The Year’s 9 Biggest Payoffs: ‘Insidious: Chapter 2’ Tops Tony Stark and Katniss Everdeen

None of the year’s biggest films — not “Iron Man,” “Hunger Games” nor “The Hobbit” — offered as good a return on investment as “Insidious: Chapter 2”

Last Updated: July 10, 2014 @ 7:37 PM

“Iron Man 3” was the year’s highest-grossing movie and “Despicable Me 2” its highest-grossing animated movie. Yet grosses aren’t everything in modern Hollywood.

Profitability matters most to studios, which are subsidiaries of massive corporations. To justify more spending, they need to prove that spending helped the bottom line, and that the movie posted a good return on investment (commonly known as ROI).

TheWrap counted down the biggest payoffs and bombs of summer a few months ago, and we decided to bring the idea back for the whole year. We covered the bombs here, so we’re focused on the success stories.

Also read: Is ’47 Ronin’ One of 2013’s Biggest Bombs?

The best investment of 2013 was “Insidious: Chapter 2,” released by the all but defunct FilmDistrict and myriad international partners. The horror film grossed $160 million worldwide from a reported budget of just $5 million.

The second most successful film? “The Purge.” The fourth? “The Conjuring.”

Also read: Best & Worst of 2013: TheWrap’s Year-End Review

Now you see why every studio wants to birth its own low-budget horror franchise.

How do we calculate the most lucrative movies of the year?

Studios’ immense gift for disguising cost and fudging numbers makes precision a challenge. Yet it’s still possible to give a general sense of a movie’s profitability with a back of the envelope calculation.

To calculate ROI for a movie, you take how much it grossed, subtract how much it cost and then divide that figure by how much it cost.

For example, “Insidious: Chapter 2” cost $5 million to make. It grossed $160.4 million. So here’s how we did it: $160.4M- $5M = $155.4M. $155.4M/$5M = 31.1.

Here are the year’s nine most successful movies:

(Economists, we look forward to your snarky comments. Our response? Hey studios, show us the real numbers!)

Screen shot 2013-12-30 at 1.01.09 PM

Source: Box Office Mojo

For the record: An earlier version of this post featured the name ‘Katniss Evergreen’ in the headline. This was a mistaken reference to the protagonist of “The Hunger Games,” who goes by the name Katniss Everdeen. TheWrap regrets the error. TheWrap has also updated this post to include “Instructions Not Included,” which Lionsgate pointed out was missing from the list.