Matthew McConaughey, Magic Mike

Bang For Your Buck… The Five Best “Bargains” Of The Year

Magic Mike (Warner Bros.) - $167 million
Though Channing Tatum was this year’s golden boy, with hits in both broad comedy (“21 Jump Street,” $201 million) and romance (“The Vow,” $196 million), his most impressive feat was turning his independently made life story into a hit. “Magic Mike” was produced outside of the studio system for a meager $7 million, with the domestic rights sold to the WB for $10 million. But few thought there was such a market for an R-rated film that so heavily objectified the male body, leading industry experts to react incredulously when groups of women started crowding the multiplex to see Tatum shake his tush. Considering the modest origins of this film, this isn’t just a success, it’s a happening.

The Woman In Black Daniel Radcliffe
Woman In Black (CBS Films) - $127 million
Buoyed by the star presence of Daniel Radcliffe a year removed from “Harry Potter,” this modest shocker nonetheless played strongly stateside and abroad. Budgeted at only $15 million, it’s prompted development of a sequel, though you wonder if audiences can get excited without Radcliffe’s involvement.

Paranormal Activity 4 (Paramount) - $140 million/Chronicle (Fox) - $126 million/The Devil Inside (Paramount) - $101 million/Project X (Warner Bros) - $100 million
Found footage still brings ‘em in. The 'Paranormal' series saw a sharp downturn from installments three to four, it but still played to ecstatic overseas reception, even if the profile was dimmed in the US. It remains one of the cheapest bets out there for Paramount, a studio that had gone five months between any releases before the new entry in their prized horror franchise debuted. “Chronicle” twisted the found footage genre to create something wholly peculiar, though it’s unfortunate that a step into the big leagues for director Josh Trank involves getting trapped in the “Fantastic Four” series. “The Devil Inside” earned boos and derision when it opened this year, but that first weekend was enough to guarantee a massive return on profit, while party hit “Project X” maximized its cost for a $20 million opening weekend.

Think Like A Man (Sony/Screen Gems) - $96 million
One romantic comedy, from schlocky low-rent Screen Gems, featured no above-the-title stars and an all-black cast. The other, a major Universal release in the same genre, featured Oscar nominee Jason Segel, magazine cover regular Emily Blunt, and boasted super-producer Judd Apatow. Quick, which one proved to be the flop? “The Five Year Engagement” tucked its tail between its legs with a middling $53 million worldwide tally, while the much-cheaper “Think Like A Man,” released just a week before, proved to be a huge hit with stateside audiences, even if all-black casts simply don’t translate to overseas audiences -- $91 million of the gross originated from the U.S.

Pitch Perfect Anna Kendrick Rebel Wilson
Pitch Perfect (Universal) - $84 million
Don’t look now, but we may have a new “Bring It On.” This $17 million-budgeted a capella comedy boasted no major stars, but through a canny platform release, it played hard to its core audience of young women. A sequel has been announced, though with leading lady Anna Kendrick not returning, the budget probably won’t rise much higher.