Sunday, January 04, 2009


I'm not sure if you noticed but 2008 came to a close a few days ago. This means the box office is officially closed and we can tally up what were the biggest hits of the year. Overall, the 2008 North American box office pulled in a staggering $9.6 billion dollars, moving 1.4 billion tickets. Believe it or not, this is actually down from 2007. It is only down by 0.4% mind you. Apparently, no matter what the economic climate, we've always got money for the movies.

Let's see ... what was the biggest box office story of the year? Geez, that's a hard one. Alright, I'll knock it off. The biggest box office story of the year was easily the success of Eddie Murphy's MEET DAVE. OK, now I will seriously knock it off. So, again, the biggest box office story of 2008 was easily the colossal success of Christopher Nolan's THE DARK KNIGHT. For the first time since its release, a film came within reach of sinking TITANIC to become the number one box office hit of all time. This did not come to pass but I'm sure no one really cares. THE DARK KNIGHT, be it because of the Heath Ledger fascination factor or just because it was so darn great, crossed over every single demographic it could to score the biggest opening weekend in history. I knew it was going to be big; I couldn't even get tickets for opening night. However, I didn't think it was going to be that big. You could feel it though. There was a very strong sense of urgency to see this film and it carried over for weeks. THE DARK KNIGHT also played well on IMAX theatres as well as internationally, where it almost topped $1 billion. It is sure to do so in a couple of weeks though when it is rereleased in theatres to push its Oscar chances. The best thing about THE DARK KNIGHT is that it brought people together. It isn't often that a film connects with so many people so congratulations to the whole cast and crew for all their success.

The second and third place films finished very tightly with less than $1 million difference between them. IRON MAN ultimately won out over INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL though. Well, at least domestically. Internationally, INDIANA JONES was the second biggest hit of the year, while IRON MAN finished fifth. These two films are funny to compare as they are both huge money makers but one could describe their domestic takes as both a huge success and a disappointment. IRON MAN opened to nearly $100 million to kick off the summer season. No one expected this one. I also don't think anyone expected to enjoy it as much as they probably did. Meanwhile, INDIANA JONES opened slightly higher but I think the industry was expecting bigger things. I certainly don't think they thought the bat would best them; that's for sure.

Not surprisingly, the Top 10 contains no less than four animated features. While, MADAGASCAR: ESCAPE 2 AFRICA is still tracking, I doubt it will move much higher on the chart and surpass the two biggest kid flicks. When WALL-E opened, it too surpassed expectations. The response was extremely positive as well so prognosticators expected WALL-E to go on to become one of Pixar's biggest triumphs. The public did not follow up though and WALL-E merely went on to just pass last year's RATATOUILLE. And while WALL-E is the animated king domestically, KUNG FU PANDA whooped WALL-E's metal butt internationally, earning over $120 million more to become the third biggest international hit of the year. This may just be because KUNG FU PANDA came first and got the jump on WALL-E. Personally, I did my part as I saw WALL-E in the theatre three times. Yup, I'm that geeky.

Hollywood learned a valuable lesson this year, the value of the female dollar. For so many years, it was assumed that the box office was primarily male driven but three films in particular this year made it very clear that women should never be ignored. The most successful female driven pic was TWILIGHT but that also has a huge book following so it may not be fair to discount that. The other two films have huge built-in followings as well but SEX AND THE CITY and MAMMA MIA! made people take notice. SEX AND THE CITY opened to just under $60 million and went on to pull in $152 million, just missing the Top 10. MAMMA MIA! (which opened opposite THE DARK KNIGHT) pulled in half of the SEX AND THE CITY gals in its opening weekend but showed some very strong legs throughout the summer. Both films are also huge international hits. In fact, MAMMA MIA! did in the UK what THE DARK KNIGHT was not able to do domestically; it surpassed TITANIC as the biggest box office in UK history. I would never have expected that ... ever. Now, all they have to do is start making these female skewed pics better as I didn't care for any of these movies. And yes, I know I'm not a girl.

Speaking of movies I didn't like all that much, two other Top 10 hits need singling out as they were also both huge hits internationally as well. HANCOCK is the fourth biggest international hit of the year, proving that Will Smith is still one of the biggest stars on the planet. He followed that one up with his weakest performer in years, mind you, SEVEN POUNDS. James Bond also returned this year with QUANTUM OF SOLACE. The sequel to CASINO ROYALE just squeaked past its predecessor domestically but still has a ways to go to beat CASINO ROYALE's $594 million international total.

In total, 24 films passed the century mark to gross over $100 million. That total will likely go up to 26 if MARLEY & ME and YES MAN stay on track. And while I hate to end on a negative note, I can't get away with not pointing out what seem to me like the three biggest box office disappointments of 2008. I believe you may know them better as flops. When you take international gross into account though, none of them seem that bad. I mean I wouldn't want to lose that kind of money but I just pay to see movies, not to make them. The first high profile flop of 2008 was the Wachowski's SPEED RACER. Audiences scoffed at this colorful explosion and this lead to an $18 million opening weekend. Given the reported $120 million price tag, the future looked grim. SPEED RACER crossed the finish line with $93 million internationally, losing just under $30 million. I never understood why rival studios decided to open THE LOVE GURU and GET SMART on the same weekend. The Steve Carrell pic easily killed Mike Myers' disaster. THE LOVE GURU opened to a mere $13 million and finished its international run at $40 million. That's $22 million less that what it reportedly cost to make. And finally, I mentioned it first so I guess it is fitting to wrap things up with it. MEET DAVE, a movie about I believe Eddie Murphy's multiple personality disorder, I can't be sure, opened to a horrific $5 million. Luckily for Murphy, his international fans were more forgiving and the film ended up pulling in $50 million total, only $10 million less than its budget.

So that is it for 2008, folks. My prediction for biggest film of 2009 ... BRIDE WARS. That's right. You read that right.

Alright, I'm kidding ... again.

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