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A Look at The Biggest Box Office Stories from 1972-present (THABOS: The History of Amazing Box Office Stories) | 2016 p. 61 - Rogue Dory: Civil War in The Jungle Book of Zootopia

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This was a really fun stroll down memory lane. Great job!


In reading over it, I’m reminded of just how many great theatrical viewing experiences I had in 2008. I saw The Dark Knight twice on its first day, and the crowds had unreal energy; with all the hype leading up to its release, there was this shared sense that we were seeing something special. The opening day screening for Iron Man was also pretty wild, though it’s weird to think now that barely anyone stuck around for the post-credits scene (the friends I went with had no idea why I was insisting on sitting through the credits). And though I had totally forgotten that the head-in-ass scene was even a thing, reading about it in the Hancock write-up brought me right back to a sold out opening night audience totally losing its shit when that happened.

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Some years produce no lasting pop culture figures or memories. Other years have lots of them. 2008 was a year that transformed pop culture- probably the most impactful year from a media-perspective since at least 1984. Ledger's death. The Giants defeated the unbeatable GOAT Patriots in one of the most watched Super Bowls ever. Katy Perry dominates summer and Lady Gaga dominates fall. Obama was obviously an all-timer popular candidate at the time of his election whose cool-celebrity status dwarfed any political since JFK. With movies, there was only one.


The Dark Knight, the most influential film of the new millennium, a film whose immediate pop-culture impact is rivaled only by Black Panther. How sad it is to know the stars of those 2 films never got to see their true sequel. TDK would have been a big hit regardless but Ledger's death put it way over the edge. TDK didn't just open massively but it had utterly insane legs. It's first Tuesday gross was the holiest shit of "holy shit" moments from that run - it was insane. Spider-man before and Avengers after experienced huge opening blow-ups and elite legs thanks to stellar WOM but TDK had WOM on another level. It wasn't just crowd pleasing. It was viewed a pure art. The Academy Awards changed their rules! due to the outrage at TDK missing out a Best Picture nomination. So many rip offs came after it.


TDK opening no doubt a unique energy around it because unlike Spider-man, Star Wars, Avengers etc which heavily rely on families, this was almost exclusively the teenage and older crowd except it had an utter stranglehold on their interest. Matrix Reloaded was somewhat similar in this regard and we have not had a film create such deafening buzz with that particular age group since then. Then again, THE BATMAN teaser has over 70 million Youtube views, so maybe Batmania will cometh once again next year.


 It must be noted that TDK's $533m domestic haul was without any 3D tickets. No 3D and Avatar doesn't beat TDK, Avengers doesn't beat TDK, Black Panther doesn't beat TDK (with inflation factored in) it's arguable that Endgame's total is lower too. 

Edited by excel1

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Also with TDK.....Nolan actually killed the hero's girlfriend. There was gasps in the theater when Rachel was blown to bits. That was the epitome of "shit just got real". It had been a long time since one of this big hero movies actually killed the female lead - and mid-movie!


TDK was billed as "welcome to a world without rules" & when Rachel died, it all came true. The entire 2nd half of the film, you felt like truly anything could happen....it had been a while since that type of tension. 

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Definitely a nostalgia trip. Baumer and I were the most active members on BOM in 2002 and have lots of stories from this era. My boxoffice forum experiences go back to the mid to late 1990s. There was one movie discussion site in particular which had a boxoffice thread.  Happy to share Titanic, Lost World, MBFGW, TPM, etc reaction stories to anyone interested.

I really appreciate these year to year deep dives. Thanks for your hard work!












Vote Trump 2020

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Just a heads up that the 2009 retrospective will be up and running tonight. It's gonna be a real exciting one full of breakouts nobody saw coming, Stephanie Meyer's massive popularity boost, several hit animated films, and of course the grand poobah of blockbuster films. Get ready!

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Barack Obama is inaugurated with record crowds, the longest total solar eclipse arrived, and Baghdad was hit by several attacks. All the while, the world was ravaged by the H1N1 pandemic. I’m sure we won’t talk about any other pandemics in the future. The World Digital Library is launched by UNESCO and Windows 7 was launched by Microsoft.


In television, after 15 years playing after Leno, The Tonight Show saw a new host with Conan O’Brien, which soon resulted in one of the biggest talk show host conundrums in history. Oprah Winfrey also announced she would end her talk show in 2011. Nickelodeon saw its 30th anniversary and its flagship series Spongebob Squarepants saw its 10th. Alongside a new logo, a rebrand of its sister channels, and acquiring Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it was a big year for the channel.


The Simpsons moved to HD for the first time, as did many other cable channels and TV productions. However, the series also saw a major milestone with its 21st season, becoming the longest-running prime-time series ever. Sesame Street saw its 40th anniversary as well. In terms of finales, it was a bit small, with shows like Battlestar Galactica, ER, Monk, Everybody Hates Chris and My Name is Earl. Premieres were another story, with the big ones including RuPaul’s Drag Race, Parks and Recreation, Shark Tank, The Vampire Diaries, Archer, Community, The Good Wife, Modern Family, and Glee.


The biggest thing for video games that year was the release of Minecraft. Hailed as a masterpiece and a bastion for creativity, Minecraft would go on to become one of the most iconic video games ever, with more than 200 million copies sold and an active community 11 years later. Other major releases include Assassin’s Creed II, Modern Warfare 2, Uncharted 2, Left 4 Dead 2, Angry Birds, Borderlands, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and New Super Mario Bros. Wii, the last one another major hit going on to sell over 30 million copies worldwide.


For music, this was the year Drake saw mainstream recognition, while Lady Gaga became the biggest solo artist on the Billboard charts. Kris Allen wins over Adam Lambert, though the latter would go on to be a staple in future Queen concerts. Lin-Manuel Miranda also performed a rap about Alexander Hamilton at the White House. I’m sure that won’t lead to anything.


Of course the biggest music headline was the sudden passing of Michael Jackson. Despite years of controversy, the world was shaken by his death, resulting in his memorial service becoming one of the biggest livestream events in history. Other notable deaths include John Updike, Bea Arthur, Farrah Fawcett, who died on the same day as MJ, Walter Kronkite, Ted Kennedy, and Patrick Swayze.


For movies, the biggest bombshell was the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announcing an expansion of Best Picture nominees, going from five to 10, allowing for more opportunities for both niche and mainstream fare to find a place on the list. Disney would also buy Marvel Comics at the end of the year. Keep that little tidbit in mind, because it’ll become very important, especially after 2012. And at the box office, it was a very exciting year. Seven movies hit the top 50 all-time list, with both old and new franchises seeing incredible success.


Of course, we all know the big story here. The story that is so massive, so important, and so incredible, it was 15 years in the making. So, let’s get together and discuss James Cameron’s groundbreaking feat, Avatar


In the year 2154, the Earth is going through a severe energy crisis after depleting its natural resources. The world is in peril which prompts the government to travel to the far-off land of Pandora, a lush habitable moon home to the Na’vi, an indigenous alien species. The atmosphere of Pandora is poisonous to humans, so the only way they can traverse is through avatars, where humans control genetically engineered Na’vi bodies through the brain. The military plans to rob Pandora of a mineral known as unobtanium, and it’s here we follow Jake Sully, a paraplegic man who uses the Avatar Project to know more about the Na’vi people and get his team closer to unobtanium. But as he becomes closer to the culture and people, Jake realizes he has a new goal.


The first ideas saw life in the 1970s, but development for James Cameron’s project truly began in 1994. This 80-page treatment served as a love letter to every science fiction novel he ever read, as well as the adventure novels written by Edgar Rice Burroughs and H. Rider Haggard. And always the man who loved to push the boundaries of special effects, Avatar was set to be a breakthrough in CGI technology. His idea was creating six or so computer-generated actors on a $100 million budget. This was going to be his grand follow-up to Titanic, with plans for a 1999 release. But because Cameron felt the technology was not there yet for believable synthetic actors, the idea languished in development hell, with his next focus being documentary films and refining the technology.


Finally, in 2006, after seeing the work done on CG characters like Gollum, King Kong, and Davy Jones, Cameron finally began developing his Avatar project. Cameron worked with a slew of designers to bring the world of Pandora to life, with artists like Wayne Barlowe, Jordu Schell, Stan Winston, and the team at Weta Digital, with years dedicated to the production design and art direction. Cameron also announced he was going to create a unique Reality Camera System that allowed him to shoot the film in stereoscopic 3D.




But even after Cameron went gung-ho on this project, and even after he directed the biggest film ever made, the Fox executives were still unsure that this bizarre, ultra-expensive project of his would really turn into anything successful. James Cameron would rewrite the script countless times to keep the cost down, but Fox still didn’t budge. The wait for a greenlight was so slow, Cameron began having fun with the executives. Cameron actually placed a traffic light with the amber signal lit up outside of co-producer Jon Landau’s office, showcasing the uncertain future of Avatar


And with Fox’s constant cold feet over the situation, Cameron had enough. He began shopping the project to other studios and actually brought the film over to Walt Disney Studios, showcasing a proof of concept to then chairman Dick Cook. Disney was very, very close to taking over the project, but Fox exercised their right to first refusal and committed to the project in 2006, with a $237 million production budget. I could make a joke about this, but I’m not going to. After Fox’s commitment, one of the executives went up to Cameron and Landau saying “I don't know if we're crazier for letting you do this, or if you're crazier for thinking you can do this.”


During the scripting process, Cameron used many influences apart from the sci-fi novels he loved reading as a kid. The themes found in works like At Play in the Fields of the Lord, The Emerald Forest, Princess Mononoke, Dances with Wolves, and Ghost in the Shell were all an influence in terms of themes and concepts. Landmarks like the Huangshuan mountains were also used as reference for the production design. But for the designs of the Na’vi, 10 foot tall blue humanoid creatures, this actually came from Cameron’s mother. James’ mother had a dream once where she saw a 12 foot tall blue-skinned woman. This image stuck with Cameron, allowing him to create a unique species design unlike anything else.


Filming for Avatar finally began in April 2007, being designed as a hybrid featuring full live-action shoots combined with computer-generated characters and environments with the Digital 3D Fusion Camera System created by Cameron himself. In fact, many unique tools were used on this film for the first time. For the motion-capture filming, Cameron created his own virtual camera system that showed the actors’ virtual counterparts in their digital surroundings in real time. This allowed Cameron to adjust and direct scenes as if he was shooting them in live-action, allowing for greater flow and control on the project. Cameron also had several unique innovations placed upon Weta Digital, including a new lighting system for Pandora’s jungle, a mocap stage six times bigger than usual, and new and improved innovations in performance capture that allow for facial expressions to be captured and recorded seamlessly for the animators.


So when filming was wrapped up, word on the film was kind of silent. Nobody knew what the film was going to look like and the film shrouded itself in secrecy. That is until July 2009 when the team arrived at San Diego Comic-Con. 25 minutes of footage was screened to attendees in 3D, with public reveals set for August 21, Avatar Day. The first trailer released online, becoming one of the highest-viewed in the history of film marketing. A 3.5 minute long trailer debuted at a Cowboys game on the Diamond Vision screen and during TV broadcasts, allegedly the highest-viewed trailer event in history.




Yet despite such large trailer launches and several promotional partners, there was skepticism over the film’s commercial potential. Critics and fan communities felt the film’s enormous budget, weird concept and uncanny valley characters would make this a tough sell to people. The budget in particular practically required the film to earn heavy rewatches to see any sort of success. On the flip side, box office analysts believed the film had strong potential, especially with 3-D movies becoming more and more popular with the masses. Projections had the film opening in the $60 million range. Cameron himself said he felt pressure from all the predictions, but used said pressure to make the best film he could, hoping people would enjoy what he created. And sure enough, people did.


With a massive marketing budget and solid reviews from critics, Avatar opened on December 18 to insane success. Despite blizzards across the East Coast, Avatar landed with $77 million on its opening weekend, the second-highest opening weekend for a December title, only behind I Am Legend. This was already an amazing debut, and a fitting one as Titanic saw the second-biggest December debut as well. And thanks to great reception by audiences and critics, it seemed like the film was poised to have strong legs. But one weekend later, things got crazy.


Fueled by Christmas Day landing on a Friday, Avatar led the charge that weekend with the largest weekend box office ever recorded. And what did Avatar gross that weekend? $75.6 million. That’s right, it saw only a 2% drop from the previous weekend, and managed to beat out Dark Knight to have the largest second weekend for any film in history. Sure it was the holidays, but there was still plenty of competition that weekend, and audience demand was already fulfilled.


On its third weekend, New Year’s Day being Friday, Avatar saw yet another incredible hold, dropping only 9% for a $68.5 million haul. This was by far the biggest third weekend ever, beating out Spider-Man’s $45 million gross, and led Avatar to earn $352.1 million in 17 days, the second-largest haul for a film at that point in time, only behind The Dark Knight. It was clear at this rate Avatar was set to dethrone the Batman film, which had a significantly larger head start, and become the second-biggest film domestically, only behind Titanic.


Weekend four saw Avatar at #1 again, seeing the smallest decline in the top 10 with 27% for a $50.3 million gross, and beating out Titanic for the biggest fourth weekend for any movie ever. Its first 24 days saw it earn $430.8 million, earning #7 in the all-time domestic list.


For the fifth weekend in a row, MLK weekend, Avatar earned a 4-Day worth of $54.4 million, allowing it to pass the $500 million mark in 32 days, the fastest a film had ever passed the mark. Weekend six saw an 18% drop from the 3-Day for $34.9 million, the largest sixth weekend for any movie ever. In fact, this was the first time since Titanic a film ever stayed #1 for six weekends in a row. This weekend also saw Avatar finally topple The Dark Knight, and it was clear to ask at this point not if the Na’vi film would best Titanic, but when.


Sure enough, after a seventh consecutive #1, Avatar finally toppled Titanic on the domestic charts on its 47th day of release. It felt surreal to read Avatar became #1 all those years ago, and still kind of is years later. It would stay in the top 10 for seven more weeks, going above and beyond Titanic’s gross, and finishing with $749.8 million in the United States and Canada. A re-release in August 2010 with new footage saw it earn an extra $10.7 million, resulting in a final total of $760.5 million in the US and Canada.




Overseas was just as interesting a story. Arguably, far more than the US. Opening with the United States were 100 other territories, all of which combined to earn $159.2 million. With a global opening of $241.6 million, Avatar earned itself the ninth-largest global opening weekend ever and the biggest for an original film.


International holds were just as impressive as here in the States, as Christmas weekend saw Avatar earn $145 million internationally, resulting in $618 million in just under two weeks. And on its nineteenth day of release, just as New Year’s hit, Avatar hit a billion in record time. With similar legs for days across almost all regions, Avatar continued to bring in the crowds. Then, on January 25, the 41st day of release, the unthinkable happened. James Cameron unseated his own film for worldwide dominance, as Avatar became the highest-grossing film of all time. January 31 would see it cross $2 billion worldwide, the first time ever a film reached such a milestone. It continued to truck along with sexy legs and piles of money dumped at Jimbo’s house, with $1.999 billion overseas for a worldwide total of $2.749 billion. The aforementioned re-release gave the film $2.029 billion overseas and $2.790 billion worldwide.


It’s really surreal to think about. Not only did Avatar beat out Titanic, it more than exceeded the film’s grosses, with it nearing $3 billion even ignoring its re-release. And apart from Cameron and VFX wizardry, it was a completely original work that only sold itself on its action and otherworldly setting. Why on Earth did this film make as much as it did? How did it excel at everything it set out to do? How did it stay strong for ten whole years, only being unseated by a feature that needed dozens of movies to help sustain hype?


Like Dark Knight, everybody has their own opinion why Avatar made the money it made. As for the opinion of this humble admin of a box office forum, Avatar worked as well as it did because of its humanity. Strange to say for a film that prides itself on otherworldly beings, but Avatar’s story is one that’s poignant for everybody. While not the first story to tackle the ideas of man vs. nature and the destruction of mankind towards the indigenous and its civilization, this one contextualized it into a way that made it seem like it was never seen before. The world of Pandora is unlike anything else, with astonishing landscapes and customs that is both gorgeous to view and still understandable. The Na’vi have something beautiful and human to their way of life that feels distant from our lifestyle more and more every year. And you can see it in every frame as Cameron transports us to something so pure and beautiful.


And I guess the growing popularity of 3D and groundbreaking technology helped too. Avatar would of course go on to have its own solid franchise. A Cirque du Soleil show in 2015. A section in Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 2017. But surprisingly, the franchise was kind of dormant. Still a popular movie to be sure, but not known that seemed to have much in the way of merchandise or major follow-ups. But this was because James Cameron has something really special up his sleeve that is set to unleash.


Immediately after Avatar’s success, Cameron confirmed he had two sequels in the works set for 2014. This would expand to four sequels, and after countless delays, Avatar 2 is allegedly set for release in December 2022 allegedly in theaters, with Avatar 3, 4, and 5 set for December 2024, 2026, and 2028 respectively. Motion-capture filming for Avatar 2 and 3 were already finished, and while COVID-19 has caused a snag in live-action filming, the crew has returned to filming these moments this past June and Avatar 2 is now fully completed in terms of filming.


With Cameron set to blow our minds once again, as well as the Disney hype machine behind the promos and advertising, one question remains: assuming theaters don’t die a tragic death, what will these Avatar sequels do? Can they soar to new heights the box office world has never seen? Will they drop like a rock? What else can Jimbo do with the world of Pandora? We won’t know until 2022 (again, allegedly), but until then, we can only dream.

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Oh yeah, other movies came out this year. Second place in the US and Canada and fourth worldwide was the hotly-anticipated sequel Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Sam Witwicky is once again caught in the middle of the Autobot/Decepticon war. This time dealing with strange visions of Cybertronian symbols, Sam is hunted by the Decepticons under the commands of an ancient Decepticon simply known as The Fallen. The Fallen plans to destroy the Sun and therefore Earth itself, and the Autobots gotta stop him.


I’ve talked about the Writer’s Strike a few times, and this was yet another instance of the film being hampered due to its impact. A Transformers sequel was an inevitability after the first film’s massive success, and Paramount announced a 2009 release date with an upgraded $200 million budget. But as the film was being worked on, both WGA strike and the potential DGA strike made things a challenge for the creative team. Michael Bay found himself creating animatics for action sequences for the sequel with rejected characters from the first film. This would allow animators something to work with in case Bay had to go on strike with his fellow members, though that thankfully didn’t happen.


Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman returned as writers here, along with newbie Ehren Kruger, but were forced to interrupt due to the WGA strike. This meant the writers spent two weeks writing up a treatment, finishing one night before the strike began. Bay would then expand the work into a 60-page scriptment. After the strike, all four men began working to finish the screenplay. The process took four months, with them all locked in hotel rooms. Kruger worked in his own room while Orci, Kurtzman and Bay checked on each other’s work twice a day.


One of the main things Bay wanted in this sequel were more robots. The first Transformers purposely put in as few robots as possible to help keep costs down and ensure newcomers accepted the movie. But after the first film became a huge hit, and Bay was free to use all the money he could ever want, Optimus Prime got way more screentime, and more fan favorites emerged, going from 14 robots in movie 1 to 46 in movie 2. Bay also made the film bigger by deciding to shoot the film with IMAX cameras. Inspired by Papa Nolan’s work in The Dark Knight, three action sequences in the film were shot in IMAX 2D. This only further boosted the scope and scale Revenge of the Fallen promised.




Filming took place across the globe to further the adventure. The climax was shot over three days in Egypt, while the country of Jordan was another location. Yet Pennsylvania, especially in Philadelphia, was a major hotspot, including several scenes shot in UPenn. In a pretty funny story, one sequence was shot in “The Castle” at UPenn, but the university refused to have their school be name-dropped, as the sequence showcased Sam’s mother eating pot brownies, believing it would give the school a bad name. Not making a word of that up.


Paramount and Hasbro put all their marketing muscle into this feature, with a $150 million marketing budget with several promotion deals and product tie-ins, including video games and comic books used to help sell the movie. Paramount knew they had a huge hit on their hands, and they were going to keep it in the public consciousness for as long as possible. Truly nothing could stand in its way.


And sure enough, nothing really did stand in the movie’s way. Revenge of the Fallen was savaged by critics, with Roger Ebert calling it “a horrible experience of unbearable length” and Peter Travers arguing it could be the worst film of the decade. That must have hurt. To say nothing of the characters of Skids and Mudflap, who were derided for being racial stereotypes.  One of them was even voiced by Mr. Spongebob himself Tom Kenny. But even with all the terrible reception, this sequel opened on June 24 to roaring success. $109 million for FSS and $200.1 million for the 5-Day. This served as the second-biggest first five days for any movie, only behind The Dark Knight one year prior, and the biggest June opening ever. It’s kind of weird to think that this movie of all things could have probably beaten out The Dark Knight if it opened on a Friday. Guess it goes to show how much the first Transformers meant to people and the excitement people had on this next installment.


And despite negative reviews, the film managed to pull in plenty of crowds in the coming weeks throughout the world, with $402.1 million domestically and $836.3 million worldwide. This was more than sufficient business and showed that Transformers was here to stay and people were craving more. And since Michael Bay and Hasbro like money, robot mayhem was sure to arrive in the years to come.


Third domestic and second worldwide was the penultimate (kind of) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Harry’s on his sixth year at Hogwarts, and along with romance issues, the boy wizard finds an old book marked “the property of the Half-Blood Prince”, which lets him discover more of Lord Voldemort’s past.


For the director, a handful of figures who worked on or were considered for previous films were considered. Alfonso Cuaron expressed interest, while Guillermo del Toro turned down the film in favor of Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Yet at the end of the day, David Yates returned to the director’s chair, being chosen while Order of the Phoenix was still being worked on. Warner, Heyman and Rowling were all impressed with Yates’ work during post-production, and asked him to start pre-production for Half-Blood Prince, which Yates developed as “a cross between the chills of Prisoner of Azkaban and the fantastical adventure of Goblet of Fire."


While Half-Blood Prince continued to have the memorable elements that made it so beloved by fans, one of the more unique aspects of the film, of all things, was its cinematography. The film’s DP was Bruno Delbonnel, best known for films like Amelie and A Very Long Engagement. Delbonnel’s lighting was the darkest and moodiest the franchise had ever seen, creating the idea where the school was this dark character in the narrative. Yates loved the idea, and while Warner Bros. was hesitant on the lack of colors, the suits changed their minds upon seeing five minutes of footage.


Delbonnel’s work was reminiscent of Rembrandt in terms of palette and lighting, while Yates utilized plenty of close-ups and angles to help make the film more rich and distinct in the cinematography department. This would result in a Best Cinematography nomination at the Academy Awards, the first and only time a Potter film would be nominated in that category.


Half-Blood Prince was set to follow in the footsteps of the first two films and Goblet of Fire with a release pre-Thanksgiving on November 21, 2008. Yet despite the film already being completed, Warner Bros. did the unthinkable and delayed the movie eight whole months, all the way to July 15, 2009. The reasoning is a long and complicated one, but WB chief Alan Horn basically explained that the studio wanted a major blockbuster set for the summer of 2009, and with the WGA strike delaying all future projects, they needed something to fill the void and give them an easy hit that summer, especially after The Dark Knight made all the money.




This earned a lot of backlash from Potter fans who wanted the movie sooner rather than later, with petitions circulating the Internet. Entertainment Weekly, also owned by Time Warner, even made a joke about the last-minute delay after having Half-Blood Prince serve as the cover story for their Fall Movie Preview. But in the end, everybody got what they wanted. Not only did its original release date get taken by Twilight, which became its own ultra-successful young adult franchise, Warner Bros. still had Potterheads invested enough to wait a few more months to see the movie they were so excited about.


Records were already shattered for midnight screenings, as the film saw $22.8 million, eclipsing Order of the Phoenix’s $12 million with a similar release strategy. This would of course lead to the third-biggest opening Wednesday of all time with $58.2 million. This naturally lead to a frontloaded but still meaty gross of $158 million in the first five days, ahead of Order of the Phoenix’s $139.7 million.


And thanks to that savvy five-day opening, Half-Blood Prince opened at the same time as the rest of the world. Alongside $236 million in other territories, the film earned a worldwide opening of $394 million, dethroning Spider-Man 3 for the highest global opening for any film ever. Half-Blood Prince continued Potter’s reign at multiplexes, with its total finishing at $301.9 million domestically, the second-biggest Potter film in the region at the time, and $933.9 million worldwide, the third-biggest Potter film worldwide.


And yet again, this served as another roaring success for WB, Rowling, and co. as Pottermania continued to keep people invested with each new movie adaptation. But with six out of seven books all wrapped up, there was an endgame. Potter was close to its end, and everybody realized they couldn’t keep the cash cow from going. Thankfully, all parties found a nifty loophole for adapting the final book in the series.


Fourth place (seventh worldwide) was when Stephanie Meyer’s popularity exploded, with The Twilight Saga: New Moon. After Edward leaves Bella after an attack nearly claimed her life, Bella finds comfort with Jacob Black, a good friend of hers who also happens to be a werewolf. Little does Bella know she is thrust into a centuries-old conflict between both vampires and werewolves that will change her life forever.


New Moon was announced to the press just one day after Twilight released in theaters, thanks to the film’s instant box office success and Meyer’s amiable relationship with the producers. However, because of the tight production schedule, New Moon was releasing one year after the last movie, director Catherine Hardwicke dropped out of the project, with the role of new director being given to Chris Weitz, best known for The Golden Compass and About A Boy. Melissa Rosenberg, the writer for the first Twilight, worked on drafting the New Moon screenplay throughout the summer of 2008 and handed it to Summit Entertainment the weekend Twilight first released.


While Taylor Lautner played Jacob in the first movie, Weitz was actually this close to recasting him. Jacob goes through major physical changes between Twilight and New Moon and Weitz felt he needed a new actor that fit the larger Jacob mold. But undeterred, Lautner went extensive weight training and gained 30 pounds to help him appear more muscular and meaty. Weitz was impressed and allowed Lautner to stay in the role.


Filming began in March 2009 in Vancouver, with Weitz planning a completely different style and mood for this sequel. While Twilight was full of blue tones and hues, New Moon utilized a warm color palette with golden tones, inspired by Italian paintings. This allowed for a distinctive look that fit the film’s tone, give it a more “old-fashioned” appearance, and allowed Weitz to play around with colors to bolster the narrative. Weitz also used film instead of digital to help the “old-fashioned” nature of the production. In fact, the usage of certain cameras was also used to help with the narrative. When Bella’s with Edward, the camera’s on a dolly and very rigid, showcasing their perfect relationship. When Bella’s with Jacob, a Steadicam is used to create a fluid and organic style. When Bella’s with her schoolmates, the film’s camera is in handheld style.


Similar to Transformers 2, New Moon was coming just as the previous iteration introduced the property to a whole new set of newcomers. Twilight was a huge hit that got people interested in the franchise, both in terms of books and future movies. And with a release on DVD, Twilight mania was just starting to rev up. The anticipation for New Moon, therefore, was through the roof. In terms of pre-sales, theater showings sold out as much as two months before release, with Fandango reporting the strongest pre-sales for any movie since Revenge of the Sith in 2005. With the cast and Meyer also hitting the talk shows and fan conventions, it was clear New Moon was going to be an event. But I don’t think people realize just how much of an event New Moon turned out to be.




The Twilight sequel opened on November 20 and beat out Half-Blood Prince’s record just months prior with $26.3 million from midnight screenings. This would give a boost to the already impressive Friday showings, resulting in $72.7 million for its opening day. To put that into perspective, New Moon outgrossed Twilight’s entire $69.6 million opening weekend in just the span of 24 hours. And while this opening weekend was frontloaded, New Moon still reigned supreme with an astonishing, almost otherworldly $142.8 million opening weekend, making it the third-biggest opening weekend of all time. New Moon would later earn $296.6 million domestically and $709.8 million worldwide.


It’s kind of surreal to think that New Moon of all things was in the top 3 openings of all time. The first movie was popular for sure, but it didn’t even hit the top 5 for 2008 domestically. Worldwide didn’t even crack the top 10. By all accounts, New Moon did impossible numbers, and greatly benefited thanks to a $50 million production budget. It was a perfect example of a sequel people really wanted. Twilight felt fresh and inventive in the blockbuster landscape and it got newbies hooked to the property in a way that made it bigger than ever. And it was clear Summit had something special with this series. They were cheap and easy enough to make as a yearly event and there was a large audience ready and willing to lap it all up. And just before New Moon was set to release, Summit already had the next film up and ready.

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Fifth domestic and sixth worldwide was yet another Pixar hit with the simply titled Up. Ed Asner voices Carl Fredericksen, an elderly widower who failed to fulfill one promise with his deceased wife Ellie: living in the far-off South American location known as Paradise Falls. And through tying thousands of balloons to his house, Carl finds himself in a grand adventure in the South American jungle, where he meets an eager boy scout named Russell, a rare giant bird and a group of talking dogs.


Up was the brainchild of Monsters, Inc. director Pete Docter, who got the idea of a flying house from an idea he envisioned whenever he found life too irritating. Docter also decided his film would focus on an old man after drawing a sketch where a grumpy old man was holding a series of smiling balloons. This soon morphed into a story about an old man with a house being flown by balloons, as Docter and co-director Bob Petersen loved the stark contrast. The duo also felt that having an old man as a protagonist for an animated family film would have given the film a more interesting story and an avenue for good comedy.


The character of Carl was inspired by several different men, both in Docter’s life and in film. Disney veterans Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, and Joe Grant, all of whom saw dedication from the film, were an inspiration to Docter. Joe Grant even consulted on the script before his death in 2005. Actors like Spencer Tracy, Walter Matthau, and James Whitmore were also used as an influence for Carl to create a grouchy, yet lovable old guy.


For the character designs, Up prided itself on its caricatured appearances and distinctive shapes as a way to illustrate the character personalities and dynamics. Carl has a squareish appearance to symbolize his containment in his house, while Russell is round like a balloon, symbolizing him taking Carl into the grand adventure. Paradise Falls was chosen as the location Carl gets to because Pete Docter always wanted to make a film in a South American setting and gave plenty of danger and isolation for the heroes. The team at Pixar would go on a three-day trip to Venezuela to study the tepui landscapes and animals, creating a world that is both surreal and realistic.


Probably the most famous sequence in the movie was the first or so 10 minutes, depicting Carl meeting his wife Ellie as kids, explaining that Ellie wants to live at Paradise Falls, and through a wordless montage, showcasing the entire married life of Carl, ending with Ellie’s death. Pete Docter knew there needed to be a solid reason why Carl wanted to make his house fly, as well as a strong emotional hook to keep audiences invested in this silly concept. This was one of the most important elements the Pixar team tried to get just right, and it worked out wonderfully them. Critics cited this to be one of the best moments in not just the movie, but one of the best openings for any movie ever, and played a key element to the film’s inevitable success.




While Pixar had yet to miss at this point, Up still served as a bit of an outlandish risk. This was a film that starred an old man, a rarity in animation even today, depicted flying houses, a giant exotic bird, talking dogs, and a South American adventure all at once. This might have been too weird or out there for general family audiences to gravitate towards. But thanks to the strong Pixar brand and those first few minutes, allowing both a strong tearjerker and a sense of humanity to the piece, Up would go on to be one of the biggest Pixar hits ever.


Up premiered as the opening film at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, the first time ever an animated and 3D film opened the fest, and it’s here where critics hailed the film as one of Pixar’s absolute bests and one of the greatest animated films of all time. This festival hype translated to great success at the box office upon its May 29 debut. Earning $68.1 million over the weekend, Up saw the third-highest Pixar debut ever, only behind The Incredibles and Finding Nemo, as well as the biggest opening for a movie in 3D. It was already incredible proof that Up’s goofy premise struck a chord with many audiences. But with an A+ Cinemascore, Up became even bigger in the weeks to come.


Weekend two saw Up just barely behind first place’s The Hangover, dropping only 35% for a $44.1 million weekend, the biggest second weekend for a film since The Dark Knight, and one of the smallest drops ever for a Pixar title. It was clear Up was set to be a Nemo-style sensation. Weekend three saw a 30% drop, earning $30.8 million for a $187.4 million haul, joining Shrek 2 as one of the only two animated films to stay above $30 million three frames in a row. And thanks to consistently strong box office grosses in the weeks to come, in spite of the competition, Up finished with $293 million domestically, becoming Pixar’s second-biggest film ever, only behind Finding Nemo. Worldwide saw Up total $735.1 million, also only behind Nemo.


It was a rousing hit for all parties, and the hits continued to come when Up became the first animated film since Beauty and the Beast to earn a Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards. Granted this emerged at the time when the Academy expanded their nominee list, but it clearly shows the love people had for the film and how Pixar was at the top of their game in the late 2000s.


Sixth domestic and tenth worldwide is a film that probably would have gone to Netflix if it came out today. In The Hangover, four friends come together in Las Vegas for one big bachelor party before one of them is set to be married. However, after a night of heavy drinking and partying, three of the four men wake up with the groom missing and a series of weird elements sprinkled throughout their hotel room. One of them has a tooth missing, there’s a tiger in the bathroom, a baby’s in the closet. The worst part is that none of the guys have any memory about what happened that night. So now they have to travel throughout Vegas to find out what happened and figure out where the groom is before the wedding happens.


Believe it or not, despite how crazy the story was, this was based on a true story. Producer Tripp Vinson, a friend of The Hangover’s executive producer Chris Bender, was found missing at his Vegas bachelor party and woke up in a strip club with a giant bill he had to pay. Sure enough, Chris Bender thought Vinson’s story could lend itself well to a comedy movie, and recruited Four Christmases writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore for the screenplay. New Line Cinema was interested in the project, but they had one very weird condition. The film had to be titled What Happens in Vegas. If it was titled anything else, they wouldn’t buy it. And because Bender failed to get the trademark rights for that title, New Line rejected it. And after a couple years of showing the screenplay around to New Line and other studios to no avail, things changed when CAA agent Gregory McKnight sent the script to director Todd Phillips. Phillips had a first-look deal with WB and despite recently stumbling with the Starsky & Hutch film adaptation, WB bought the script preemptively, and the film began production.


Filmed on location at Caesar’s Palace on a budget of $35 million, one of the smartest things about filming was that all three lead actors were already casual acquaintances before filming. Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis all knew each other well enough to establish a rapport and chemistry, and like with the movie, as filming went on, their relationship and friendship also grew and developed. Helms credited Phillips for that decision, giving all three men a chance to work with people who appreciate one another’s sensibilities and humor, while also getting a chance to really build a relationship for people who are genuinely good friends in the movie.




Before release, one of the biggest critics of the film actually came from Warner Bros. itself. Warner Bros. president and COO Alan Horn was not a fan of the film, finding it to be crude and unfunny. In fact, if it wasn’t for extremely successful test screenings, Horn probably wouldn’t have placed the movie into the summer season. Yet despite Horn’s pushback, he’s glad the movie turned out the way it did.


Opening on June 5, The Hangover was expected to debut in third place, behind the second weekend of Up and the big-budget Will Ferrell adaptation of Land of the Lost. Yet to the surprise of no one, not only did The Hangover narrowly take #1, it managed to see the third-biggest opening ever for an R-rated comedy with $45 million. This was only behind Sex and the City and American Pie 2, both of which had brand recognition behind them, making this debut all the more impressive. And thanks to impressive reviews from critics and glowing WOM, it was expected for The Hangover to continue to play well for the rest of the summer. But nobody, and I mean nobody, expected what The Hangover would do in the coming weeks.


Weekend two saw The Hangover drop only 27% for a $32.8 million haul, a phenomenal result that resulted in the movie hitting $100 million after only 10 days, a rarity for comedy movies like this. Weekend three was even better, as despite competition from fellow comedy The Proposal, Hangover dropped only 18% and earned $152.8 million in the span of 17 days. This resulted in The Hangover becoming the biggest R-rated title since 300. And sure enough, The Hangover ended its epic run with a gross of $277.3 million, 6.17 times its opening. In the States, The Hangover managed to break numerous records, including the third-biggest R-rated title, only behind Passion of the Christ and Matrix Reloaded, and the biggest R-rated comedy ever, toppling the near 25-year record of Beverly Hills Cop. Worldwide was $468.8 million.


Even in 2009, The Hangover’s box office was kind of a miracle. This was a $35 million studio comedy with no starpower, no star director, an R rating that limited teenage audiences, and no established brand. It just had a funny premise with a strong marketing hook, and back then that was all you needed to make people want to watch your movie. Again, a movie like this probably would have gone straight to Netflix today, land in the top 10 for about a week, and be promptly buried in millions of subscriber’s queues. But back then, these kinds of movies can do astonishing numbers and turn into a phenomenon. I was entering middle school when this film came out, and I remember every teenage boy was obsessed with the damn thing, hailing it as a comedy classic right out of the gate.


And this phenomenon helped everybody. Todd Phillips became a household name and earned a blank check to do whatever he wanted. Zack Galifianakis was credited as a highlight and would find his own solid comedy career. Ken Jeong became the one funny Asian guy that was in every movie for a while. Jon Lucas and Scott Moore would later find another hit comedy franchise with Bad Moms. Bradley Cooper became one of the biggest movie stars of the 2010s. Warner Bros. earned themselves an entire trilogy of Hangover films, the second one of which we’ll talk about in 2011.


Even Alan Horn, the guy who hated the movie in the first place, saw an ironic benefit from all this. Because Horn being against the crude, raunchy humor, The Hangover’s immense success raised concern from Time Warner about his taste in film. Along with the man being in his late 60s, there was this idea Horn was too old and too out of touch with what audiences wanted, despite the immense success he gave the studio with several wins in the yearly box office charts. So in 2011, Horn was forced to resign while Time Warner CEO John L. Bewkes looked for new young blood.


But in 2012, Alan Horn came out of retirement and became the Chairman for the Walt Disney Studios. There’s a lot more to discuss here, but we’ll save that for when we get into the 2010s. But just think that if it wasn’t for The Hangover, while likely still a hit factory, we probably wouldn’t have seen the level of success Disney is having today.


Seventh place was the glorious return of Star Trek, directed by J. J. Abrams. This served as both a complete reboot of The Original Series with a brand new cast of fresh faces and somewhat as a prequel, with a younger Kirk and Spock. This adventure follows the Enterprise crew in a battle against Nero, a Romulan from the future set to destroy the United Federation of Planets one at a time.


As early as 1968, Gene Roddenberry wanted to make a film prequel to the television series. There were even a few treatments pitched to Roddenberry during production of the original Star Trek movies, but none of them went very far in development. But around 2005, Star Trek and Paramount were in a predicament. For Star Trek, 2002’s Nemesis was a critical and commercial failure, effectively ending the original film series. On television, the prequel series Star Trek: Enterprise was canceled after its fourth season, signaling the first time there was no Star Trek series in eighteen years.


Meanwhile, Viacom, Paramount’s parent company, split up from their former partner CBS. And as a result, CBS saw ownership of Paramount’s television properties, including Star Trek. So in a Spider-Man style deal, Paramount president Gail Berman struck a deal with CBS president Leslie Moonves: Berman can have eighteen months to develop a new Star Trek movie, or else Paramount loses the film rights. And during production of Mission: Impossible III, Berman approached screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman to write the screenplay. After the Tom Cruise pic finished filming, Berman also approached J. J. Abrams to produce the film. And once the script was completed, it was announced Abrams would direct the feature.


Abrams had many reasons for wanting to direct the film. He loved the script, he felt the original film series was too “disconnected” from its source material, he wanted to interpret the friendship of Kirk and Spock. But the one thing that made him certain to direct it was because he was not a Trekkie. He was a fan of the property, but more of a casual fan who didn’t have the immense knowledge or hardcore appreciation as the rest of the fandom. This was important, because as a casual fan, Abrams was able to focus on making this film just as exciting and interesting to general audiences as it was to already established fans of the property. Orci, Kurtzman, and producers Damon Lindelof and Bryan Burk, also went in with varying interests of Trek. Orci and Lindelof were Trekkies, Kurtzman was a casual fan, and Burk wasn’t a fan. This helped in creating a screenplay that balanced itself by being both entrenched in Trek lore as well as standing on its own as a fun and emotional summer action movie, making it so all audiences will get something out of it. Less Treknobabble, more action, and the simple title of Star Trek, letting everybody know the movie can be a good jumping point for anybody.


For the casting, Chris Pine was the one who would take the mantle of young James Kirk. While he mentioned his first audition was awful, Pine’s agent managed to meet Abrams’ wife and convinced the director to give him a screen test with Zachary Quinto, the actor who plays Spock. Speaking of Quinto, he was one of the biggest Trek fans in the cast and was the most eager to play his character, especially because of his half-human, half-Vulcan heritage. And while Quinto did use the Original Series as research, his biggest influence for the role was with Leonard Nimoy himself, who plays an elderly Spock from an alternate dimension due to weird sci-fi mumbo jumbo. Nimoy was actually the most important asset to the creative team. If he didn’t like the script, or didn’t want to be in the movie, then the movie’s production would get delayed and the script would be completely rewritten. Nimoy loved the scope and the backstories placed upon the characters, and attached himself to the project.


Filming began on November 7, 2007, two days after the beginning of the WGA strike. Abrams, himself a WGA member, did mention that he could still direct the film while also walking the picket line. However, this still caused frustration for Abrams. Even when a film is in production, it’s common for there to be rewrites or alterations or improvizations, as sometimes a line just doesn’t work as well as it did on the page. But due to the strike, nobody was allowed to change anything related to the script, although a few lines were dubbed during post-production. Speaking of the script, the film’s production was also one Abrams purposely shrouded in mystery. Security was everywhere so as no costumes or story beats were leaked out, with some actors only being given their lines so as to not spoil anything that happens.




Star Trek was all set for a Christmas 2008 release, but by the time February 2008 rolled around, Paramount saw they had something special here. The dailies they were getting and their periodic visits to the set made the studio realize the potential here. Not only did this scream summer action blockbuster, but it had potential to bring in a broader audience who never really cared for Star Trek in the first place. So in a surprise movie, Paramount moved Star Trek to May 8, 2009. This also resulted in a gigantic marketing campaign used to help sell Star Trek to the “MySpace generation”, which is the most 2008 phrase ever uttered, as well as international audiences who never really cared for the property. Abrams pushed the film harder than he ever did for his projects, insisting how this was a fresh new interpretation for modern audiences. And with several promotional deals and merchandise toy lines, Paramount and Abrams did everything in their power to make this movie into an event. And it worked.


Riding high on a brilliant campaign and immense critical acclaim, Star Trek opened to $79.2 million, earning the biggest opening for the franchise since 1996’s First Contact, as well as beating The Dark Knight’s record for the biggest IMAX weekend, earning $8.5 million in the format. And with strong WOM and a general audience eating the film up, Star Trek continued to soar to amazing box office heights domestically, finishing with $257.7 million. Overseas was a bit underwhelming with only $127.9 million, resulting in only $385.7 million worldwide. However, Paramount did say they were pleased with the international total, seeing as how Star Trek was never an exciting commodity outside of the States and at least introduced many newcomers to the property.


And sure enough, Abrams’ film made Star Trek the biggest it’s ever been. The following years saw two sequels, albeit both facing diminishing returns. CBS All Access brought Trek back to television with a slew of different television series. And while the fourth film’s plans are very shaky, Star Trek is still alive and well today, with the strongest international exposure it has ever seen thus far, and Paramount continuing to eagerly promote the product for all its worth.


Eighth would see the heartfelt drama The Blind Side, based on the true story of Michael Oher. Oher is a poor Black teenager going through hard times. His mother’s a drug addict, he’s been in foster home after foster home, his academic record is poor, and only got admitted to a high-end Christian School due to his size and athleticism. But after being adopted by a strong-willed mother played by Sandra Bullock and discovering his love of football, Oher turns his story around to become one of the greatest NFL players ever.

Produced by Alcon on a $29 million budget, The Blind Side served as an awards vehicle for Sandra Bullock. But for a time, the role of Leigh Anne Tuohy was meant for Julia Roberts before she turned it down. Bullock actually turned down the role thrice, concerned about whether she could play the role of a devout Christian, unsure if she could objectively play another person’s beliefs on screen. But upon meeting the real life Tuohy, Bullock not only signed on for the film, but took a pay cut, agreeing to receive a percentage of the profits instead.


The Blind Side opened on November 20, serving as counterprogramming to New Moon. And despite mixed reviews from critics, Blind Side managed to do just as impressive business as the Twilight film, earning $34.1 million, the highest of Sandra Bullock’s career. And funny enough, Blind Side had a completely opposite run to New Moon. Both opened well, but while New Moon dropped like a rock (understandably so), The Blind Side had legs for days. On its second weekend, during the Thanksgiving holiday, WOM spread about how inspirational and heartwarming the piece was, resulting in an 18% jump in the three-day for a $40.1 million weekend and $100.2 million in 10 days.




Post-Christmas was a 50% drop, which is light for this period for $20 million. And as December continued, it continued to post miniscule drops. In fact, on both Christmas and New Year’s, Blind Side even saw increases, ending 2009 with $196.6 million. But as 2010 rolled around, The Blind Side saw a surprise Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards, which even surprised the producers. Coupled with consistent praise and awards recognition for Sandra Bullock, who would later see her first Oscar with this film, The Blind Side continued to play well, finishing with a grand total of $256 million domestically, more than six times its opening, and $309.2 million worldwide.


The success of The Blind Side is sadly something that just could not happen today. At best, it would have been a hit Netflix Original, and at worst, it would have just done about $65 million or so at the box office. But thanks to a strong combination of elements people love in a movie, such as starpower, sports, and an inspirational feel-good message, The Blind Side prevailed as one of the biggest WB hits ever. And for Sandra Bullock, this capped a banner year for her, with that summer’s The Proposal also being a huge leggy hit for her. And getting all the awards certainly helped.


Yet as time has gone on, history has not painted The Blind Side in the best light. Even back then, the film was sharply criticized for feeling like a white savior narrative, where a white woman adopts a Black teen who is a big simpleton who uses instinct instead of intellect, and is unable to understand right and wrong unless a white woman helps him. Even Michael Oher, the subject of the film, denounced the film for treating him like an idiot throughout the piece and for misrepresenting his relationship with his adoptive family. Ouch!

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Ninth place was the epic return of the Munks with Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel...I hate that title too. Alvin, Simon and Theodore are back, and this time, these chipmunks have to go to high school. And it’s here they learn that being a celebrity rodent in a human high school isn’t as easy as it looks or whatever. And along the way, the trio find themselves meeting the Chippettes, a trio of girl chipmunks who can also talk and sing and have the exact same personalities...weird.


The surprise smash success of the first Alvin prompted Fox to develop a sequel. But despite the immense success of the first movie, there was still a bit of a concern over whether people would return for the sequel. Films like Garfield and Scooby-Doo, among others, failed to maintain their first film’s success with their follow-up. What could Alvin do? As it turns out, about on par with the last one.




Opening on December 23, The Squeakquel opened in third place over its first weekend. But that third place saw it earn $48.9 million for the three-day, above the first Alvin’s OW, and $75.6 million over the five-day. And sure enough, despite the same awful reviews as the last film and never even reaching second place, let alone first, The Squeakquel passed its predecessor with $219.6 million domestically and $443.1 million worldwide. This also resulted in The Squeakquel becoming the biggest movie ever to never hit #1 or #2 at the weekend box office, and only behind My Big Fat Greek Wedding as the biggest movie ever for a film that never hit #1 at the box office.


Yet as the franchise went on, Alvin saw diminishing returns. 2011’s Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked only saw $133.1 million domestically and $342.7 million worldwide. 2015 would see another sequel with The Road Chip, opening on the same day as Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It did even worse, earning $85.9 million domestically and $234.8 million worldwide. And as of now, no further updates has been made for future Alvin installments. Tragic!


Robert Downey, Jr. popped up once again with Sherlock Holmes in tenth place. Downey plays Holmes in this new radical reinterpretation. With the assistance of Dr. John Watson, played by Jude Law, Holmes finds himself hired by a secret society to thwart the plans of Lord Henry Blackwood, who plans to take control of Britain through supernatural means.


While Sherlock Holmes has been adapted numerous times over the years, producer Lionel Wigram, best known for several Harry Potter features and the classic 90s flick Cool as Ice, was the most eager in taking the hero to the silver screen. Wigram wanted this Holmes to be the most modern one yet, with a bohemian style to his clothing, modeling himself like an artist or poet. And after Wigram left his position at Warner Bros. in 2006, he continued to develop his idea, with an emphasis on a larger scope and scale that made it easier to attract a larger audience, combining several Holmes stories to create the definitive adaptation.


Wigram had an unusual format when it came to pitching the film. Instead of a traditional spec script, Wigram wrote a 25-page comic book about Holmes with illustrations provided by the late John Watkiss, best known for his work on Disney’s Tarzan. Warner Bros. liked Wigram’s interpretation quite a bit, especially in the concept’s similarities to Batman Begins. So in March 2007, the company announced they would produce Wigram’s idea, with Guy Ritchie, an already huge fans of Holmes, announced as director in June 2008.


All that was left was the casting for the title role. And luckily, Robert Downey Jr. was visiting famed producer Joel Silver’s office. Downey heard about the project while there, and began pitching himself as the star. Guy Ritchie felt he was too old for the part, as he was looking for a younger Holmes. But he decided to take a chance on the guy, and it’s here the two bonded considerably, as Downey fit Ritchie’s humor and sensibilities, and both had an appreciation for martial arts, which Holmes does in the movie.


Sherlock Holmes opened on Christmas Day with solid reviews and Downey still on the immense goodwill from Iron Man and Tropic Thunder. And in spite of Avatar sucking up all the attention at the multiplex, Ritchie found a very strong niche in the landscape. Its opening day amounted to $24.6 million, which made it the biggest Christmas Day opening in history. And this of course led to a very impressive $62.3 million opening weekend, the fifth-biggest Christmas debut ever.




Like with any good adaptation, Sherlock Holmes worked because it hit the tricky balancing act, giving what fans wanted while also making it exciting and fresh to newcomers. Downey’s snarky persona and Ritchie’s unique direction helped this seem exciting and unique in the blockbuster landscape, and there was still plenty of that Sherlockian charm and intrigue that fans of the franchise already love.


This was yet another hit for Downey in what was truly one of the biggest glow-ups in film history. Yet the one thing Sherlock Holmes gave a huge surge in popularity to was...Sherlock Holmes. Ritchie’s modernizations and action setpieces allowed Sherlock Holmes to catch on in a big way, and thanks to its public domain status, everybody wanted a piece of that pie. The BBC series Sherlock released in 2011, earning critical acclaim and launching Benedict Cumberbatch’s career. CBS released Elementary in 2012, which featured Lucy Liu as Dr. Watson and earned seven seasons. And just recently, Netflix released Enola Holmes starring Millie Bobby Brown. And if it wasn’t for Downey’s film, I doubt people would care about Conan Doyle’s character in the way they do now.


Twelfth place saw Scrat and friends yet again with Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. This adventure has the Ice Age gang discover a hidden world underneath the ice full of dinosaurs...okay? Sid the sloth takes three eggs from a mother T-Rex, so it’s up to his friends to rescue him. All the while, Manny continues his relationship with Ellie, who are both currently expecting a child.


When Blue Sky was working on this third title, they wanted to make a more “what-if” adventure, with a focus on giant, larger than life mammals or characters. This resulted in the idea of adding dinosaurs to the piece. And thanks to it being a “lost world” of dinos, this was a blessing for the character designers over at Blue Sky. Instead of the scientifically accurate brown dinos in films like Jurassic Park, the team could be more creative with the colors and designs, on the basis that nobody actually knows what dinosaurs actually liked.


Dawn of the Dinosaurs released on July 1 in RealD 3D to a bit of controversy amongst theater owners. Fox reportedly refused to pay for supply theater chains with 3D glasses for the picture, which resulted in many exhibitors threatening to only play the movie in 2D. Truly a fate worse than death. But people were still excited for another Ice Age adventure and many crowds turned up. Earning $41.7 million for the three-day and $66.7 million for the five-day, Dawn of the Dinosaurs managed to match what The Meltdown did in 2006, showing there was plenty of interest in the property and characters. And with solid audience reception, Dinosaurs managed to just barely surpass The Meltdown to earn $196.6 million in the United States and Canada.




And while America’s story was compelling, the real money made for this was in the overseas box office. Earning $218.4 million worldwide in the first weekend, Dawn of the Dinosaurs saw the biggest worldwide opening for an animated film, beating out The Simpsons Movie in 2007. It would hold the record for 9 years. Overseas totaled out to $151.7 million that weekend, the biggest ever for an animated feature. All of this amounted to a stunning $690.1 million, almost 78% of the entire worldwide haul. With a final total of $886.7 million, this meant Dawn of the Dinosaurs was the third-biggest movie of 2009 worldwide and the second-highest grossing animated film in history, only behind Shrek 2, despite not even hitting $200 million in the States. I guess Scrat’s crazy antics really struck a chord with the rest of the world. This also made it the third-biggest Fox film ever, and gave Blue Sky another excuse to milk their property for all its worth.


Fifteenth place domestic and fifth worldwide was Roland Emmerich doing his Emmerich thing with the post-apocalyptic story 2012. As a reference to the 2012 Mayan apocalypse, this film features the Earth being struck by several natural disasters after the Earth’s crust grows to be unstable. And it’s up to John Cusack to help bring his family to safety while the world around them literally falls apart.


The biggest influence for Roland Emmerich’s piece was the Graham Hancock book Fingerprints of the Gods, which discusses the idea of an ancient civilization that created the backbone to all ancient historical societies. One idea Hancock mentioned was the Earth’s Crust Displacement Theory, which long story short, can cause floods and tectonic events. Roland Emmerich would then develop a spec script with composer and producer Harald Kloser and shop it around to all the studios in February 2008, a similar process done for Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow. Sony Pictures picked up the rights to the spec script and the film was shot in 2008.


And Sony knew that this project had potential, resulting in one of the most creative viral marketing campaigns for a movie. Using the fictional Institute for Human Continuity, Sony used streaming media, blog updates and radio broadcasts to help sell the end of the world online to people. There was even a lottery where people could register to be a part of a population that would be rescued from the imminent global destruction. This did not go over well with many, including NASA’s David Morrison. Morrison was flooded with emails by people believing this lottery to be the truth, with many reportedly contemplating suicide upon the idea of the end of the world...Oops! But with this bizarre marketing, coupled with an impressive ad campaign full of spectacle and destruction, 2012 saw massive hype when it was set to release.




The film saw a worldwide opening on November 13, with a $65.2 million opening in the United States and Canada. This more than solidified the film as a success, earning the seventh-highest November opening of all time. But the real story here was its international success. With $165.2 million from 105 other territories, 2012 earned the fifth largest international opening at that time, the biggest for a non-sequel. Even Avatar couldn’t reach it. This led to a global opening of $230.4 million and solidified yet another monster hit for Emmerich.


The film finished its run to great results despite the competition, earning $166.1 million domestically and $769.7 million worldwide. Almost 80% of its haul came from overseas markets. A television spin-off was in development upon its success, but plans were canceled due to budgetary issues.


Seventeenth place was Fast & Furious, the fourth entry in the series that has very weird but very funny naming. This iteration has Dom and Brian forced to team up and avenge the murder of Dom’s girlfriend Letty and apprehend the drug lord Arturo Braga, played by John Ortiz. 


Announced in 2007 and filmed in 2008, Fast & Furious was a pretty big deal, because this was the first time ever we got to see the original cast from 2001’s The Fast and the Furious together. Sure, Paul Walker was in 2 Fast 2 Furious and Vin Diesel did cameo at the end of Tokyo Drift. But this was the film that finally gave us the original four actors together again. Diesel, Walker, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster were all in this installment, and it led to pretty significant hype from fans excited to see the characters they first fell in love with together once again.


This was also the first time that Fast and Furious began to divert from its continuity. The inclusion of Han Lue, a fan favorite from Tokyo Drift, meant that things had to change. After all, Han died in the last movie and you can’t bring him back from the dead for no reason...you just can’t! So this meant Fast & Furious took place between the second and third movie, which helped flesh out the lore as we got to see Dom and his relationship with Han. Gal Gadot’s Gisele was also introduced here, another character who would pop up in future installments.




Opening on April 2, Fast & Furious was expected to do well at the box office, likely earning something in the 40M range. Yet when it debuted, it became one of those rare opening weekends that changed everything. With zero competition, the hype of the original cast, awesome trailers, Fast & Furious opened with $71 million in its first three days. Not only was this nearly double industry projections, this was a massive improvement over all the previous openings. It comfortably went above 2 Fast’s record of $50.5 million, and it managed to outgross Tokyo Drift’s entire domestic haul in just three days. It was also the biggest April opening, and the second biggest January-to-April opening, only behind The Passion of the Christ.


To think Fast & Furious, which was set to open in June, managed to open with summer numbers in early April. Obviously hyping up that fact is a little silly nowadays, but it was an important opening for sure. It made studio executives recognize the importance of spacing out your movies. Like with Passion and 300, people will show up in droves for a movie no matter the time period, so long as you have something exciting and compelling to show. This would of course lead to several springtime hits in the years to come.


Fast & Furious was a frontloaded beast however, generating only $155.1 million after that opening. But alongside its $360.4 million worldwide haul, this fourth feature became the biggest film in the series, showcasing the strong fandom dedication and how Fast & Furious managed to introduce so many people to the franchise. And trust me when I say we have a lot more to talk about when it comes to F&F over the next few years.


Twenty-second place was more Dan Brown craziness with Angels & Demons. While the original book was a prequel to The Da Vinci Code, this served as a sequel to the 2006 Tom Hanks film. This time, Robert Langdon is on a quest to solve a murder and stop an Illuminati terrorist organization set to attack the Vatican.


Akiva Goldsman, the writer of the first Da Vinci Code, was hired in May 2006, fresh off the first film’s incredible success. Ron Howard also returned as director and wanted to make Angels & Demons a sequel because it fit better thematically. Langdon was going to be more confident in this iteration, and people who would be interested in this movie already read The Da Vinci Code. Howard also took way more liberties when it came to changing elements from the book, as most people didn’t read this novel.


Filming was supposed to begin February 2008 with plans for a December 2008 release. However, the WGA strike forced production to halt and for the film to be delayed to next year. David Koepp also worked on some rewrites before shooting began. Ron Howard was upset that the strike forced a delay to June 2008 for filming, as well as limiting his own time to work on the movie. However, the rushed production schedule helped Howard add more naturalism in terms of energy and direction, with a push towards handheld cameras he utilized for Frost/Nixon.




Angels and Demons released on May 15, and on its release, it was clear it was not going to be the phenomenon Da Vinci Code was. Reviews were poor, though better than its predecessor, but there was no splashy Cannes debut and even reactions from the Catholic Church were very subdued here. They seemed more accepting of this adaptation, understanding that people would treat the book and movie as is and not an indictment on Catholicism. The Da Vinci Code’s controversies kept it in the conversation for months, while Angels and Demons was just another Tom Hanks film.


Sure enough, this led to an okay opening in the States at about $46.2 million. While a departure from the mind-boggling success of Da Vinci, this opening was somewhat expected and met Sony’s expectations before release. Still, it was a pretty substantial drop, 40% from the last film, and at least showed that Dan Brown’s hype was starting to falter.


Still it did fine enough despite its $150 million pricetag, finishing with $133.4 million domestically and $485.9 million worldwide. Again, it still made it into the worldwide top 10 of the year, ninth to be specific, and at least showed there was enough curiosity in further Robert Langdon adventures. And sure enough, Hanks and Howard worked together on a Langdon title once more with 2016’s Inferno. With awful reviews, a far less popular novel, this saw the worst box office of the series, earning only $34.3 million domestically, less than both previous films’ opening weekends, and $220 million worldwide, less than Da Vinci Code’s worldwide opening...there has been no word on another Langdon adaptation since then.

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Twenty-fifth place saw a huge boost in Tarantino’s name with Inglorious Basterds. In an alternate history version of World War II, we see two different plots focusing on annihilating the Nazi party. One follows a group of Jewish American soldiers led by Lt. Aldo Raine, played by Brad Pitt on a quest to scalp and kill all the Nazis. Another follows a French Jewish cinema owner named Shosanna Dreyfuss, played by Melanie Laurent, who lost her entire family to the Nazis. And inbetween the two is SS colonel Hans Landa, played by Christoph Waltz, who connects both plots into one thrilling war epic.


For Quentin Tarantino, this project was a labor of love that was worked on for a decade. To him, this script about Nazi killing was his masterpiece. And as he began writing, the project grew bigger and bigger, but he had two real problems once 2002 rolled around: other directors were making World War II movies, and he didn’t really know how to end the film in a satisfying fashion. So instead, he went on to direct Kill Bill. After Kill Bill wrapped up, he began to look over his draft for Basterds and was this close to making his script a miniseries. But he decided to rewrite and cut down the fat, using his Pulp Fiction script as a reference for length. Production was set to begin in 2005, but other projects got in the way. Finally, Tarantino finally sat down, got his script done, and began filming in October 2008.


Casting was crucial to this piece, as Tarantino needed actors who fit his sensibilities and style. Leonardo DiCaprio was set to play the villianous Hans Landa, but Tarantino felt the role needed to be played by a native German-speaking actor. Enter Austrian actor Christoph Waltz, who was incidentally the film’s savior. Tarantino felt the role of Landa was unplayable for a while, but Waltz impressed him so much the film actually got through the door. And for Brad Pitt, both he and Tarantino planned to work on a movie together for years, but failed to find the right project. Once Tarantino was halfway through the script, he recognized that Pitt was perfect for the role and instantly contacted his agent.


Inglorious Basterds featured a massive supporting cast of famed actors, but many of these cast members were replacements for people who were unavailable to shoot. Adam Sandler of all people was set to play The Bear Jew, but due to schedule conflicts with Funny People, the role was given to Eli Roth. Simon Pegg was set to play Lt. Hicox, but also had to deal with scheduling conflicts over The Adventures of Tintin. Michael Fassbender took over the role. And in a unique sense of stunt casting, Rod Taylor was brought in to play Winston Churchill, despite retiring from acting and no longer having an agent. But Tarantino’s offer was too good to pass up. Taylor spent weeks watching dozens of DVDs of Churchill so he could get his mannerisms down, and it’s through this role was where we would see Rod Taylor’s final performance before his death in 2015.




When Inglorious Basterds first premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, reactions were on the polarizing side, with some hailing it as one of Tarantino’s best, while others cited it as overambitious and ultraviolent. In fact, Tarantino actually re-edited the feature after the Cannes debut before its general release, as he himself felt he didn’t have enough time to finish the movie he wanted. Those edits paid off upon its general release on August 21.


Opening just around the time summer ended, Inglourious Basterds was an instant success, earning $38 million on its opening weekend. This was the biggest debut ever for a Tarantino production, and managed to open so well despite being in late August, a dump period where people are focused on school and the end of summer rather than going to the movies. And sure enough, people continued to eat up Basterds, as the film generated $120.5 million domestically and $321.4 million worldwide.


This was by far the biggest movie of Tarantino’s career and surely made the long development process worth it. And honestly, I feel Basterds benefited from the right timing. Pulp Fiction was 15 years old by the time it came out, so it was just when the nostalgia cycle was beginning to set in for the director. Cinephiles at the time were getting older and were excited to see a director they love come out with something special, fresh and exciting. This film also had an easy to sell premise and one of the biggest movie stars as its lead.


And in many respects, Tarantino started to become a legend to the next generation of movie buffs and Basterds served as an easy introductory piece. I didn’t see Basterds when it came out, but this was my very first Tarantino movie and I loved everything about it. In fact, it’s up there as one of my favorite films of all time. The action is exhilarating, the dialogue is hilarious, the characters are iconic, the story is magnificent, and the pacing is so tightly-wound that every shot, every cut and every music choice just gave it so much personality, weight and energy. Shout out to the late Sally Menke, who was frankly gone way too soon.


And sure enough, this was the film that made Quentin Tarantino the biggest he’s ever been. In 2012, Django Unchained was released, starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, and Leonardo DiCaprio, becoming an even bigger hit than Basterds at the box office. And most recently, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was released, also becoming a critical and box office success. And with supposedly one last film under the man’s belt before he retires from directing forever, let’s hope his last film goes off on a high note.


Thirtieth place was the very cheap yet very successful Paranormal Activity. The premise is a simple one: a young couple move into a new suburban home. But upon their time there, they begin to realize they are becoming increasingly disturbed by a nightly demonic presence. Sounds like just about every other horror movie, but here’s where things get interesting. The couple sets up a camera to document what is haunting them, and it’s here where the audience sees the film through the lens of a home video camera, utilizing found footage tech and presentation similar to that of 1999’s The Blair Witch Project, making it seem as if it was a real event happening before their eyes.


This project was the brainchild of Oren Peli, who wanted to make a horror film that focused less on action and gore and more on believability. This led to a film that focused much more on realism in spite of the supernatural elements. There was no camera crew, the actors were nobodies, filming only lasted seven days, and there wasn’t even a script. Peli only gave an outline for the actors to follow and forced them to make up their dialogue with their only reference being certain plot points and situations, much like Blair Witch Project in fact. This led to Paranormal Activity being cheap. Very cheap. So cheap that its production budget only amounted to $15,000, with the film being shot day and night, edited at the same time, and visual effects being applied as the acting footage was being finalized.


Oren Peli would then screen the film at 2007’s Screamfest Horror Film Festival, where he would then sign on with the Creative Arts Agency. With his foot in the door, Peli began sharing his DVD around Hollywood in the hopes to find a distributor for his film and/or help give him more work. Sure enough, this would fall in the hands of a Miramax executive named Jason Blum, who decided to help Peli bring his project to the silver screen, re-editing the film and submitting it to Sundance, where it got rejected.


Peli’s work also earned attention from Dreamworks executives like Adam Goodman, Stacey Snider, and even Steven Spielberg himself. Dreamworks would then cut a deal with Blum and Peli, and following Paramount’s acquisition of Dreamworks in 2005, the Mountain saw the domestic rights of Paranormal Activity and worldwide rights for future sequels. So Adam Goodman began proposing a deal with Blum and Peli. He liked the original movie, but he wanted to remake the piece. Give Peli a bigger budget to play around with, and have that original movie serve as an extra for the DVD release. 


An agreement was made for a remake, but Blum and Peli did stipulate that they wanted to do a test screening for the original movie first. This was done because they believed the film would play well with a theatrical audience. Sure enough, a test screening was done, and at first glance, things seemed bad. People were walking out of the movie during the screening and Goodman assumed the film was bombing hard and people hated it. But actually, people left because it was too scary. The film felt so real to people that they couldn’t take how frightening the whole thing was. And Adam Goodman realized here that remaking the film would be a bad idea. The film on its own worked so well that it didn’t need more money or bigger stars to sell itself. As is, the movie was a perfect sell.




Sure enough, Paramount began to give the film a unique release strategy and rollout. On its opening weekend on September 25, Paranormal Activity was released in 12 different theaters in 12 different college towns. Eleven of the twelve saw complete sellouts for these midnight-only showings, resulting in $77,873 for a $6,489 theater average. An already solid start for this little feature that boded well for future expansions. But Oren Peli did something bold when it came to expanding his film.


Instead of just going the usual “big cities then smaller towns” expansion, Peli personally asked people on his website to request the movie to play at their town via the website Eventful. This was a first for any movie, and to my knowledge has never been done before. But in the end, that made the hype even bigger. This was a film so scary you had to see it to believe it. So much so, you had to put in the effort to wish for it to come to a theater near you to experience it.


So for its second weekend, Paranormal Activity saw 33 midnight screenings in 20 different markets, all of which sold out. This put the film at $532.2 thousand, twentieth place. And so, the third weekend saw it expand to 40 markets at 160 theaters, playing at all hours. And it did...astonishing business, earning $7.9 million for a mind-blowing average of $49.4 thousand and landing in fourth place in the domestic box office. The word-of-mouth was crazy and TV ads showed audiences’ raw reactions to the horror on screen. Like Blair Witch, this was turning into an event. A film so scary and so unqiue you had to see it to understand why everybody is going crazy for it.


The following weekend finally saw it move to wide release, playing in 760 theaters and repping $19.6 million, third place for the weekend. Weekend five is where Paranormal Activity finally earned the #1 position, earning $21.1 million for a $61.6 million haul in 31 days. And on weekend six, Halloween weekend, the little film that could saw a slim drop, going on to earn $16.4 million, with $84.6 million up to that point. The lack of the holidays did lead to harder drops, but the film managed to finish its domestic haul by earning $107.9 million domestically and $193.3 million worldwide.


This was one of those rare movies where everything went right. Its concept was unlike anything else, its execution passed with flying colors, its marketing made it an event for people, and it single handedly changed the game. It went on to be a horror classic and earned a net profit of $78 million, but most importantly, this was an important stepping stone for a young producer known as Jason Blum.


Horror movies and their appeal, both for audiences and executives, are obvious ones. People love a good scare and executives enjoy how cheap and easy they are to make. And with Paranormal Activity finding great success as a film that was not only super cheap to make but also a passion project for Oren Peli who had complete creative control made Blum realize what his production company Blumhouse needed. Not only can he make horror films on the cheap, he can allow filmmakers complete creative control to do whatever they please and exercise their crafts with little money. All the while, his connections in Hollywood allowed these movies to be released wide through the studio system.


And sure enough, Blumhouse reinvented the horror film production and distribution cycle, resulting in cheap but effective horror titles, many of which have gone on to become iconic and beloved by horror fanboys and casuals alike. Such examples include Insidious, Sinister, The Purge, Split, Happy Death Day, Upgrade, Get Out, Us, and most recently The Invisible Man and The Hunt. It’s through Paranormal Activity so many franchises and filmmakers got their foot in the door, with Blumhouse continuing to kick butt even today.


Paranormal Activity would of course become a massive franchise of its own, with five sequels all in varying degrees of quality and box office numbers. And currently, a seventh Paranormal Activity film is in development at Blumhouse and Paramount, set for release in March 2022.


Lastly, let’s end things off at 32nd place with the Disney animated release The Princess and the Frog. Set in 1920s New Orleans, this is the story of Tiana, a young Black waitress with dreams of opening her own restaurant in honor of her late father. But after kissing a prince who turned into a frog by an evil witch doctor, Tiana is transformed into a frog and goes on an adventure in the Louisiana bayou to help fix the curse and turn into a human before it’s too late.


Two notable aspects of the film drove hype during the run-up towards release. One of them was that The Princess and the Frog was set to be the glorious return of Disney hand-drawn animation. After a slew of financial failures in the 2000s and with CGI animation from Pixar and Dreamworks being all the rage, Disney announced back in 2004 that they would abandon 2D animation in favor of CG pics. But after 2006’s Pixar acquisition, Ed Catmull and John Lasseter became president and CCO for Walt Disney Animation Studios, immediately reversing the decision. The duo brought back many of the 2D animators who left the studio to return to this piece, and let Ron Clements and John Musker direct, resulting in a film with the look and feel and energy of the films they directed during the Renaissance like The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. Other influences for the film were Cinderella, Lady and the Tramp, and Bambi.


But of course the most significant aspect of the film’s hype came from Tiana, who became the first Black Disney Princess. This was a game changer, as Disney is perhaps infamous for its many instances of racism in their films, especially towards Black people. Song of the South never got an American video release because of its racist undertones and questionable depiction of slavery, while characters like the crows in Dumbo were designed as minstrel stereotypes. This was Disney trying to annul their mistakes and create something truly progressive, while also allowing millions of little Black girls a chance to see a character who looks like themselves in a beautiful dress and marrying a handsome prince. Actresses like Jennifer Hudson, Tyra Banks, and Alicia Keys all auditioned for the role of a lifetime, but the part was given to Dreamgirls actress Anika Noni Rose.


And naturally, because this was a company known for its racism and portraying a community that has hardly gotten a fair shake in blockbuster animation, The Princess and the Frog was under heavy scrutiny the second it was announced in 2006. For starters, Tiana was originally named Maddy, only a couple letters shy from the derogatory term “mammy”, and was a chambermaid. This, alongside other elements of the film, resulted in heavy criticism and Disney changing up several aspects to make it less offensive. Oprah Winfrey was also hired as a technical consultant.




Disney would of course back the film with a massive marketing campaign, with a wide variety of Tiana merchandise, appearances at the Disney Parks and Disney on Ice, and Halloween costumes selling out just hours after they appeared on the shelves. But was that enough? Was the world ready for the return of hand-drawn animation? Well...yes and no. After a limited opening, this Disney release launched into wide release on December 11 to $24.2 million. This was the biggest December opening ever for an animated film, beating out Beavis and Butt-Head Do America, and with the holiday season ahead of it, it seemed poised to do strong business. But while it was far from a flop, it still had an aura of disappointment attached to it in the weeks to come. With Avatar releasing one week after, a film that prided itself on incredible CGI technology, The Princess and the Frog dropped 50% on its second weekend, only earning $12.2 million. Weekend three also had Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel release, resulting in the Disney Princess title dropping 26%, the biggest fall in the top 10 that weekend. Turns out stupid baby children prefer stupid baby children movies. Who knew?


But it still played well through the holidays and saw box office success, earning $104.4 million domestically and $267 million worldwide. And it was ahead of most of the previous hand-drawn films from Disney Animation in the new millennium, like Atlantis, Treasure Planet, and Brother Bear. But as a film hyped for its representation and reinvigorating a previously dead art form, it was considered disappointing that the film didn’t even come close to what the Disney Renaissance of the 90s managed to do. It didn’t even beat Lilo & Stitch in 2002.


Everybody and their cat has their explanation why Princess and the Frog underperformed. Some argued it was releasing just before Avatar and Alvin and the Chipmunks. Others say the film marketed itself too much as a girls movie and scared away boys and adults. Others simply believed hand-drawn animation was too old-fashioned for modern audiences. Whatever the reason, that disappointing box office ironically led to a faster death to hand-drawn animation. Plans at the time were that Disney would have a 2D title every other year, complementing a CG piece in the year inbetween. Plans for such titles included a new Winnie the Pooh movie and an adaptation of Hans Christen Anderson’s The Snow Queen. But with Princess and the Frog failing to excite moviegoers, Winnie the Pooh doing lukewarm business, and that Snow Queen movie...well, we’ll get to that later, 2D animation at the Mouse House became a thing of the past. And while the medium is not completely dead, it hasn’t really seen any resurgence in blockbuster feature animation.


However, not everything about the film was sad news. If anything, it was a good stepping stone for the future of Walt Disney Animation Studios. This was the first traditional princess film since 1998’s Mulan and the film’s critical success showed that people could appreciate a movie that features catchy musical numbers and a strong heroine princess as the star, with a few changes and subversions to the classic formula. This helped regain some interest in the traditional Disney fairy tale and of course lead to many hit films in the coming years, all of which we’ll talk about in future posts.


The film also lived on with a solid fan following with the Disney community, with Tiana in particular praised as one of the best characters in the Disney canon. So much so, there’s plans for the Disney ride Splash Mountain to be rethemed to Princess and the Frog in the next few years. And hey, 2D animation isn’t dead yet. With the massive success the recent Disney remakes have had, there’s definitely nostalgic interest in the 2D films of old, and perhaps some studio will have the guts to take advantage of said nostalgia and give us an exciting new 2D film. Maybe even Disney will do it. You never know.


And that was only a few stories for 2009. There was a lot to cover, so much so I actually included four non-top 10 stories for this iteration instead of the usual three. But I had to make some sacrifices here, so for my usual lightning round recap: Monsters vs. Aliens became another Dreamworks powerhouse. X-Men Origins: Wolverine was a disastrous prequel that still made good money. Night at the Museum returned to a substantial decline. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra rode the coattails of Transformers. Paul Blart: Mall Cop made Kevin James a movie star and gave us so many memes. Taken reinvented Liam Neeson’s career.


Zemeckis used his mocap BS on A Christmas Carol. Terminator Salvation signaled the downfall of the franchise. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs brought us Phil Lord and Chris Miller. G-Force was a film we all let happen for some reason. District 9 gave apartheid a sci-fi edge. Couples Retreat continued Vince Vaughn’s comedy dominance. Watchmen became one of the most polarizing blockbusters ever. Julie & Julia was a late summer sleeper. Madea Goes to Jail was the biggest Tyler Perry movie ever. Up in the Air continued Jason Reitman’s brief dominance. Hannah Montana: The Movie continued the show’s legacy. Where the Wild Things Are was adapted to critical praise but audience confusion. Zombieland gave us some of the hottest young actors working today. Coraline was the beginning of Laika. This Is It was a heartfelt concert tribute to Michael Jackson


Friday the 13th was rebooted. Bruno was SBC’s polarizing Borat follow-up. Funny People was a weird Apatow-Sandler combo. Land of the Lost was an expensive comedy misfire. Precious gave us Lee Daniels and PTA records. Drag Me to Hell was the glorious return of Sam Raimi. All About Steve was Sandra Bullock’s one true 2009 blemish. 500 Days of Summer was the debut piece for Marc Webb. Disneynature hit the scene with the documentary Earth. Wes Anderson went into stop-motion with Fantastic Mr. Fox. Kathryn Bigelow made history and clowned on her ex with The Hurt Locker. Imagine That was another hard flop for Eddie Murphy. The Box got an F Cinemascore. Dragonball Evolution was despised by everyone. Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li had an infamous Chris Klein performance. And lastly, I Love You, Beth Cooper...came out I guess.


This was 2009.

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@baumer @Brainbug @excel1 @YourMother the Edgelord @Webslinger @charlie Jatinder So yeah...that was a lot here. 2009 was an insane year at the box office with so many riches being thrown around across the map, and it's by far the longest I've ever written up something for this retrospective. I also decided to expand my "non-top 10 DOM/WW" list to four here because I knew I couldn't miss Fast&F and PatF because they were both integral to the 2010s era of box office, Paranormal Activity was a necessity to write about, and Inglorious Basterds is one of my favorite films ever. Sometimes that causes a precedent. But I feel as if I gave plenty of love towards some quality and exciting films that all came out around this glorious time period and I hope you all are still enjoying this retrospective.


I'm already hard at work with the 2010 part of this series and I'm honestly so excited I'm getting into the 2010s here. Both because this is where I began my love for box office and because this is a sign I'm near the end, even if I technically still got a long ways to go :lol: 

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All the old Mojo veterans will remember the absolute chaos and arguments in the Avatar thread — some of the most ridiculous and wild predictions ever..... and even more ridiculously, the film surpassed them all. 

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2009 was such an exciting box office year. So many huge, shocking breakouts; it legit felt like there was at least one shockingly big opening weekend every single month.

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Avatar would have left no pop culture footprint whatsoever had it not kickstarted the "3D" craze. Without it, it doesn't even out gross SPIDERMAN 3 I suspect 

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2009 was one of my favorite years ever...if not my favorite. 

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A massive BP explosion causes a huge oil spill on the ocean, the financial crisis still wrecks the world economy, and several earthquakes hit nations like Haiti, Chile, New Zealand and Indonesia. So yeah, not the best year. The Burj Khalifa is officially open, the iPad hits shelves, and the Affordable Care Act goes through the United States, changing the very face of healthcare in the country.


Music’s biggest headliner was Justin Bieber. Found on YouTube by producer Scooter Braun, Bieber’s music and haircut earned him a massive fandom of teenage girls and a very weird hatedom from everybody else. Television also saw the beginning of the epic Leno-Conan feud that forced O’Brien off his role of The Tonight Show and leaving with a $45 million exit deal. NBC suffered with one of the biggest PR disasters in their entire history. Another notable host change was Steve Harvey becoming the new host of Family Feud, where he still resides to this very day. All My Children and The Simpsons earned their 40th and 20th anniversaries respectively that year, while South Park aired its 200th episode, one of the most controversial of the series. That’s saying a lot.


This year’s Super Bowl becomes the most-viewed American broadcast in history, Katy Perry is criticized for her clothing in an episode of Sesame Street, and Matt Smith becomes the next incarnation of Doctor Who. Finales this year include Scrubs, Heroes, Ugly Betty, King of the Hill, Lost, 24, and Law and Order, which tied with Gunsmoke for the longest primetime television series ever with 20 seasons. The big premieres came from Cartoon Network with Adventure Time and Regular Show, which both became just as popular, if not more with adults than kids and signaled a new creator-driven era for the channel. Other kids premieres were Victorious, Good Luck Charlie, Shake It Up, Young Justice, and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, the latter of which surprisingly found a significant male fandom. We also saw the premieres of Parenthood, Undercover Boss, Pretty Little Liars, Boardwalk Empire, Blue Bloods, Sherlock, and The Walking Dead, the latter of which became one of, if not the biggest cable hit in history.


Gaming’s biggest headline was the launch of Kinect, an Xbox 360 peripheral that allowed full motion detection of your entire body to play video games. Shelves and digital stores featured Limbo, Red Dead Redemption, Mass Effect 2, God of War III, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Heavy Rain, Fallout: New Vegas, Super Meat Boy and Civilization V, just to name a few. And in terms of loss, we had Robert Culp, Dennis Hopper, Lynn Redgrave, Patricia Neal, Tony Curtis, and Leslie Nielsen.


For the box office, this was an important one. Not only was this an attempt from all studios to make their mark over a new decade of numbers, but in terms of the billion-dollar milestone, it was monumental. Not only was 2010 the first year ever two films landed into the billion-dollar club, both of them came from the exact same studio, Disney. With this coming shortly after the acquisition of Marvel Comics, 2010 served as the first major indication that Disney was going to be big this decade.


And their biggest hit this year came from the highly anticipated sequel, Toy Story 3. Taking place more than a decade after the last movie, Andy has grown up and is set to leave for college, leaving the fate of Woody, Buzz, and the other toys in limbo. And through a series of mishaps, the toys end up donated to a local daycare center. And it’s up to Woody and the gang to get back home before Andy leaves for school and perhaps stop the ringleader of the daycare toys from his nefarious actions.




With Toy Story 1 and 2 being some of the biggest hits in Disney history, a third movie was almost inevitable. And during the brief time when Pixar was set to split with Disney, Michael Eisner created a new animation studio, Circle 7, who would do nothing but make direct-to-DVD sequels of the Pixar properties Disney had ownership of. Their version of Toy Story 3 focused on a massive recall of Buzz Lightyear toys after going through malfunctions, with Woody and the gang traveling to Taiwan to rescue Buzz out of a fear he may be destroyed.


The screenplay, written by Meet the Parents scribe Jim Herzfeld, was scrapped once Disney acquired Pixar, with the production being completely transferred over to Pixar. In February 2007, John Lasseter announced that Lee Unkrich, who co-directed Toy Story 2, would be in charge of this third chapter entirely. Little Miss Sunshine scribe Michael Arndt wrote the screenplay.


With it being such a long time since the last movie, Unkrich and his team discovered things would be tricky when it came to the characters and their models. While they could open 3D files of the characters from the first movie, they could do nothing when it comes to editing the files themselves. This resulted in all the models being reworked from scratch. When it came to getting the original cast back on board, the crew did not send them scripts. Instead, they sat Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, and John Ratzenberger down, showed them a complete story reel in a movie theater, and it’s only after the reel ended that the cast signed on.




For Lee Unkrich, the pressure was heavy for him. Pixar had yet to have a critical and commercial dud, yet here he was directing a sequel to the very film that put the studio on the map and was one of their biggest money makers ever. If this bombed, it would tarnish his career and Pixar itself. But thankfully, Disney had his back. The Mouse House put out a massive marketing campaign, beginning with a teaser trailer debuting in theaters with Pixar’s Up. Constant advertisements in theaters and TV, a highly-anticipated video game release, an appearance at an Apple event, more merchandise than you could count. This was set up to do amazing things.


And the hype went into overdrive once reviews hit. Critics hailed the piece, hailing it was just as good, if not better than the last two. It featured great comedy, incredible animation, stirring emotional moments, and served as a magnificent emotional climax, resulting in many citing Toy Story as one of, if not the best movie trilogy of all time. Even Quentin Tarantino stated TS3 was his favorite movie of the year.


And when the film finally opened on June 18, it was legendary. With $110.3 million, Toy Story 3 saw several records. It saw the second-biggest opening for a 3D film, the biggest Pixar and June opening, and the second-biggest opening ever for an animated movie. And with this being basically the critical darling of the summer, Toy Story 3 continued to bring in the crowds. Its second weekend saw a 46% drop for a $59.3 million haul and its first 10 days amounting to $226.9 million, the best 10 days for any Pixar title. The Fourth of July frame also saw it pass the $300 million mark in only 18 days. Its fourth weekend saw it only drop 31% despite the competition from Despicable Me, and just one day later, on its 25th day of release, Toy Story 3 surpassed Finding Nemo at the domestic box office, becoming the biggest movie in the Pixar canon. And once it wrapped up its run, Toy Story 3 became the eleventh movie ever to hit $400 million, finishing with $415 million in the United States and Canada, the second-largest cume for an animated movie, only behind Shrek 2.


Overseas was just as impressive. Japan saw the film earn $126.7 million, putting it only behind Nemo in terms of US animated features there. Other places where the film hit it big were the UK, Mexico, and other Latin American and Asian territories. All of this resulted in $652 million overseas. Put it all together and Toy Story 3 managed to earn $1.067 billion worldwide. This served as not just the biggest Pixar movie ever, but the biggest animated film of all time worldwide and the first animated film ever to cross $1 billion at the box office.




This was a monumental feat helped by a perfect storm. It had amazing reviews. It had Pixar at the top of their game. It came out just at the right time, when many of the kids who saw the first two Toy Story movies were Andy’s age in Toy Story 3, so nostalgia was potent. And as a film itself, it was an emotional story that struck a chord with the people who grew up with it while also standing on its own as a fun prison break adventure for the kids being introduced to the series.


And that showering love continued long after the film’s release. Disney pushed the film hard during the awards circuit not just for Best Animated Feature, but for Best Picture, where it became the third animated film to see a nomination in the field. Coupled with a brilliant “Not since...” campaign that emphasized its uniqueness in terms of contenders, it really showcased what made the film so special to so many people. And while it didn’t win Best Picture, it’s still considered one of the best of the quadrilogy and kept Toy Story fresh, alive and exciting to a whole new generation of kids.


The series would continue with several short films and TV specials, but the franchise returned to the big screen in a big way in 2019. But that’s a story for another day.

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Disney’s other heavy hitter was the silver medal winner Alice in Wonderland, loosely inspired by both the Lewis Carroll novels and the 1951 Disney animated classic. Alice is now nineteen years old and is set for marriage. But before she can say yes, she is distracted by a white rabbit, who takes her back to the world of Wonderland, which is now in shambles thanks to the destruction of the villainous and temperamental Red Queen. Alice is prophesied to defeat the Red Queen and restore the White Queen her power of the throne. And with the help of the Mad Hatter, played by Johnny Depp, Alice must fight the Red Queen to protect Wonderland and the world.


This was one of two films, the other being the stop-motion remake of his short film Frankenweenie, that director Tim Burton signed on for with Walt Disney Pictures. Burton wanted to adapt Alice in Wonderland because he had no real emotional connection to the story. He disliked how previous iterations were just a girl meeting crazy and weird characters and events and wanted to craft his own narrative that felt like a story rather than a series of events...even though a series of events is what people like about Alice in Wonderland but...whatever.


Filming began in 2008, becoming Burton’s most ambitious project yet. While Burton is known for his distinct designs and visuals, this was the first film of his that excessively used green screen technology, making up 90% of the film. The cast and crew felt nauseated over seeing so much green every day, to the point where Burton put lavender lenses in his glasses to help counteract the effect. In fact, the visuals here, when you include CG characters like the White Rabbit and March Hare, Alice and the Mad Hatter’s different heights throughout the picture, and the Red Queen’s giant head, this was an exhausting piece for the visual effects team. VFX supervisor Ken Ralston flat-out said Alice was the biggest and most creatively involved project he ever participated in.




One of the key features of the film was its use of 3D technology, like every other filmmaker was doing at the time. Burton felt 3D fit naturally with the environment of Wonderland. However, instead of utilizing 3D cameras, which were expensive and clunky to maintain, Burton and producer Richard Zanuck converted the film into 3D instead, believing there was no difference between the two. James Cameron blasted them over taking the lazy way out and there was no reason to shoot in 2D and convert to 3D. And I mean...he kind of knows what he’s talking about here.


Either way, Alice in Wonderland was expected to be a solid hit when it was released on March 5. The marketing campaign was huge, Johnny Depp and Tim Burton were at their peak in popularity, and the connection to the iconic Disney film helped create interest in this new interpretation of the story. Expectations for the film put it in the $70 million range, which would have already ensured the movie would be a hit and one of the biggest March titles. But when it came out, nobody, not even Disney, expected a hit like this.


On its debut, Alice in Wonderland earned $116.1 million in its first three days. And that opening weekend saw all the records broken. All of them. First, it toppled 300 for the biggest March debut ever, as well as earning the biggest opening for a 3D movie, already beating one of Avatar’s many records. IMAX was also a huge contributor its box office, stealing another record from Avatar with $11.9 million. But perhaps its biggest headlines were the fact it saw the biggest opening ever for a non-sequel and the sixth biggest opening of all time.


That last number was a shocker to me while researching. I knew it was a hit for certain, but landing just shy of the top 5 and earning more than Spider-Man? That was an incredible feat that really showed how much people were looking forward to Burton's vision. Of course, it was helped by a perfect storm of factors. Not only were Burton and Depp still extremely popular, but it came out just after the big 3D boom from Avatar. People loved the 3D technology in that film for enriching and expanding the world of Pandora, so another fantasy feature in IMAX 3D coming out a couple months later was just what audiences were hungry for. And while it did garner mixed reception and competition from other 3D spectacles in the coming weeks, Alice in Wonderland still managed to earn $334.2 million domestically and $1.025 billion worldwide, becoming the fifth-biggest movie ever at the time.


It was a monster and continued to play well after its release, generating about $1.6 billion in retail sales from home video and merchandise sales. But this film’s release gave Disney executives inspiration. While not a direct remake of the Disney film, this was sold as Disney’s live-action reinterpretation of their iconic feature. The Disney branding is a strong one. When their animation studio adapts a story, nine times out of ten, their film is the most iconic depiction everybody remembers. And it seemed like there was an audience that liked the idea of seeing Disney’s animated classics given a live-action spin. Sure enough, thanks to good ol’ Alice hitting a billion dollars, Disney would go on an endless spree of remaking multiple features from their animated canon. Many of them would go on to perform as well, if not better than what Alice achieved in 2010, despite mixed reception from Disney fans and general audiences. Needless to say, we have tons to discuss with these future remakes.


As for Burton’s franchise, a Broadway musical adaptation was in the works, but failed to get off the ground. And in 2016, a sequel titled Alice Through the Looking Glass was released, becoming the complete opposite of its successful counterpart. It saw even worse reviews, signaled the downturn of Johnny Depp, and only grossed $77 million domestically, less than the first movie’s first two days, and $299.5 million worldwide, a nearly 70% drop from its predecessor. With a $170 million production budget behind it, it’s estimated the film lost $70 million for Disney and killed any future franchise plans for Burton’s Alice interpretation.


Third place in the domestic charts, though only seventh worldwide, was home to a movie Disney would own in a few years: Iron Man 2. Six months after the events of the first movie, Tony Stark, after revealing his secret identity, finds himself at odds with the United States government asking him to hand over the Iron Man technology, to the point where his own health is at risk. All the while, Russian scientist Ivan Vanko uses his own version of the Iron Man tech as a means towards vengeance against the Stark family.


Immediately after the success of the first Iron Man film, Marvel Studios began developing a sequel and intended for a 2010 release. Jon Favreau returned to the director’s chair and Justin Theroux served as writer. Theroux was in charge of the script for Tropic Thunder, and Downey had such a good time working for him, he recommended Theroux to Marvel for this next project. Favreau envisioned working on an Iron Man trilogy, with this film focusing on Tony’s alcoholism and emphasizing Nick Fury’s organization named SHIELD. He was also hesitant on putting The Mandarin, the most famous Iron Man baddie, because his fantastical nature clashed with the realistic science technology of the first movie.


With a new movie comes new characters and new actors. Sam Rockwell and Mickey Rourke played the villains and Samuel L. Jackson’s role was expanded upon. But the big casting choices here, at least for this big universe Marvel was planning, came from two different actors. The first was Scarlett Johannson as Natasha Romanoff. Originally Emily Blunt was considered for the role, but because she had filming commitments with the Jack Black comedy Gulliver’s Travels, she was unable to join the film...I’m sure Blunt is still angry over that Gulliver’s Travels movie to this very day.


However, the most controversial casting was Don Cheadle as Rhodey/War Machine. Terrence Howard originated the role in the first Iron Man, but was replaced with many conflicting reasons as to why. Some say it was because Favreau and Howard didn’t get along. Others say it was because Howard left due to an awful salary. Others say Favreau and Theroux purposely cut down Rhodey’s involvement in the story. Whatever the reason, Howard was out and Cheadle was in. Reportedly, Marvel executive Ike Perlmutter believed people wouldn’t notice the casting change, because he apparently stated that Black people all look the same...think now’s a good time to say fuck Ike’s bitch-ass.




With a massive marketing campaign dating back to Comic-Con 2009, Iron Man 2 had everything going for it. Ads were everywhere, Downey was fresh off several hit films, and the goodwill from the last film ensured there was an excited and captive audience ready for more Tony Stark action. Sure enough, Iron Man 2 started up the summer on May 7 to instant success, earning $128.1 million upon its opening weekend, including $9.8 million, a record for an IMAX 2D title. This was the fifth-biggest opening of all time, the second biggest May debut, only behind Spider-Man 3, and Paramount’s biggest debut ever. This definitely made Paramount executives happy because of circumstances relating to the Disney acquisition. After Disney bought Marvel in late 2009, a deal was struck between the Mouse House and the Mountain. Paramount would be in charge of marketing and distribution, but they would only get an 8% cut of the box office with the majority given to Disney. Basically, Paramount did all the heavy lifting while Disney got most of the profits. You find your own metaphor with this. 


This opening was also 26% better than the first Iron Man, showing strong growth and fervent excitement over a direct follow-up to the original hit movie. However, Iron Man 2 failed to capture the legs and WOM magic of the first film. Reviews were good, but nowhere near as strong as what Iron Man 1 achieved in 2008, which was somewhat reflected in its legs. Weekend 2 saw the film fall 59% for a $52 million haul. And with more frontloaded business, Iron Man 2 actually finished below the first movie domestically with about $312.4 million. It may sound bad, especially considering the boost MCU sequels usually get, but it’s important to contextualize some things. This was back when the MCU was just starting out and Iron Man was a breakout nobody saw coming. The fact the sequel managed to just barely miss what the first movie achieved was miraculous stuff at the time and showed people still had interest in at least this particular Marvel property.


And of course, thanks to a massive boost from international audiences, Iron Man 2 far surpassed the first film worldwide with a final total of $623.9 million. It was clear people still loved Tony Stark and were excited to see him in more movies. And boy did we see him in a lot more movies.


Fourth domestic, sixth worldwide saw The Twilight Saga yet again with Eclipse. This yet again focuses on Bella’s conflicting emotions between her love for Edward and her friendship with Jacob, the decision of which could ignite the struggle between both vampire and werewolf. All the while, mysterious killings take place in Seattle.


Even before New Moon, Summit knew Eclipse was inevitable. Twilight was already a huge hit growing bigger every year and these movies were still on the cheap side compared to the likes of Harry Potter. So on February 2009, months before New Moon’s record-breaking debut, Eclipse was announced for a 2010 release date, with filming set for August 2009. Because New Moon director Chris Weitz was busy with the post-production for said film, a new director joined the foray. Enter Hard Candy director David Slade, who dedicated himself into making sure the project was just right, interviewing cast members individually to discuss the characters and plot for this installment.


The massive success of New Moon put high expectations on this release. Thankfully, Summit was prepared, with a massive marketing campaign that tied itself into very specific events. The first poster released just when New Moon was revving up its release. The first trailer dropped in time for Robert Pattinson’s Remember Me. Seven minutes of the film were a special feature on the New Moon DVD. The second trailer dropped on Oprah. A sneak peek arrived at the MTV Movie Awards. Special screenings occurred during a late June lunar eclipse.




And with a record theater count of 4,416, Summit put everything in their power to make Eclipse just as successful as the last movie. And it paid off. More than paid off actually. Opening on June 30, Eclipse immediately broke records by earning $30 million in midnight showings, beating New Moon’s midnight numbers just a few months prior. This led to an epic opening day of $68.5 million, the largest opening day for a Wednesday release, surpassing Revenge of the Fallen, as well as the second biggest opening day of all time, only behind New Moon. And with the entire Fourth of July holiday frame to call its own, Eclipse earned $176.4 million from Wednesday to Monday, just behind what New Moon totaled in its first six days. 


The fact that this sequel managed to match its predecessor like this was mindboggling and really showed the powerhouse Twilight was. People were obsessed with these movies, the romance, the characters, and the lore, which paid off handsomely for all parties. And thanks to summer weekdays, Eclipse managed to outpace New Moon and pass $300.5 million in the States, becoming the biggest movie of the franchise here. Overseas was also strong, earning $398 million for a grand total of $698.5 million. Below New Moon? Sure. But still incredible numbers for the series that showed Twilight fever was not slowing down. If anything, it was just beginning.


However, Summit found themselves in a sticky situation. Stephanie Meyer only wrote four books, so they were just about near their end when it came to milking this property. Thankfully, with the tremendous success of another YA franchise, Summit Entertainment found a way to keep the Twilight gravy train going for one more movie.


Fifth place in the States but third worldwide was the true penultimate Potter film with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1. It’s Harry Potter’s final year, but he’s not heading back to school. Instead he’s on a race against Lord Voldemort as Harry tries to destroy the Horcruxes, a series of items that if obtained by Voldemort could give the Dark Wizard pure immortality.


When developing this adaptation of the final Harry Potter novel the plan was for this to be one single movie. However, right as development started, the crew realized one film wasn’t enough. In order to have both a cohesive adaptation that hit all the marks for fans, as well as deliver something that was truly worthy of an epic finale, they had to make something bigger than anything done before. So executive producer Lionel Wigram suggested to David Heyman that this movie should be split into two parts out of “creative imperitance”. Heyman was against the idea, but after rereading the novel and discussing things with writer Steve Kloves, he agreed with the decision. And so, a two-part finale was greenlit, shot back-to-back and set for a fall 2010 and summer 2011 release respectively.




For David Yates’ part, both films have a very distinct tone and style that allowed a sense of closure for the series. Part 1 was the more character-driven piece. Playing out more like a road movie, this follows Harry, Ron, and Hermione with an emphasis on their character dynamics. How they have evolved, their relationships with one another, their friends, and their family, and much more. And while obviously full of special effects, the film is a bit more low-key in terms of locations, with the characters spending a good chunk of the runtime in the woods. This film was a strenuous one for set designer Stuart Craig, who mainly shot on location, but also had to design forest sets that seamlessly integrated with the real forest location. Craig would see an Oscar nomination for this work.


With a giant marketing campaign and the immense finale hype, Deathly Hallows - Part 1 was yet another highly anticipated release in the Potter canon, seeing an estimated 1,000 sold out theaters before its release. And on November 19, the beginning to the finale began its run with $125 million on its domestic opening weekend. This was not only the biggest Potter opening by far, but it was also the second-biggest November opening ever, and the sixth-biggest opening for any movie ever. Fans were clearly pumped to see how it all would end and they all came out in droves hungry for Potter action. Of course, with this being about as “fans only” of a film as you can get, Deathly Hallows - Part 1 was a frontloaded beast, finishing with 2.37 times its opening for a grand total of $296 million.


But that was obviously far from a bad thing. If anything, it showed just how strong the fanbase for Harry Potter was at the time and how much excitement people had for this penultimate iteration. This was even further shown overseas, with the UK seeing a record debut of $29.4 million. Overseas saw a colossal $205 million opening for a grand $330 million worldwide opening. This of course translated to just as, if not more impressive results than the domestic haul, earning $680.5 million overseas and $976.1 million worldwide, the biggest Potter film ever at that time.


But of course, this wasn’t what fans were really excited for. They loved this character-driven piece, but they were hungry for the meat and potatoes. The epic Battle of Hogwarts. The clash between Harry and Voldemort. All of this was building up to July 2011. And what a glorious send-off that was. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

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