Tuesday, 3 January 2012

14 2011 Box Office Facts: From $325 to $1.3 Billion

Think what you will about box office numbers and the movies that rake in the cash, but nobody can deny that they are important. Yes, the box office doesn't dictate how good a film is, but it does, to a large extent, determine what films get made. In fact, box office figures form probably the single largest determinant of what movies get churned out by the Hollywood machine. Tired of The Fast and the Furious after 5 instalments? Not keen for Paranormal Activity 4? Final Destination 5? Saw 7? The simple fact of the matter is that as long as people watch those movies, the studios will ensure they get made. It's all a business after all. It may not seem as relevant to the low budget indies of the world, but box office takings are as important to the people involved with those films. If they don't turn a profit, they won't get made either. The numbers are just a lot smaller. Yesterday I did some thinking about the box office in 2011. How did 2011 compare to 2010? Who were the big winners? And the major losers? Some of the information comes as no surprise, like the fact that the final Harry Potter film was the highest grossing movie in the world in 2011. However, some other figures were quite odd. Hit the jump for some highlights and low-lights of cinema money in 2011.


1. 2011 was worse than 2010. Receipts dropped about 3% to $10.2 billion while attendance fell to a 16-year low. Approximately 1.28 billion people headed to the multiplex in 2011, a drop of about 4% from last year, when 1.33 billion went to the cinema (via LA Times). Why is that? Was 2011 just a weaker year for film, or is it a sign of a deeper problem?

2. My China. We all know that the biggest film market is the USA. What is second? It's Japan, surprisingly. China will soon be third, with receipts growing by a whopping 30% in 2011, exceeding $2 billion for the first time.

3. Movies are both starting and fizzling faster. This is probably due to the internet: buzz gets huge, but bad word of mouth is swift to punish poor films. The prime example this year? Green Lantern, which had a more than respectable opening weekend of $53 million, only ended up taking in just over $116 million in the US in total. That's double it's opening weekend takings. With a budget of $200 million (and possible more), that makes Lantern a colossal flop. Yes, it did make $220 million world wide, but we haven't even gotten to the ridiculous marketing costs, which probably exceeded $100 million on their own. That is rough.

4. Harry Potter is the 2011 Box Office King. Yup, the boy wizard raked in $381 million domestically and $1.3 billion world wide in 2011. Not only that, the film broke a crap load of other records. Domestically it loses to the two previous years' winners (Toy Story 3 and Avatar), but it beats Toy Story 3 internationally. The last Harry is now the third biggest box office grosser of all time (behind Avatar and Titanic).

5. Michael Bay is a cash cow. His films get slated and badgered like there's no tomorrow (Transformers: Dark of the Moon is only 35% Fresh), but boy do they make money. He really shouldn't care about the critics. The third instalment in the Transformers series came in second place for 2011, bringing in a "modest" $352 million domestically and $1.1 billion world wide (it's the fourth highest grossing film of all time).

6. The Twi-Hards are still spending their parents' money. Despite it being one of the worst movies I have ever seen, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 ended up the third highest grosser in 2011, making over $276 million domestically and $657 million internationally. It's incredible how bad things can get when the cast and crew are basically guaranteed a box office hit. I've seen and hated all the Twilights, but recognised all along that I am not exactly the target market. With that in mind, I was able to appreciate some aspects of the first and third films. But man, the fourth film was so ridiculously bad I still can't believe it. However, even though Twilight was guaranteed to make money, it did not make a fraction of what the last Harry Potter did, and that was a movie made with love. So there is a lesson in their somewhere.

7. Paramount is living up to its name. Yes, they were the studio that made the most money this year, taking in $5.17 billion (via fusedfilm). Mother of God! That is a lot of cash. The cows that brought home the cash? Michael Bay, Mission Impossible, Super 8, Rango and a string of other movies that all did pretty well. Next year it will be Warner Bros again though, since they have The Dark Knight Rises and some of The Hobbit.

8. Fast Five got taken for the most rides. Considering the subject matter, it's somewhat ironic that Fast Five is the most pirated movie of 2011 (according to Torrentfreak). It was illegally downloaded in the region of 9.2 million times. Ouch. It was followed by The Hangover II, Thor, Source Code, I am Number Four, Sucker Punch, 127 Hours, Rango, The King's Speech and Harry Potter. No Pirates of the Caribbean? Some strange honorees in that list.

9. Mars Needs Moms was the biggest balls-up of the year. Holy crap, Mars Needs Moms cost $150 million to make and grossed only $39 million world wide, making it the biggest flop of 2011 according to The Hollywood Reporter. That is a HUGE loss. It's more than $111 million, because the revenues are split between studios and theatre owners, and there is a marketing budget to think about as well. Director David Fincher recently said something in an interview with First Showing which gave me an idea of the marketing costs involved: "if it costs $100 million to make a movie, it's going to cost somewhere near that to open it worldwide." In other words, Mars Needs Moms cost lost Disney a lot of money. The reasons for the fail are numerous, including people being freaked out by poor performance capture and the uncanny valley, favouring technical wizardry over storytelling, the subject matter (a mother kidnapped from her child) and poor release date choices. 

10. Mars Needs Moms was not the only balls-up of the year. Other large flops (and reasons) include Sucker Punch (because it was just plain terrible), Arthur (because it looked terrible), Green Lantern (because it wasn't great and cost way too much) and Cowboys & Aliens (because it's a concept that is difficult to sell unless the movie is truly awesome, which it wasn't).

11. Insidious gave the most bang for its buck. I was looking forward to this little horror movie, but unfortunately it sucked balls. It seems the rest of the world didn't think so though, because it's estimated to have grossed in the region of $90 million on a budget of under $1.5 million. That is 100 times cheaper than Mars Needs Moms! However, it still doesn't come close to Paranormal Activity, which grossed something like $190 million on a budget of $11,000 (yes, that reads eleven thousand).

12. Some movies make very little money. You have movies like Redneck Carnage, which made only $325. But are you that surprised? Or Flypaper, which stars Patrick Dempsey and Ashley Judd and made only $1,232 domestically (okay, world wide it made about $585,000). It's coming to SA soon :) There are others, like Ceremony (with Uma Thurman) which made only $23,000 world wide, and Beautiful Boy (with Martin Sheen and Maria Bello) which managed only $77,000. Even The Other Woman aka Love and Other Impossible Pursuits (with Natalie Portman) could muster only $23,000 in the US (and about $450,000 world wide). That is star power and numerous irritating trailers notwithstanding. But the prize must go to the next one...

13. Love, Wedding, Marriage must be the worst of the year. It's a romantic comedy starring Mandy Moore and Kellan Lutz. Surely it would get at least some love? Nope. It scores a whopping 0% on Rottentomatoes, 4.6 on IMDB and has a Metascore of 13/100. But wait, the real kicker is that it made only $1,925 at the World Wide Box Office. That is under two thousand dollars! How the hell is that even possible?

14. Super deserved better. It was one of my favourite movies last year, but it only made $324,000. On a budget of $2.5 million. Sad, really. If there is one thing this list should teach you, it is to go and see Super.

With much more to offer than 2011, I think 2012 is going to bring in a lot more money too. The Hobbit and The Dark Knight Rises alone should rake in over a billion each. What's going to be the big flop of 2012? I would say John Carter... but I have too much faith in Andrew Stanton. Hunger Games? Too many fans, and the budget isn't that high. The Amazing Spiderman? Maybe, but I have a gut feel that Sony have another hit on their hands. The Avengers? Is going to make tons of money no matter how good or bad it is. Men In Black 3? Hmmm, quite possible. I'm not sure if Will Smith's box office draw is big enough to save this one. If it's half bad, it will flop. Snow White and the Huntsman? Another serious contender. Unless it's as awesome as it looks. I don't think Prometheus will be a monster hit, but it will do well. So will Brave. So, my contenders for biggest flops of 2012 are John Carter, MIB3 and Snow White and the Huntsman (along with Mirror Mirror, which looks like a crapstorm already).


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