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Year in Review: Box Office Bonanzas

Cue: confetti, trumpets, fainting women, ornery cinephiles, and orgasmic actressexuals™. This is Part One of Millions! Hundred$ of Million$

We'll start with the commerce and work our way to the art. So herewith the tops in various money categories for your mental ledgers.

Top Per-Screen Arthouse Opening
BLUE JASMINE $102,011 (6 Theaters)
Runner Up: INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS $101,353 (4 Theaters)
Disclaimer: both AMERICAN HUSTLE & FROZEN beat these numbers but those were fake-outs clearly on their immediate way to wide mainstream moviehouses, rather than intended as platform specialty films.

Woody Allen's 'Streetcar meets Madoff Scandal' hit started even stronger than his biggest modern hit Midnight in Paris. It didn't end up making as much but then Blue Jasmine was a fair bit more depressing and riches to less riches is elemental to its DNA. Meanwhile the Coen Bros, like Woody Allen but with more regular crossover potential, can always bank on a hardcore fanbase to sell out those initial shows.

Katniss, McConaughey & McCarthy, Iron Men and Naked French Lesbians after the jump

Biggest Subtitled Hits
01 INSTRUCTIONS NOT INCLUDED (Mexico) $44,467,206
02 THE GRANDMASTER (Hong Kong) $6,594,959
03 CHENNAI EXPRESS (India) $5,307,960
04 YEH JAWAANI HAI DEEWANI (India) $3,827,466
05 RAM-LEELA (India) $2,738,863
06 NO (Chile) $2,343,664
07 RENOIR (France) $2,293,798 
08 KRRISH 3 (India) $2,191,534 
09 BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR (France) $1,988,163
10 FILL THE VOID (Israel) $1,775,316

As per usual, Bollywood films account for much of the US subtitled market without any of the critical fanfare that greets Asian and French films. As per usual, subtitled films continue to struggle in the shrinking world of theatrical. Two of last year's Oscar submissions, Chile's No (nominated) and Israel's Fill the Void (not nominated) were arthouse hits. In some ways its strange that Blue is the Warmest Color initially sparked and quickly faded but gone are the days when arthouses would play the same features for months on end (well, apart from Woody Allen films which still play in Manhattan's Lincoln Plaza for seemingly ever). It probably doesn't help that critics didn't rally really with Best Actress wins. A tie at LAFCA arguably doesn't help since ties inevitably kill headlines for the underdog, there being no true surprise win to boast about. 

he can afford to fill gargantuan walk in closets with those suits

Top Wide Release Opening Weekend
IRON MAN 3 $174,144,585
Runner Up: HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE $158,074,286

To put it another way they both made more in their opening weekends domestically than all but a dozen films each year do in their entire runs.

Longest Legs - Wide Release
WE'RE THE MILLERS opening weekend only 17.5 % of gross
Runner Up: THIS IS THE END opening weekend only 20% of gross

As the theatrical business gets more and more frontloaded it's typical for the mega blockbusters to do 33% to 50% of their eventual business in the first weekend. Insane, right? But holds under 25% suggest really good word of mouth, interest from moviegoers who aren't first weekend types, or repeat business. Of the true blockbusters, Gravity wins this with only 22% of its gross in the first weekend and possibly less since it's still in release. Remember when Titanic's opening weekend ended up being only 4% of its behemoth gross and Avatar's only 10%? James Cameron is all legs.

Longest Legged Indie Crossover  - Never Over 1000 Screens
MUD opening weekend only 10% of its gross
Runners Up: INSTRUCTIONS NOT INCLUDED opening weekend only 17.6% gross

I only looked at movies with sizable opening weekends in terms of number of screens and Mud was by far the strongest. It played and played from April all through the summer movie season. Remarkably no superpowers were in sight unless you count the magical properties of Matthew McConaughey's shirt. 

The Top Hits of The Year - (Projected Titles in Italices)
Barring $200 million plus grosses for Wolf of Wall Street or Walter Mitty or Anchorman 2 these 13 films will go down in history as the bakers dozen mega-hits of 2013.

01 IRON MAN 3 $409,013,994
To beat Iron Man 3 (which coincidentally grossed nearly the exact same dollar figure as the first Hunger Games) it would have to beat itself in battle. Possible? Yes. Likely? No
03 DESPICABLE ME 2 $367,741,000 (about to close)
04 MAN OF STEEL $291,045,518
05 FROZEN $290???
This is  rising fast and holding well. Tangled still had a lot of life left in it at this point in its run and closed with $200. Can it crack $300 million?

Fire & Ice: Underperforming Smaug meets Overperforming Elsa

A weak opening in relation to the other Lord of the Rings films with $74 in its cume but each of its predecessors hit $300 million domestic eventually but I think this one will fall short
08 GRAVITY $254,592,000
This will soon close but what a solid run for a non-franchise event with only two characters!

09 FAST AND FURIOUS 6 $238,679,850
10 OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL $234,911,825

12 THOR: THE DARK WORLD  $204???
It will start losing theaters very rapidly now but the Norse god will still have enough strength to knock World War Z down a peg for 12th position -- battle of the long haired blondes!
13 WORLD WAR Z $202,359,711
Remember when everyone thought this would be a disastrous flop? 

Battle of the Blonde Demi-Gods

Lovable Losing Winner:  THE HEAT will likely rest at #15 or so for the year below THE CROODS when the last 2013 release eventually leaves theaters in spring 2014. It was yet another big hit for Sandra Bullock. But isn't it odd that it wasn't an even bigger deal? Given the Sandy-Mania of the past four years how did The Proposal (a significantly worse movie with a less awesome co-star) outgross it?

The "Bankable" Club?
INDUCTEE: Melissa McCarthy was an untested headliner before the year began with only that breakout supporting role in Bridesmaids to recommend her on the big screen. By year's end she had headlined not one but two $100+ million hits with Identity Thief (terrible but it sold) and The Heat (underrated fun).
THE FRANCHISE IS THE DRAW: Chris Hemsworth is a hit as Thor but couldn't bring crowds to Rush
STAYING POWER: Leonardo DiCaprio can sell anything (except maybe gloomy Clint Eastwood directed FBI biopics). He began the year as part of that big controversial Django hit, and then took The Great Gatsby to a $50 million opening weekend in a season usually reserved for superheroes. Can he win Christmas weekend with a 3 hour raunch-fest about con-men stockbrokers? We'll find out soon.

Which of the big hits did you miss this year?
And which film held the biggest surprise for you in terms of how well or how poorly they performed?

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Reader Comments (18)

You may want to revise top per-screen-average to accommodate 'American Hustle'. Just hit $115,000 this weekend, according to Box Office Mojo. :)

December 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBeau

It looks like American Hustle is beating Blue Jasmine for the Per-Theatre average title. But does it count as "Art House"?

December 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRicopolo

Totally off topic, but when is that 2003 Smackdown happening? December 5th is long gone... Lol

December 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBhuray

Beau & Ricopolo -- but is it arthouse? my understand was its a wide release at Christmas?

December 15, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

By all means keep photoshopping new actresses into that smooch with Lea Seydoux. It just seems natural.

December 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTB

"It probably doesn't help that critics didn't rally really with Best Actress roles. A tie at LAFCA doesn't help really since ties inevitably kill headlines for the underdog, there being no true win to boast about."

I know you think I'm being argumentative today, but I just don't understand this. Is there a person alive who knows who the LAFCA is, follows their awards, and gives a rat's ass about them whose awareness of Blue Is the Warmest Color and decision about when/whether to see it was predicated on whether or not it won an award from them? Even if so, and I'm not convinced, how would the tied outcome really diminish this awareness or impact this decision in any way? If anything, all the coverage of the triple ties seems to have made LAFCA more conspicuous in coverage than it otherwise might have been. And I still doubt even the average Lincoln Plaza ticket-buyer has any idea one way or the other.

Tied or not, she surely got at least as much out of that win as, say, Yun Joung-hie or Yolande Moreau got out of winning it outright. The fact that <I>BWC is famously explicit, three hours long, and already announced as coming early to DVD are probably bigger factors in suppressing its longterm gross... though as you say, loftier dreams aside, that's still an incredibly robust gross for the kind of movie we're talking about.

December 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

And won't AH's average go down when Sunday (particularly Sunday evening) screenings are added? I would think they weigh every film down.

December 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

@Nick Davis--I thought the same thing. Winning in a tie is still a win. Didn't stop Emmanuelle Riva last year from picking up the nomination.

December 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTB

I think the big box office loser this year, so under-the-radar nobody even mentions him, is Arnold Schwarzenegger. His first starring role, post-Governator, "The Last Stand," debuted in January in nearly 3,000 theaters and promptly grossed $6.2 million. Its final tally? Not even twice that: $12 million. I know he's old, but Ahnold used to eat $12 million for breakfast.

His October prison release film with Sylvester Stallone didn't do much better: $24 million total. Although it grossed nearly $100 million overseas (TLS: $36) so expect more. Unfortunately.

December 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterErik

Other big box office losers were bad comedies, with the exception, as you noted of IDENTITY THIEF, an awful film that kept grossing throughout February. A testament, I guess, to Melissa McCarthy's drawing power. For now.

But the others, with everyone's favorites, just died: THE INTERNSHIP ($44), DELIVERY MAN ($27), BURT WONDERSTONE ($22) and ADMISSION ($18).

December 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterErik

I expect DiCaprio to get rave reviews, huge box office numbers and no awards.

December 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGena

At $88.1M so far, Blue Jasmine is currently the third highest grossing Woody film worldwide. With still some foreign markets underway (Blanchett best actress Oscar could also give a push domestically), it could even overtake Vicky Christina Barcelona ($96.4M) and its sexy stars, which would be a true achievement.

December 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKareem

Never heard of Instructions Not Included and thought the box office figures were a typo. Checked IMDB and indeed it grossed over $44 MILLION in the US alone.

Since it is so popular - how come Mexico didn't submit it for Oscar consideration and why did the Globes ignore it completely?

No doubt it will be remade in America and probably have Adam Sandler in it. Yuk.

December 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBette Streep

@Gena:lol at the Leo comment..then he'll prob win for something he sucks in. I'm still shocked he didn't get in for The Departed - he was truly great in that.

December 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSnobby

Is Leo the one selling his films? It's not like he's the only or even the biggest draw to any of his movies. Every one of his directors is arguably as famous as him.

December 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJS

Katniss as a French lesbian. <3 Makes this entire post worth it by itself!

December 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPitry

As per usual, Bollywood films account for much of the US subtitled market without any of the critical fanfare that greets Asian and French films.

Don't those movies all end the same with a musical number?

December 15, 2013 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

I'm with Nick and TB. I think Adele happening is just as strong as the lower-group of competing actresses besides Cate and Sandra. One will drop. Maybe Streep. Maybe Dench. Maybe Adams. Maybe even Thompson if Saving Mr. Banks continues to not impress business-wise.

December 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

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