Box Office


As promising as the gloss critics had already given Straight Outta Compton, the multi-faceted bio-pic of rap group N.W.A. achieved something else this weekend that can only add to its sheen. Exceeding Universal’s best expectations, the first box-office estimates yesterday were in $56 million range — and today that amazing number was revised upwards to $60.2 mil. This places Straight Outta Compton in the top 5 best August openings of all time. (Guardians of the Galaxy and Bourne Ultimatum hold the #1 and #2 August records). With a rock-solid Cinemascore of ‘A’, Straight Outta Compton has vaulted to prominence with a reverberating thump of undeniable Oscar heat, as witnessed by a packed Academy screening yesterday that “drew a massive crowd and overwhelmingly favorable response,” according to reports from THR. I posted the red-band trailer back in February but I suppose we had more urgent things on our minds because 6 months ago it was greeted by crickets. Give a listen to Sasha and Jeff who were on the case for Straight Outta Compton in their recent return of OscarPoker.

I’m seeing Straight Outta Compton this afternoon. Meanwhile, a repost of the trailer.


“To a canary, the cat is the monster. We’re just used to being the cat.”

If all goes as expected, Jurassic World’s domestic box office is going to make it one of the top three highest grossing films of all time. We’re probably more in Avengers or Dark Knight territory than we are Avatar and Titanic territory but it’s still worth noting, and questioning, what it was about this film that hit so big with audiences. Jurassic World is already at number 7. By the end of this weekend it will likely become the number 5 highest grossing domestically. It should easily beat The Dark Knight at $534, then has to hit $623 to beat The Avengers. The film doesn’t seem to be slowing down, as least not any time soon. Someone on Twitter suggested it would hit $650, which would put it at number 3.

The film’s high box office could be down to several factors that make it stand out — one is the popularity of Chris Pratt, believe it or not. After Guardians of the Galaxy he became a box office draw, at least for young girls. Fans of the original movie, families, anyone wanting to see a big effects movie of the kind summers are made on. Finally, people will spend money to see something on screen they’ve never seen before. Sure, they’ve seen CGI dinos, but nothing like that image of the massive whale-like creature eating the Great White shark.


I had been avoiding the film, thinking it would be as bad as films are on this massive scale, but Jurassic World wasn’t bad. It was thoroughly entertaining and more importantly had its heart and consciousness in the right place; we’re entering an era where people are starting to slowly realize that we can’t keep treating animals the way we have been, certainly not a imprisoned performers for our entertainment. One can’t not notice the parallels between Jurassic and Sea World. It’s deliberate, down to the splash guards the spectators wear. Like the first Jurassic Park, the notion that we think ourselves special and entitled enough to keep intelligent animals in captivity for our own entertainment results in our own demise, for one. This message rings loudly and clearly in Jurassic World. We’re not too far away from the day SeaWorld will have to end its barbaric practice of keeping giant, magnificent orcas in tiny pools. If Jurassic Park makes people think of SeaWorld I hope it makes more money than Avatar, though it probably won’t. Avatar, too, had a eco-message attached. Jim Cameron and his wife Suzi Amos are working day in and day out to preserve the environment. How great it would be if the number 1 and number 2 highest grossing films of all time had an ecological message attached. Maybe then we would start to get the message.

As in the first film, the dinos can’t lose. Each time they’re on screen it’s thrilling to watch. The newly mutated dinosaur, a Frankenstein’s monster built to bring in more ticket buyers, is a far more cynical approach to the animals exploiters than the first Jurassic Park. They suggest that life will work itself out if humans would not only get out of the way but also stop breeding and testing things they don’t understand.

The best part of the film by far is Chris Pratt and his symbiotic relationship to the raptors. Even though mammals tend to be more of a bonding species that whatever dinosaurs are, birds can bond with and become attached to people, so too, then, must dinosaurs.

It’s easy to look at Jurassic World and see it as the beginning of the end. After all, this is all it takes to make shitloads of money now: branding and visual effects. We knew that already. Much has been made of the sexism inherent in the depiction of Bryce Dallas Howard’s character — and those criticisms are valid, especially when compared to how carefully the first film treated its female characters. The genius in the room was John Hammond’s granddaughter, Alexis, the young girl who figured out how to hack the computer system. In contrast, Howard’s character needs to have things mansplained to her throughout the film because she’s clearly too dumb to figure anything out for herself. Worse, she spends the whole movie running for her life in high heels. Trust me, not even Kim Kardashian would do that. The heels would be the first things to go.  In the end, though, does it really matter that much? It doesn’t to me. She’s a high-powered career woman who fights to save her nephews. This isn’t an “important film” but it’s a rousing summer movie.

Finally, it’s not really necessary anymore to build suspense the way Spielberg did. For instance, this masterful scene in Jurassic Park can’t be matched by anything in Jurassic World:

Chris Pratt riding the motorcycles as alpha to the raptors comes mighty close.

The ugly, however, is that this film keeps bringing us that much closer to tent poles obliterating the kinds of films studios make that we all like to see. When films can make this kind of money why would they bother trying to make anything else. At this point, though, there may be no going back.


Pixar’s Inside Out was in fewer theaters than Jurassic World but had almost the same per theater average, which means that if the movie had been in more theaters it very likely would have beaten the dino movie. Another surprise for the weekend is Dope’s impressive showing with 6 million. Dope was all the rage at Sundance and could be looking to rally for a screenplay nomination if nothing else. Although we know our pesky Oscar voters pretty well by now, don’t we? One has to psychoanalyze each critic when reading their reviews because there aren’t many trustworthy ones left – which is why the mixed Metacritic rating for Dope will inform its Oscar run only but will have zero impact on how the film sits over time. This is the new normal where film critics are concerned.


The headlines lately have ranged from shock to surprise to hope to despair about the films directed by women, films about women, and films aimed at women topping the box office. As we speak, Divergent, Cinderella and Fifty Shades of Grey will clock in as the year’s biggest hits, to say nothing of Home, which should take the box office this weekend despite the reviews.  I will come clean and say none of these movies are for me (well, maybe Home). I’m probably not representative of your average female and most of the films that top the box office have zero interest for me, even and especially superhero movies. Not even if you put women in them. They make me sad. But they’re not FOR me.

So this discussion isn’t about whether these movies SHOULD top the box office. It’s more about how no one should be that surprised that these movies do so well considering women are not only 51% of the population but they also represent (according to the MPAA’s box office report) the primary ticket buyers. Women will see movies aimed at men but men won’t see movies aimed at women (same goes for buyers and readers of books). It isn’t that women don’t buy tickets — it’s more that no one really wants to talk about the movies made for women that don’t also appeal to men in some fashion.

Here’s the thing, though. Women are the ones who have the purchasing power. Either Hollywood doesn’t acknowledge that or else has willfully ignored it. Either way, women are primarily the ones who drive family box office, for instance, the explosion of animated movies hitting theaters that parents (but probably moms more than dads but dads too I guess) will take their kids to see, good or bad.  They are unbelievably popular, especially their sequels.

Women’s power can be counted in many more areas than just “movies aimed at women.” They can be counted as spenders with family movies and with many films that have crossover appeal between men and women. Somehow, since they star men and are about men, they get discounted in the column that credits women driving their box office success.

I looked at the top twenty at the box office going back twenty years and what I found was that women are probably the more reliable spenders, and it’s really a huge and ugly lie that films have to be about men to be successful. It is simply that Hollywood will not take the risk probably because the majority of people who drive the buzz and conversation around film prefer films about men.

If women decided tomorrow to stop paying for movies that only starred men you would see a considerable drop in profit. Women have always loved going to the movies. They like action movies, science fiction, genre movies, horror, thrillers, romantic comedies and animated films. Their tastes are far more broad than Hollywood gives them credit for and are certainly more broad than their male counterparts.

As far as films being about women, those do well too, a lot better than anyone has given them credit for. Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lawrence, Kristen Stewart, Sandra Bullock, Meryl Streep are some of the names that have reliably driven franchises and hits over the past twenty years. It isn’t that audiences for leading ladies won’t turn out, it’s that the factory stopped really building them up the way they used to, finding projects for them that will be big hits. Sure, they do that for Lawrence but they could be doing it for many more.

Gillian Anderson, for instance, kicking ass in all kinds of ways in The Fall shows what a kind of powerhouse Anderson is when used properly – or at all. Films should be built around her — and why aren’t they? Take a guess and the answer to that guess probably doesn’t have a lot of pubic hair but is well versed on all manner of video games and Legos.

It will take a visionary to show Hollywood the way because right now they’re going to green light projects starring women as long as those appeal to the “Twilight crowd,” the tweener girls and younger. I’m telling you, they’re greatly missing out on a huge section of the population that would pay good money to see female driven dramas, thrillers and horror films.

Here are how women’s movies, so-called, have done over the past twenty years. Data collected from

You can see my research here in the form of Excel files – some of the choices are debatable. I broke them down by films where women accounted for their box office, where men mostly did, where both did, and which could be called “family films.”

I then tabulated them into pie charts.  What’s surprising to me is how dramatic their preference for making films with male protagonists is, considering how many women are out there. Women can take partial credit for family, for both and for “mostly women.” We know that men hardly ever see movies aimed only at women thus, those films have a disadvantage in where the dollars come from.

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 1.35.11 PM

Here is the breakdown of male to female to both. I counted films where the plot turned on a male or female protagonist. Both reference movies that were either ensembles or partner stories.

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Excel file that shows breakdown of ticket buyers

Excel file that shows breakdown of protagonist gender


Birdman did exceedingly well in limited release, with a $28,721 per theater average playing in just 50 locations. Whiplash needs a bit more word of mouth which it will get once the awards start rolling in. But with no major stars like Birdman has, it did respectable business with $5,778 per theater average in 46 locations, significantly less than Birdman. But with such a micro budget it doesn’t really matter if it makes bank at this stage.

Three documentaries hit theaters that are well worth seeing. They are doing decent box office in limited release as they make their Oscar qualifying runs. CitizenFour made $25,034 per theater average in just 5 locations, while Last Days in Vietnam and the Overnighters are also trucking along, making money.

For more, check out Indiewire.


David Fincher’s Gone Girl is about to make in 4 weeks what Benjamin Button made in 18. Argo totaled out at $136 million, and didn’t get where Gone Girl has gotten until about 18 weeks. Gone Girl will likely hit $150 million before it leaves theaters. It’s estimated at $124 million right now. It continues to hold the zeitgeist and remains the most talked about film of the year.

The remarkable thing about it is that Gone Girl was written solely by a woman, produced by a woman, and stars mostly women. Right now, it’s about to hit somewhere around $120 million. In 4 weeks. While the success of films like Hunger Games, The Fault in Our Stars, Maleficent and Frozen can be marginalized as appealing to young girls, Gone Girl appeals across the board to men and women, and especially adult women. This represents a significant step forward. The only remaining question is whether Oscar voters will embrace the film fully, as Kenneth Turan at the LA Times has done, or cooly reject it the way Manohla Dargis at the NY Times has done.

Recent history tells us that once the Academy narrowed the nominee list from ten to five, films by and about women have gotten the shaft; with only five choices the mostly male Academy leans towards male driven cinema, give or take a Gravity.

The box office story of Gone Girl is a very big deal, though you’d never know it by the way other pundits and reporters are talking about it. They’re mostly writing it off, probably because of the star power of Ben Affleck. It reminds me of other films pundits underestimated like Silence of the Lambs and The Departed. That means I think Gone Girl could be a very strong Best Picture contender, no matter what my colleagues like Scott Feinberg, Kris Tapley and Thelma Adams think. It could prove, by year’s end, that they turn out to be right. But something tells me that Gone Girl will make history, becoming the first film to be written by a woman who has adapted her own novel. The only other woman who managed this feat was for the play Little Foxes by Lillian Hellman.

Here are the previous Oscar winners and nominees who adapted their own work for the big screen:

John Irving won for Cider House Rules
Michael Blake won for Dances with Wolves
Alfred Uhry won for Driving Miss Daisy
Christopher Hampton won for Dangerous Liaisons
Peter Shaffer for Amadeus
Ernest Thompson for On Golden Pond
Mario Puzo, Francis Coppola for Godfather II
William Peter Blatty, The Exorcist
Mario Puzo, Francis Coppola for The Godfather
Paddy Chayefsky, Marty

Daniel Clowes and Tery Zwigoff for Ghost World
Scott Smith for The Simple Plan
Authur Miller for the Crucible
William Nicholson for Shadowlands
Michael Tolkin for The Player
Ron Kovic for Born on the 4th of July
Mark Medoff and Hesper Anderson for Children of a Lesser God
Horton Foote, Trip to Bountiful
Willy Russell for Educating Rita
Ronald Harwood for The Dresser
Harold Pinter for Betrayal
Bernard Slade for Same Time, Next year
Neil Simon, California Suite
Nicholas Meyer, The Seven Percent Solution
Neil Simon, The Sunshine Boys
Julian Barry, Lenny
Robert Anderson, The Nun’s Story
John Gay, Terence Rattigan, Separate Tables
Reginald Rose, 12 Angry Men
John Dighton, Roger MacDougall, Alexander Mackendrick, The Man in the White Suit
Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire
Graham Greene, The Fallen Idol

Lillian Hellman, Little Foxes (1941)

It shouldn’t need explaining, why this matters. Other writers should be covering it and noticing. You will have to draw your own conclusions about why they haven’t. But let it be known that David Fincher held out for Gillian Flynn. There was much pressure from the studio to have an established male screenwriter adapt it. Alfonso Cuaron held out for Sandra Bullock last year despite pressure to cast a male. While it seems archaic in 2014 that this is how you play Hollywood chess, but nonetheless, this is the reality. One great thing about Gone Girl is that it shows how much better things will be for women if we allow ourselves to dip into the darker, less flattering arenas of the female experience; forcing ourselves to only depict “positive role models” or politically correct feminist leaders on film – well, we severely limit our power as artists.

Gone Girl’s box office will make it yet another of 2014’s extraordinary success for women driven films, despite the pummeling they took from critics:

Maleficent – $241 million
Divergent – $150 million
Lucy – $126 million
Gone Girl – $124 million
The Fault in Our Stars – $124 million

Before we get to the part where the 6,000 mostly male voters in the Academy obliterate all hope for women in film, this is something to celebrate.

As an added bonus, just writing about this topic opens the door for an all-out troll offensive, a cacophony of caterwauling by men who hate it when women talk about women. You call it harassment. I call it fun.


Gone Girl vaults to the top of David Fincher’s box-office chart with the best opening weekend of his career. $38 million; that’s 4.5 million tickets. Panic Room made $30 million selling 5.1 million tickets 12 years ago (in 2002, when Ellar Coltrane was 6 years old). In 2010, The Social Network had a $22 million debut weekend and went on to earn $96 million. Last week 20th Century Fox was cautiously estimating Gone Girl would clock in with $22-25 million. It will be interesting to take a look at the demographic breakdown of Gone Girl ticket-buyers. We’ll add those stats as soon as I find them.


Our teenagers today should be happy that they have become so heavily branded they no longer have much of a choice over how they spend their money. If it is built, they will come. They want to have a good time and they don’t particularly care how that good time is had.  If you go by the critics, this is fairly devastating news — look at how bad the number one movie supposedly was.  The movie the critics liked is doing fine with $10 million and will gain in numbers moving into Oscar season. Oscar Island is alive and well, preserving and protecting movies that can still be defined as movies.




But seriously, what is there left to say? The only good news is that Lucy, an entirely original, non-branded sci-fi action movie is hanging in there, headed towards $100 million.  The rest is a shitsmear. But hey, bought and paid for by powerful corporations with clever ad teams to make sure that when kids head to the multiplex to find that which is familiar to them, they will find that which the corporations have made familiar to them.  Original ideas are SCARY. Quality takes a backseat to that which we know. McDonald’s makes roughly $30 billion annually. You think these people are fucking around? They are not fucking around. For some reason, this seems more bleak than usual – perhaps because the beautiful juxtaposition of Boyhood – a quality film about boys – and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles what most of our boys actually ARE – is a tad depressing.  But I guess there is no point in being a snob about it. It is what it is. Can I just say that I can’t wait for the Oscar movies to start rolling out.


Boyhood has already made a cool $7 mil at the box office and Oscar season hasn’t even started yet in earnest. It is somewhat heartening to know that a movie like that can still make enough money to justify its existence.  We are living the result of a multiple decade long audience conditioning experiment which has paid off well.  Back in the early days sequels and remakes were frowned upon as being unoriginal. But generations of kids raised on toys and merch branding have grown up to especially recognize those brands, to embrace them, to seek them out at the box office. It makes a difference of about $100 million if the blogger/critic buzz is good out of the gate. Good buzz can boost the product significantly. But we are still really talking about a familiar experience with a slightly different variation. It is the McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, Five Guys, In and Out method of choosing — less choices, heavy brand association, customer satisfaction very nearly guaranteed.  It’s depressing if you remember when it wasn’t like that. But maybe if you’ve grown up in the comfortable embrace of consumerism and brand culture you’re fine with it. We are what we buy – we wear our brands to help identify ourselves as types. Watching Mad Men ought to have given Americans a healthy education on what brand association/identity means. But it doesn’t matter anymore anyway because brands rule. Just look at your biggest money makes from 2014 so far:


Is there a single film on the top ten without an identifiable brand?

These are good movies, you will say, and they are. Within those parameters they have eked out something worthwhile. When McDonald’s comes out with a nice new coffee drink or salad we think, hey, it’s GOOD. Yes, it’s still McDonald’s but they are changing up our routine a bit.  But they are still perimeters. This is still the cage we find ourselves in, the zoo, the spaceship from Wall-E. We are trapped in our branded consumerist culture and there doesn’t appear to be a way out.

Except for every so often we are reminded that cinema DOES still exist. If you have the luxury of flying to Cannes every year you will see what world cinema is like where branded culture doesn’t dominate. You will find human stories. Remember people?  And you will find Richard Linklater’s Boyhood.  I find myself so looking forward to Oscar season because Oscar season means real movies again.  Oscar Island sits out in a sea of the same old shit and on it, movies that tell original stories.

So bravo to Boyhood for its $7 million. If we’re in the business of measuring numbers at the box office it’s a miracle when anything this good makes any money at all. I’m not saying these big dumb summer branded movies aren’t fun. They are. And within the parameters – inside the cage — it’s a great way to waste an afternoon. You get your bang for your buck, have a good time and hopefully go home and play with your Transformers or Legos – either that or introduce them to your kids. Many filmmakers within these parameters — INSIDE THE CAGE — do a little more than just entertain. Occasionally they enlighten – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Godzilla are two of these. We here in the cage are grateful to them for doing that.

I won’t stop paying for movies, even though I’m given the lucky advantage of getting to see most of them free. But the people who buy the tickets are the people whose happiness counts.  But it is my hope that people recognize, at the very least, that branded culture leads to fewer choices.

I find myself happy when even a movie like And So it Goes makes money at the box office. Any time a film that dwells outside the cage makes money it renews my hope that there are people out there who are actually going to the movies not because they’ve been marketed at so heavily they practically have no choice in the matter.  Parents are bringing their kids in droves as we speak and those kids are cutting their teeth on the familiar tropes and brands to ensure this money making machine does not stop any time soon.  But hopefully those kids will eventually hear about movies like Boyhood and that might make them decide to step outside the cage when they get old enough to do so.

Box office source: Box Office Mojo


Who’s smiling a wicked smile now? Just 3 months ago, financial experts were predicting doom and gloom for Disney’s Maleficent. On April 1, Wall Street analyst Marci Ryvicker wrote that Maleficent “is maybe too dark and scary to be profitable… expectations for a Maleficent write-off seem relatively widespread.” Another analyst said, “It’s definitely in the ‘not a sure thing’ bucket.”

And you want to be my latex salesman?

Fast forward to July 28. Maleficent has already earned $715 million worldwide and it’s just getting started in Japan (where Frozen earned $254 million). Maleficent is within a few million of passing X-Men: Days of Future Past to become the 2nd biggest movie of 2014. X-Men has yet to open in Russia but Maleficent is currently raking in 3 times more per week than Marvel’s mutant cluster-folk. Sure, Maleficent is rumored to have cost as much as $180 million but that’s starting to look like money very well-spent.

Maybe giant CGI dragon lizards aren’t so awful after all. Maybe we need to stop pigeon-holing movies as “targeted at children, targeted at teens, targeted at women, targeted at adults.”

The most successful movies don’t get this close to a billion dollars unless they entertain all kinds of people of all ages. At this level of bank, it’s silly to claim any credit for catering to a narrow demographic.

Maleficent’s audience is 60 percent female and 51 percent over the age of 25. Families account for 45 percent of attendance. Yes, it’s great that 6 out of 10 people in the audience are female. Brava! But do the math. Without men buying tickets too, Maleficent would have only earned $427 million. And then the Wall Street analysts would have been right: It would have lost money. A lot of money.

The same way Godzilla would have bombed without the 42% of its audience who are women and 60% of its audience who are older than 25.

I wish we could please stop talking about movies being made for teenagers or made for males. Stop talking about movies made for women or made for adults.

The best movies are made for movielovers. If they’re not, they crash and burn. Movies that are made for everyone can sometimes earn a billion dollars. I have trouble understanding why that’s a problem for some people.



Jennifer Lawrence has to be one of the biggest stars in the world right now. $158 million for the opening of Catching Fire. You can say it’s the franchise if you want. At the end of the day, does it really matter? Isn’t that just another way of saying it doesn’t count? Ditto for Sandra Bullock and the $245 million for Gravity. It doesn’t count because it’s an effects movie little boys love to. Either way, it’s kind of awesome.

How are the Best Picture contenders doing so far domestically? Gravity is number 5 on the year’s highest grossing films so far, beaten only tentpoles and sequels. Impressive, non?

1. Gravity – $245 million.
2. The Butler – $115 million.
3. Captain Phillips – $100 million, just passed the mark.
4. Prisoners – $60 million

In limited:
5. Blue Jasmine – $32 million
6. 12 Years a Slave – $29 million (not bad at all – heads towards $50)
7. Dallas Buyers Club – $6 million (in 666 theaters)

And how are the animated films shaking down so far?

1. Despicable Me 2 $366 million
2. Monsters University $268 million
4. The Croods $187 million
5. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 $114 million


Only three Best Picture nominees have ever been number one for 3 consecutive weeks, and no black writer/director is among them. This film should hit $100 million without blinking.  Here is how dominance at the box office has helped a film get a Best Picture nod, at the very least.

Three weeks at number one:
Unforgiven (winner)
Erin Brockovich
The Help
A Few Good Men
Fellowship of the Ring
Two Towers

Four weeks at number one:
Terms of Endearment (winner)
Platoon (winner)
Apollo 13
Saving Private Ryan
Return of the King (winner)

Five weeks at number one:
The Silence of the Lambs (winner)
The Sixth Sense
Rain Man (winner)

Six weeks at number one:
The Fugitive

Seven weeks at number one:
On Golden Pond

Continue reading…

All of the good word of mouth (sans some critics) has helped The Butler take the number one spot at the box office, very likely dragging people out who don’t go to the movies. There’s Oprah in the best performance she’s ever given (doesn’t get enough credit for being such a good actress), ditto Forest Whitaker, not to mention David Oyelowo. So, is it a film that is going to get anywhere near the critics awards? Probably not. But it is a story worth telling and a movie worth seeing. Full stop.

Indiewire’s Anne Thompson also points out that The Butler is on track to earn The Help kind of money, aka $169 million. So that’s good news, especially since no one can complain about how the maids were portrayed in an insulting manner, nevermind that those maids were Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. The Butler does not utilize the magical negro scenario in the least bit. So if it makes money from white ticket buyers? Well, that will be quite something.

Rolling Stone’s Gary Susman breaks it all down:

WINNER OF THE WEEK: Lee Daniels’ The Butler: Actually, there are a lot of winners associated with this one, starting with Harvey Weinstein, who milked a duplicate-title dispute with Warner Bros. for maximum publicity, resulting in his anointing director Lee Daniels as a household-name filmmaker. Then there’s Daniels; not only is he now a name-before-the-title brand name like Tyler Perry, but he also gets props for making a sweeping Civil Rights epic with an all-star cast for just $30 million, then having it open at No. 1 with an estimated $25.0 million on a summer weekend against three other new wide releases.



Pacific Rim is a lot better than the box office results of the weekend would have you believe. Articles keep popping up about how fanboys had no impact and Twitter buzz meant nothing because at the end of the weekend, the vile Grownups 2 and Despicable Me 2 beat the wholly original, delightfully engaging Pacific Rim. Is it really much of a surprise, though? Audiences have been conditioned over the past two generations to only like what’s familiar to them. They’d rather spend money on something they know they’re going to get (McDonald’s) than take a chance on something new.

The word on the street I was hearing was that to the target demographic it looked like Transformers vs. Godzilla. Without a brand name hook or a major star to draw audiences in, they opted for a sure bet over taking a risk. Is it any wonder Hollywood movies are taking a major dive in quality?

Given that Pacific Rim is a tentpole movie that will make most of its money overseas, it is one of the better films of its kind.   The reviews for Pacific Rim ranged from great to terrible – it was sort of all over the map. To my mind how much you love it will depend on how much you love the movie experience. Pacific Rim is a movie experience – it reminded me of seeing Star Wars when I was 11. It was unpredictable, funny, sweet, thrilling – and I never wanted it to end. Yet it managed just a 65 on Metacritic. Even still, Grown-ups 2 only managed a 20.  It will go down as one of the worst reviewed films of the year – but do you think that stopped audiences for going in one more time for the thing they’re most familiar with? The formula has been mastered, my friends.

Meanwhile, Fruitvale Station is doing HUGE business in limited release – it reminds me of the early Zero Dark Thirty numbers and I have a feeling it’s going to do upwards of $100 mil when all is said and done.

Also worth noting, Melissa McCarthy has now brought three films to $100 million – Bridesmaids, Identity Thief and now, The Heat. She can open movies – and is one of the few stars, male or female now, who can.


How has the year been shaking down in terms of box office numbers?  For the big movies, at the mid-year point, it looks like this (from Box Office Mojo):

1 Iron Man 3 $405,929,319 4,253
2 Man of Steel $263,691,000 4,207
3 Oz The Great and Powerful $234,832,779 3,912
4 Fast & Furious 6 $233,980,000 3,771
5 Star Trek Into Darkness $221,206,000 3,907
6 Monsters University $203,684,000 4,004
7 The Croods $184,611,163 4,065
8 World War Z $146,709,000 3,607
9 The Great Gatsby (2013) $142,505,950 3,550
10 Identity Thief $134,506,920 3,230
11 G.I. Joe: Retaliation $122,412,474 3,734
12 The Hangover Part III $110,787,926 3,565
13 Now You See Me $107,645,412 3,082
14 Epic $103,331,179 3,894
15 Olympus Has Fallen $98,836,300 3,106
16 42 $94,628,674 3,405
17 Oblivion $89,107,235 3,792
18 Despicable Me 2 $89,000,000 3,997
19 This is the End $77,439,000 3,055
20 Mama $71,628,180 2,781

Probably nothing will top Iron Man 3 this year.  What immediately jumps out at me is how much money Gatsby has made.  The other thing is that Jessica Chastain’s Mama is in the top twenty.  Melissa McCarthy’s Identify Thief is in the top ten – also noteworthy.




I was surprised to see how well Mud has been doing at the box office.  Amid the tent-pole productions, the smaller films aren’t doing badly. They’re doing good enough, I think, to keep hope alive.   Studios have cracked the code – give the people fewer choices and exactly what they want. Kind of like this.


Talk about top-heavy box-office. The Great Gatsby has collected $51 million on its opening weekend, coming in 2nd after Iron Man 3 with $72M. On virtually the same number of screens (3500 vs 3300) Gatsby earned 10x more than the closest 3rd place opener Pain and Gain at $5M.

Lincoln – $176 million – 12 Oscar nominations
Django Unchained – $156 million – 5 Oscar nominations
Les Miserables – $145 million – 8 Oscar nominations
Argo – $126 million – 7 Oscar nominations
Life of Pi – $109 million (but half a billion internationally) — 11 Oscar nominations
Silver Linings Playbook – $98 million (will hit $100 soon enough) — 8 Oscar nominations

Can anyone remember an Oscar year with that many $100 million dollar babies?  Not last year, not the year before or the year before that.  Why do you think they’re making this kind of coin? Could it be the studios gave up on “adult” audiences prematurely? Or could it be that good movies will always draw crowds of any age or demographic?

And if you stretch it beyond just the Best Picture race you have Skyfall, The Avengers and The Hobbit.  It’s a good year for Hollywood.

As we head into the Directors Guild this Saturday and this race comes to a sputtering close, it’s time to take another look at how the contenders have stacked up so far – in terms of international box office, really the big story is Life of Pi, which has made $525 million worldwide. But for these purposes, domestic box office only.

1. Lincoln $167 million
2. Django Unchained $147 million
3. Les Miserables $138 million
4. Argo $117 million
5. Life of Pi $103 million
6. Zero Dark Thirty $70 million
7. Silver Linings Playbook $70 million
8. Beasts of the Southern Wild $12 million
9. Amour $2 million

Total take: $841 million!

From $2 million all the way up to $167 million. That is a startling range.


For the first time in, like, forever most of the Oscar frontrunners for Best Picture have either made $100 million or are barreling towards that as we speak. Box office for “adult fare” has been off the charts this year and IS THE STORY of 2012. Any reporter not talking about the money and Oscar this year is not doing his or her job; much of the complaints over the past several years is that Oscar movies don’t make money anymore. Well, they’ve already made a shitload of bread, this, BEFORE Oscar nominations.  I myself have never seen a year like this one and I think it has a lot to do with the big studio movies stepping up and providing, for once, really great movies again.

1. Lincoln – at an astonishing $143 million, Lincoln has now topped both The King’s Speech and Slumdog Millionaire, and if it wins Best Picture it will be the highest grossing since Return of the King in 2003. How far can Lincoln go? It’s hard to say but Oscar nominations will certainly give it a bump.

2. Argo – at $110 million, Argo is still hanging in there and can only benefit from nominations. Whether it can catch Lincoln remains to be seen.

3. Django Unchained – at $106 million, Django clocked in at number two in its second week of release and looks to be a very strong earner.

4. Les Miserables – at $103 million its earned enough coin now not to be called a flop, no matter what happens to it.  Will it get to $150? $200? No one knows yet what this film’s fate will ultimately be.

5. Life of Pi – at $91 million, Life of Pi is proving that strong word of mouth really can drive box office even without any well known stars.  It’s a wondrous film and one that people “out there” are talking about.

That could be your Best Picture five but there are still two that are playing in limited release making hard core bucks while doing so:

1. Silver Linings Playbook – it’s at $34 million and still in only 745 theaters but word of mouth will keep ticking that upwards and all it needs is one big win (like the PGA or SAG ensemble) to drive that baby northward.

2. Zero Dark Thirty – it’s only at $4 million but its per theater average is off the hook, $45 thousand this weekend.

The real box office story this year, other than all of these $100 million babies in the running, is Lincoln. For a movie that was supposedly “a history lesson” and “homework” and “boring” to the target demo it sure is leaving everything else in the dust. At least so far anyway. Les Miserables and Django Unchained might pass it, since they zoomed to $100 mil in just two weeks.

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