We're about halfway through a year that has seen no seismic shift in business from previous ones. Earlier in 2013 it was clear the year was lacking and had no "The Hunger Games" or "The Avengers" to prop up overall stats. As we've eased into summer, however, the numbers have strengthened, and audiences have feasted on a number of hits thus far, with more to come as the weather gets warmer.
As expected, several of these movies are relying more and more on overseas help to weather middling domestic showings. 3D plays a big factor, but a number of smaller, mid-range projects are also finding relief internationally, which is likely due to expanding theater counts in other countries. As mediocre as some early-year numbers have been, the studios have been releasing less and less product, to the point where there are less outright flops. The number of distributors has increased, however, and this year has seen strong grosses from would-be majors like FilmDistrict, Relativity and Open Road Films.
Some of this year’s biggest hits were strict no-brainers, starting with “Iron Man 3.” Off the heels of last year’s “The Avengers,” the threequel registered the second biggest opening weekend of all time and is headed towards $400 million domestic and $1.2 billion worldwide, making it the fifth biggest movie of all-time. Not a typo. “Fast And Furious 6” (approaching $600 million and still strong) and “Star Trek Into Darkness” (likely $400 million) are on their way towards outperforming their predecessors (though 'Darkness' will be softer domestically than 2009’s non-3D “Star Trek”) while few could have expected the third biggest global hit of the year to be Fox’s animated “The Croods” ($570 million).
With “The Man Of Steel” taking over $200 million worldwide on its opening weekend, Warner Bros. already has two solid performers this season. “The Great Gatsby” didn’t go supernova internationally as the WB hoped, though a strong domestic showing resulted in $279 million in global ticket sales. While it’s not approaching the numbers of the first two films, the $103 million-budgeted “The Hangover Part III” is pulling in big stats overseas, and will likely wrap up comfortably over $300 million global. Meanwhile, Melissa McCarthy guided the $35 million-budgeted “Identity Thief” to $173 million worldwide, and will hope to do even better with "The Heat" in a few weeks. Summer’s early non-blockbuster counter-programming option “Now You See Me” is also expected to join these ranks as it speeds towards $100 million domestic.
Similarly, not all the budgets were big with this spring’s stronger performers. Baseball drama “42” surprised everyone with a $92 million domestic gross, while the Nicolas Sparks hit factory produced “Safe Haven,” collecting $93 million worldwide on a $28 million budget. Both “Warm Bodies” and “Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters” seemed like quick cheapies made to capitalize on certain genre trends, but both performed surprisingly strong: 'Bodies' collected $116 million globally, while 'Hansel' was huge overseas with a worldwide $225 million total, with a sequel on the way. Although international numbers boosted several 3D tentpoles, they also boosted smaller films, helping “Side Effects” double its budget worldwide ($60 million) while aiding domestic punchlines like “Movie 43” ($29 million global from a $6 million budget).
As always, the best and safest bet was to push low-budget horror towards the masses and reap the rewards. “The Purge” is on its way towards being just the latest success, headed towards $70-$80 million domestically alone on a $3 million budget. It’s got plenty of company: sub-$20 million chillers “Mama” ($146 million) and “The Evil Dead” ($95 million) were huge successes here and abroad, while sub-$5 million chillers like “The Last Exorcism Part II” ($18 million), “Dark Skies” ($23 million) and even microbudget spoof “A Haunted House” ($40 million) weathered terrible reviews to generate surprising grosses.
The year’s biggest early-year grosser was certainly “Oz The Great And Powerful” but that film, greenlit in the wake of the billion dollar “Alice In Wonderland” and costing the studio upwards of $300 million in production and advertising, wasn’t really made stall at just under half-a-billion ($490 million). We haven’t seen the last of “G.I. Joe” and “Die Hard.” Bruce Willis showed up in both “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” and “A Good Day To Die Hard,” and both times the foreign audiences came to the rescue, with $365 million and $304 million respectively. But in both cases, the films heavily underperformed compared to predecessors domestically; in fact, “A Good Day To Die Hard” was actually the lowest-grossing “Die Hard” film stateside, an embarrassing feat for a franchise twenty five years and five movies old. Regardless, both franchies are likely to continue, and 'Joe 3' is already moving along.
Action blockbusters yielded mixed results this year, as Tom Cruise’s “Oblivion” is slowly crawling towards a $300 million global gross, though it was Cruise’s third straight film to fail to pull in nine figures in America. “Olympus Has Fallen” inverted that strategy: FilmDistrict only distributed in America and it’s $98 million domestic result is the strongest in studio history, but a global tally of $133 million suggests overseas audiences weren’t feeling the adventures of disgraced Secret Service agent Mike Banning. There was even some rocky traction in regards to animated films, with “Epic” likely to become animation studio Blue Sky’s lowest-grossing domestic release, while The Weinstein Company only goosed $69 million out of “Escape From Planet Earth.” The Weinsteins couldn’t even rely on their more consistent cash cows: “Scary Movie 5” pulled in $70 million from a $20 million budget, which was impressive until you realize it was the first film in that series to not gross $100 million plus worldwide.