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Box Office 2013 Year In Review: The Good, The Bad And The 'Oldboy'

by Gabe Toro
December 20, 2013 1:01 PM
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The global market ended up turning several hits into superhits. “Gravity” in particular looks to be the highest grossing among a late-year crop of Oscar pics, currently threatening $700 million worldwide, with almost $400 million collected outside of the U.S. "Fast & Furious 6” pulled in over two-thirds of its $788 million total haul overseas, while “The Croods” was a $400 million hit on other shores, adding to a $587 million global total. Sequels are coming for the last two; might the WB kick the tires on "Gravity 2: Zero-G Boogaloo"? It can be a musical. (That one's for free, WB.)

Elsewhere, studios gambled by spending less on a couple of sequels and benefiting from a stronger global market. “The Wolverine” ($414 million), “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” ($375 million) and “A Good Day To Die Hard” ($304 million) all did less business than their predecessors stateside, but made up for it with the series’ best overseas showings. Each of those installments also ran much cheaper than their predecessors according to released figures by an average of $30 million. “Star Trek Into Darkness,” meanwhile, was costlier than 2009’s “Star Trek,” but the $467 million gross is a new series high by far, though domestically it was softer than the last film.

And hardcore fans keep hope alive for a sequel: “Pacific Rim” barely crossed $100 million in America, but a $407 million global tally suggests foreign filmgoers were bigger fans, and the $190 million reported budget suggests Warner Bros. will have to tattoo Justin Bieber's face onto DVDs in order to see a tidy profit. Sylvester Stallone (“Bullet To The Head”) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (“The Last Stand”) also had a rough year, but while their “Escape Plan” only pulled in $24 million stateside, it’s thus far collected a tidy $122 million worldwide, suggesting overseas audiences are loaded with stranded time travelers from the '80s who want to be reminded of home again.

Comedies don’t always translate, so some of the biggest ones in America weren’t very large successes abroad. That didn’t stop Melissa McCarthy from staking her claim as the most popular big-screen personality in comedy. Both “The Heat” and “Identity Thief” were smashes, collecting $229 and $173 million in receipts, carrying budgets of only $43 million and $35 million, respectively. Meanwhile, seemingly out of nowhere, the month of August was dominated by “We’re the Millers,” which grossed $269 million on a similarly small cost despite not a single human being remembering seeing it. Were we Inceptioned?. Bad boy humor was still in vogue as “This Is the End” clocked in at $132 million and “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa” pulled in over $140 million. Critics hated them and audiences scoffed, but despite pulling in weaker numbers than their predecessors, “The Hangover Part III” (which featured a bit part for McCarthy as well) and “Grown Ups 2” pulled in $351 million and $246 million. By the way, you may have not heard of “Instructions Not Included,” but the feel-good Spanish language comedy collected $85 million worldwide while you weren’t even looking. Maybe learn to speak some Spanish, you racist.

Consider James Wan the king of the low-budget horror hit. This year alone, the “Saw” helmer was responsible for two of the most profitable horror films of all time. During the summer, he beat back much more costly blockbusters when the $20 million period piece “The Conjuring” grossed a spectacular $316 million. And later in the year, he followed sleeper hit “Insidious” with “Insidious Chapter Two,” which grossed $155 million on a meager $5 million budget. In a similar vein, another new horror franchise was born with “The Purge,” which collected a worldwide tally of $89 million on a budget of only $3 million.

Among horror successes, you can also count “Mama,” which cost $15 million and pulled in $146 million. The $17 million-costing “Evil Dead” remake collected $97 million as well, while the “Carrie” redo flopped stateside, but collected $73 million globally off a $30 million budget. And while they may be spoofs, “A Haunted House” ($59 million) and “Scary Movie 5” ($78 million) scored tidy profits on budgets of $2.5 million and $20 million, respectively. Horror in 2013, proving that all you need to make some money is a respectable actor that will accept having props thrown at him from offscreen.

Not every film is a CGI-filled sequel or cartoon, and some audiences seemed pretty grateful about that. The second weekend of May has always been a tough period to launch movies, but Warner Bros. scored a hit with “The Great Gatsby,” which went on to pull in $348 million. Meanwhile, magician thriller “Now You See Me” surprised with $351 million globally, pulling in $243 million overseas alone. And while summer was winding down, audiences were turning out for “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” which collected $159 million on a budget of $30 million. Still in theaters currently, fellow Oscar hopeful “Captain Phillips” has just recently crossed $200 million worldwide, giving your Stormfront Forum-visiting cousin plenty of ammo for his yearly awkward Christmas dinner table conversation.

The Best Man Holiday” surprised several prognosticators, and its $70 million domestic gross is more than double the receipts of the first “The Best Man,” on a budget of only $17 million. Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” ended up being one of his stronger performers with $75 million, while Ron Howard’s “Rush” was ignored stateside but collected $90 million globally on a $38 million budget. The moody drama “Prisoners” actually performed like more of a blockbuster, collecting $118 million on a budget of $46 million. Upstart CBS Films scored their biggest hit, meanwhile, by going geriatric, with “Last Vegas” pulling in $84 million.

One of the most talked about movies of the year was also one of the most profitable: the $5 million “Spring Breakers” ended up collecting $31 million in a release that actually opted out of any and all TV promotion. “The Place Beyond the Pines” ($35 million) and “The Way Way Back” ($23 million) were also big winners, as were “Enough Said” ($17 million) and “Fruitvale Station” ($16 million). Sometimes success isn’t that highly publicized, however: “Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain” became one of the most successful standup comedy films of all time, collecting $32 million. And the Dustin Hoffman theater dramedy “Quartet” quietly played to packed houses earlier in the year, collecting $59 million in grosses. You're probably asking what "Quartet" is, but you could just search online, maybe through Google. Why are you audibly talking to yourself?

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  • DC | January 3, 2014 4:34 PMReply

    How is the Oldboy remake performance not the worst? They've only made 13 percent of the cost of the film, in over a month since release. None of the other films flopped remotely as bad - some even turned a (tiny) profit.

  • Jamie | December 27, 2013 11:46 AMReply

    I was one of those people packing the art house to see Quartet. If you like great acting, intelligent dialogue, quirky characters, British sensibilities and a feel good ending, just do yourself a favor and watch it.

  • ASLAM SIDDIQUI | December 24, 2013 10:25 AMReply

    Kindly give us the yearly boxoffice charts with clear verdicts like the one you published last year.

  • DC | January 3, 2014 4:35 PM

    Here here.

  • jack | December 22, 2013 11:26 PMReply

    It's far less confusing when you bother to report gross vs projected budget (and hopefully promo/release costs). For most of this article you ignore that second number and just report budget vs box office, so that when you make your crass judgments it becomes entirely pointless. If I can't accurately judge profits vs loss, how can I possibly know if all your cute twee commentary is accurate or just more cinema-hipster posturing?

  • Gabe Toro | December 23, 2013 2:17 PM

    Because you can't accurately judge profits versus loss. Hollywood accounting is nebulous. If you're looking for actual profit margins for movies, you're chasing an invisible dragon.

  • SAL | December 21, 2013 8:11 PMReply

    "Maybe stop paying the crew in Faberge Eggs, guys"

    Don't get this one.

  • David | January 21, 2014 11:45 AM

    Yeah. It's ridiculous and gossip-mag. I guess they think crew positions are overpaid? It's a little ridiculous to claim the ushers are the reason the Yankees didn't make the playoffs.

  • Jamie T D | December 20, 2013 10:35 PMReply

    Empire did a nice feature about London in movies 2013

  • alex | December 20, 2013 9:53 PMReply

    Just a quick correction: You wrote Live Free or Die Hard (4th film) instead of A Good Day to Die Hard (5th film).

  • sidney falco | December 20, 2013 7:47 PMReply

    "Sony, meanwhile, basically pretended they didn’t spend $130 million on a Ryan Reynolds-Jeff Bridges action comedy that seemed beamed in from 1985, and it proceeded to gross $78 million worldwide."

    They don't need to pretend because they didn't spend a dime -- Universal did!

  • Nick | December 20, 2013 5:40 PMReply

    Despicable Me 2 was made by Illumination Studios, run by the guy who brought Blue Sky to Fox. So yeah, same price model.

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