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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 Lone Ranger

There were no shortage of massive flops this year, though the king and queen of the ball are probably “The Lone Ranger” and “R.I.P.D.Disney weathered all the bad buzz and bravely went ahead with a loud, splashy release of their allegedly $215 million-budgeted turkey, collecting only $260 million worldwide for their troubles. Universal, 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. There’s always fuzzy accounting when it comes to these big would-be blockbusters however, and the biggest loser could end up being “Jack The Giant Slayer,” which grossed $197 million on a budget of $195 million. Maybe stop paying the crew in Faberge Eggs, guys.

People rooted for sequels to fail this year, but in fact it was vaguely original material that took the fall. “Elysium” grossed a respectable $286 million worldwide, but it couldn’t crack nine figures in America, costing a dicey $115 million. That didn’t look as bad for star Matt Damon as “After Earth” and “Oblivion” did for Will Smith and Tom Cruise. The former collected $243 million on a $130 million budget, but only grossed $60 million in America. And the latter ran Universal back $120 million, but the bulk of the $286 million gross came from overseas; the film falling short of $90 million in America before being forgotten by summer. Meanwhile, last year’s box office golden boys Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx couldn’t get anyone excited for “White House Down”: that film’s $205 million gross is actually more than fellow D.C.-under-siege epic “Olympus Has Fallen,” but the $150 million budget is the reason why it’s one of the year’s punchlines while the world prepares for “London Has Fallen.” The world is preparing for that, right? It doesn't seem like they're ready at all, to be honest.

Beautiful Creatures Emmy Rossum

With “Twilight” and “Harry Potter” over, the young adult marketplace seemed ripe for a new hit outside of "The Hunger Games," but none emerged. Fox gave “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” a shot, but its $199 million worldwide tally was considerably weaker than the first film’s take. Potential franchise starter “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” was a non-starter at $80 million, more than half of which came from overseas, while the big budget “Ender’s Game” stopped short at $87 million. And though it is still reaching overseas territories, the Orson Scott Card adaptation is unlikely to justify the $110 million price tag. And less than half of the $40 million take from “Beautiful Creatures” came from America, though that's what happens when your major climax involves your lead character spending months alone in a library.

Despicable Me 2,” “Monsters University,” “The Croods” and “Frozen” proved that animation was still a promising field for studios, but there were almost as many misses as there were hits this year, especially considering animated films are much more expensive to make and promote than most live-action efforts. “Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2” was a decent performer for Sony, but the $217 million global take is significantly lower than the $243 million brought in by the first film. The expensive, star-studded “Epic” never gained a foothold in the marketplace, and it too faltered with $266 million in receipts, with $107 million coming from America. “Planes” was a cheap Disney knockoff, and the $219 million suggests solid (plus, toys!) returns, though it’s a far cry from the grosses of the “Cars” franchise, while “Turbo” reached $281 million, a number that hasn’t impressed DreamWorks considering the hefty $135 million budget. Like the earlier installment, “The Smurfs 2” was massive overseas, but the $347 million global tally is a far cry from the first film’s $563 million take (and the numbers domestically, already unimpressive, were literally halved this time). Even seasonal releases fell flat: “Free Birds” saw a release near Thanksgiving and couldn’t even crack $55 million, while springtime release “Escape From Planet Earth” logged only $70 million despite playing in a marketplace completely bereft of kiddie offerings.

And sometimes just about nothing goes right. FilmDistrict thought they had a hot property with the “Oldboy” remake, which at one point had Will Smith and Steven Spielberg attached. Instead, the pairing became Josh Brolin and Spike Lee, and the studio treated the movie like it was infected. Scaled down to a 500 screen release instead of the original nationwide bow, and barely promoted, the $30 million redo has yet to pass $4 million in global box office receipts. It's not the biggest box office flop of the year, but it's certainly one of the ugliest.

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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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