Disney and "Marvel’s The Avengers” opened the summer by shattering the mark for the biggest box-office opening ever, with a staggering $207 million May debut. It was the year’s top film domestically ($623 million) and worldwide ($1.5 billion) -- and there's a sequel in the works, with Joss Whedon back to direct.
“Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure,” an indie designed to get toddlers up and screaming along, posted the worst wide opening ever with a microscopic $207 per-screen average in 2,160 theaters. Ken Viselman, the man responsible for bringing “Oogieloves” to the U.S., was undeterred by the dismal debut. “Now we’ve got the notoriety we were trying to get for weeks before we opened,” he said
“Dark Knight Rises” will forever be tied to the opening night tragedy at an Aurora, Colo., theater in which 12 died and 58 were injured. But the finale of director Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy still opened to more than $160 million, took in nearly $450 million in the U.S. and went on to gross $1.08 billion worldwide for Warner Bros.
For months before it came out, costly reshoots and budget overruns had Hollywood gossiping mercilessly about the disaster the Disney had on its hands with its $250 million "John Carter." Nothing the studio threw at the project -- eye-popping special effects, hunky Taylor Kitsch or the Pixar team -- could save it. "John Carter" opened to $30 million in March, went downhill from there, and Disney had to swallow $200 million.
“The Hunger Games” opened to $152 million on March 3 and stayed No. 1 for the next month, on its way to $408 million domestic haul. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, "Hunger Games" not only launched a franchise and helped Lionsgate step up to join the major studio players, it sent all the studios scurrying for the next hot young-adult property.
Taylor Kitsch and Rihanna, making her film debut, couldn't keep Universal’s “Battleship” from hitting the shoals at the U.S. box office. The studio's parent company Comcast took a financial beating on the $200 million aliens-at-sea saga, but it would have been worse if “Battleship” hadn’t already made $225 million abroad.
"Skyfall," the 23rd film in the 50-year-old James Bond franchise, has become the biggest moneymaker of all the 007 movies. Daniel Craig's third go-round as the super spy has brought in $279 million in the U.S. and $694 million overseas and is heading to $1 billion worldwide for Sony and MGM.
Adam Sandler’s first foray into R-rated comedy, “That’s My Boy,” landed with a thud, opening to just $13 million in June. It was his second dud in a row, coming on the heels of “Jack and Jill,” but he bounced back as the voice of Dracula in Sony’s surprise animated hit “Hotel Transylvania.”
“Twilight: Breaking Dawn – Part 2” brought down the curtain on the franchise that made girl power a box office phenomenon. It opened to $141 million in November and has taken in $780 million globally. Summit Entertainment’s tale of vampire love helped Lionsgate, which purchased Summit earlier this year, become the first independent studio to hit $1 billion in domestic box office.
The box-office pratfall suffered by Paramount’s “The Dictator” might have been a backlash to the relentless pre-release shilling by star Sacha Baron Cohen. The $65 million R-rated comedy finished behind “Battleship” when it opened in May, and has proved far more “Bruno” than “Borat,” grossing just $60 million since.
“The Amazing Spider-Man” set off fireworks with its $62 million July 4 opening weekend. But more importantly, with Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone in the lead roles, the first Spidey film in five years breathed new life into Sony’s moribund $2.5 billion franchise. It went on to take in more than $750 million worldwide.
Warner Bros. had high hopes for its $150 million remake of the campy 1970s TV show “Dark Shadows” starring Johnny Depp. But it failed to break $30 million when it opened in May, and it soon became clear Barnabas Collins wasn’t going to be the next Jack Sparrow.
Scrat and his pals in Fox’s “Ice Age: Continental Drift” have laughed their way to a staggering $875 million worldwide since opening in July, with the vast majority -- $714 million – of that coming from overseas. Jennifer Lopez, Queen Latifah and Aziz Ansari joined the voice cast for the fourth film in the franchise.
With its stars Tom Hanks and Halle Berry and $100 million budget, there was plenty of buzz around “Cloud Atlas,” the sci-fi epic from Andy and Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer. Their adaptation of David Mitchell's sprawling 2004 novel told six interweaving stories and the actors bent genders and eras playing multiple roles. U.S. audiences shrugged, however, and it has taken in less than $30 million.
"Ted," the greatest foul-mouthed teddy bear comedy ever made, opened to a sizzling $54 million that pulled the summer out of a June swoon and has gone on to make $218 million in the U.S. It launched the feature film career of director Seth MacFarlane, who also voiced the bad-boy bear. Its success overseas, where the R-rated "Ted" has made another $285 million, was another pleasant surprise for Universal.
Despite starring Tom Cruise – as aging rock icon Stacy Jaxx – Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand, the $75 million musical comedy “Rock of Ages” was a box-office bummer for Warner Bros., opening to $15 million in June.
Paul W. Anderson’s Scientology-inspired tale “The Master” marked the big-screen return of Joaquin Phoenix after a two-year absence. The Weinstein Company drama, which co-starred Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a charismatic smooth-talker, posted the year’s best limited opening in September with an eye-popping $147,252 average on five screens. It never gained wide box-office traction however, and has a domestic total of $16 million.
Universal insisted on eco-friendly corporate partners for its animated “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax,” which featured as its central character a bushy-bearded creature who “fights for the trees” and battles rampant industrialism. It stunned Hollywood with a $70 million March debut – enough green to match its budget – and has gone on to rake in nearly $350 million worldwide.
Channing Tatum produced and starred in Warner Bros.’ “Magic Mike,” based on his days as a male stripper in Miami. Made for $7 million, the steamy, R-rated “Mike” opened to $39 million and has gone to take in $165 million worldwide since. That's hot.
Prior to the release of “Argo,” director and star Ben Affleck said that he thought the thriller, based on the true story of the 1980 rescue of six diplomatic workers held hostage in Iran, would be a tough sell. He was wrong about that but right about everything else involving the movie; since opening in October, “Argo” has made more than $105 million domestically and the film, Affleck and screenwriter Chris Terrio are likely Oscar nominees.
Red-tressed Princess Merida and Disney hit the box-office bulls-eye with “Brave.” In May it opened to $66 million and became the 13th consecutive Pixar film to debut at No. 1. It has gone on to make $535 million and, with some help from Katniss Everdeen of “The Hunger Games,” spark a flurry of interest in archery among young girls.
Fox Searchlight’s “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is the year’s biggest independent film with $46 million at the U.S. box office. But the gentle tale of British pensioners moving to a hotel in India, directed by John Madden, has brought in an even more impressive $88 million internationally.
Dinesh D’Souza’s documentary “2016 Obama’s America” shocked Hollywood in its first week of wide release, with a per-screen average that topped the No. 1 film, “Expendables 2.” Conservatives rallied behind the film, it was screened at the GOP convention and it is the year’s highest grossing documentary with more than $33 million for distributor Rocky Mountain Pictures.
The critics savaged “Taken 2” but audiences didn’t care. Liam Neeson's vengeance saga opened to nearly $50 million for Fox in October, and has far out-earned the original with $365 million worldwide. There’ll be a “Taken 3.”
DreamWorks Animation and distributor Paramount had a June hit with “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted,” which not surprisingly did its best business abroad. It brought in a healthy $216 million in the U.S. but more than doubled that figure overseas on its way to a global total of $742 million.
With Steven Spielberg directing and two-time Best Actor Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis starring as the 16th president, DreamWorks’ and Disney’s “Lincoln” was always seen as worthy of awards consideration. But the box-office prospects of the talky historical drama were far less certain. “Lincoln” has raced past projections and leads all the Oscar Best Picture front-runners with $110 million.
The first installment of Peter Jackson’s three-part prequel to his “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” blew past the record for a December opening with an $85 million first weekend. It’s passed the $100 million mark in less than a week, and should be bringing Warner Bros. box office returns for months to come. Get used to it – the second and third parts of “The Hobbit” are due in 2013 and 2014.
How much money could a $17 million musical comedy about competitive college a cappella singing possibly make? With Anna Kendrick starring and a breakout performance by Rebel Wilson, “Pitch Perfect” has hit the right notes with more than “Gleeks,” and taken in nearly $80 million for Universal since opening in September.
Wes Anderson's quirky tale of tween love “Moonrise Kingdom” has taken in more than $45 million for Focus Features since opening in May. That's pretty good for an independent film with a $17 million production budget. Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward were the two young sweethearts, and Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Billy Murray, Ed Norton and Jason Schwartzman were part of a winning ensemble cast.
Blaxploitation and spaghetti Westerns mix deliciously in Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained,” according to TheWrap’s movie critic Alonso Duralde. Set to debut on Christmas Day for the Weinstein Company, the violent, R-rated drama features Jamie Foxx as Django, a slave-turned-hero who teams up with bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). They search for Django’s wife (Kerry Washington), who is controlled by Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).
Universal’s star-studded adaptation of one of the world’s most popular musicals will debut in the U.S. on Christmas Day. With Tom Hooper directing, and stars like Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and Russell Crowe warbling, the studio hopes it can match the success of one of its more upbeat screen musicals, 2008’s “Mamma Mia,” which took in $600 million worldwide.
Hollywood is on its way to the best year in box-office history, and it's been quite a ride. The year featured the biggest opening weekend ever ("Marvel's the Avengers") -- and the worst, ("Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure"). Superheroes and sequels ruled summer, but "The Hunger Games" had already brought the heat in spring, and fall fell to the lowest levels since post 9/11 -- until a record Thanksgiving. Here are some landmark moments.