1. The Avengers - $207M - $623M - $1.51B
2. The Dark Knight Rises - $160M - $448M - $1.08B
3. The Hunger Games -$152M - $408M - $686M
4. Skyfall - $88M - $289M - $1B*
5. Breaking Dawn 2 - $141M - $286M - $797M*
6. The Amazing Spider-Man - $62M - $262M - $752M
7. Brave - $66M - $237M - $535M
8. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - $84.6M - $222M - $686M*
9. Ted - $54M - $218M - $501M
10. Madagascar 3 - $60M - $216M - $742M
[Figure Key: Opening weekend / Domestic Total / Worldwide Total] *Denotes films still on release - List ordered by U.S figures.
Welcome to the Box office review of 2012. It's been another huge year for film, with 2012 having more than its fair share of hits (and misses). There were a few surprises too, as well as more than a couple of upsets. 3D might not have yet had its day, but the public were certainly more wary of the format than they'd been in previous years. Sequels were popular, remakes less so and the overseas market proved yet again to be invaluable to studios - especially those in need of a hit. So, without further ado, here are the big hitters, the failures and everything in between at the box office in 2012.
1. The Avengers - $207M - $623M - $1.51B -- The History of The Avengers
When The Avengers was released back in May, it was the culmination of four years of groundwork for Marvel Studios. Few could have predicated how well it would go on to perform, with even the wildest estimation proving to be some way out. Hype was already building to a fever pitch as its May release date approached. The biggest weekend record (at that point held by the $169M earning Deathly Hallows 2) was potentially in play, along with a slew of daily and other miscellaneous records. And as that first Friday approached, it looked like Iron Man, Captain America and Co. would pull it off. And they did, with style. Things began incredibly well with the film making $80M during its first day on release, and while that wasn't a record (Deathly Hallows 2 holds that title), it was still a staggering start. Saturday's $69M total set a new record for that day, eclipsing Spider-Man 3's previous figure by almost $20M. At that point, taking the weekend record was a forgone conclusion and murmurs of the first $200M opening began to circulate. Some felt The Avengers would fall short and that Disney might fudge the figures (albeit until Monday) to push it past the mark. In the end it was far more clear cut - by its first Sunday it had not only hit $200M but had cleared it by $7M. It smashed the weekend record by over $35M and also scored the biggest Sunday figure ($57M) in the process. Despite that colossal opening, there were fears The Avengers would see a record breaking second frame drop but that never materialized. Instead, the film continued to break new ground in box office terms, securing the opening record for every single day, up to its tenth, by which point it had already made $373M.
Its second weekend drop was a very acceptable 50%, the flick grossing another $100M in the process. The Avengers continued to smash records throughout its 22 week run, and caused more than a couple of cinematic casualties on the way. It remained in the top spot for three weeks, but perhaps even more impressive, it held a top ten position throughout a very busy June and July. It was the fastest film to hit $300M, $400M and $500M and quickly became the third biggest picture of all time, with only Titanic and Avatar standing in its way. In fact, by the end of its theatrical run, the Marvel mash-up had technically taken more than James Cameron's disaster flick had during its initial run ($600M), but a 3D re-release in April pushed Titanic up to nearly $660M in total ticket sales. The Avengers ended up making an astounding $623M in North America, and would perform even better overseas, to the tune of $811M. It became one of only a handful of movies to join the illustrious one billion dollar club. The Avengers was the biggest film of 2012, and by some margin. Joss Whedon is currently at work on the follow up, due in 2015, with sequels to Iron Man, Thor and Captain America due in the interim.
2. The Dark Knight Rises - $160M - $448M - $1.08B -- The History of Batman on Screen
If hype for The Avengers was high, it was white hot for the release of The Dark Knight Rises. The final part of Christopher Nolan's Batman series topped many must-see lists at the start of the year, and even with the amazing success of the Marvel feature, TDKR was expected to perform exceptionally well, perhaps even besting the $533M made by its predecessor, The Dark Knight. Filming was shrouded in a fair bit of secrecy, though early shots of the bat-plane quickly turned up online. Trailers had more than whetted the appetite of the general public, though an Imax-only prologue threw up issues with the character of Bane, specifically his speech being difficult to understand. Opening at the end of July gave the film little in the way of major competition, and while reviews weren't as strong as the second movie, they were still head and shoulders above most other summer releases. But sadly, just as the film was set storm the weekend, tragedy occurred when a gunman shot and killed 12 people during one of the first screenings of the film in Aurora, Colorado. This event (rightly) overshadowed The Dark Knight Rises opening weekend, with Warner Bros. refusing to issue box office numbers until Monday evening (nearly all other studios followed suit). TDKR was always going to be up against the previous movie more than it was The Avengers (though comparisons were inevitable) and on that first Friday, it managed to clear The Dark Knight's opening day total by around $8M, making a very solid $76M (the third biggest single day in history). This was hardly a disappointment, especially given the events of earlier that day, yet some were more than ready to write the film off for not opening bigger than Marvel's early summer blockbuster.
The gap between Nolan's Batman films shrank as the weekend moved on, with the Dark Knight Rises making $160M (TDK made $158M). Again, people were quick to judge - the picture was weak, the shootings had tainted it. In actual fact, all The Dark Knight Rises had done was to perform like the sequel it was. Heath Ledger's death had elevated TDK into public awareness far better than any trailer could - thus if anything, that film had over-performed. This second sequel was following the path of many other sequels - the fanbase was established, this was the final part of the series and was therefore unlikely to gain a swathe of new fans who would rush out and give it a massively inflated opening weekend (See The Twilight Series for a perfect example of this). Not to mention, a $160M opening haul still put the film as the third biggest opener of all time. By the end of weekend two, the picture was approaching $290M and most box office critics had come to accept that this was still an exceptional performance. All up in North America, The Dark Knight Rises made $448M, the second biggest total of the year, and seventh largest of all time. While it fell some way short of being the best in the series, in contrast to what some have said, the awful events in Aurora never stopped it becoming a $500M earner - ultimately it was never going to be, only the pre-release hype made one think that. Overseas, like The Avengers (and almost all of the top ten), the final Batman film performed incredibly well, making $632M and becoming the second film of the year to enter the billion dollar club. The Dark Knight Rises, as we'll see with The Amazing Spider-Man, only did excellent business and previous successful releases in their respective franchises shouldn't overshadow what they achieved. Batman, in one guise or another, is set to return in the 2015 Justice League movie.
3. The Hunger Games -$152M - $408M - $686M -- Background Information on The Hunger Games
The first of two March releases comes next. The Hunger Games was Liongate's attempt to find the next Twilight-style hit and after its performance this year, many would say they succeeded. The picture was based on the book of the same name, written by Suzanne Collins and while it had a fervent fanbase, it was essentially off the radar to those not in the know. Led by Jennifer Lawrence, who had seen both critical (Winter's Bone) and financial (X-Men: First Class) success, The Hunger Games was set in a dystopian future in which groups of teenagers were forced into combat against one another. The studio had a lot riding on the picture - it didn't have blockbuster costs but was still pricey at $78M. A number of studios had tried and failed to find the next Twilight, and The Hunger Games could quite easily have become the next Eragon or Seeker: The Dark Is Rising. To say its success caught people off guard is understatement. While the picture was tracking well prior to release, there can only have been a few who predicted its opening and continued success. The Hunger Games debuted to an exceptionally strong Friday take of $68.3M, practically unheard of for what was a relatively unknown property (at that point). Even with that initial front-loading out of the way, the film barely faltered, finishing up that first weekend with $152M total. For a second or third movie in a successful trilogy, this would have been right on the money, but The Hunger Games had no form before this point, making its debut all the more impressive. It opened stronger than any Twilight movie and even gave The Harry Potter series a good run for its money.
What was evident with this opening was that the film had quickly crossed over into the mainstream, bringing in those people (both male and female) who hadn't read or even heard of the book. The Twilight movies had struggled to break out of the female fan base, beefing up the action to appeal to a male audience, but had not really succeeded. The Hunger Games achieved it in just one movie. It had a high fall in it second weekend, though even that wasn't as bad as it could have been, and it would manage to see $10M+ weekends for its first six on release (It would also remain in the top ten well into May). All up, by the end of its 24 week run, The Hunger Games had made $408M, eclipsing the best performing Twilight movie by over $100M. Interestingly, the film didn't perform as well internationally ($278M finish), and is one of the few in the top ten to make less money than it did domestically. Ultimately, that was of little consequence - Lionsgate had found their franchise and knew the public would be eager for more. Catching Fire, the first sequel will debut in November 2013, with the film based on the third book, Mockingjay, going the way of the final Harry Potter and Twilight flicks by being split into two movies. Whether this amazing success will run to four features remains to be seen, but The Hunger Games' performance in 2012 is possibly more surprising and impressive than the films that ended up making more money.
4. Skyfall - $88M - $289M - $974M -- Daniel Craig's James Bond Journey
Getting the 23rd James Bond film to the screen took a lot longer than anticipated thanks to MGM's financial wows. The follow up to 2008's Quantum of Solace was set to be in theatres late 2010 but production wouldn't actually start (or re-start) until November 2011. Director Sam Mendes stayed with the picture through thick and thin, though many were still unsure if he was the right man for the job given his lack of action film experience. At the press conference to announce the commencement of shooting, the official title of Skyfall was unveiled. Daneil Craig would return to play the super spy, joined again by Judi Dench, with series newcomers including Ralph Fiennes, Ben Wishaw and Naomie Harris, along with Javier Bardem as bad guy Raoul Silva. Instead of continuing the story began in Casino Royale and carried through Quantum of Solace, Skyfall would be a stand alone adventure, which would see Bond's loyalty to M sorely tested. Any fears regarding Mendes soon evaporated when the first footage was unveiled (credit too, to cinematographer Roger Deakins). Skyfall debuted at a relatively quiet time of year and took full advantage of its lack of competition. It began smashing series' records instantly - seeing the best single day figure ($30.8M) of any previous Bond movie on its first day out of the gate.
It continued to play exceptionally well over its first weekend, finishing up with another series best figure of $90.5M. It would take Skyfall just twelve days to become the most successful 007 film in history, surpassing Quantum of Solace's $168M domestic finish. It also saw a very successful Thanksgiving weekend, enabling it to become the 10th film of 2012 to hit $200M. In its fifth frame on release, the picture even managed that very rare thing of moving back into the top spot. At the time of writing, Skyfall is still in the top ten and looks to be heading for a $295M domestic finish. A number of international locations, including the United Kingdom, saw the film open earlier and quickly accelerate past it domestic performance. At 26 markets, it made $80M during its opening weekend, and by its third frame was beyond $320M. It would also go on to become the most successful picture in history at the British box office and in recent weeks, Sony announced that it was biggest film the studio had ever released. At the time of writing, Skyfall has made more than $715M
internationally, with another $289M in North America, giving it a total
global revenue of over one billion dollars. Daniel Craig is expected to
return for Bond 24, which is already being written by Gladiator scribe,
5. Breaking Dawn 2 - $141M - $286M - $794M -- The History of the Twilight Franchise
final Twilight movie, Breaking Dawn Part 2, is still on general release
at this point but because the gap between it and The Hunger Games is so
large, it won't rise any higher up the chart. Having split the final book into two
movies, Summit pretty much paid for the second feature with the success
of the first. That meant that even if BD2 was a failure (highly
unlikely), the studio couldn't lose out. What had become evident with
the series since the second movie, was that the fan base simply wasn't
expanding. Almost everyone who turned up for New Moon would show up for
Eclipse and both parts of Breaking Dawn. Summit were more than aware of
this and would have been more than happy for the final part to perform
just like the rest. The picture opened to very strong midnight numbers
and an equally solid Friday - $71M. This was pretty much in line with
what New Moon and Breaking Dawn Part 1 had made during their first days
on release - a pattern that would continue to be replicated throughout
the run of this final film. BD2 had a first weekend of $141M - stronger
than its predecessor and only slightly weaker than the second movie in
While some expected a Deathly Hallows 2
style boost for Breaking Dawn 2, it never came, but that's not to say
the film didn't perform well - $141M is still the 8th biggest opening of
all time. Its second weekend fall was as predicted and led many to joke
that they could simply cut and paste what they'd written for New Moon
and just change the name and year. BD2 has continued to track at the
same level as the previous films (Summer release, Eclipse, aside),
rarely out performing any of them during its run to date. Overseas,
however, things were slightly different, with the picture opening well
and going on to become the best performing of the series within the
space of around a month. By the end of its domestic run, the second
Breaking Dawn feature might become the biggest of the entire series
(Eclipse holds that record with $300M) but even if it doesn't, Twilight
has been a fantastically profitable franchise for Summit and in many
ways, was the reason behind Lionsgate purchasing the studio. Author
Stephanie Meyer has hinted at further books or spin offs set within the
Twilight universe, but for now, this is the end of the line. At the time
of writing, the series as a whole has made over $3.3 billion dollars
from just is theatrical runs - one can easily add another half a billion
at least for DVD sales and related merchandise. The only question
remaining now is how long the studio will wait before rebooting the
6. The Amazing Spider-Man - $62M - $262M - $752M -- The History Behind the Spider-Man Franchise
The Amazing Spider-Man seemed to be a reboot too far, too soon. Sam Raimi had been heavily involved in what was originally planned as the fourth film in his Spider-Man series but issues over the shooting schedule forced him to leave the project. Sony, deciding to cut its losses, quickly moved to reboot the series from scratch, introducing a new Spider-Man and origin story, along with a villain new to the franchise in the guise of The Lizard (a character Raimi had talked about introducing in his aborted film). Marc Webb seemed an odd choice to direct the $230M picture given his only previous experience was on drama (500) Days of Summer. Andrew Garfield signed on board to portray Peter Parker, ably supported by Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Emma Stone and Rhys Ifans as Dr Curt Connors (aka The Lizard). Things were shaping up nicely but the film was viewed by many as the super hero underdog of 2012 - The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises gaining all the press. There was also the issue of the TDKR opening just two weeks later after Spidey made his debut. The Amazing Spider-Man suffered due to comparisons with the original series, both in critical and financial terms. Raimi's third film had set records which still stood at the time of the new film's release, and while Webb's version would perform very well, it was constantly berated for not opening better (See also : The Dark Knight/Dark Knight Rises).
Opening on the Tuesday prior to the July 4th holiday, The Amazing Spider-Man made a very respectable $35M. By the end of the break it was up to $59M and approached the weekend with $75M in its coffers. But while the early-week opening helped, it also meant the wind was taken out of the film's sails, leaving it with 'only' a $65M first weekend, for a $140M total to date. Because it had failed to better the take of the five year old Spider-Man 3 ($151M) some wrote the film's box office off as a disappointment despite it being anything but. For their part, Sony were eager for people to see The Amazing Spider-Man as the first part of a new franchise like Batman Begins and X-Men: First Class, and view its box office results in the same way. The film hit $200M by the end of its second frame but was decimated a week later by the release of The Dark Knight Rises, as many had predicted. In North America, the picture finished up with $262M, the weakest Spider-Man flick by some margin but still a relative success in its own right. Internationally it did better, but not spectacularly so, ending up with $490M. In any other year, The Amazing Spider-Man may have finished within the top three, but the reboot coming so close to the original series tainted it for some - many viewed its existence as largely redundant (especially with the origin story being redone). Sony, still viewing the picture as a new start rather than a continuation of what had gone before, appeared happy enough with its performance to greenlight a sequel for 2014, with Marc Webb set to return as director.
7. Brave - $66M - $237M - $535M -- How Brave Came To Be
Brave is the first of two animated releases in the top ten of 2012. After back to back sequels Toy Story 3 and Cars 2, Pixar opted to go with an original movie for its solo new release this year. Brave had a bit of a bumpy ride to the screen - announced back in 2008 as The Bow and the Bear, the picture lost its director Brenda Chapman (the first woman to helm a Pixar flick) midway through production. She was replaced by Mark Andrews, who ended up sharing a directing credit (Steve Purcell received a co-director credit). Brave also marked the first time a female character would lead one of their pictures, causing speculation prior to its release that the studio might alienate the young male demographic (something which would prove largely unfounded). Pixar were still smarting from the critical kicking Cars 2 had received and while Brave wasn't as universally admired (at least not story-wise) it did score more positive notices. Visually, the film was near faultless, the company revealing that their animation software had been re-written from scratch for the first time in 25 years.
Brave was set to debut three weeks after Madagascar 3, which would still be very real competition. While it didn't quite open to a better first day than witnessed by the Cars sequel ($25.7M Vs $25.4M), word of mouth was much stronger. It ended its first weekend with $66.7M, stronger than Cars 2 and Wall-E, but weaker than Up. A collective sigh of relief was heard - after the production issues and fears over a female protagonist, Brave had opened very well. A week on, its 49% drop in takings was perhaps a little higher than hoped, but the film dug in for the long haul and stayed in the top ten for another five weeks, during what was one of the busiest parts of the summer (and included the release of Ice Age 4). Brave ended its domestic theatrical run with $237M, putting it as the eighth most successful Pixar movie in the studio's history. Again, perhaps not as high as they had been hoping for, but well within the realms of success. It also performed quite well overseas, making almost $300M, but didn't become the biggest international animated release of 2012 by some margin. There's talk that the shine has started to come off the Pixar brand (particularly after the lacklustre Cars 2) but Brave, while not the financial success it could have been, proved they were still happy to take a chance on original material not driven by a male lead, be it a toy, car or bug.
8. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - $84.6M - $222M - $622M -- The Long Production Path For The Hobbit
The newest entry in the top ten is The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,
Peter Jackson's return to middle-earth. To say the film's journey to the
screen was protracted is an understatement. First conceived in 1995 as
the first part of a Tolkien trilogy (which would have seen parts two and
three cover the events of The Lord of the Rings), The Hobbit endured
numerous lawsuits, bankruptcy and a director change before filming
actually got under way in 2011. During the development process it went
from being a single movie, to a pair (where one movie would be based on
original material) then back to a single movie, before becoming a pair
again, then finally a trilogy in July of this year. Jackson and his
co-writers ended up mining and expanding the original book along with
the appendices of The Lord of the Rings, in order to gain enough
material to cover three films. The director also decided to use The
Hobbit as a showcase for a brand new filming method, which would see the
picture shot at 48fps as opposed to the normal 24fps. This new
technique hasn't been without its issues either, with many claiming the
picture is so clear that it betrays its set/studio origins (though
people have been equally impressed with how much it enhances fast moving
Demand for the picture was high and while initial reviews weren't as
strong as the LotR trilogy, it got off to a great start in the middle of
December, seeing a first day total of $37.1M, and clearing over $84.6M
in its first weekend. While it faltered a little during its second frame
on release, it picked up steam going into and throughout the holiday
period, surpassing $200M on its 16th day of release. It went on to crack
the top ten of 2012 on December 30th, slotting into eighth place and
pushing The Lorax down to eleventh. The Hobbit : An Unexpected Journey
is currently tracking well ahead of Fellowship, but trailing both The
Two Towers and The Return of the King. Overseas the picture began
equally well and the last few days has seen it surpass the $400M mark.
Chances are it will narrowly miss out on $300M domestically but go as
high as $600M in overseas ticket revenue. The second part of the
trilogy, the Desolation of Smaug, is due December 2013, with the finale,
There and Back again debuting summer 2014.
9. Ted - $54M - $218M - $501M -- The Story Behind Ted
Ted was arguably the sleeper hit of summer 2012. It is also the only R-rated film to make it into the top ten. It was the brainchild of Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane who made his live action directorial debut on the picture. Ted would see Mark Wahlberg still living with the teddy bear he had wished to life twenty five or more years after the event. Foul mouthed, drug taking and with a life going nowhere fast, Ted and John have to face up to the responsibilities in their lives and finally grow up - if they can. Made for $50M, Ted seemed destined to become a minor cult hit, and was opening on a busy weekend just prior to the Amazing Spider-Man. It would go up against Magic Mike and the latest Tyler Perry flick. Reviews were surprisingly strong and early murmurs pointed to Ted performing well beyond expectations, though no one quite believed it. The aforementioned Magic Mike got off to a great start on the Friday but Ted managed to best it with its $20.2M start. At that point people began to take notice of the talking bear. Word of mouth was white hot, and as the Channing Tatum stripper drama began to wane, Ted powered on ahead, finishing its first three days with a stunning $54.4M - recouping its entire production budget in the process.
A week on, up against the web-slinger it managed to hold its own, adding another $32M to its already impressive start (it hit $100M in nine days). By weekend three, with no new direct competition its hold was even stronger and its sleeper status was assured. Ted played well against all comers, and didn't drop out of the top ten until its screen count was slashed in week 8, by which point it had made $213M. When it finally closed toward the end of October, the R-rated comedy had made $218M and secured itself a place not only in the top ten biggest hits of the years, but also within the biggest R-rated hits of all time (it is currently seventh). Its strong showing in North America (combined with its great word of mouth) helped it find its footing abroad too. The UK led Ted's international box office, with $48M, along with equally solid turns from Australia, Germany and Russia. All combined, the picture made $283M, giving it a global total of over $500M. No other comedy (or indeed R-rated feature) came close to that foul-mouther bear in 2012. Like Bridesmaids in 2011, Ted almost came out of nowhere and went on to become a box office phenomenon. It opened even more doors for MacFarlane, who is already in pre-production on his next feature, is set to host the Academy Awards and has hinted at a Ted sequel sometime in the near future.
10. Madagascar 3 - $60M - $216M - $742M -- The History of the Madagascar Series
The second animated feature to make the top ten of 2012 is the third Madagascar film, Europe's Most Wanted. The franchise had been a dependable money maker for Dreamworks, with the previous two films clocking up $373M in North America. All the principle cast would again return for the picture which saw the gang attempting to return to their New York zoo but ending up sidetracked by a European circus. Reviews weren't anything special but Europe's Most Wanted had an ace up its sleeve - it was essentially the first family movie of the summer, with the nearest recent competition being The Pirates: Band of Misfits (which had long fizzled out back in early May), and Brave, which was still three weeks away. The market was hungry for a new animated flick and Madagascar 3 fit the bill perfectly. While it would clash with the release of the long-awaited Prometheus, neither would impact on the other to any great degree. Upon opening in June, the picture scored the fifth best opening day of any Dreamworks release, making $20.4M, and would narrowly miss out on surpassing its predecessors opening weekend haul of $63M. A lack of competition kept the film's second frame drop to a somewhat respectable 44% (much stronger than Prometheus' 60% fall).
Even the release of Brave during the picture's third frame caused it little concern, as it went on to make another $19M. It even held onto a top ten placing when Ice Age 4: Continental Drift made its bow another four weeks later. Madgascar 3 : Europe's Most Wanted went on to become the most successful in the series and the first one to surpass $200M in box office revenue. It finished up in mid-October with $216M, but as we've seen with other animated releases, the bigger news came from abroad. The series had been very successful with both previous entries clearing $300M, so hopes were high for another good international showing. Pixar's Brave was facing a staggered global roll out and Ice Age 4 was still a month or more away, giving the flick a decent period of competition-free time. Like the North American market, the global one had been starved of family films and welcomed Madagascar 3 with open arms to the tune of an astonishing $525M. And yet, despite all that success, it still wasn't the biggest animated release of 2012. Up next for the series is a Madagascar Penguins spin-off movie in 2015, before the studio return to the main team of Alex, Marty, Melman and Gloria.
So those were the top ten biggest domestic money makers of 2012. But what else was there? What films just missed the mark? Curiously, the gap between the current tenth and eleventh placed films is over $30M. The remainder of the top twenty features three more animated releases, an R-rated comedy and the return of Liam Neeson and his particular set of skills. While there isn't the time or space to cover them all, here's how some of them stacked up.
Les Miserables and Django Unchained are two notable releases that will gain box office revenue well into 2013, having received their release on Christmas Day. Further back into 2012 and after a long hiatus, Will Smith returned to theatres with MIB3, starring opposite Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin and Emma Thompson. While the film was a success, its huge budget wiped out almost anything it had to celebrate about. Thanks to a break in filming while the latter half of the script was knocked into shape, MIB3's budget rose to in excess of $225M. Its $179M North American haul just didn't cut it, and it had to rely on overseas ticket sales to shore it up - which it did admirably to the tune of $445M. A similar fate awaited the Kristen Stewart/Chris Hemsworth flick, Snow White and The Huntsman, a retelling of the classic fairy tale. While it made an impressive $145M domestically, it had cost at least $170M to produce, leaving it to look abroad to turn any sort of profit. Snow White ended up with a global total (including its NA tally) of $396M, and while Universal would have been hoping for more, it was enough for them to push forward with a sequel. It certainly proved more popular than the rival Snow White flick, Mirror Mirror, which made $64M.
Animation wise, sitting just ouside the top ten is The Lorax, based on
the Dr Seuss book of the same name. It opened in March and scored well
thanks to being the first major family animated release since Beauty
& the Beast 3D in January. From a very strong opening weekend of
$70M (fourth best March debut) it went on to earn $214M in North
America, but wasn't quite as popular abroad, ending up with $134M. Of
the other animated features, Wreck-It Ralph performed the best, at least
domestically. The video game themed featured opened well back in
November and at the time of writing has managed to recoup its $165M
production budget. Ralph is still on general release and should finish
up with around $185M when all is said and done. Like Brave, it's
receiving a staggered global release, meaning it will be some time
before we know just how well it has done overall. The long-in-production
Hotel Transylvania managed to turn its fortunes around when it was
released back in late September. The Adam Sandler/Selena Gomez voiced
feature scared up $143M in the US, with a further $164M abroad. It also
became the fifth biggest film of Sandler's career - something he needed
after his other release this year flopped hard (see below). Yet neither
of these animated releases was the biggest, globally, in 2012. That
honour goes to Ice Age: Continental Drift. In North America it was a
decent success, a $161M return from a budget of $95M. But
internationally, it would become the biggest animated release of all
time, and the second most successful of any film released in 2012 (in
terms of overseas box office). In all, excluding the $161M domestic
figure, Ice Age 4 made a staggering $714M and led some to say that Fox
didn't even need to release the inevitable fifth film in North America -
just rely on the international market to make your money.
Those looking for an action sequel this year were served well. Taken 2 was the best performing of the bunch, opening to over $50M in October, on its way to a $138M total, just a few million less than the original film made. Internationally it was even bigger, making $226M and ensuring Liam Neeson's Bryan Mills would return some time in the near future. Not fairing quite so well was the Bourne Legacy, a spin-off from the original Matt Damon franchise that was led by Jeremy Renner. Had the film cost $75M to produce, its $113M total wouldn't have been too bad. Unfortunately, Legacy had cost at least $125M, leaving it to rely quite heavily on its international performance (it made $162M overseas). A sequel is said to be in the early stages of development, while Matt Damon has apparently hired Jonathan Nolan to figure out a way for him to return to the series. Going bigger and badder, The Expendables 2 didn't quite live up to the 80s fanboy hype when it was released in August. Despite expanded roles for Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, along with a cameo from Chuck Norris, the action sequel couldn't top its predecessor, finishing up with around $85M. The $215M it scored overseas more than made up for any shortcomings. The Rock replaced Brendan Fraser in Journey 2 and was rewarded with a $103M domestic take, and an excellent $222M aboard. Further down the scale, Nic Cage's return as Ghost Rider failed to impress despite having the Crank duo of Neveldine and Taylor at the helm, while Kate Beckinsale's reappearance as Selene in Underworld Awakening didn't quite reinvigorate the franchise. The pictures made $51M and $62M respectively at the domestic box office.
Just grabbing a place inside the top 20 biggest earners of the year was Ridley Scott's cryptic return to the Alien universe, Prometheus. While fans were initially more than welcoming, many went away feeling disappointed. Still, it managed to break out into the mainstream (thanks to Fox bombarding the public with footage) and take $126M in North America, with another $276M abroad. Two other sci-fi/fantasy films faired much worse, with Resident Evil: Retribution hobbling to $42.3M, while Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter could muster just $37M. Again, both films did better internationally to the tune of $179M and $78M.
Two stars who had quite different years were Channing Tatum and Taylor Kitsch. Tatum's year kicked off with a small role in the January disappointment Haywire, but quickly picked up pace thanks to The Vow, a romantic drama in which he starred opposite Rachel McAdams. It would become the first of three $100M+ earners this year. A month later he turned his hand to comedy, with the help of Jonah Hill in the in the 21 Jump Street re-invention. The picture opened very well and went on to make $138M. He returned once more in the summer, with the male stripper drama, Magic Mike. The unconventional picture, loosely based on Tatum's earlier career became his third major hit, turning in over $113M. It's almost a certainty that had the G.I Joe sequel not been delayed until 2013, that the actor would have had four $100M earners in this past year. (Interestingly the unofficial reason for the G.I Joe delay is so Tatum's role could be expanded from a cameo to something more substantial). He closed the year with the very small indie drama, Ten Years.
Taylor Kitsch on the other hand, just couldn't get a break. At the start of 2012, he had two major roles lined up, with a dramatic turn in Oliver Stone's Savages set for September. The first casualty of his year was the big budget disappointment, John Carter. The Sci-fi epic had Disney very nervous prior to its release, the studio having spent in excess of $250M bringing the Edgar Rice Burroughs tale to the screen (by way of Pixar's Andrew Stanton). It opened weakly, losing out on the top spot to the second week of The Lorax. Things got worse from that point, with the picture failing to hit even $75M domestically. While its overseas figures were much stronger, its huge production (and advertising) budget killed any profit chances and pundits lined up to twist the knife in at any opportunity. Disney themselves even distanced themselves, publicly citing it as the reason for the company's lower than expected quarterly profits. The irony was that John Carter wasn't actually a bad film, it had just been saddled with such a huge budget that it would have needed to become one of the biggest films of all time in order to see a profit.
The bad news continued for Kitsch with the early summer release, Battleship. It too suffered from a huge production budget, and a release date just two weeks after the massive debut of The Avengers (which was still one hell of a threat at that point) didn't help matters. It simply couldn't compete and audiences gave it a wide berth - something highlighted in its $25M opening weekend. It went on to make even less than John Carter in North America. Curiously, it had opened internationally in the middle of April and with almost no competition managed to make $237M. Had it done the same in North America, things might have turned out differently. Kitsch finished off the year with the violent thriller Savages, which opened to $16M and closed with $47M. The young actor has two films lined up for 2013, and will be hoping his fortunes change.
Before we get onto the disappointments and disasters, 2012 had a few more surprises. Denzel Washington scored another smash with Safe House back in February, opposite Ryan Reynolds. It made $126M and became one of the biggest hits of his career. Washington also saw success with November's Flight, which has so far made over $85M. Ben Affleck returned to the director's chair with real life drama, Argo, which scored some great notices and has $106M to date. Steven Spielberg's long-time coming Lincoln biopic also scored big with critics and the general public. Week in, week out, it has taken on a number of major releases on far more screens and remained steadfast. It's currently sitting on a $120M domestic total and is still on general release. Contraband, Chronicle and Looper were all hits, comfortably doubling (or tripling) their production budgets, as did The Grey, Act of Valor and End of Watch. Pitch Perfect also scored big, and was seen as a late September sleeper hit, while Think Like A Man and Hope Springs proved popular in April and August.
However, Ted aside, comedy was something of a mixed bag. While The Campaign managed $86M, Sacha Baron Cohen's The Dictator failed to recoup its budget, as did action comedy This Means Wars. Even the return of the American Pie gang didn't yield big numbers domestically, though the international market welcomed them back with open arms to the tune of $177M. The Three Stooges and Here Comes The Boom both about broke even, while found-footage comedy, Project X, turned a decent profit thanks to its low budget. But some of the biggest comedy stars couldn't make projects work. Adam Sandler's R-rated That's My Boy flopped to a $36M finish, while The Watch (Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill) barely hit $35M domestically. Finally, Jason Segal and Emily Blunt failed to launch The Five-Year Engagement, which couldn't even cover its $30M costs.
2012 had its fair share of casualties and disappointments too. The Sam Worthington sequel, Wrath of the Titans failed to top it predecessor, finishing up with $83M in North America. The Tim Burton/Johnny Depp team up Dark Shadows also failed to generate that much interest in May, scaring up $79M against a budget of $150M. Both films did better abroad but couldn't shake off that lacklustre feeling. The musical, Rock of Ages didn't translate from stage to screen despite a big name cast including Tom Cruise, Russell Brand, Alec Baldwin and Catherine Zeta Jones. It made only $38M in June. The big budget Total Recall remake couldn't even clear $60M despite Sony throwing somewhere between $125-200M at it, while 80s remake Red Dawn finally scored a release but couldn't find much of an audience. Spooky animation, ParaNorman and Frankenweenie struggled despite some great reviews, the latter ended up being Tim Burton's lowest grossing feature in many years. The Tyler Perry-starring reboot of the Alex Cross series also stalled at $25M, as did Jason Statham's Safe, which barely cleared $17M.
Steven Soderbergh's foray into the action drama, Haywire, made less than $20M despite a big name cast and decent enough trailer. Great reviews were no sign of box office success (if they ever were) either as the well-received Dredd collapsed wth only $13M despite some of the best word of mouth of the year. The latest high profile failure must surely go to the hugely ambition Cloud Atlas. Tom Tykwer teamed up with the Wachowskis to bring David Mitchell sprawling book to the big screen. The trio sought to fund the film independently, deferring payment for themselves and even putting their own money into the project. A five minute trailer sought to sell the film, but even the Wachowskis joining the publicity trail failed to get the general public interested. Sadly, all their efforts amounted to nought - Cloud Atlas made just $26M in North America, and another $38M overseas. There were other failures too, but one last notorious one has to be Oogieloves In The Big Balloon Adventure. Made for $20M and with a 2,000 location roll out, the family film flopped to just $1M in total ticket sales.
Finally, the horror genre saw a number of new entries in 2012, with the found-footage filming method proving popular. Three flicks finished within a million dollars of each other - The Woman in Black ($54.3M), The Devil Inside (53.2M) and the fourth Paranormal Activity picture ($53.8M). Sinister, The Possession and Cabin in the Woods also proved there was life in the genre, managing to scare up $47M, $49M and $42M respectively. But it wasn't all good news - Oren Peli's Chernobyl Diaries squandered its interesting location for a return of only $18M and Silent Hill's 3D sequel, Revelations, struggled to $17.5M in late October. Lastly, surprise follow up The Collection (a sequel to the very minor hit The Collector) made $6M during its short November release.
And that was 2012. There were many other films of note that this report was unable to cover (especially the smaller independent ones) that are well worth seeking out (or avoiding!). According to early indication, 2012 may be the biggest year in cinematic history, proving yet again that reports of its premature death are greatly exaggerated.
Further Reading -
The History of Alien and Prometheus
The Complete History of the American Pie Series
The Production of Men in Black 3
The History of the Ice Age Saga
Remaking Total Recall
The History of the Bourne Franchise
Resident Evil Returns
The Background Story Behind Argo
The Paranormal Activity Phenomenon
The Retro Tale Behind Wreck-It Ralph
How Dredd Got a Second Shot
The Master and Scientology
Bringing Cloud Atlas to the Screen
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