - as if breaking the record wasn't enough, Potter wanted the public to know it was taking no prisoners. By the end of the first frame, Deathly Hallows Pt.2 had made $169M and snatched the weekend record in the process. Internationally the film was even stronger, pushing the film north of $325M in total global ticket sales since opening (International release was two days earlier than US). Curiously, the 3D premium ended up making a lot less difference than would have been expected - that first weekend the split was 57%/43% 2D/3D. Obviously, the biggest weekend ever would lead to a pretty shocking second frame drop too, and unfortunately, Deathly Hallows Pt.2 didn't disappoint on this front either - witnessing an 84% fall against Captain America. But the fall didn't really matter in the long run, the film would go on to play well for the next month and when it finally left theatres in November, it had made $381M domestically (making it the biggest of the series by some margin), with a further $947M overseas. That put the final film at no.13 on the all time domestic chart and at no.3 on the worldwide all time chart, behind only Avatar and Titanic. Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Pt.2 was the biggest film of 2011 by some distance, giving the studio one hell of a series send off. For now, the search goes on for a replacement for the boy wizard and his amazing success story.
When Michael Bay announced he would be returning to helm a third Transformers movie, the fan base once again gave out a collective sigh. The hi-octane director had seen commercial success with the first two films in the series but found critical and fan scorn for them too, especially for Revenge of the Fallen, the second production in the series. This time around Bay promised a better story and script (blaming the problems with the second film on the rushed production and the writers' strike), cutting back on the jokes and amping up the action, while hopefully adding a much darker tone to proceedings. Shia LeBeof would once again return but after a public slanging match, Megan Fox was not cast in the third film, her role replaced by newcomer Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Tyrese Gibson, Josh Duhamel and John Turturro would also return, to be joined by series newcomers Frances McDormand and Patrick Dempsey, amongst others. The plot followed the discovery of a Cybertronian spacecraft on the moon, and the race to uncover its secrets. The film would see epic battles, breathtaking set pieces and the near destruction of Chicago. But once again, critics remained largely unimpressed, leaving the film barely better reviewed than Revenge of the Fallen. But as we'll see again, a film such as this is near critic-proof - one doesn't attend a Michael Bay film for the story. The previous two flicks had been incredibly successful and the only thing stopping this third one from being the biggest yet was Harry Potter waiting in the wings.
The competition didn't offer much in the way of trouble, an R-rated comedy in the guise of Horrible Bosses and the family friendly Zookeeper. Dark of the Moon would open early in the week, with midnight sneaks as early as Tuesday night. Its first full day on release would see it amass $37M, with its first Friday haul weighing in it at $32.9M (the wind having been taken out of its sails by those opening days). By the close of the independence Day weekend, the film was up to $162M, with a further $210M overseas. While the domestic figure was lower than Revenge's first frame, it was still a very strong start and instantly put the film amongst the bigger earners of 2011 thus far. Better still was the fact that the following weekend the film would get a breather thanks to a lack of major releases, giving it one more competition free frame in which it earnt a further $47M - holding better than the second film did in its sophmore frame. Overseas it also continued to play well and by the end of its theatrical run had made over $770M in that market, with a further $352M coming domestically. While not as strong as Revenge of the Fallen, Dark of the Moon was still a resounding success and one of only a handful of films to have made over $1B in total global ticket sales. At the time of writing the future of the franchise is uncertain, Paramount/Dreamworks are keen to push forward with more films and after ruling himself out of the running, Michael Bay is said have entered preliminary talks to helm a fourth and possibly fifth film. Given the profits involved (Dark of the Moon cost $195M to produce), the studios are quite happy to ignore the fanbase and the critics and keep moving the series in their own direction.
The third biggest hit of the year is still on general release, having hit cinemas just over a month ago. Twilight: Breaking Dawn Pt.1 is fourth in the hugely successful vampire franchise, based on the books by Stephenie Meyer. Like Deathly Hallows, Summit felt that Breaking Dawn was too long a book to adapt into one film and chose to split the story into two separate projects, to be released a year apart. Obviously, like the Harry Potter movie, this essentially gives them two bites at the same apple. This time around the story follows Bella and Edward as they get married, take their honeymoon and eventually become parents to child who threatens their very existence. The previous entries in the series have all been incredibly successful, all from modest budgets. This time however, Summit felt the need to pull out all the stops and budgeted the entire production at over $240M (upon release it was revealed that part 1 cost around $110M to bring to the screen). Bill Condon was hired to direct, and set about shooting both movies as one giant project, to be split and worked on separately during post-production. The previous film, Eclipse, had chanced the dangerous waters of a summer release and while it proved successful, the studio opted for a less busy release period, as it had done with New Moon and the original Twilight film. Like the boy wizard, the fan base were more than ready for the film's release, and so were the studios - at least one film moved from the Thanksgiving slot to avoid losing potential audience to Breaking Dawn, even if its demographic was quite specific.
And the demographic did not disappoint. Forgoing an early week release, Breaking Dawn had midnight sneaks (at a reduced location count) on Thursday, before expanding properly on Friday and making over $70M. A high figure for certain but even at that early point, many analysts felt that the records set by Deathly Hallows pt.2 back in July, would hold for now. The Friday was followed by a $40M Saturday, but only a $26M Sunday, casting doubt on the film's staying power in the coming weeks. Overseas the tills rang to the tune of $144M, which when combined with the domestic start put the entire series into the $2B territory. A week on the film fell the expected high figure (a 75% drop) but was already over the $220M mark at that point. Still, for Summit, there was no getting away from the fact that the fan base had seemingly bottomed out, something that would become more apparent in the following weeks as Breaking Dawn tracked eerily similar to how New Moon had performed two years earlier. Thanks to the lacklustre performance of the subsequent new releases, the fourth Twilight film managed to hold onto the top spot for a further two weekends, eventually being usurped by New Year's Eve. As the film is still on general release it will obviously end with a higher gross than listed above but for all intents and purposes, Breaking Dawn is done and dusted, Summit keeping it in theatres in an effort to push over the $301M figure amassed by Eclipse. It continues to play overseas also, and is approaching $400M. With one more film to go before the series concludes, Summit know they've already covered the production and advertising costs of said film, and probably won't be too concerned if Breaking Dawn Pt.2 performs on the same level as Pt.1 managed to do this year.
The interesting thing about The Hangover Part 2 was that work began on it before the first film had even been released. After a confident showing at Showest in March 2009, Warner Bros. pulled the release day forward a few weeks and stood back as the little film that no one had heard of became the summer sleeper of the year, launching Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis into the big time. While ideas for a sequel had been bandied around, the film would have to wait while director Todd Phillips worked on Due Date. Once the Robert Downey Jnr/ Zach Galifianakis picture was out the way, work began proper on The Hangover Part 2. All the principle cast would return, with the action transported to Thailand this time around. Storywise, Phillips stuck with the old "if ain't broke.." adage, a method that would see the film criticized for a lack of new ideas and for following the prequel too closely. The budget this time around more than doubled that of the first film - something blamed on the increased director/star salaries along with the cost of shooting in Thailand. With the exception of the controversial casting of Mel Gibson in a cameo role (an offer that was quickly rescinded), shooting went quickly and smoothly, with the film readied for a May release - sandwiched between the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie and X-Men: First Class.
The first film had gone on to be one of the biggest films of 2009 with $277M in North America and a further $190M overseas. Expectations were higher for the sequel, as it was now a known property. Direct competition shouldn't have been an issue either as the current and future releases would only mildly infringe its demographic - the only direct competition being the R-rated comedy Bridesmaids, which no one expected to offer much in the way of trouble....As mentioned previously, reviews for The Hangover Part 2 weren't great, scoring less than half the approval rating of the original film. But by and large, the public weren't interested in reviews, and the $31M opening day take was proof of that. Its first Friday was equally as good, as was its first Saturday and by the end of that opening weekend, was sitting on an impressive $117M. The second frame wasn't quite as strong (which was to be expected) but the film quickly reached $200M after sixteen days. Internationally the film was much stronger this time around and would go on to make over $325M after a $60M opening frame. The Hangover Part 2 would stay in the top ten for a further three weekends and end up making $254M in North America - $23M shy of the total made by the first film but still an amazing figure for an R-rated production. Talk of a third (and final) Hangover film has already begun to surface. Curiously, Bridesmaids was barely affected by the film's release and would continue to exist unaffected by all and sundry throughout the early part of the summer.
After a break of four years, Johnny Depp returned to the series that had arguably made him a global star - Pirates of the Caribbean. A fourth film had been on the cards some time and although Depp had initially resisted Jack Sparrow he would eventually relent and the production quickly got underway. Gore Verbinski wouldn't return to direct, handing duties over to Rob Marshall. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley would also pass (or rather, weren't asked back), while Ian McShane and Penelope Cruz signed on. The story would be loosely based on the book, On Stranger Tides, and see Captain Jack searching for the fabled fountain of youth. The second and third films, shot back to back, had been hugely expensive (but equally profitable) and the fourth film was no different, boasting a budget of $250M. Disney kept most details under wraps and it was quite late in proceedings before a trailer finally appeared. A release date of mid-May was set, but meant the film would face strong competition in the following weeks - not to mention facing off against the just released Thor and Fast Five. The idea of making a Pirates film with a better story appeared not to have worked when the first reviews began to roll in, ending up with On Stranger Tides being the weakest of the series in the eyes of critics. Still, Disney were undeterred and pushed the film into over 4,100 locations, with many more overseas.
On Stranger Tides played witness to the box office oddity that is the hugely successful disappointment. It's opening day and weekend takes of $34M and $90M respectively would have been fantastic figures for almost any other film, but because it paled when compared to the opening weekends of the previous two films, things didn't look so rosy. Things didn't improve over the next frame as the flick not only saw a 55% dip in takings but was pushed down to third place by X-Men: First Class and the Kung Fu Panda sequel. By only its fifth weekend on general release, On Stranger Tides could barely make $6.5M, leaving the top ten just a fortnight later. Domestically, the film was a $241M disappointment, the lowest grossing of the series and that may well have been the death knell of the series, were it not for the international market. Overseas Depp's appeal hasn't waned a bit and even helped his domestic flop, The Tourist, to a $210M finish. During its opening few days, On Stranger Tides made more money on the international market than it made during its entire North American run - $260M. Its second frame was an equally impressive $124M. When the film eventually closed it was sitting on a total of almost $803M - a global total of over $1B. In contrast to its domestic performance, the fourth film was the biggest of the series on the global market, and of all the films released this year, none have benefited more from the international cinema-goer than Stranger Tides. While a 'disappointment', Captain Jack Sparrow and Co. once again did Disney proud.
Our sixth entry on the chart is the earliest released of all the top ten, and unofficially kicked off the summer blockbuster season at the very tail end of April. On paper, Fast Five looked like a somewhat desperate cash grab - reunite as many members of the Fast and The Furious series as possible, including Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson and Jordanna Brewster - then throw The Rock into the mix. But those doubts were quickly dispelled upon the release of the first action packed trailer, showing the gang planning and executing an audacious heist in South America. If anything, the second trailer threw even more action and testosterone at the screen. The fourth film, Fast and Furious, had been a decent enough hit back in 2009 but Universal wanted bigger and faster and it certainly looked like they had it. Not only that, but they had the great reviews to match - a 78% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes finished off any remaining doubters. The only problem on the horizon was Thor, set to arrive just a week later. Still, a good start and a limited number of releases post-Thor, gave the film some breathing space.
As mentioned, everything about Fast Five was bigger, and that carried over to the grosses too. With zero competition that first weekend out, the film managed a $34M Friday, followed by a $29M Saturday and $21M Sunday. Furthermore, it crossed the $100M mark on only its fifth days of general release - comfortably eclipsing Tokyo Drift's entire $62M theatrical run. By weekend two Fast Five was at $139M, and by day thirteen it was the most successful film of the entire franchise (surpassing the $155M made by Fast and Furious). It would go to make a further $54M, ending its fifteen weekend run with $209M. The news was similar abroad with the film becoming the best of the series on the international market too - with a theatrical run that ended with over $415M in takings. From a budget of $125M, Fast Five made $626M and helped make the franchise healthier than it had ever been - so much so that Universal plan on shooting part six and seven back to back, starting sometime mid-late 2012.
We now come to the only animated film in the top ten, Pixar's Cars 2. The sequel to the 2006 film at first seemed an odd choice - it appeared to be the least liked film of Pixar's mighty output and hadn't been as big a hit as the Toy Story series, Finding Nemo or Monsters Inc. But where Cars scored, and scored big, was merchandising. In fact, it's estimated that the first film made in the region of $10B in related merchandise, a fact Disney and Pixar seemingly couldn't ignore. Cars 2 was announced as the Pixar release for 2011 (after some release date shifting) and would once again follow Lightning McQueen and Mater (arguably playing the lead character), this time as they travelled the world to compete in the 'World Grand Prix', and ended up getting involved in international espionage. The production wasn't a smooth one and would involve John Lassetter getting hands on and ultimately being credited as the sole director despite others being initially involved in that capacity. That wasn't the only problem - the first and subsequent trailers failed to impress - and more than a few weren't looking forward to more, not less, Mater. But this was Pixar, and people were happy to be surprised. The public did end up being surprised, but not in they way Pixar were hoping for.
Reviews, something that the studio usually had little problem with, were well below average for Cars 2 and in comparison to films such as Up and Toy Story 3, were downright terrible. Only 38% of critics could find something to like - even the original Cars managed a 74% approval rating. This in itself made headlines before the film's release as a badly reviewed Pixar film just didn't happen. Cars 2 opened a week after Green Lantern had hit, when the only competition was from Mr Popper's Penguins and Kung Fu Panda 2 (which was on its way out of the top ten so its impact would have been negligible. The film opened to $66M, which was wasn't actually too bad - Toy Story 3 opened to $110M while Up and Wall-E did $68M and $63M respectively, during their first frames, but what they had that Cars 2 lacked were the reviews and the word of mouth. For Cars 2, the word of mouth just wasn't good and a week later the film gave up the top spot to Transformers: Dark of the Moon (at which point it was up to $117M). By only its fourth weekend, the film had already hit single figure takes, managing just two more weeks in the top ten. By November, when the film finally exited all its remain-ing theatres, it had made $191M - a fine figure for most movies but a disappointment for Pixar, and with the exception of 1998s A Bug's Life, the lowest grossing of all their output. While overseas the news was much better (a $360M finish), and the related merchandise made at least as much money as the original film, if not more, the damage was done - the Pixar brand became tarnished, if only for a short while. The studio were said to be deeply unhappy with the reception the film had received, with one imagining they'd have been happy to have lost money if people had just loved the film. After back to back sequels, Pixar will switch back to original properties with their 2012 release, Brave.
The first of two comic book entries in the top ten smashes in at no.8. Thor finally brought the Norse god to the big screen, something that didn't seem possible for a number of years given the nature and origins of the character. It was up to director Kenneth Branagh to keep the campness level to a minimum while attempting to create a coherent story that would span two worlds - the Norse home of Asgard and our own planet Earth. In the titular role he chose Chris Hemsworth, and surrounded him with a solid group of actors which included Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba and Stellan Skarsgard. The film saw Thor cast out by his father Odin, and having to come to terms with his responsibilities - all while his brother Loki plotted and attempted to bring war to Asgard, for his own ends. The film would live or die on whether the ideas worked on the big screen - something that was Green Lantern's downfall (to some degree). Trailers were promising and the film reviewed surprisingly strong - 77% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes. Fast Five had opened a week earlier and while they shared demographics, front loading had taken the wind out of the film in its second frame, leaving things wide open for Thor.
Having opened a couple of weeks earlier in a number of international locations, the film was already over $125M before Thor had even been released in North America. Given that it was a relatively unknown property, Thor opened surprisingly strong domestically, taking $25M during its opening day, which would lead to a $65M opening frame. Better still, Thor retained the top spot for a second weekend, seeing a drop of below 50% on the previous frame, despite a strong showing from Bridesmaids. By its fourth weekend on general release the flick had recouped its $150M production budget, giving Marvel the first of their three summer 2011 hits (and their biggest). The film would continue to play strong throughout the rest of the world despite fierce competition as blockbuster season kicked off proper, finishing up late August with $181M domestically and $268M internationally. Marvel had found a new franchise and work has already begun on the sequel, which should debut sometime after Iron Man 3 in 2013.
Perhaps the most surprising entry in the 2011 top ten is Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The film is actually a kind of prequel to the original Planet of the Apes and sets about explaining how, many years into the future, the world would come to be populated by apes. It starred James Franco as scientist Will Rodman, desperate to find a cure to Alheizmer's disease (something his father, played by John Lithgow, is suffering from), but who inadverntdly starts the world towards ape domination when his 'cure' gives his chimpanzee test subjects heightened intelligence. The film focuses on the plight of Caesar (a motion captures Andy Serkis), the son of one of these apes who Will ends up raising, and who will ultimately lead the ape revolution. While the film cost $93M to produce, it was kept very low key, with the hype machine not kicking into gear until late in the film's post production cycle. Furthermore, there were rumours that all was not right and the first trailer, while impressive thanks to Serkis' work, left people unsure how it would play out. Indeed, the film's August release date (after some schedule bouncing back and forth) left some thinking the studio had dumped the film and leading up to its release it seemed star Franco was distancing himself from the project too. Looking back now that seems almost laughable but at the time there was the very real sense we were looking at a potentially costly flop.
It wasn't until the later trailers and strong reviews, did the public sit up and take notice. An 82% approval rating set the film up for an interesting opening weekend. Rise of the Planet of the Apes followed the disappointing opening of Cowboys & Aliens with a $54M debut - an impressive figure given the film's history and lack of public awareness (the film had no link with Burton's Planet of the Apes remake and made only passing references to events that would take place in the Charlton Heston version of the story). A week later and the film was still at the top of the charts and scoring some incredible word of mouth. While it would lose the top spot in its third frame (to The Help - see below), the film had already made over $130M, further adding to the relief studio Fox had felt over the opening weekend. Overseas the news was just as good, with the film getting off to a $23M start from 23 territories - rising to $40M a week later with further expansion. The film managed a total of seven weeks in the top and may have hung around longer were not for the glut of releases in August and September. By having an engaging storyline and amazing effects, Rise of the Planet of the Apes had managed to turn things around and become one of the few surprise sleepers of 2011. The film may yet generate more headlines if Andy Serkis becomes the first peson to ever be nominated for an Academy award for a motion captured performance.
Rounding us out is the last of Marvel's 2011 releases - Captain America: The First Avenger. While this wasn't the first Captain America film to be produced, Marvel wanted to be sure it was done right this time around. They selected Joe Johnston to direct the picture (thanks in part to his work on the similar era'ed The Rocketeer) and production got quickly underway, with Chris Evans signed on board to portray Steve Rogers a.k.a Captain America. Tommy Lee Jones would also join the project, along with Stanely Tucci and the relative newcomer Hayley Atwell. Not only was Captain America an important title for Marvel in itself, but it would also lead directly to 2012's Avengers movie (hence the film's subtitle) - a coming together of Captain America, The Hulk, Iron man, Thor and others, as they battled a common enemy. If the film didn't take off with the public, it might make The Avengers a tougher sell next year (something the studio didn't need given the estimated $200M+ price tag). Initial trailers for the film had a great retro look and early word of mouth was decent. Thor had opened summer and X-Men: First Class had dropped into release a few weeks later. Both films had done well but there were fears that while 'America' would perform well domestically, the U.S centricness of its hero might work against it abroad.
Reviews were actually slightly better than Thor and only just weaker than those scored by X-Men: First Class - giving the film a 78% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Opening at the tale end of summer, the picture had only Harry Potter to contend with, and that film was coming off the biggest front loading seen in a good few months, and that allowed Captain America to take the top spot on its debut weekend with $65M. That opening figure was not dissimilar to Thor's start back in May and as things went on, the film would follow roughly the same pattern as Asgard's hero. Overseas the picture wouldn't be quite as strong but would still perform admirably, dispelling any worries the studio might have had about the film working to a non-US audience. When the dust finally settled, Captain America had made $176M domestically, with a further $191M abroad. Not only was this three for three for Marvel but the film's end credit scene set up the character nicely for The Avengers (something that Thor also did). With Evans reportedly signed up to play the character seven more times (be they standalone pictures or Avenger themed ones), this isn't the last we'll be seeing of Captain America after his 2012 appearance.
So those were the big hitters of 2011 - one or two surprises but generally the year played out roughly how analysts had predicted. But those ten films were far from the only talking points of the year, in fact, more than a few films managed to generate plenty of headlines without the need to be amongst the biggest of 2011.
Sitting pretty just outside the top ten are arguably the two biggest sleepers of 2011 - though they couldn't be more different from each other. The Help opened with little fanfare back in early August, no one really noticed the trailer and while it was an adaptation of a successful book, it had neither the hook or fanbase of a Twilight or Harry Potter. The story, set in the 60s during the civil rights movement, saw an aspiring writer (played by Emma Stone) return from college and decide to write a book from the point of view of the African-American maids and the families they work for, detailing their day to day hardships. While a very serious topic, it was not the usual fare associated with summer releases and consequently analysts weren't expecting much from the film, even with strong reviews. But The Help came out fighting, to the tune of $26M. Word of mouth gave it an equally impressive second frame, allowing it to unseat Rise of the Planet of the Apes with a $20M total. The film stayed in the no.1 spot for another two weeks, the first film to make it three weeks in a row since 2010's Inception. The Help managed seven weekends in the top ten and even when it dropped to twelve place, it still made over $3M. At the time of writing the film is still on general release (at around 150 locations) and sits on an amazing $169M total. All that with no hype and a production budget of just $25M - cementing the film's reputation as the biggest sleeper of 2011.
Unlike The Help, Bridesmaids was picking up some great word of mouth some time before it saw general release back in mid-May. Produced by Judd Apatow and directed by Paul Feig, the film starred Kristen Wiig and Rose Bryne (with a star making turn from Melissa McCarthy) as the bridesmaids of the title. Chaos ensues when Bryne attempts to upstage Wiig's maid of honour and prove she was more deserving of the job. While originally pitched as a female version of The Hangover, upon release the film proved to be something quite different. While it didn't have the biggest debut for a 2011 comedy, the film opened above expectations with $26M and like The Help, dug in for the long haul. The Hangover sequel barely affected the film's second frame in which Bridesmaids dipped just 20% on its opening frame. A week later saw just a 27% dip in takings and by its fourth weekend on general release, had made over $107M. In fact, it wasn't until its eighth weekend that it saw a higher frame to frame drop than 30% (amazingly, the highest dip the film saw during its entire twenty week run was just 42%). Come the end of summer, Bridesmaids had made more headlines than many other bigger, more successful films thanks to its stunning haul from a budget of only $32.5M. The film closed with $169M in domestic takings, with a further $119M abroad - securing Bridesmaids a twelve position spot on the biggest films of the year. Oddly enough, Bridesmaids had made more money than The Help but thanks to that film still being in release, it quietly leapfrogged the comedy's total a few weeks ago
As mentioned earlier in this report, Marvel struck big with three releases this year, but the third one, X-Men: First Class couldn't quite break the top ten. The film attempted to explain the origins of the mutants, with special focus on Professor Xavier and Magneto (played by James MacAvoy and Michael Fassbender). With its 60s setting and Cuban missile crisis plotline, the film had a nice retro feel but lost out on a bigger haul thanks to competition and the lack of recognisable stars/mutants on which to sell the film. Still, it scooped a $55M opening frame and would go on to make $146M domestically and $207M overseas, all against a budget in the region of $160M. Hopefully this will be enough to convince Fox to push forward with further films with the same setting and cast.
Another favourite of both critics and the general public was JJ Abrams top secret Super 8, about a group of kids making a zombie movie who inadvertently film something escaping from a horrendous train crash. Strange things begin to occur in the town, which suddenly finds itself flush with military personal. Sold more on what you don't see than what you do, Super 8 opened well for a film with no major stars and limited story information (at least prior to its release). Its early June release gave it a weekend free of competition, allowing it to score $35M. It held well against the showier Green Lantern a week later, recouping its budget in under two weeks. Super 8 would go on to make $127M in North America, with a similar figure coming from overseas.
As with most years, a theme or two emerges when we look back over the period as a whole. This year it seemed to be the return of the R-rated comedy. Along with aforementioned Bridesmaids we had two further successes in the guise of the Cameron Diaz starrer Bad Teacher and the ensemble Horrible Bosses. The former opened back in late June to a surprising $32M (covering its budget in one weekend), on its way to quietly making $100M. The latter did even better - Horrible Bosses, which starred Jason Bateman, Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell opened to $28M in July and would remain in the top ten for five weeks, making $117M in the process. Both films performed equally well overseas, with Bad Teacher making $115M and Horrible Bosses $92M. Other R-rated comedies didn't prove quite as successful as those already mentioned - 30 Minutes or Less managed only $37M, a figure equalled by the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost film, Paul and The Change-Up, starring Jason Batemen and Ryan Reynolds. Poorest of the genre went to Your Highness, which crashed out the gate back in April to just $9.3M despite heavy hype. It would manage just $11M more before quickly leaving theatres - a long way shy of its $50M production budget. We may yet add one further film to the list - The Sitter starring Jonah Hill, opened early December to only $10M, and at the time of writing has yet to make back its $25M production budget (not a great year for director David Gordon Green who worked on this and Your Highness).
The family animated feature was also back with vengeance, though only Cars 2 would be strong enough to earn a top ten position. In an odd switch from previous years, only a handful of the movies made more money overseas than they did domestically. Taking them in the order they were released, Gnomeo & Juliet was first out the gate way back in February, to the tune of $25M. It's Shakespearian tale, based in the world of rival garden gnomes and Elton John songs, would make just shy of $99M domestically, with a further $92M overseas. Next up was the Robert Zemekis produced, motion captured Mars Needs Moms, which became possibly the biggest failure of the year, making only $21M from a budget in excess of $150M. It performed even worse overseas. Gore Verbinski once again teamed up with Johnny Depp, this time to bring Rango to the big screen. It was the tale of a chameleon who winds up in the wild west. Despite the look and Depp's presence, the film wasn't the easiest of sells for Paramount, who had to settle for a $38M opening weekend. Rango would go on to make $123M in North America, with a similar figure overseas. While not a failure by any stretch, the fact that the film couldn't recoup its production budget ($135M) from its U.S haul was seen as a disappointment in some quarters. A month later and we had the Easter themed Hop, which combined animation with live action - Russell Brand finding himself tasked with the voice of the Easter Bunny while James Marsden and Big Bang Theory's Kaley Cuoco playing the live action support. While the film opened alright, it took a kicking a few weeks later from Rio, and could manage only $108M, with a further $75M abroad. Thankfully it had only cost $63M to bring to screens. Speaking of Rio, despite getting off to a start similar to Hop, the 'bird out of water' movie stayed its ground and made $143M, alongside a blistering $341M in the foreign market.
Barely given any support by The Weinsten Company, Hoodwinked Too! had nowhere to go but down, and fast. Even though it opened in over 2,505 locations, it collected just $10M through it entire (short) theatrical run - not even enough to cover its low budget of $30M. With Cars 2 waiting in the wings, Dreamworks struck with their Kung Fu Panda sequel. The original film had proved hugely successful but despite great reviews and word of mouth, the sequel struggled from the get go. It opened to $13M less than the original and held poorly in its second frame. A slight recovery a week later wasn't enough to undo the damage and it fell hard again during its fourth weekend on general release. While it did recoup its production budget of $150M in the time it was in the top ten, it was seen as a disappointing show. However, the big news for Kung Fu Panda 2 came from overseas. Getting off to a $20M start, the film played very well through June and July, ending its theatrical run with an astonishing $500M - and putting it down as one of the most successful international releases of the year. Cars 2 hit shortly after and would have the market pretty much to itself until the release of The Smurfs in late July. Another animation/live action mash up, the blue peril opened to a solid $35M, on its way to a $142M finish. International figures were a Kung Fu Panda-like $419M. A sequel has already been fast tracked. September heralded the return of the king - The Lion King to be precise. As a glorified advert for its Blu-Ray 3D debut later in the year, Disney decided to put the film back in theatres. Expecting to do ok out of the plan, they (and everyone else) was stunned when it won the top spot with a $40M opening haul. A week on it added a further $34M and Disney suddenly decided to let it run beyond its planned two-weekend release. All in all, the re-release added $110M to its 1995 total of $312M. With the knowledge that people would pay to see 3D versions of classics, Disney announced a plan to re-release Beauty & The Beast (in 3D) in 2012.
Dreamworks would return again in October with their Shrek spin off, Puss in Boots. Long bandied around, the film finally got started once the Shrek franchise was laid to rest in 2010. Starring the voice talents of Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek, it saw Puss attempting to save the world from the murderous Jack and Jill. Despite a somewhat soft start of $34M, Puss in Boots had a blinding second frame in which it dropped just 3%. In the space of a week it went from a $75M failure to a potential $150M finisher. At the time of writing the film is still on general release and has so far made $143M in the US and $188M overseas. And that brings us to animated films that are still in general, wide release. Sadly though, none of them appear to have the staying power of Cars 2 or Rio. Happy Feet Two, which opened November, is struggling to make even half of what it cost to produce and has quickly left the top ten. Arthur Christmas hung on a while longer but it too is floundering, with a $43M haul so far (though at least for Arthur, the news is better overseas - $77M and counting). The only other animated release is Tintin, which has performed exceptionally well overseas ($239M and counting) but already seems to be struggling in the US, having opening during a very hectic Christmas frame. So far the Steven Spielberg production has made $24.1M domestically.
We've one more genre to cover before we get on to the flops and the sub-$100M wonders - horror. Some years horror is served with a number of decent hits (with film quality to match). Alas, 2011 turned out to not be one of those years. Of the horror films of 2011, only Paranormal Activity 3 made any real impact with the public. The second sequel in the hugely successful series (With a combined budget for all three films of $10M, the PA series is a half a billion dollar concern) opened in its usual slot in October and had a couple of great weekends. Its low budget meant it was in profit before Friday lunch time so its big drops a few weeks later left the studio largely unmoved. The film hasn't yet become the most successful of the series but at $103M and counting, it's an impressive turn for producer Oren Peli. The only other horror film of note was Insidious, again produced by Oren Peli. The possession flick opened back in April to $13M and decent word of mouth helped push it over the $50M mark by the end of its theatrical run. A solid hit from a budget of just $1.5M.
A major under-performer in the horror film stakes was Scream 4, which managed to reunite practically all of the cast from the previous features, including Neve Campbell, who had been reluctant to commit to another Scream film. A mid-April release did the film no favours (especially with Insidious doing so well) and it crashed out with just $38M, from a budget of $40M. Overseas it did slightly better, making $58M. Rumours of a Scream 5 & 6 quickly died away. Even the return of the Final Destination franchise did little to woo the box office, though overseas the film was huge ($42M plays $115M). The big horror remake/reboot/prequel of the year had to be The Thing, which opened in October after being pushed out of its April slot by Fast Five. Centred around the events that took place in the (largely unseen) Norwegian camp from John Carpenter's version of The Thing, it attempted to explain what happened and how the Thing came to be unleashed from its icy captivity. The public however, weren't at all interested, giving the film a $8.4M opening frame. The Thing collapsed a week later (if it had ever been inflated at all) and made just $16M by the time it left theatres. Another remake, the horror comedy Fright Night, performed in a similar fashion, opening to $7M and closing to just $18M back in August, despite reviewing well above average. Completing the pattern was Apollo 18, a found footage film that proposed that the US did indeed return to the moon, but weren't alone when they got there. It opened poorly and closed with less than $18M in takings - the difference this time around was that Apollo 18 had cost only $5M to produce so ended up being something of a minor hit. The only other horror film of any note was the controversial Human Centipede 2 - Full Sequence. Despite the cuts, bans and hype, it barely received a release, making just $123K.
Onto those films that did well, but never really set the box office alight. Going back to January we had the release of the long-delayed Green Hornet film, starring Seth Rogen and directed by Michel Gondry. Despite doom and gloom being piled on the picture prior to release, it ended up reviewing OK and made $98M domestically, with a further $129M outside of North America. Another such film was Battle: Los Angeles, which was predicted to be one of the bigger hits of the earlier part of the year. After a decent $35M start, it struggled in subsequent weekends but still ended up with global total of $211M ($83M/$128M). October bought Hugh Jackman his biggest hit outside of the X-Men franchise (and excluding 2004's Van Helsing) in the guise of Real Steel. The film saw boxing being outlawed, replaced by sparring robots. Jackman plays an ex-boxer and now promoter who builds and trains an old robot, hoping for a shot at the big time. It would open to $27M, on its way to $83M domestically and an impressive $192M overseas, a place in which Jackman's films often perform much stronger (Domestic flop Australia was practically a blockbuster performer overseas).
Two slightly related films managed decent turns in Sepetember. Steven Soderbergh had originally been attached to direct Moneyball but when funding (and Soderbergh direction for the film) came into question, he withdrew and began work on Contagion instead. Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt, would go on to be directed by Bennett Miller and become one of the best reviewed films of the year. Contagion secured an all-star cast (Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Winslet) and told the almost clinical tale of a deadly global outbreak and the people it affected, from Everyman Damon, coming to terms with the death of his wife, to Winslet's EIS officier, sent out into the field to investigate the virus' emergence in hope of discovering a cure. Moneyball would make $74M, Contagion pulling just ahead with $75M.
Finally, Tarsem's sword & sandals epic Immortals got off to a good start in early November and while it couldn't maintain that momentum, would go on to become a near $200M global concern. Elsewhere, Adam Sandler starred in two films, February's Just Go With It, opposite Jennifer Aniston, and Jack & Jill, opposite himself. The former managed to cross the $100M mark while the latter was critically vilified yet should still recoup its $79M production budget.
When you have winners, you've got to have losers. Some of the films we're about to discuss actually made decent amounts of money, sums that most other films would be happy to amass. Unfortunately, making a lot money isn't always enough when you've a sky high budget to recoup. That problem hit two of the biggest misses of 2011. The first, Green Lantern, based on DC Comic character and starring Ryan Reynolds, was always going to be a tough sell to the public. Outside of the comic book arena he wasn't a well known character and his powers (the ability to produce anything he could imagine) didn't work as well on screen as they did in the comic. Unlike Marvel's efforts this year, Green Lantern also lacked a cohesive script and even though Reynolds did his best, and its $53M opening wasn't too shoddy, it was quickly all but dead in the water. What crippled the film was its $200M production budget, which many claimed was an under-estimation. Once prints and advertising were factored, Green Lantern became a $350M problem for the studio. Sadly, it managed just $116M domestically, with a weaker $103M overseas.
Just over a month later, Cowboy & Aliens suffered a similar fate. While its source material was questionable (the graphic novel didn't actually exist, rather the script was based on a treatment for it, only much later did the novel arrive), it had a decent pedigree with Jon Favreau directing Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and Olivia Wilde. The tone of the trailers caught some off guard and its mish-mash of ideas was never quite sold to a curious public. After a disappointing start, $36M, the film all but collapsed. It would take only $64M more in its entire theatrical run. Even abroad, where Craig and Ford are possibly even more popular, the film could only muster $74M, meaning it barely made back what it cost to produce the film - and certainly didn't cover the $75M+ it must have cost to print and advertise the flick.
But those two big films weren't the only disappointments and its arguable that Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch was another of the biggest failures of the year (with the aforementioned disaster that was Mars Needs Moms), despite its lower production budget of $85M. The fantasy film, which saw a group of institutionalised girls take on dragons, giant samurai and wooden Nazi's might have sounded like a great idea on paper - playing to the huge teen-male demographic - but in reality the film ended up being a series of set pieces with little to back it up. Warner Bros. hyped the film to the hilt and were rewarded with just $19M during Sucker Punch's opening frame. It barely registered a week later and ended up making just $36M in North America by the end of its run. Equally hyped, though not as costly, was the Nic Cage film, Drive Angry 3D. Trailers, banners, clips, Summit did everything it possibly could to let the public know that the film was coming out, and in 3D as well. The only problem was that it looked like a cheesy B-movie - and with Summit opting to push the 3D as far as it could go, they kept it out of most conventional 2D theatres. This resulted in people not wanting to pay the inflated 3D ticket prices and skipping the movie altogether. Opening at over 2,200 locations, the film made a paltry $5M and at one point looked like it wouldn't even make it into the top ten. It barely made another $5M before being quickly forgotten. Summit's luck didn't improve with Paul W.S Anderson's Three Musketeers either. The lavish picture, financed partly by German investors, made little headway in the US - again partly because of people refusing to pay the higher 3D ticket prices (and partly because of poor reviews and word of mouth), leaving Summit to watch it make just $20M in its entire run. Fortunately the film was stronger overseas, taking in $111M, most of which the studio wouldn't have seen due to them selling off the international distribution rights.
Nicholas Cage lost out again with January's Season of the Witch, which opened to $7M and finished up with just $24M (again, a better performance abroad saved the film from total disaster) - and the less said about the barely released Trespass (in which Cage starred opposite Nicole Kidman) the better. Jason Statham too, was not immune as he saw The Mechanic make only $29M during its January release window. Worse was to come for Statham with the costly Killer Elite, co-starring Clive Owen and Robert De Niro, crashing to just $25M. Australian investors had coughed up $75M to bring the film to big screen and saw little, if any, return on their investment - even overseas the film failed to have any impact. The Conan The Barbarian remake had been written off before the end of its first weekend, struggling to make $10M. From a budget of $90M, its entire global haul couldn't even get past the $50M mark. The Arthur remake too, while not an outright failure, tried hard to make its $40M budget back in North America but had to look to the foreign market for assistance. The long delayed Priest finally got an airing in May but again, 3D ticket prices, lacklustre trailers and reviews all but put the nail in the coffin before the general public even glanced at the Paul Bettany futuristic vampire picture (which cost $60M to produce). It too had to look abroad for salvation after hitting a wall at $29M. The aforementioned Your Highness also failed to win favour with the public and even Tom Hanks, with his return to the director's chair for Larry Crowne, found that he and Julia Roberts weren't the sure things they used to be. The film didn't lose money but you can imagine the studio was hoping for a lot more than the $35M it managed to take. Similar goes for the fourth Spy Kids picture, which took a number of weeks to just surpass what the previous film had made in its first three days. And finally, proof that the public weren't ready to forgive Mel Gibson came in May with the barely released, Jodie Foster directed The Beaver, which failed to make even a $1M.
One director who did have a good year was Woody Allen, whose film Midnight in Paris, slowly and quietly became the biggest release of the director's entire career (not factoring in inflation, obviously). And we couldn't conclude the report without mentioning forum favourite Drive, which managed to make $34M from a budget of around $15M.
December, especially the week leading to and following Christmas, has been a busy one, but its too early to say how well Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol and The Girl With Dragon Tattoo will do, and whether they will ultimately grab a place in the top ten.
With that we come to the end of the Box Office review of 2011. All that remains is to thank you for taking the time to read it, and the weekly box office reports during this last year. All the support, comments and feedback is very much appreciated. Here's to a huge 2012 at the box office! Happy New Year, see you in 2012.
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