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Midnight in Paris Is Woody Allen's Biggest Hit, Passes 1986's Hannah and Her Sisters $40 Million

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood July 19, 2011 at 1:11AM

Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris continues its torrid box office pace. When I talked to Allen right before he opened this year's Cannes Film Festival, he knew that he had a hit ("it's a hit, a big-titted hit!" as Robert Duvall says in Network). Sure enough, the movie has broken weekly house records all over the country and passed Match Point and Vicky Christina Barcelona's benchmark of $23 million after the 4th of July weekend. And now it has even exceeded vintage Oscar-contender mainstream breakouts Annie Hall (1977, $38 million), Manhattan (1979, $39 million) and his top-grosser, Hannah and her Sisters (1986, $40 million). This past weekend Midnight in Paris wound up a few digits shy of $42 million.
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Thompson on Hollywood

Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris continues its torrid box office pace. When I talked to Allen right before he opened this year's Cannes Film Festival, he knew that he had a hit ("it's a hit, a big-titted hit!" as Robert Duvall says in Network). Sure enough, the movie has broken weekly house records all over the country and passed Match Point and Vicky Christina Barcelona's benchmark of $23 million after the 4th of July weekend. And now it has even exceeded vintage Oscar-contender mainstream breakouts Annie Hall (1977, $38 million), Manhattan (1979, $39 million) and his top-grosser, Hannah and her Sisters (1986, $40 million). This past weekend Midnight in Paris wound up a few digits shy of $42 million.

UPDATE: Does this mean that Paris is the most profitable Woody Allen film of all time? No. As some commenters have pointed out, Hannah and Her Sisters cost far less against its ultimate revenues, and out-performed this one, too, if you factor in inflation. Theatrically-oriented Sony Pictures Classics thanked exhibitors that played the film in Variety, below.

Thompson on Hollywood

SPC broadened the movie more briskly than they had intended since platforming it in NY and LA on May 20, due to its strong numbers in every market, exploiting the many supporting roles in the movie and releasing a new clip a week, getting deeper into the film. Allen works in some markets like Manhattan "no matter what," says SPC co-president Tom Bernard, but often "in the hinterlands he doesn't translate." SPC broadened the movie wider than any Allen movie, to over 1038 screens. "It's worked everywhere, in places where Woody's movies don't usually respond," says Bernard.

Why did this one strike a nerve with a wider audience? Well, it's escapist, magical summer fun, with a happy romantic ending. Owen Wilson, a robust comedy star, makes the best Woody surrogate the filmmaker has had since John Cusack (Bullets Over Broadway) and delivers the richest, most nuanced performance of his career. "He was a tremendous sell," says Bernard.

Is Wilson's role Oscar-worthy? I won't go that far, but SPC plans to hang in theaters as long as possible and then chase Oscar voters later; they'll release the DVD when they see fit. With the Academy's new best picture nomination process (designed to be inclusive of audience favorites), it's looking good for a best picture nod. Allen should certainly land original screenplay and directing nominations.

The well-reviewed movie (David Thomson aside) is different not only from other Allen films, but anything else in the marketplace. While it wittily mines cliches about Americans in Paris, it makes literate moviegoers feel smart. It boasts a universal nostalgia theme, as well as falling inside a reliable genre: time travel. And of course, reminds Bernard: "everyone likes Paris."

This article is related to: Awards, Box Office, Directors, Genres, Studios, Stuck In Love, Marketing, Oscars, Summer, Woody Allen, Period, Independents, comedy, Romance, Sony/Screen Gems/Sony Pictures Classics, Screenwriters


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.