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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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Papa Nolan earned his name in sixth place with the release of the sci-fi epic Inception. Leonardo DiCaprio is Dom Cobb, a professional thief who steals corporate information by going into the subconscious of his targets and extracting their information. Cobb finds himself in his biggest case yet that will allow him to have his criminal history erased. The task? Inception, aka implanting another person’s idea into a target’s subconscious.

 

When he first started out as a filmmaker, Nolan began working on an 80-page treatment for a heist film about dream-stealers. The script was worked on for nine to ten years, with influences coming from films like The Matrix and Dark City and even his own film Memento. Nolan would pitch his idea to Warner Bros. to 2001, but it’s here where the studio got cold feet. The project seemed too ambitious and cost way too much for a guy who really only had one major film under his belt. Instead, WB offered the director a chance to work on Batman Begins and The Dark Knight to help him become more familiar with blockbuster big-budget filmmaking. And after The Dark Knight happened...yeah I think WB had faith in Nolan’s crazy idea by then. They purchased the spec script in February 2009 and got Leonardo DiCaprio, who always wanted to work with Nolan on a film, on board as star.

 

And with a $160 million budget, Nolan’s ambitious idea was going to be executed with spectacle and style for days. Filming took place across the globe, with shots in Tokyo, the United Kingdom, France, Morocco, Los Angeles, and Alberta. And with Nolan wanting to use as little CGI effects as possible, the production also called for distinct practical effects that made the film stand out. Perhaps the most ambitious special effect is the hotel corridor sequence, which actually rotated 360 degrees, creating a new sense of gravity when entering the second level of dreaming. This 100 foot long corridor was suspended on eight concentric rings and powered by two massive motors.

 

The star of this scene was Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who spent weeks learning how to fight in this giant hamster wheel of an effect. Levitt was thrashed around this corridor for weeks and was forced to find a certain rhythm in order to pull this scene off. But despite the battery taken on him, the effect paid off tremendously, creating something otherworldly and unlike anything ever seen before. And that idea of Inception being something never seen before was the big selling point for the movie.

 

WB’s worldwide marketing president Sue Kroll, among others, knew the potential they had for this movie. They knew that Nolan was starting to become an exciting director to people, arguably a brand of some sort, and that the idea had enough potential for some quality trailer money shots. Sure enough, Inception earned itself a massive $100 million marketing campaign, with too many “braam” sound effects in the trailers to count.

 

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Opening in both regular and IMAX theaters on July 16, the patience Nolan took with taking this to the silver screen wonderfully paid off. Opening to $62.8 million on its opening weekend, this was an incredible first start, becoming the biggest debut ever for a DiCaprio production and the second-biggest original sci-fi film opening, only behind Avatar. A low 60s opening is usually something given to films with brands and IP attached to them. And yet, here was Nolan’s weird film about dreams making all this kind of money.

 

But for Inception, the film’s success was more than just its opening weekend. As a film, Inception is a meaty one. Its themes focus on dreams, reality, the subconscious, and more. And as a film that tackles so many complex subjects and ideas, it was necessary to see the film multiple times in order to fully understand it. In a way, that idea seems backwards. Wouldn’t you want people to enjoy the film for the first time to encourage people to see it out of the gate? But because Inception was so good and so fascinating to watch, people were more than eager to catch the movie again and again just so they could fully understand what the damn thing was all about.

 

Weekend two saw Inception stay at #1 with a slim 32% drop, earning $42.7 million for a $142.9 million 10-day haul. It was a sign right then and there people were loving it, coming back for more, and eager to discuss their theories and understanding of the film. And that continued in weekend three where Inception was #1 yet again, dropping only 36% and earning $27.5 million, totaling up to about $193.3 million in 17 days. It was pretty clear this was going to be a sensation, and the film continued to hold well through the summer and into the fall, with the film not even dropping more than 40% until Columbus weekend. Inception stayed in the top 10 for 11 straight weeks, finishing in the States with $292.6 million, 4.66 times its opening. Worldwide was $826.1 million.

 

It was an incredible feat, even for 2010. This was a movie that sold itself on its star, its director, and its concept, and people ate it up. If anything, the film excited them so much they watched it over and over again just so they can truly enjoy it, interpret it with friends, and so on. It’s the kind of film that is almost an anomaly, and is where I truly believe Christopher Nolan got the “Papa” moniker. I give this moniker to people on the idea they can sell a movie just by their very presence. And while Batman Begins and The Dark Knight still had the Batman name to them, Inception was all on Nolan. It was all on his unique idea executed beautifully in a way that took the world by storm and excited a mass group of people that appreciated everything that came with it. It’s the kind of skill and understanding of a general audience that most filmmakers wish they could achieve, but makes Papa Nolan’s work all the more special

 

Inception has lived on as one of the most iconic films of the 2010s, being referenced and parodied to death, as well as hailed by some as one of Papa Nolan’s best ever.

 

Illumination saw its humble beginnings in seventh place (ninth worldwide) with Despicable Me. Steve Carell voices the supervillain Gru, who plans to do the heist of a lifetime and try to steal the Moon. And his way to get his heist is complete is by adopting three sisters from the local orphanage. But despite Gru treating them like dirt at first and only using them for his villainous intentions, Gru grows a soft spot over these girls and discovers that being bad isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

 

This project first began under Spanish animator Sergio Pablos, best known for his work in Disney productions like The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Tarzan, and Treasure Planet. Pablos’ idea, initially titled Evil Me, was then brought over to Universal Pictures. The company was fond of the idea and Pablos began working on the screenplay and became an executive producer. Sadly, the one drawback was that Universal didn’t have an animation arm to call their own.

 

But lo and behold, Universal found luck with famed producer Chris Meledandri. Meledandri was president of Fox Animation and Blue Sky and oversaw hit films like Ice Age, Robots, and Horton Hears a Who!. But in late 2007, Meledandri left his post at Fox in favor of creating his own production company known as Illumination Entertainment. And by 2008, Illumination struck a deal with Universal Pictures by becoming the family arm of that company, producing one or two movies a year. Illumination saw complete creative control while Universal saw exclusive distribution.

 

And sure enough, Meledandri bought Sergio Pablos’ pitch and hired Horton’s Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio as screenwriters. Meledandri also got Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud as directors, and hired the French-based company Mac Guff as the animation studio. Illumination would later acquire Mac Guff in 2011. And thus, the project was formally announced in 2008, becoming Ilumination’s first ever project.

 

The most defining aspect of this film and the series as a whole has been the side characters known as the Minions. These yellow pill capsule-designed creatures had a very distinct energy and character to them, with their defining traits including childlike behavior, gibberish language, silly voices and slapstick, and goofy incompetence at their jobs.

 

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They may be oversaturated and obnoxious today, but back in 2010, their comedy was pretty fresh. Their manic energy and goofy personalities made them identifiable and fun to both kids and adults, and were the main centerpiece for the film’s marketing. And thanks to Universal also owning NBC, the Minions and the film itself were marketed everywhere, with synergistic ads on The Biggest Loser and Last Comic Standing and cross promotions with IHOP and Best Buy among many others. This type of massive in-your-face marketing would be a staple for Illumination productions for years to come.

 

Opening on July 9, Despicable Me was opening just after Shrek Forever After and Toy Story 3, both of which were highly-anticipated and had incredible brand recognition behind them. So this movie really needed to prove itself if it wanted a piece of the animation pie. And it very much did, with a very strong $56.4 million opening weekend. Below Shrek and Toy Story, but still an amazing feat for an animation studio with no brand recognition. In fact, it was the third biggest opening for a non-sequel non-Disney animated film, only behind Kung Fu Panda and Monsters vs. Aliens, both of which had the Dreamworks name.

 

This was a hail mary for Universal Pictures. It might seem surreal to say this now, in a day and age where Universal has the likes of Jurassic World and Blumhouse, but back in 2010, NBC’s film division was struggling to get any headway in the box office for about three years, with their only other strong hit at the time being 2009’s Fast & Furious. But after years of struggling to find their footing when it comes to franchise fare, they just managed to land themselves a potential animated powerhouse here. And any potential fears of the film’s longevity and appeal would later be squashed when the next few weeks arrived. With solid reviews and zero family competition, Despicable Me would go on to play like gangbusters in the weeks to come.

 

Its second weekend saw about a 42% drop, but still managed to reach $118.4 million in just 10 days, ensuring Universal would get to at least $200 million with this. To let people know how important that was to Universal, between 2005 and 2010, only King Kong and The Bourne Ultimatum hit $200 million. Weekend three was especially great, dropping 27% for $23.7 million and a current total of $161.3 million, becoming the biggest Universal movie since Ultimatum in 2007. And sure enough, not only did Despicable Me cross $200 million, but it managed to actually outgross Shrek Forever After, a film with far more anticipation and excitement going in. With a hefty total of $251.5 million, Despicable Me served as the biggest non-Dreamworks/non-Disney animated movie ever. Worldwide was also great, with about $543.1 million.

 

This was yet another feather in Meledandri’s cap after the success of Ice Age. His new studio managed to hit it right out of the park on their first try and finally made Universal competitive in the animation landscape for the first time since the mid 80s. And this would lead to a pretty big embarrassment of riches for both Universal and Illumination in the years to come, all of which we’ll talk about in the future.

 

And for this franchise in particular, Despicable Me would go on to become one of the biggest animated franchises in film history, earning hit after hit. Two hit sequels, with another one in the works, a hit prequel with a sequel to said prequel currently set for 2021, several short films, an active presence at Universal Studios, and so much more since 2010. Not so despicable, eh?

 

Eighth domestic, fifth worldwide saw the epic conclusion of Shrek (at least for now) with Shrek Forever After. Shrek has become a family man and massive celebrity to his name. But that comes at a price: a lack of privacy and feeling as if he is living the same day over and over again. With a yearning to live the glory days of being a scary ogre again, he makes a deal with Rumpelstilskin. But like with the original tale, Shrek’s deal with Rumpel causes disastrous consequences for him and his loved ones. Stuck in a Wonderful Life scenario, Shrek has to find a way to reverse the curse and save Far Far Away before it’s too late.

 

The massive success of Shrek 2 encouraged Dreamworks Animation head Jeffrey Katzenberg to have not one, not two, but three more Shrek movies. October 2007 saw Katzenberg announce the next title Shrek Goes Fourth, where as Katzenberg beautifully explains, “Shrek goes out into the world, forth!” Tim Sullivan was hired to write in March 2005, but would later be replaced by Darren Lamke and Josh Klausner.

 

As the two men began developing the project, Katzenberg realized he had something special here. The story’s emphasis on Shrek’s family life and coming to grips with who he is was the perfect fit for a conclusion to Shrek’s long-gestating character arc and a solid conclusion to the franchise itself. Therefore, Shrek 4, now titled Shrek Forever After, would serve as the final chapter to the Shrek saga, thereby scrapping Shrek 5 altogether. And boy would Katzenberg let you know this was the final chapter. Every poster, trailer and ad tried to push that in your face as a way to get audiences hooked to come back one last time. And it did work, albeit not as well as Dreamworks likely hoped.

 

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Opening in 4,359 theaters, the widest release ever for an animated film, Forever After only generated $70.8 million in its opening weekend. A strong amount for sure, but it was a pretty big drop from what Shrek 2 and Shrek the Third generated a couple years ago without 3D and IMAX surcharges. It would finish its run in the States with $238.7 million, the lowest gross in the franchise.

 

It was an obvious hit here, and Dreamworks executives did mention they were pleased with these results, considering much of the Shrek fanbase had outgrown the franchise once 2010 rolled around. But it was a clear sign that interest in the franchise was diminishing in America. On the other end of the spectrum, overseas did very well here, earning $513.9 million, the highest of the franchise, with a record animated opening in Russia of all places. Its worldwide total was $752.6 million, the third-best of the franchise.

 

At the very least, there was still money to be made here with Shrek, even if this is the final chapter. And sure enough, a Puss in Boots spin-off was released in 2011, earning positive reviews and $554.9 million at the box office, as well as the biggest Halloween opening of all time. A television show based on Puss also released on Netflix, and a Puss in Boots sequel has been in an on-again off-again status for years.

 

And despite Shrek Forever After being the “Final Chapter”, a fifth Shrek movie has been lingering in development hell for years. Its last reports were in November 2018, with Chris Meledandri in charge of reviving the Shrek series with plans to bring back the original cast. Guess it's not ogre after all!

 

Ninth place (tenth worldwide) was yet another Dreamworks hit with How To Train Your Dragon. The Viking village of Berk deals with dragon attacks on a daily basis, teaching their younglings how to kill these beasts. But one boy named Hiccup manages to capture a dragon, the rare and uncatchable Night Fury. It’s here where Hiccup learns not how to slay a dragon, but how to train a dragon and create a friendship between them. And it’s through his actions he may just be able to convince anyone that their fighting is a misunderstanding and there is something beautiful about these dangerous creatures.

 

The original book series written by Cressida Crowell was being shopped for film rights around Hollywood, with Dreamworks Animation being no exception. And after producer Bonnie Arnold saw success with the 2006 comedy Over the Hedge, she decided this would be her next project over at the studio.

 

Originally the movie was going to lean heavily towards the book’s story and tone, offering a sweet, whimsical tone that leaned towards a younger audience. But when Lilo & Stitch directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois joined the project, they felt the film wouldn’t work being so close to the original book, resulting in heavy alterations in the story, characters, and especially tone, offering a more serious and mature take. The director team also hired Roger Deakins as a technical consultant to help make the lighting and overall look of the film feel like a live-action movie. They also did extensive research on both flight and fire. For the latter, because animation could far exceed what was possible in live-action films and the former because they knew the flying scenes would be the most dynamic for 3D screenings.

 

There was even a bit of a controversy when the film was set to release. Back when 3D was the hip new thing, every studio was cashing in on the trend, with an infamous example being WB’s Clash of the Titans remake. Not only was the film hastily converted into 3D at the last minute, it actually moved down a week from its original release date March 26, the same as Dragon. Katzenberg considered this sabotage, because at that time theaters would typically host only one 3D auditorium. Theater owners then accused Paramount and Dreamworks of using high-pressure tactics to convince theaters to play Dragon in 3D rather than Clash of the Titans or Alice in Wonderland, creating an awful logjam for theaters who were trying to capitalize on the 3D hype for all these anticipated movies. 2010 was a wild time to be alive.

 

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Anyways, How to Train Your Dragon was released on March 26 and was advertised as being nothing like the typical Dreamworks production. There was no all-star celebrity voice cast, no hip pop culture references, no in-your-face attitude. It was kind of a risk in fact, considering it didn’t have the hallmarks typically found in Dreamworks productions, which could have alienated their core fanbase. But that wasn’t the case. The movie opened to a solid $43.7 million, the eighth biggest March opening ever, albeit just average for the usual Dreamworks opening. But at the very least, it did show people were interested in the final product. However, things started to get crazy in the weeks ahead.

 

How to Train Your Dragon was by far the biggest critical hit Dreamworks ever saw, earning praise for its story, characters and especially its animation. And audiences couldn’t get enough of the thing, as the following weekend, Easter weekend in fact, Dragon saw the smallest drop in the top 10, 34%, and earned $29 million for the weekend. This was a better hold than previous spring animated titles and was a clear sign word of mouth was working its magic here. Weekend three was when things really got crazy, with only a 14% drop for $24.9 million, despite it being the weekend after a holiday. With $133.4 million in the tank by then, it was a certainty it would cross $200 million. Weekend four saw it just barely miss the #1 spot, falling 21% for $19.6 million. And on weekend five, the Dreamworks film actually went back to #1 after languishing below the mark in previous weekends. The last time a film opened to #1 and regained the crown a couple weeks later was the first Narnia movie in 2005.

 

Basically, HTTYD was a sensation and a WOM behemoth. People couldn’t get enough of this movie, and the toon finally ended with $217.6 million domestically, almost five times its opening. This surpassed Kung Fu Panda as the biggest non-Shrek title for Dreamworks and gave the studio a new potential franchise to call their own. Worldwide was $494.9 million. And with this immense success, we saw one strong animated franchise. Two sequels were released in 2014 and 2019 which diminished in the States but still surpassed the first movie globally. This movie also spawned two television series, several TV specials and short films, and even an arena show. It continues to be a favorite amongst Dreamworks and animation fans.

 

Our animation section finally concludes with Disney’s Tangled, which earned tenth domestic and eighth worldwide. A retelling of the Rapunzel story, this is the story of a young princess with magical blonde hair who is locked away in a tower by her adoptive mother, using her hair to stay eternally young. Yearning to leave her tower, she forces a reluctant thief to rescue her from her home and get a chance to see a world she never experienced before.

 

This Disney animated film was the passion project of famed Disney animator Glen Keane, who began developing a story based on Rapunzel in 1996. When he pitched the idea to Michael Eisner in 2001, Eisner would sign off, so long as the film was CGI. Keane was hesitant on telling the story in this medium, but Keane trusted Eisner, and thus Rapunzel Unbraided began development in 2003 for a 2007 release date. This was a Shrek-style spoof of Rapunzel, focusing on witty dialogue and mocking the conventional Disney fairy tale. Eisner even suggested the film take place initially in San Francisco with Rapunzel being transported into a magical fairy tale world because...reasons.

 

However, while Rapunzel Unbraided probably would have been a fun movie, Glen Keane knew that the film deserved a sincere and genuine interpretation in line with the classic fairy tale and many of Disney’s most successful feature films. So when Ed Catmull and John Lasseter became in charge of Walt Disney Animation Studios, the entire project was reworked from the ground up and retitled Rapunzel. Keane and Disney animator Dean Wellins were set to direct, but after Keane suffered a heart attack in 2008, he stepped down from the role, giving it to Bolt director Byron Howard and Meet the Robinsons writer Nathan Greno.

 

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Despite being a CGI film, Glen Keane envisioned Rapunzel as an extension of the 2D Disney aesthetic. Traditional oil paintings were used as a reference for the art direction, with Disney creating new computer programs that allowed greater expression from the artist and a distinct blend of both CGI and 2D animation, all to suit Keane’s vision. But even with the new tech, there were still a lot of problems the animators had to deal with, the biggest being the one thing they could not screw up: hair. Hair is one of the hardest things to animate in CGI, and Keane was adamant it had to look lush and lively. Senior software engineer Kelly Ward spent six years developing programs to make Rapunzel’s hair move the way they wanted it to.

 

With six years of production, countless changes and rewrites, and creating brand new tech that allowed the film to have a unique and memorable art style, the cost for Rapunzel was getting high. Very high. With a production budget of $260 million, this was by far the most expensive animated movie ever made, a record it still holds to this very day. For a while, it was only behind At World’s End for the most expensive movie of all time. And after the last Disney Princess title, The Princess and the Frog, did lukewarm business, Disney knew this movie had to make its money somehow. This resulted in a very controversial title change.

 

Ed Catmull and John Lasseter felt that the title The Princess and the Frog caused an idea that the film would only appeal to little girls and limited its box office appeal across demographics. So as to avoid the same mistake again and show audiences that this had something for everyone, Rapunzel was changed to Tangled, while the marketing put just as much, if not more emphasis on the male lead Flynn Rider compared to Rapunzel. This title change saw heavy criticism, though its directors did defend the change, arguing both Flynn and Rapunzel have their own compelling story arcs. But while it may not have been the main factor, this title change might have worked.

 

Opening on November 24 (my birthday btw), Tangled’s opening day amounted to $11.9 million, the biggest pre-Thanksgiving Wednesday opening ever, beating out Toy Story 2. And while it couldn’t totally beat out the Pixar sequel’s opening, it still managed to see $48.8 million for the three-day and $68.7 million for the five-day, becoming the second-biggest Thanksgiving debut. And Tangled’s three day became the biggest opening ever for Walt Disney Animation Studios, beating out The Lion King. And with critical praise behind it, Tangled continued to bring in the crowds through the holidays, finishing its run with $200.8 million domestically, becoming the fourth-biggest film from WDAS, only behind Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. Worldwide was $592.5 million, second only to The Lion King.

 

Whether changing the title helped or not, this movie was just as important to Disney as Toy Story 3 and Alice in Wonderland were. It signaled to audiences that Walt Disney Animation Studios was a division that had something special and distinct about them. It showed that Disney can evolve from what they did in the 90s. It showed to Disney that fairy tale adaptations can still work, so long as you give them enough of a modern spin to make new audiences invested in the story.

 

And sure enough, Tangled would go on to be one of Disney’s biggest franchises ever. While a sequel was discussed, we would instead see a short film titled Tangled Ever After in 2012. And a few years later, Disney Channel aired Tangled: The Series, which lasted three seasons, ending this past March. In fact, Tangled saw a bit of a resurgence in popularity this year when people realized the setting of the movie was the kingdom of Corona and it was about a girl isolating herself away from Corona. Weird. And of course, Tangled has sold way too much merchandise and dolls to count.

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In eighteenth place, we have The King’s Speech. This is the story of King George VI, played by Colin Firth, a royal infamous for his awful stammer. Meeting an Australian speech therapist named Lionel Logue, played by Geoffrey Rush, the two become great friends, and upon the abdication of the throne, the duo try to help each other to the best of their ability before George has to make his first wartime broadcast to the public.

 

This feature film was a passion project for screenwriter David Seidler. Seidler grew up with a stammer as a child, possibly due to the trauma of World War II and losing his grandparents in the Holocaust. So the idea that a royal like George VI managed to overcome his stammer inspired Seidler as a child and gave him the drive to write a screenplay about George VI’s life story. He worked on it throughout the 80s, putting in as much research as possible, but was forced to stop, as the Queen Mother asked him to postpone work on the project.

 

After the Queen Mother’s death in 2002, Seider found inspiration to continue working, albeit rewritten as a stage play with an emphasis on the relationship between George and Logue. There were further rewrites nine weeks before filming started when Seidler discovered Logue’s original journals during his time as George’s therapist. They even used excerpts from his journal in the screenplay itself.

 

Anyways, when the original play’s script ended up in the hands of Joan Lane, an employee at the London production company Wilde Thyme, she, alongside some executives at Bedlam Productions, saw potential in Seidler’s work, offering a chance for a big-screen interpretation of the work. They also hosted a table reading with a group of Australian expatriates, one of whom being the mother of the film’s director Tom Hooper.

 

For the casting, Joan Lane knew she wanted Geoffrey Rush for the role of Lionel Logue. But rather than send the script to his agent, Lane asked an Australian staff member to hand-deliver the script to Rush’s house. While Rush’s manager did reprimand the staff member for breaking etiquette, Rush still liked the screenplay and signed on for the project. For King George, Paul Bettany was the favorite for Seider, while Tom Hooper was gunning for Hugh Grant. Both men declined, but after the duo met Colin Firth, Seider and Hooper felt he had the chops to pull the role off.

 

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Tom Hooper created a unique visual style that made it distinct from other British period pieces and evoke the King’s feelings of constriction and insecurity. Hooper and cinematographer Danny Cohen used wider than usual lenses during shooting, helping to create a unique sense of discomfort over the King’s struggles. The cinematography also utilized wide shots that showcased the distinct body language of Firth and Rush, as well as extreme close-ups that captured the emotions of the characters’ faces. This avant-garde direction on a basic period piece caught many by surprise, but was welcomed for its unique style and direction. This kind of directing would also define Tom Hooper’s work going forward, for better or for worse.

 

One of the biggest controversies going into The King’s Speech was its age rating: 15 in the UK, R in the US. This basically blocked out teenagers from seeing a movie that would have likely appealed to them. Hooper argued against this unfair rating, especially as action movies like Casion Royale had a 12A or PG-13 despite having graphic violence and torture sequences. In fact, the only reason the movie is rated so high is one scene where Rush asks Firth to shout a bunch of profanities. Everything else was fine. Horrible person Harvey Weinstein, the US distributor for the movie, asked Hooper to edit out these words to get a PG-13, but Hooper resisted, resulting in the film sticking with an adults only rating. A PG-13 edit was released in theaters, but made very little money.

 

The King’s Speech debuted at Telluride and Toronto. The latter is where the movie won the People’s Choice Award, a clear indication this had strong box office potential. And sure enough, The King’s Speech released in the US on November 26 in 4 theaters. And in that initial weekend, King’s Speech saw the best PTA of the year, $88.9 thousand per theater for $355.4 thousand. The following weeks were slow and steady, though there was a solid boost on Christmas weekend and New Year’s weekend ($4.5 million and $7.8 million respectively), helped by seven Golden Globe nominations and an expansion to 700 theaters.

 

And as the weeks continued, more and more awards and strategies helped drum up hype for the movie. A 1,500+ theater expansion on MLK weekend. A PGA win and Golden Globe win for Best Actor. A dozen Oscar nominations, the highest for any film and a DGA win for Tom Hooper. Seven BAFTA wins including Best Film. And to cap it all off, four Oscar wins, including Best Picture and Best Director at a time when David Fincher’s The Social Network was considered the film to beat. All of this amounted to a tremendous $135.4 million in the States and Canada, the biggest Weinstein title ever.

 

Elsewhere, The King’s Speech was a juggernaut in the UK, staying #1 three weeks in a row and earning at least £3 million for four consecutive weeks, the first film to do since Toy Story 3. This made it the most successful British independent production ever and helped the film earn $424 million worldwide.

 

Some are more dismissive of The King’s Speech nowadays as the film that “stole” Social Network’s Oscar and for beginning Tom Hooper’s more...spotty film career. But the reason the film found its success, simply put, is because it worked. It told an interesting story with little media representation, did so in a compelling format, and featured two actors at the top of their game. And that’s all you need to create a crowd-pleasing, engaging, and successful feature. Queen Elizabeth II was reported to have even cried at seeing such a moving portrayal of her father. Honestly, that’s the highest mark Seider and Hooper could have hoped for.

 

As said before, The King’s Speech's immense success caused Hooper to become a big name in the world of British film, from the polarizing but financially successful Les Miserables adaptation to the critically derided The Danish Girl to the absolute joke that was Cats. But hey, I can appreciate a film that gave us Mr. Mistofelees. Colin Firth also saw more recognition and love in the industry. Which is something I am a-okay with because Colin Firth is the GOAT.

 

One step below The King’s Speech was a film that saw similar box office results, at least domestically, but nowhere near the same critical adoration. Yes, at nineteenth place we have The Last Airbender, based on the first season of the famed Nickelodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender. In a world where people have the ability to control one of the four major elements, four nations, all of which in control of one element, lived together in harmony. But after the Fire Nation declares war upon the other three nations, the world is in peril. The only one who can save the planet is a young boy named Aang, the Avatar. The Avatar is only person who can control all four elements of water, earth, fire, and air. This journey follows Aang as he attempts to master waterbending and face off against some Fire Nation baddies along the way.

 

The original animated series, first airing in 2005, was a critical and commercial darling. It was praised for its tackling of mature and complicated subject matter, its engaging mythology, and innovative storytelling, especially for something on Nickelodeon. With such acclaim and a strong fanbase, a trilogy based on each of its three seasons was announced by Paramount and Nickelodeon Movies in 2007. The planned writer and director for this trilogy was M. Night Shyamalan, in what was a bit of an off-kilter move. Shyamalan was known for his small-scale thrillers and horror titles, and was on a critical losing streak. Him making a big-budget action-adventure film that was set to kick off a franchise was an odd one. However, Shyamalan had love for the original series after being introduced to it by his kids and felt the world had potential on the big screen. And Brad Grey believed, despite his inconsistent track record, that Shyamalan had the vision to pull it off...it was at that moment Brad Grey made the biggest mistake of his life.

 

For the role of Aang, the part was given to newcomer Noah Ringer. Ringer practiced taekwondo at the time, and began shaving his head during his martial arts training to help cool off. This not only gave him the nickname “Avatar” by his classmates, but when Ringer heard about the movie, he decided to film an audition tape with his instructor and somehow ended up as the lead of a $150 million production despite never acting before.

 

Ringer’s casting, among many other actors in the movie, led to immense controversy. The show took place in an Asiatic world and featured characters of East Asian and Inuit descent. It also showed Hindu, Taoist, and Buddhist philosophy throughout the series. it was disconcerting to see that the leads were all played by white actors. Fans and organizations called out the film for not giving Asian actors a chance to be in a major Hollywood production, considering it immensely disrespectful to what the original show stood for. Even worse, the role of the villain Prince Zuko was set to be played by teen pop star Jesse McCartney of all people, before being recast as Dev Patel at the last minute. So it’s a movie about a bunch of white kids taking down an empire featuring Indian, Iranian, and Persian figures...huh.

 

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But despite Shyamalan’s shaky track record and justified backlash, Paramount put on a brave face and pushed this film hard. A teaser trailer released a year before release during screenings of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, a TV spot debuted at the Super Bowl, and Nickelodeon put out a whole line of merchandise and several graphic novels to hype up the piece. But behind it all, two people were left out in the cold: Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, the men who actually created the original television series. In a 2014 interview, the men admitted, while they had respect for Shyamalan’s work, the project was given a go-ahead without their approval and any input they put into the project was completely ignored. And while it’s debatable that their input would have saved this project, their lack of contribution certainly didn’t help.

 

When it released on July 1, The Last Airbender was absolutely savaged by critics and the general public. Considered one of the worst movies of all time in fact. Fans hated the liberties the adaptation took, as well as sucking away a lot of its charm. Newcomers were bored and confused over what was going on. Combine it with bad acting, bad writing, and laughable fight scenes, nobody really cared for it. But with all the hype, it still did okay-ish business at the box office. It earned $69.3 million over the long Independence Day weekend, but failed to achieve further momentum, seeing only just $131.8 million domestically and $319.7 million worldwide.

 

It may have doubled from its $150 million production budget, but it still didn’t help everything else surrounding it. People were not happy about this movie, and it killed any future for the rest of the planned trilogy. Shyamalan and Dev Patel also expressed regret over the film. The former felt he had little control on the project, resulting in him later deciding to finance his own films. The latter made him want to avoid big-budget productions forever.

 

But despite the awful reactions, it was far from the end for the Avatar franchise. In 2012, Nickelodeon and both DiMartino and Konietzko created the sequel series The Legend of Korra, which also saw critical acclaim. And just a few months ago, Avatar: The Last Airbender was added to Netflix and saw a major resurgence in popularity. There’s even plans from Netflix to create a new live-action series based on Avatar...and it was just announced that DiMartino and Konietzko left the series due to creative differences...good luck I guess.

 

And finally, we end off 2010 with a look at the audacious Darren Aronofsky piece Black Swan. A ballet company in New York City is preparing for a production of Swan Lake. This production has a dancer played by Natalie Portman as the innocent and fragile White Swan, as well as Portman’s rival, played by Mila Kunis, as the villainous and twisted Black Swan. Overwhelmed by the pressure over competing for the part, Portman finds her sense of reality distorted as she slowly loses her sanity and descends into madness.

 

The basic idea for this film came from Aronofsky reworking a screenplay called The Understudy, initially written by Andres Heinz. The script, detailing off-Broadway actors the idea of being haunted by a double, was a fascinating one to the famed director, taking elements from All About Eve and Roman Polanski’s The Tenant. Aronofsky then reworked the screenplay and combined this idea with ballet, a subject Aronofsky also had strong interest in. Black Swan was also conceived as a companion piece to his previous film The Wrestler, as he believed both the stories and subject matters had oddly distinct parallels with one another. Aronofsky then approached Natalie Portman with the idea of doing a ballet movie in 2000, and was something Portman was interested in. Sure enough, Aronofsky had his idea and his star.

 

Aronofsky sent his outline to Universal Pictures in 2007, who then fast-tracked development of the project. Unfortunately, the director’s commitment to The Wrestler put Black Swan on the back burner and Universal put the film in turnaround in 2009. This resulted in the project gaining a lot of attention from other studios, especially because Portman was attached to it. Sure enough, Fox Searchlight earned the distribution rights and gave the project a budget of $10-12 million. Filming began in the end of 2009.

 

Black Swan opened the 2010 Venice Film Festival and saw instant success, with one of the strongest standing ovations for the fest in recent memory. The success of Black Swan in the festival circuit, with particular emphasis on Natalie Portman’s performance, led to tremendous results at the box office. Opening in eighteen theaters on December 3, Black Swan’s debut was spectacular, earning $1.4 million, an average of $80.2 thousand per theater. This was the second biggest theater average of 2010, only behind The King’s Speech. Appearing in the top 15 in such limited theaters was an impressive result and showed there was intrigue in Portman’s performance and Aronofsky’s bizarre vision.

 

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But more impressive were the weeks that immediately followed. Expanding to 90 theaters, Black Swan earned $3.3 million, seeing $5.6 million after 10 days of release. It seems fine enough on paper, but its placement on the charts was even more interesting. With admittedly little else playing, Black Swan landed in sixth place on its second weekend. It’s incredibly rare for a movie to land in the top 10 with less than 100 theaters, let alone make it to #6, and it certainly turned a few heads who were unaware about this film’s existence. Its third weekend saw Black Swan play in 959 theaters, with a seventh place entry and $8.4 million that weekend, bolstered by four Golden Globe nominations.

 

And as you can guess, Black Swan saw plenty of benefits from the awards season that helped keep it in the conversation and made people excited to check the film out. A Best Actress Globe for Natalie Portman. Five Oscar nominations. A Best Actress Oscar for Portman yet again. Constant theater expansions timed just right. This would all lead to one of Fox Searchlight’s biggest titles ever, earning a grand total of $106.9 million domestic and $329.4 million worldwide.

 

During this time, there were a lot of other Oscar contenders making money here, but Black Swan was by far the most surprising. While not completely inaccessible, Black Swan was by far the most experimental, avant-garde and uncommercial of the lot. But this psycho horror title managed to take the world by storm, found a passionate audience, and got people interested in a subject matter and tone that wasn’t really an easy avenue for success before. Just goes to show what strong awards buzz and an interesting premise can do I suppose. Aronofsky’s future projects, Noah and mother! both saw less success, but certainly have their champions and defenders.

 

And now, the rundown of all the other movies that came out I didn’t have time to mention. The Karate Kid was rebooted to great success. Tron: Legacy brought back the Disney cult property to solid success. The Coens remade True Grit to great success. Clash of the Titans gave us craptastic 3D. Grown Ups was The Avengers of Sandler comedies. The Fockers returned even though nobody asked. Dreamworks had another solid hit with Megamind. Shutter Island became the biggest Leo-Marty combo for a time. Will Ferrell and Marky Mark collabed on The Other Guys. Jolie did what Tom Cruise couldn’t do with Salt. The Jackass series was brought back in 3D to record numbers. Everybody got forced into doing Valentine’s Day. Russel Crowe tried to bring back Robin Hood to no avail.

 

Narnia failed to recapture the box office magic with Voyage of the Dawn Treader. The Expendables became a solid franchise for Sylvester Stallone. Due Date was the epic return of Todd Phillips. Yogi Bear was made into a movie for some reason. Date Night brought two NBC funnymen together. David Fincher lost an Oscar with The Social Network. Sex and the City 2 was a disastrous follow-up. The Fighter and The Town showed the horrors of Boston. Prince of Persia failed to find film success. Red took a funny premise to solid returns. Percy Jackson was an adaptation despised by fans. Unstoppable was sadly the swan song of Tony Scott. Dear John dethroned Avatar. Sony bribed the Golden Globes over The Tourist. Diary of a Wimpy Kid went to the big screen. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was the far less successful live-action remake. Platinum Dunes brought back Freddy Krueger. The Last Song continued Nicolas Sparks’ powah. The Wolfman was a costly Universal Monsters remake nobody saw.

 

Takers had a poster for the ages. Legend of the Guardians was that one weird time Zack Snyder made a kids movie. Wall Street got a sequel. Predator came back but nobody cared. Hot Tub Time Machine was a fun 80s throwback. Death at a Funeral was remade for some reason. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was ignored in theaters but found a major cult following. How Do You Know cost $120 million. Danny Trejo brought his Machete character in a lead role. Remember Me had one of the most infamous endings in film history. 127 Hours was a test of strength for James Franco. Furry Vengeance is a title that deserved a better movie.

 

And lastly, Marmaduke...came out I guess.

 

This was 2010

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@baumer @Brainbug @excel1 @YourMother the Edgelord @Webslinger @charlie Jatinder @Noctis @Plain Old Tele 2010 was another fun one to look to. This decade served as a real turning point for the future of the box office, in terms of new animated franchises, new directors, and the first steps towards Disney's future dominance in the field. Hope you all are still enjoying all the work I'm putting into these and I can't wait to continue on doing what I love doing here.

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2010 is best described by one sound:

 

 

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8 hours ago, Count Eric said:

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.

Also in that same draft, Woody was a racist.

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On 10/10/2020 at 9:33 PM, Count Eric said:

One of the biggest controversies going into The King’s Speech was its age rating: 15 in the UK, R in the US. This basically blocked out teenagers from seeing a movie that would have likely appealed to them. Hooper argued against this unfair rating, especially as action movies like Casion Royale had a 12A or PG-13 despite having graphic violence and torture sequences. In fact, the only reason the movie is rated so high is one scene where Rush asks Firth to shout a bunch of profanities. Everything else was fine. Horrible person Harvey Weinstein, the US distributor for the movie, asked Hooper to edit out these words to get a PG-13, but Hooper resisted, resulting in the film sticking with an adults only rating. A PG-13 edit was released in theaters, but made very little money.

It has a 6y and older rating here in Germany, I used it in my Media subject, one of the few non action.... movies e.g. 7th to 10th graders took / reacted to very positively.  

We watched it in English, it was rather easy to follow even for the weaker English learners (but I did a few explanations and so on beforehand, and watched it with subtitles).

My mind can not fathom at all why it got such old age restrictions in the US, and in this case even in UK, but here its more about violence amd way less about nudity and/or language for a movie to get age restrictions.

E.g. a few blood-less but e.g. even death including violence movies with no restrictions or e.g. 6years old elsewhere gets here a at least 12y restriction or even older.

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2011

A series of protests in the Middle East occurred, the Syrian War begins, and Turkey, New Zealand and Japan are hit by devastating earthquakes. Thailand sees devastating floods, the Occupy movement begins, and massive flash floods emerge in the Phillippines. Bit of a bummer year 2011 was. At least the Iraq War ended I guess.

 

In television, Oprah Winfrey ends her talk show, but creates her own cable network so she can still make that dough. Steve Carell left The Office amicably, while Charlie Sheen left Two and a Half Men after heading into rehab and going into insane public rants about the show, with his character getting killed off and replaced by Ashton Kutcher the next season. A few 3D channels popped up, because 3D TVs were the hip new thing for like six months, while Netflix made a deal with MRC to distribute their upcoming drama series House of Cards. We’ll put a pin in that last one.

 

The biggest premiere of 2011 was Game of Thrones, based on A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. Earning record ratings and a strong fanbase, this HBO series was one of, if not the defining series of the 2010s, earning 58 Emmys and people madly invested in the world of Westeros, although its final season did not deliver what some hoped for. Other new shows this year were Bob’s Burgers, Downton Abbey, Shameless, The Voice, The Amazing World of Gumball, 2 Broke Girls, New Girl, Homeland, American Horror Story, Once Upon a Time, and Impractical Jokers. Endings were Hannah Montana, Smallville, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Entourage and All My Children.

 

In music, Lady Gaga’s Born This Way hits a million copies in its first week and Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream album has five singles hit #1 on the Billboard charts. Gaming’s big headliner was the Nintendo 3DS, coming out when 3D was the hip new thing for like six months. The biggest game of the bunch this year was The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which was hailed as a modern-day gaming masterpiece and sold 30 million copies worldwide, one of the highest-selling games in history. Other titles include Dark Souls, Portal 2, Modern Warfare 3, Batman: Arkham City, LA Noire, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and Duke Nukem Forever, which languished in development hell for over a decade, only to become a half-baked mess. Deaths included Elizabeth Taylor, Sidney Lumet, Randy Savage, Gil Scott-Heron, Peter Falk, Amy Winehouse, Steve Jobs, Joe Frazier, Kim Jong-il and Osama Bin Laden.

 

The box office was another interesting one. Domestic was a little mediocre. No film crossed $400 million that year, a first since 2007. However, three films joined the billion-dollar club this year, a new record, and 12 films crossed $500 million, the first time ever the entire top 10 reached the half-century mark worldwide.

 

But of course, the big headline of the year was what was essentially the epic finale to one of the most iconic movie franchises of the 2000s. I’m of course talking about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2. It’s the tail end of Harry’s journey. Things seem hopeless as Voldemort is one step closer to victory. But after Harry discovers three more Horcruxes that have a chance to be destroyed, Harry may finally have a chance to rival Voldemort’s skills and vanquish his evil once and for all.

 

As said before, Deathly Hallows became conceived as a two-parter. Exec producer Lionel Wigram felt it was the only way to give the original book, and Rowling’s entire work for that matter, any sort of justice. And, concurrently with Part 1, Part 2 was filmed from February 2009 through June 2010, a year and a half of filming. Further filming took place in December 2010 for the “19 Years Later” epilogue, finishing an entire decade of filming of Harry Potter movies. This was easily the most emotional production for Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson. The trio began their careers with Harry Potter and worked with each other on these movies for ten whole years. Their entire adolescence was Harry Potter. Filming them, promoting them, seeing themselves on the big screen. They did this for 10 years. And after they finished filming, it was over. Their story was over. And to an extent, their lives were over. So on that final day, the trio wept. They finished their story and had to find a new one right then and there. It’s certainly a bittersweet feeling to say the least, and really illustrated how this film felt like the end of an era.

 

While Part 1 was more of a road movie, Part 2 was the complete opposite. Yates himself considered the film massive opera of sorts. One with epic setpieces, thrilling duels, and bombastic fantasy magic the series had never seen before. A fitting one after all. This was the movie where Harry finally killed the man who ruined his life all those years ago. And Yates pulled out all the stops, adding in as many characters and fan moments as possible to truly make this seem like an event of a lifetime for the fanbase.

 

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This excitement continued with a massive marketing campaign. Trailers, promos, featurettes, and more all came out in full force. I was very much swept up in Pottermania at that time, and I still remember all the featurettes highlighting the legacy of Harry Potter and how these movies all led to such an exciting finale. It truly felt like a movie event we would never see again. A finale to end all finales that symbolized the end of an era. Marvel would actually do that kind of tactic about eight years later in fact.

 

And after all the hype and excitement amongst the general public, it all came down to this. Its opening day, July 15. Critics hailed it as one of, if not the best of the series, capping off ten years of amazing Potter goodness. At 4,375 theaters, it saw the widest release ever for a Potter film. It was the first Potter film to be in 3D, boosting ticket prices just a little bit further. Advance ticket sales already amounted to $32 million, a record. Everybody at this point knew that this final Potter movie was going to be special. And sure enough, when Deathly Hallows Part 2 was released, it was one for the record books, both for Potter fans and box office enthusiasts.

 

In the US, the party really started when the film earned an astonishing $43.5 million in midnight screenings. This was the biggest amount for midnights ever by a landslide, and since then, only three other movies have topped it, all of which benefited from earlier preview times, making its numbers even more impressive. These midnights tallied up to $91.1 million for its opening day, the biggest for any movie ever. And all of that would lead to every record under the sun that could be beaten that weekend being beaten. $169.2 million in the US and Canada, beating The Dark Knight in 2008. $260.4 million overseas, above Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. $481.6 million worldwide, ahead of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Also there was an IMAX record of $23.2 million worldwide. These numbers were otherworldly and scorched all previous contenders out of the water in a way that still seems surreal, even in a post-Endgame society.

 

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Of course, being a big finale driven entirely on fans’ patience with a ten-year series, this was very frontloaded. Domestically, it dropped 72% on its second weekend, the biggest drop ever for a movie that grossed more than $90 million on its second weekend. But at this point, it didn’t matter anymore. When you start out on such a high note, you really have nowhere to go but up. And go up it did, as Deathly Hallows - Part 2 ended its run at $381 million domestically, $960.5 million internationally, and a staggering $1.3 billion worldwide, the third-highest grossing movie ever. It was also the first Potter film to hit a billion, as well as the biggest Potter and Warner Bros. title ever.

 

It was an incredible feat to put it mildly. Harry Potter was in many ways the Star Wars of the 2000s, even if Star Wars was still huge in the 2000s. A movie series that excited kids and adults through its fantasy elements, compelling stories, and especially incredible worldbuilding. It’s the kind of impressive staying power most franchises wished they had. And the money Deathly Hallows Part 2 made showed how much excitement there was and how successfully these films built up such a grand and exciting event. However, what Deathly Hallows Part 2 showed best was the consistency of Harry Potter as a brand title.

 

I didn’t really mention this yet, but when it comes to the box office, there has never been a franchise that has been as consistent as Harry Potter. There likely never will be in fact. Representing the third-biggest franchise both domestically and worldwide, Harry Potter is a unique anomaly. When Philosopher’s Stone first hit movie screens in 2001, it had the biggest opening weekend of all time and served as one of the biggest hits ever. And through ten years of box office, it managed to maintain a consistently strong audience in the States and especially worldwide, amounting to incredible numbers for every film, all of which stayed relatively close from one another through ten whole years.

 

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Star Wars typically starts big, and still does well in numbers, only to go through a bit of a decline from its highs. Batman and Spider-Man went through several different reboots to stay fresh. Jurassic Park’s two sequels didn’t see the phenomenon status of the first movie. Universal had to wait about 20 years to match that. Fast and Furious didn’t see a major bump in popularity until Fast Five. Mission: Impossible was in a similar boat. Pirates of the Caribbean and Transformers saw diminishing returns domestically. The Hunger Games got hit hard once Mockingjay rolled around. Twilight didn’t truly take off the way it did until New Moon hit.

 

Really, the only two ones that came close to the consistent box office feats of Harry Potter were Lord of the Rings and the MCU, but even then those have some caveats. Lord of the Rings only had three movies, and it wasn't like The Hobbit maintained the same success. Meanwhile, the MCU’s box office numbers vary from franchise to franchise (understandably so). Harry Potter managed to tell a singular story for ten years, with no break or hiatus, no rebooted cast, apart from Richard Harris of course, no real change to the formula, and somehow almost every movie managed to stay in the top 5 domestically and worldwide. Eight features could do all that. And they all did strong numbers back-to-back with no real sign of major diminishing returns or audiences getting sick of it.

 

This is almost impossible to pull off. Obviously the other franchises I’ve listed made their money for good reason and deserve to be celebrated for their achievements. But frankly, no movie series has done what Harry Potter has done. And at this point, I doubt any movie series ever will. It really does show what Harry Potter could do and what made it so special as a property. It managed to tell a compelling story about love, adventure, family, fantasy, rebellion, authoritarianism, and destiny in a way that felt exciting and compelling to all kinds of readers and film fans. It showed the value of seeing characters grow and mature emotionally and literally. It gave kids inspiration to do the right thing and fight off injustice. Rowling’s wizarding world was a special one. It only hurts the woman who created this world would be exposed as somebody hateful and condescending. Trans rights are human rights people.

 

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But as we all know, even when a series ends gracefully, Hollywood will do anything to keep the brand alive. Universal Studios unveiled The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a themed land dedicated to all things Potter, which is still alive and well even today. Mobile games are still coming out every couple years and a major title known as Hogwarts Legacy is set for release in 2021. But of course, when it comes to film, the Wizarding World returned with a prequel series that has had...an interesting box office story, though arguably nowhere near as legendary or successful. But of course, we have a few more years before we dive into that.

 

 

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Second place for the year was Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Continuing the epic war between the Autobots and Decepticons, the Autobots discover there’s a Cybertonian spacecraft hidden on the moon. And so, the race is on for the Autobots to reach the craft before the Decepticons use it to learn its secrets and destroy the Earth. And humanity is stuck between the two in yet another battle.

 

Paramount, now making these movies solo without Dreamworks Pictures, was confident in Revenge of the Fallen’s box office. So much so, in March 2009, they already announced that Transformers 3 would be released on July 1, 2011. This kind of quick turnaround shocked everyone, including Michael Bay. Bay mentioned he planned to take a hiatus from the franchise after Revenge of the Fallen, and wanted the next film to be released in 2012. But whether it be miscommunication or Paramount being greedy, the studio publicly announced the next title for 2011 and Bay was forced to make a new movie with little preparation. Isn't corporate greed wonderful?

 

Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman left the project despite writing the last two movies, feeling as if they didn’t have enough anymore to keep the series fresh. Therefore, Ehren Krueger, who co-wrote with Orci and Kurtzman on Revenge of the Fallen, became the sole screenwriter for the project, frequently collaborating with ILM to develop plot points and set pieces. Releasing after Revenge of the Fallen earned scathing reviews, Bay admitted he felt disappointed with the sequel’s final product, blaming the Writer’s Strike in particular. With Dark of the Moon, he vowed to make this film more dramatic and more epic, veering away from the dorky comedy of the last film. Most notably, the twin robots Skids and Mudflap, criticized for their depiction of harmful Black stereotypes, were completely omitted. Bay knew the people wanted robot carnage, and he was going to give it to them.

 

Dark of the Moon also began filming right when the 3D craze began. And after Avatar’s release, talks began between Bay, Paramount, and ILM to film this next installment in digital 3D with the same technology used by Cameron. Bay wasn’t interested at first, because he felt his aggressive style clashed with the technology. But after talks with Cameron, he began to understand how to use 3D to his advantage for both his direction and the story itself. So during filming, Bay used Cameron’s Fusion camera rigs, as well as create a more portable 3D camera that could be brought into location.

 

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One of the more notable casting changes was the female lead. Megan Fox was attached to the film, but after Fox compared Bay’s work ethics to Adolf Hitler (yes really), Fox was absent from the project. For the role of new girlfriend, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley played opposite Shia LaBeouf. Other new actors to the franchise include John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, Leonard Nimoy, and Ken Jeong in that dark time where he was in every movie ever made.

 

Like with the previous films, Dark of the Moon had a gigantic ad campaign behind it thanks to Paramount and Hasbro’s savvy marketing tactics. And to the surprise of no one, despite negative reviews, Dark of the Moon was another box office behemoth on its June 29 opening. Earning $180.7 million from its Tuesday previews all the way to Fourth of July Monday, Dark of the Moon earned itself the biggest Independence Day launch of all time, beating out Spider-Man 2. Speaking of, the film’s FSS of $97.9 million beat Spider-Man 2 as well for the Fourth of July weekend, as well as becoming the third-biggest July opening of all time...then fourth about two weeks later. And while it didn’t beat out the long weekend of Revenge of the Fallen, it was still formidable and showed there was still immense interest in the property despite Fallen’s suckage.

 

And with a day and date in the rest of the world, Dark of the Moon saw the third-biggest global opening of all time...then fourth about two weeks later, with $379 million. With the biggest markets being Korea, Russia, and the UK, it was clear Transformers fever was worldwide and wasn’t stopping anytime soon. The strongest of the bunch was of course China, which opened later in the month, where Dark of the Moon opened to a record $62.7 million in the region for a grand total of $167.95 million. And when accounting for all numbers, this Transformers title earned $352.4 million domestically, $771.4 million overseas, and $1.124 billion worldwide, the biggest Transformers haul to this very day.

 

At this point, Transformers was unstoppable. Even with weaker reviews, people loved its action, characters, and set pieces, and it seemed as if Bay’s property would be untouchable. However, for how long would that be the case?

 

Twilight continued its consistent dominance with a third domestic and fourth worldwide placement in Breaking Dawn - Part 1. Bella finally marries her beloved Edward in this installment. And with her marriage comes many perils, specifically with a new child Bella carries that could pose a threat to the world of vampires, werewolves, and the community of Forks itself.

 

An adaptation of Breaking Dawn was inevitable after the massive success of all the previous installments. However, the decisions made to adapt this story weren’t as easy as you might think. The book was 754 pages long, and was notable for being the most explicit and graphic story yet, most notably the scene where Bella gives birth to her vampire child Renesmee. A PG-13 rating was in jeopardy here. In fact, the concept of Renesmee, a baby that grows rapidly and has complete awareness of herself and her surroundings, was impossible for a young actress to play and would require unique CGI tech that Stephanie Meyer felt wasn’t there yet. In fact, the movie actually proved that, because that baby...yeesh.

 

And with Harry Potter looking to do well in this release style, Lionsgate and Stephanie Meyer knew that what was needed to give Breaking Dawn justice was to break it down into two parts. This actually led to major contract disputes with the leads, who initially signed on for four movies, which put the possibility of a split as unlikely. But after some negotiations, Breaking Dawn was split into two.

 

During script development, producer Wyck Godfrey explained the cut-off point between both parts. Part 1 would see the wedding, the honeymoon, Bella’s pregnancy and ends just before her transformation into a vampire, while Part 2 focused on Bella after her transformation and the final battle against the Volturi. Writer Melissa Rosenberg’s biggest roadblock was adapting a book known for its explicit adult content. Again, a big question mark was the birthing scene, which had many fans asking if the movie would have an R rating to match what Meyer wrote on the page. However, Rosenberg believed that there was something more powerful if you don’t see the gory moments of the sequence. I’m also sure Summit execs were breathing down her neck to make sure they could still get a PG-13 out of this.

 

And just like with the previous films, a new director was needed to take the helm. And this time, Summit was looking for an Oscar-nominated director here. Sofia Coppola and Gus van Sant were considered, but the role of director ultimately went to Gods and Monsters and Dreamgirls director Bill Condon. Summit gave Condon the original book, and one read convinced him to take the job. Condon also took the job because he was eager to work with Kristin Stewart on a project.

 

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The marketing campaign for this was another big one. Trailer events, MTV Movie Award promos, Comic-Con panel. But with all the hype and anticipation surrounding the film, leaks were abundant throughout its campaign. Photos and videos emerged online when filming began. Entertainment Weekly stills were published days before intended. A 14-second video and low-quality stills from the work-in-progress cut landed online. The first trailer leaked hours before its debut at the MTV Music Awards. It was a nightmare for Summit's PR team, but a perfect showcase that the buzz for Breaking Dawn Part 1 was massive, and the fans were ready to eat it up.

 

Breaking Dawn Part 1 opened on November 18 to $138.1 million. A hair below New Moon, but still obviously massive, earning the fifth-biggest opening in history. And with $30.3 million from midnight screenings, the film saw the second-biggest preview number ever, only behind Deathly Hallows Part 2. Opening day’s $71.6 million was also the third-biggest opening day ever, behind only DH2 and New Moon. Worldwide opening was $291 million, the tenth-biggest ever. And speaking of New Moon, Breaking Dawn Part 1 played very closely to the second film, with a damn near identical gross of $281.3 million domestically and $712.2 million worldwide.

 

Not much else to say here. It was another showcase of Twilight’s immense popularity in the late 2000s and early 2010s. And sure enough, despite Part 1 being panned by critics for being slow and boring, Summit would be proven wise by splitting the movie.

 

Fourth domestic, eighth worldwide was the highly-anticipated comedy sequel The Hangover Part II. The original gang return to Thailand to celebrate Stu’s wedding, with the plan being to stay far away from drugs or alcohol. Things don’t go as planned, and the Wolfpack find themselves suffering from a bad hangover with no memories of the previous night and finding themselves caught in another epic adventure.

 

Two months before the original Hangover was set to release in theaters, Warner Bros. realized they had a hit on their hands, and struck a deal with Todd Phillips to direct another sequel. The first movie’s writers, Scott Moore and Jon Lucas, declined writing duties, feeling they had done all they needed to do with the idea. Enter new writers Scot Armstrong and Craig Mazin. There were rumors circulating the sequel would take place in either Mexico and Thailand, and while Phillips tried to deny it, he fully admitted in July 2010, three months before filming would start, the movie would be set in Bangkok.

 

With the first movie’s record-breaking success, The Hangover Part II was set to be bigger than ever. Not just with a new location, but with a huge budget upgrade of $80 million. The supporting cast was also buffed up, with actors like Jamie Chung, Paul Giamatti, Jeffrey Tambor, and even the return of Mike Tyson. There were also rumors Bill Clinton would have a cameo, but he apparently was only just there to visit the set because...he was bored that day? However, one of the more interesting casting decisions came from a tattoo artist character. Initially, Phillips planned for the psycho tattoo artist to be played by horrible person Mel Gibson. However, due to concerns because...you know, horrible person Mel Gibson was removed from the movie. Horrible person Mel Gibson was not happy. Maybe if he wasn’t a fucking racist anti-Semite, he wouldn’t have had this problem.

 

So the role was shot with Liam Neeson in the role, after Bradley Cooper recommended him after they worked on The A-Team. But despite his part being filmed, it was later cut due to it not working in the story itself. Three weeks later, Phillips decided to rework the script to include the scene, but because Neeson was filming Wrath of the Titans, Nick Cassavetes of all people took the role, crushed the part, and earned the exciting role Phillips was adamant would steal the show. That’s Hollywood I guess.

 

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The Hangover Part II released on May 26 to incredible hype, especially for a comedy sequel. The Hangover was one of the most popular movies in years, and with the sequel promising a new, even crazier location, everybody knew they had to see this movie. And they did. The traditional FSS of Part II saw $85.9 million, the biggest comedy opening ever, and the second-biggest for an R-rated movie period, only behind The Matrix Reloaded. And once you include its Memorial Day Monday and Thursday opening, its first five days amounted to $135 million, just a hair above Reloaded’s first five days. The four-day of $103.4 million was also the fourth-biggest long Memorial Day opening ever.

 

However, that success led to despair (okay not despair because it still made a lot of money) after the film’s reviews. Critics panned the film for being a mean-spirited carbon copy of the original, a far cry from the inventive and manic energy of the first film. And sure enough, this led to pretty lackluster legs in the weeks to come, including a 60% second weekend drop. All told, Hangover Part II finished with $254.5 million, less than the first movie two years prior. Everyone expected the movie to not leg out in the same way the first movie did, but it still feels weird that it opened so high but still failed to surpass the first movie. At least, here in the States. Worldwide saw it go to $586.8 million, making it the biggest R-rated comedy of all time.

 

But still, the criticisms did put the value in future installments into question. Especially when the film was hit with controversy after controversy, including rumors of Crystal the monkey actually snorting cocaine during filming, Ken Jeong’s Mr. Chow character being considered a racist caricature, and several lawsuits. But Warner Bros. and Todd Phillips tried things with The Hangover one more time with The Hangover Part III in 2013. Serving as the epic finale, Part III saw even worse reception. My best friend saw Part III when it came out, and to his recollection, not one person in the packed audience laughed during the entire movie. It saw the worst box office of the bunch, $112.2 million domestic and $362 million worldwide, and signaled the end of The Hangover as a franchise.

 

Fifth domestic yet third worldwide was the final film in the billion-dollar trio, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Jack Sparrow returns once again with a new crew, both behind and in front of the camera, in an epic quest towards the Fountain of Youth. And during this quest, Sparrow finds himself facing off against the cruelest and scariest pirate of them all, Blackbeard.

 

While At World’s End was set to be the big finale, Bruckheimer and Disney knew they couldn’t leave good enough alone here. During production of Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End, writers Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott found the 1987 novel On Stranger Tides, written by Tim Powers. The story laid a good foundation for Jack Sparrow’s next adventure to the duo and Rossio and Elliott began working on the screenplay in 2007. They were halted due to the Writer’s Strike, but resumed writing in mid-2008. Johnny Depp also helped in the story design. Jerry Bruckheimer was so excited at the prospect of another Pirates sequel, he decided to fast-track the film before the anticipated 2011 release of The Lone Ranger, an adaptation at Disney that Depp, Elliott, and Rossio were working on together. I wonder what happened to that? Bruckheimer also tried to convince Gore Verbinski to return as director, but he was too busy with the production of Rango. And thus, Bruckheimer gave the role to Chicago director Rob Marshall. The film was formally announced at the D23 fan convention in 2009.

 

On Stranger Tides was intended to be a fresh start for the series. Jack and Barbossa would return, but Davy Jones, Will Turner, and Elizabeth Swann were all absent, under the belief that their stories were done and their presence would be unnecessary. For new characters, the woman Sparrow would play off of would be Angelica, played by Penelope Cruz. Cruz was the only actress Marshall wanted for the part and convinced her to join the cast after filming completed on the movie Nine. Cruz did the film while pregnant, resulting in her sister Monica serving as her double during some of the riskier scenes. Ian McShane was cast as Blackbeard, as Marshall felt he could play off threatening, while also maintaining a sense of humor for the character.

 

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With the massive setpieces and cast of characters in the two previous sequels, Disney wanted to give the film a lower production budget, with many cost-cutting initiatives, like moving production from Hawaii to London, a shorter production schedule, and less special effect sequences. Yet in a miraculous turn of events, the costs kept getting higher. Johnny Depp commanded a $55.5 million paycheck, the film was shot in four different locations, Marshall used the same 3D technology used in Avatar, and ten different companies were involved with the film’s visual effects. All told, On Stranger Tides ended up costing $379 million. And to this very day, this standalone tale that tried to cut the fat is still the most expensive movie ever made. With such a massive balloon of a budget, Disney knew they had to put out all the stops in terms of marketing, with splashy premieres, several 3D trailers, video games, Lego sets, and constant adverts at the theme parks. The stakes were high for this movie, both as an expensive beast and a showcase at the value of Pirates of the Caribbean as a movie franchise. Did Disney pull it off?

 

On Stranger Tides opened on May 20, and here in the States, it was arguably underwhelming. Opening to $90.2 million, it was a considerable step down from both At World’s End and Dead Man’s Chest, despite the fact this movie had 3D and IMAX to boost up its ticket sales. It was clear that in the US, people were losing interest in Pirates of the Caribbean, and with mediocre reviews, the film only grossed $241.1 million, 2.67 times its opening. But on the upside, international audiences fell in love with the movie, with an overseas opening of $256.3 million, the biggest OS debut ever, before being beaten by Deathly Hallows Part 2 a couple months later. Bolstered by the growing markets of Russia and China, Pirates 4 earned a staggering $804.6 million in all other markets, resulting in $1.046 billion worldwide. This was the eighth film to reach the milestone and the fourth from Disney, showing that Pirates was down in America, but not out anywhere else.

 

But very soon, On Stranger Tides became the tipping point where things began to fall. Another sequel was announced after Tides' release, and after countless delays and budget issues, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales was released in 2017. It saw even worse reviews, and grossed below expectations in America with only $172.6 million, though it still managed to earn $794 million worldwide. Far from a flop, but the second-lowest in the franchise and a clear sign people were getting tired of the franchise. Johnny Depp turning into more and more of a pariah every year is not helping matters.

 

And at this moment, Disney is kind of throwing things at the wall and seeing what’s sticking. A sixth film, following up Dead Men Tell No Tales, is apparently still a thing with Chernobyl creator Craig Mazin as writer, and possibly Karen Gillian starring or co-starring with Johnny Depp, who may or may not be in this next one? A reboot was also apparently in the works with Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, but I think that whole thing has been scrapped? And we’re also getting a spin-off movie with Christina Hodson as a writer and Margot Robbie as the star? Yeah, I’m lost too. We’ll just see what happens I guess.

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Sixth place (seventh worldwide) would see Dom Toretto’s popularity explode to new heights with Fast Five. Dom, Brian, and Mia are in Rio de Janeiro and are planning a heist to steal $100 million from a corrupt Brazillian businessman, all the while hiding under the nose of US DSS agent Luke Hobbs, played by Dwayne Johnson. But this time, Dom’s got back-up. A lot of back-up.

 

The fifth Fast and Furious title was announced for February 2010, with a sixth film in the works. And thankfully, Diesel and Walker were returning, as was writer Chris Morgan. Producer Neal Moritz said that after the success of 2009’s Fast & Furious, the original cast from the first movie had to return. Diesel agreed, feeling like his story was not finished yet, and arguing Fast Five would serve as the finale to a trilogy of Dom-centered movies. But Vin and Moritz also believed the film could serve as an important transitional piece for the franchise and wanted to deliver a film that would excite their established fanbase while also bringing in new audiences.

 

One of the first things Diesel was adamant on having was a return of a variety of characters from all four previous movies. Him, Walker, and Brewster of course. But also Tyrese and Ludacris from 2 Fast 2 Furious, Sung Kang from Tokyo Drift, and Gal Gadot from Fast & Furious. All the fan-favorites came into this one, which allowed the crew a chance to have these characters meet each other for the first time and interact with one another, creating new dynamics in the process. In a way, Fast Five was The Avengers one year before The Avengers. By having so many characters pop up, it was a big deal for fans of the franchise, who got to see all their favorites come together in a fun action movie. And like I said before, it allowed films like 2 Fast and Tokyo Drift to truly pay off in the end. By focusing on expanding the world of Fast and Furious, instead of just more of the same, there was a chance for fans to latch onto the lore and soap opera storyline rather than the individual actors. And for Fast Five, which combined the wide array of characters fans came to know and love, it made it seem like a true event.

 

Another thing Diesel wanted to focus on, oddly enough, was to move away from what made the series famous in the first place. Fast and Furious’ claim to fame was its emphasis on cars, car culture, and street racing. But as development began, Universal and Moritz felt the emphasis on car culture alienated general audiences, which meant Fast Five would serve as a heist film in the lines of The Italian Job or The French Connection rather than a car film. There’s only one racing scene in the entire movie, with much of the action consisting of gun fights and brawls. Universal also used this transitional piece as a way to put out one of the boldest marketing campaigns for a movie at the time.

 

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Facebook was just beginning its rise in popularity, and Vin Diesel had a massive following of more than 20 million subscribers on the platform. So in an unorthodox move, Diesel’s Facebook page posted the first Fast Five trailer, the first time ever a trailer debuted on Facebook. Also, Universal and theater chain Regal Entertainment Group collaborated with the Facebook game Car Town with a massive cross-media marketing promotion. Not only could Car Town users watch the trailer, they could race around a virtual Rio de Janeiro, take part in missions themed around the movie, and also buy movie tickets for Regal theaters via the game itself. It was the first real instance of social media marketing at play, allowing audiences to feel all the more engaged and excited for the movie.

 

But despite the massive campaign and cast, there was still an arguable risk with the movie. Fast and Furious became popular because of its emphasis on car culture. There was really no other film in the market that catered to this kind of fandom, so stripping those elements away in favor of a traditional heist movie could have alienated the original fanbase or removed what made the series so special to many. But those fears went away when the movie finally released.

 

Fast Five opened on April 29, one week before the annual summer movie season kick-off. The film’s tagline was “Summer Begins April 29” in fact, as a clapback against the release of Marvel’s Thor one week later. And sure enough, Fast Five opened to summer numbers with an astonishing $86.2 million. This commanding opening was far and away the biggest April debut ever, beating the last F&F film, but it was also a milestone for being the biggest opening ever for a Universal Pictures release. The Lost World was the previous record holder, all the way back in 1997.

 

Like I said in my Despicable Me write-up, Universal wasn’t doing so hot in the late 2000s and early 2010s. Not terrible, but they had little in the way of on-going franchises and it was uncommon to see them reach $200 million in the domestic box office. So while Fast & Furious showed the value of the franchise and its original actors, Fast Five showed the brand was here to stay and that people, both veterans and newcomers were on board. This continued in the weeks to come, as while the film was frontloaded, it still earned itself an incredible $209.8 million domestically and $626.1 million worldwide, making it by far the biggest movie in the franchise by all accounts.

 

Sure enough, this change towards a heist film worked. Fans still felt it kept the spirit of the previous films, critics enjoyed the fresh new take, though some Brazilian critics slammed the movie’s depiction of Rio, and new audiences began to favor this weird little franchise, resulting in hit after hit after hit for years to come, as well as the beginning of Universal’s future dominance into the 2010s, which is just as, if not more impressive than Disney’s.

 

Ethan Hunt soared to new heights at seventh place, with a fifth place ranking worldwide, thanks to Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. Hunt is on a race against time over an evil terrorist with Russian nuclear launch codes set to destroy America. And after the IMF gets disavowed by the government, Ethan Hunt and his team are on a globe-trotting adventure on their own, with plenty of crazy stunts and setpieces along the way.

 

While Mission: Impossible III saw the worst box office numbers in the series, its strong critical reception convinced Paramount to give the series one more shot, with Josh Applebaum and Andre Nemec assigned writing duties in 2009. Unfortunately, J. J. Abrams had other commitments at the time, so he was unable to direct, though he stayed as a producer. In March 2010, Pixar director Brad Bird signed on as director, making it his first foray into live-action filmmaking.

 

Filming began in October 2010 with locations including Budapest, Mumbai, Prague, Moscow, Vancouver, Bangalore, Chennai, and Dubai. Speaking of Dubai, it’s here where the most iconic sequence movie takes place. In the middle of the movie, Ethan free solo climbs up the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. While he appears to be climbing with no harness and only with special gloves to keep him up there, he was safely and securely attached to the Khalifa at all times, with ILM CGing the cables he was on away. But what made this scene so insane was that Tom Cruise did the stunt himself. No stunt double. He literally risked his own life just for this crazy money shot of a stunt. Not only was this scene the big selling point they put in all the trailers and TV spots, Tom Cruise doing these crazy stunts by himself would be a huge selling point for all future Mission: Impossible movies to come.

 

Filming was also unique as Brad Bird had 30 minutes of the movie shot with IMAX cameras, specifically during the Burj Khalifa sequence. This was not the first narrative movie to be shot with IMAX cameras, but it was special because at that point in time, 3D cameras and 3D technology were all the rage and were basically expected to be the true mainstay for future movies. But Bird felt that IMAX was a more inviting and more exciting format for viewers, feeling it was more immersive, had a brighter and higher quality image, and people didn’t need those pesky glasses to enjoy it. Bird’s decision would ironically be the way of the future for many tentpoles, as future films would begin to use IMAX cameras more and more for select sequences as a major selling point, while 3D cameras began to phase out of popularity, even by the time 2011 rolled around.

 

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Brad Bird was so sure people would be excited about the IMAX wizardry here that the film opened exclusively in IMAX on December 16, one week before its general release on December 21. And on its limited release, the film did...pretty damn good. Earning $13.4 million in just 425 theaters and earning third place on the charts that weekend. Along with rave reviews, it showed that there was hype here, despite M:I III’s lukewarm box office. And five days later, Ghost Protocol went into wide release, including a Wednesday opening day of $8.9 million and a Friday-to-Monday haul of $44.1 million. Repping $76.6 million at that point with the rest of the December and January holidays to come, it was clear Mission: Impossible was alive and kicking again, and people were ready for some Cruise Missle action.

 

Weekend three, New Year’s weekend, saw a minimal drop for Ghost Protocol, earning $38.2 million for the four-day weekend and $141.2 million overall. And while it couldn’t beat out Mission: Impossible II domestically, the film still saw the second-best results for the franchise with $209.4 million overall. Worldwide was another story, as with $694.7 million, this fourth installment was the biggest film in the franchise and Tom Cruise’s biggest film ever. It was clear that Paramount still had a valuable franchise here, and for Tom Cruise and co., Ghost Protocol was only the beginning of more wacky stunts and a catchy theme song in the years to come.

 

Pixar saw its first non-Toy Story sequel with Cars 2, which finished eighth domestically and tenth worldwide. Lightning McQueen returns and participates in the World Grand Prix, an epic race tournament taking place in both Japan and Europe. His best friend Mater is also along for the ride, but this redneck tow truck finds himself on his own wacky adventure when an espionage organization mistakenly believes Mater is a brilliant spy. Wacky hi-jinx and global adventure ensue.

 

Cars 2 was conceived when horrible person John Lasseter was traveling around the world to promote the first Cars movie. Says Lasseter, “I kept looking out thinking, 'What would Mater do in this situation, you know?' I could imagine him driving around on the wrong side of the road in the UK, going around in big, giant traveling circles in Paris, on the autobahn in Germany, dealing with the motor scooters in Italy, trying to figure out road signs in Japan.” This would be the main basis for the movie, with an emphasis on new locations and making Mater, the breakout comic relief from the last movie, the star of the show. And I guess spies were included, because...James Bond is popular?

 

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With Disney’s usual marketing machine, including several video games and toy tie-ins, Cars 2 opened on June 24 to a very solid $66.1 million, making it the fourth biggest opening weekend for a June release, and signifying Pixar had yet another winner on their hands. But looking behind the curtain, things were far bleaker for the film. Cars 2 suffered with some of the worst reviews Pixar had ever seen, with critics citing the film as dull and unfunny. It was the first true critical dud for the company and dented the image of the company and Cars franchise. And sure enough, this negative reception resulted in the film suffering with a 60% second weekend drop, the biggest fall for a Pixar’s second weekend ever. The film finished with only $191.4 million, making it the lowest Pixar grosser since A Bug’s Life. However, it did improve worldwide, earning $562.1 million.

 

The biggest complaint many had with Cars 2 was how disingenuous it felt. It didn’t seem like a sequel that was made because Pixar had a good idea for it. Rather, Disney seemingly forced Pixar to make a sequel so they can promote new merchandise. Remember, Cars made $10 billion in retail sales in the time between the first two movies. John Lasseter vehemently denied such actions, and whether or not you believe that to be the case is up to you. But despite Cars 2’s negative reception, it still did nothing to damage merchandise sales. If anything, the brand was even stronger after its release.

 

In 2013, Disneytoon Studios released the spin-off movie Planes. Initially direct-to-DVD, the film was released in theaters to even more scathing reviews, but okay box office, earning $239.3 million worldwide on a $50 million budget. A sequel was released in 2014, Planes: Fire and Rescue, to better reviews, but worse box office, only getting $147 million worldwide. And finally, in 2017, Pixar themselves produced the official follow-up appropriately named Cars 3. But at this point, the damage had been done. Despite okay reviews and returning to the basics of the first film, Cars 3 saw the worst box office of the main series, only grossing $383 million worldwide, and signaling the end of the franchise, though it still lives on as plastic toys.

 

Ninth place saw Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Downey and Law return as Holmes and Watson. And this time, their adventure has them travel across Europe with the help of a Romani adventuress in an attempt to stop the evil Lord Moriarty from instigating a war in the continent.

 

The massive success of the first Sherlock Holmes movie meant a sequel was quickly fast-tracked for development. And all parties were very eager to reteam for this project. Guy Ritchie left a planned adaptation of the DC Comics character Lobo to direct, and Robert Downey Jr. dropped out of Cowboys & Aliens so he can reprise his role as Holmes. Adapting Conan Doyle’s “The Final Problem”, A Game of Shadows was intended to be a stand-alone film that didn’t require knowledge of the previous film to understand what was going on. Very much like James Bond. In fact, producer Joel Silver intended this to be the Holmes equivalent to Bond to the point where there would be a new Bond girl in every future movie, with Noomi Rapace in the role Rachel McAdams played in the previous film. There was actually a fair bit of controversy about McAdams’ role in the movie. Nobody knew if she would even come back for the movie, and if she did how big her role was. Reportedly McAdams was eager to return, but the team didn’t have a compelling way to throw her into the narrative. So McAdams as Irene Adler was given the dreaded cameo role. A fate worse than death.

 

With an opening on December 16, there were strong expectations the film would see strong box office. The first movie was considerably well-liked and Robert Downey Jr. was bigger than ever. Yet its opening weekend, at $39.6 million, was considered a disappointment. With it opening in mid-December, when people were still busy with holiday activities, it was expected for the film to drop a touch from its sequel. But it was still arguably below expectations, and a 36% decline from the previous opening still isn’t the prettiest thing in the world. And sure enough, the film finished a fair amount below the last film, earning $186.8 million domestically. Worldwide was a slight increase however at $543 million.

 

Could have been better, but still strong enough to prove there was still interest over Ritchie’s depiction of the famed British hero. But surprisingly, the road to a third movie isn’t as smooth as you might think. A draft for a Sherlock Holmes 3 was reportedly worked on beginning in October 2011. However, the project has been on-again off-again, with Ritchie, Law, and especially Downey being committed to other projects. Shooting plans were announced, only to be later canceled, with the last inklings being a planned December 2021 release with Rocketman’s Dexter Fletcher as director. And just this month, Fletcher admitted in an interview the project is on the back burner. But that’s not stopping Downey, because it was also announced this month that he plans to expand his Holmes movie into a massive franchise, including sequels, spin-off films, HBO Max television series, and more into one giant shared universe. Because...someone demanded it?

 

Marvel finally saw presence this year with tenth place’s Thor. The arrogant crown prince of Asgard reignited a dormant war between the Asgardians and the Frost Giants, and for his crimes, his father Odin banishes Thor from Asgard to Earth, stripped from his powers and his mighty hammer. And with the help of some scientists, as well as going through his own personal struggle, he understands nobility and humility and tries to stop his evil brother Loki from taking over the throne.

 

Long before the MCU days, an adaptation of Marvel’s Thor was initially planned to be from Sam Raimi after he completed the filming of Darkman. He pitched the idea with Stan Lee to 20th Century Fox, but apparently the Fox execs didn’t understand the concept. The project laid abandoned for years, only to start picking up steam in 1997 and really started to get going after the success of X-Men. Only now Thor would be a made-for-TV movie produced by UPN...that didn’t go anywhere. Then it moved over to Artisan Entertainment, then to Sony Pictures with David S. Goyer as director, and then finally becoming a Paramount title in 2006, with Marvel Studios announced as production studio the same year. Mark Protosevich, a Thor fan, worked on the screenplay.

 

Matthew Vaughn was set to direct, though with heavy rewrites to Protosevich’s script in order to keep costs down, with a planned release date in June 2010. However, Vaughn left the project in 2008 after his holding deal expired, prompting Marvel Studios to find a new director. Guillermo del Toro was in heavy consideration, but he was committed to directing The Hobbit...you know, back when he was committed to directing The Hobbit. D. J. Caruso was another option as director, though he apparently didn’t read the script. Finally, Kenneth Branagh signed on as director, with a delay to June 2011, and later a push to May 2011 to distance itself with the first Captain America movie.

 

Casting Thor was another challenge for Marvel. For a while, Daniel Craig of all people was in consideration for the part, but he was already committed to James Bond. Kevin McKidd and even Liam Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston were considered for the role, but ultimately Chris Hemsworth was given the role after a long back-and-forth process where Hemsworth was rejected, only to be given a second chance later on. Tom Hiddleston was cast as Loki shortly after, and other actors cast included Natalie Portman, Jaimie Alexander, Stellan Skarsgard, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, Rene Russo, and Kat Dennings.

 

With appearances at Comic-Con, a post-credits tease in Iron Man 2, and even an animated direct-to-video movie all to hype up this Asgardian tale, Thor debuted on May 6 as the official summer kick-off title. And with good reviews, Thor would open to a very solid $65.7 million. While obviously helped by 3D and IMAX and general ticket price inflation, the Branagh film was the third-biggest opening for a non-sequel Marvel title, only behind Spider-Man and Iron Man. This would lead to a very solid total of $181 million in North America, as well as $449.3 million worldwide. Quaint numbers compared to the rest of the series, but still showed there was intrigue and investment in the Thor property and Marvel as a whole. And sure enough, Thor would go on to be a staple at Marvel and Disney for years to come.

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Eleventh place was where the people saw the Rise of the Planet of the Apes. A substance designed to help the brain repair itself is used on a chimpanzee named Caesar, who earns advanced, human-like intelligence. And after suffering abuse at the animal shelter he lives in, Caesar administers the drug to the other apes, resulting in an epic uprising against humanity, creating a new society of free-thinking apes that could very well lead to the wiping out of mankind.

 

While this project has similarities to 1972’s Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, the germ of this idea came in 2006. Screenwriter Rick Jaffa saw a news story that mentioned pet chimpanzees that become troublesome and destructive towards their owners and failing to adapt to their human environment. This idea intrigued Jaffa, and he soon began to realize the potential this had as a story connected to Planet of the Apes. He brought along his wife Amanda Silver to the project, and the duo began developing both the story, a prequel to the 1968 film, and the character of Caesar. Jaffa and Silver wanted to make sure this story stood on its own as a solid Batman Begins-style origin story while also celebrating and honoring the original film series. 20th Century Fox liked the screenplay and Rupert Wyatt was brought on board as director.

 

The one thing that made this Planet of the Apes film stand out was this was the first film to not feature actors in make-up and prosthetics as the apes. This story focused on actual apes, so it would be weird to see them humanoid in this. Therefore, Weta Digital, fresh off the success of Avatar, were in charge of the CGI apes shown in the film, done entirely through motion capture. With famed performance capture star Andy Serkis as Caesar, this was a bit of a milestone when it comes to performance capture technology in film. Advances in technology allowed the performance capture actors to actually perform in an exterior environment, with the biggest change being a camera that allowed the ability for the motion capture dots to be seen in broad daylight. This allowed Rupert Wyatt to direct these actors outside of a soundstage, most notably with the famed Golden Gate Bridge sequence as an example. Weta also studied actor Terry Notary and the chimps at the Wellington Zoo as a reference for their movement, as well as creating highly detailed models that made them seem as believable and realistic as possible.

 

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Releasing on August 5, Rise of the Planet of the Apes was coming out at a bit of a dead end period for the summer. Before Guardians of the Galaxy and Suicide Squad broke down these conventions, August was typically considered the dump month of the summer. School is right around the corner, people already used up their money in the previous months, and there’s little time to pack in audiences during the weekdays at that point. And seeing as how the last Planet of the Apes film was a critical failure, and there was little to no starpower outside of James Franco, Rise was expected to still do well, but serve more as a modest finisher to the summer instead of a box office powerhouse.

 

But things started to change as the ramp up to release began. Trailers and promos showed that this prequel was an inventive one, taking the tired franchise to an exciting new direction that seemed accessible to newcomers. And reviews began praising the film for its visual effects and intriguing storyline. There was something special about the film, and people started to take notice. So when it debuted to $54.8 million, it turned quite a few heads. It was well above expectations and was able to deliver the fourth-biggest August opening of all time, all without 3D to boost up its ticket sales.

 

And sure enough, people ate the movie up, serving as a fun summer blockbuster with an intriguing backbone to keep it fresh. And with a finish of 3.23 times its opening, Rise of the Planet of the Apes earned $176.8 million domestically, only behind Thor in terms of non-sequels that summer. Worldwide was $481.8 million. And through Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ critical and financial success came a massive resurgence in popularity for the franchise as a whole. This was the introductory piece for many people too young to have seen the classic series or even the 2001 reboot, and it served as the perfect avenue for Fox to have another stable franchise. Sure enough, two sequels would see release, and despite the recent Disney acquisition, another title is currently in development. But let’s save some of that stuff for later.

 

Marvel also popped up in twelfth place with Captain America: The First Avenger. It’s World War II, and the US have just been pulled into the conflict. An eager, but very frail young man named Steve Rogers wants to join the fight, but his conditions make things difficult. But the government soon uses Steve as a guinea pig for a super soldier serum, resulting in him transforming into the buff and heroic Captain America. And very soon, Steve and his newfound strength has him in a battle against the nefarious Red Skull from using an item known as the Tesseract as an energy source for world domination.

 

Like Thor, The First Avenger first saw life in the 90s, specifically April 1997. Marvel began negotiations with producers Mark Gordon and Gary Levinsohn to produce a Captain America movie, with Artisan Entertainment joining in 2000 as financier. But during that time, a lawsuit over the ownership of Captain America copyrights halted further developments, with the lawsuit ending in September 2003. Shortly after, Marvel was planning to sell the license rights for the character to Warner Bros. Yes, that Warner Bros. Surreal to think the studio that owns DC Comics almost had a major Marvel hero under their belt film-wise. But after Marvel Comics made a deal with Merrill-Lynch, talks with WB ended, with it becoming an independent production from Marvel Studios and Paramount Pictures taking charge in distribution.

 

Producer Avi Arad planned to have Captain America release in the summer of 2008, with it set to be a comedy movie directed by Jon Favreau. But luckily cooler heads prevailed, and Favreau went on to do Iron Man instead. The project would be put on hold yet again due to the Writer’s Strike. After Iron Man’s success, Marvel officially announced Captain America would be one of their next movies, now titled The First Avenger: Captain America...interesting title placement. Louis Leterrier, the director of The Incredible Hulk, was interested in the project after viewing the film’s concept art, but Marvel rejected him. Sure enough, the role of director was given to Joe Johnson, who Papa Feige chose because of his work in films like October Sky and The Rocketeer, as well as his special effects work on the original Star Wars trilogy. Narnia screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely wrote the screenplay.

 

For the role of Steve Rogers, both Ryan Phillippe and John Krasinski were in consideration for the role. But in March 2010, it was reported that Fantastic Four star Chris Evans would take up the mantle. However, getting Evans wasn’t easy, as the actor rejected the part three times. Evans explains, “At the time, I remember telling a buddy of mine, 'If the movie bombs, I'm f—-ed. If the movie hits, I'm f—-ed!' I was just scared.” However, Evans realized how important and special the character was, so he signed on for a six-picture deal. Before Steve Rogers became Cap, he was a scrawny young man. And for whatever reason, Papa Feige didn’t want to force Chris Evans to starve himself and later bulk up on steroids. So for these scenes, the CG company Lola shrunk Chris down, with Johnston shooting all the skinny Steve scenes at least four times to help create a unique effect that still looks impressive even today.

 

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One of the biggest concerns going into the movie was whether the film would have much appeal outside of the US. The focus on a character known for American patriotism, at a time when anti-US sentiments popped up during the Bush era, made people unsure if it would find much success overseas. Papa Feige disagreed, believing Steve’s story and Marvel’s worldwide popularity, as well as the recent inauguration of Barack Obama, would help the film’s global appeal. But just in case, other countries could decide to get rid of the Captain America name and just call it The First Avenger. Almost every country didn’t do that, because The Avengers wasn’t a popular name yet, and this idea was just...stupid. Although Russia, South Korea, and Ukraine did change it to The First Avenger, likely due to political reasons.

 

Opening on July 22, The First Avenger opened at #1 despite Deathly Hallows Part 2 releasing one week earlier, earning $65.1 million, a near identical opening to Marvel Studios’ Thor two months prior. In fact, The First Avenger had a near identical trajectory to Thor. Both had solid reviews, with strong praise given towards their lead actors, and The First Avenger was only slightly behind the Asgardian fantasy epic with $176.6 million domestically. Unfortunately, the American subject matter did lead to weaker overseas results, with the film only earning $370.6 million worldwide, a fair step below Thor.

 

But this was still far from a bad thing. Both Thor and Captain America weren’t as massive as Iron Man was, but they both delivered solid returns and good reviews that allowed Marvel and Papa Feige to breathe easy. People were liking these movies and there was enough interest in these properties going forward that this shared universe idea could still be viable. And while there was a bit of a risk going into The Avengers, Papa Feige was wise to place a brief teaser for the upcoming 2012 title in front of this. He was showing people there was something exciting about seeing all these characters come together. And in 2012, Papa Feige’s crazy idea and Marvel’s Merrill Lynch deal would pay off. Handsomely.

 

Thirteenth place was where the Oscar-nominated drama The Help became a legs machine. It’s 1960s Mississippi, and a young white woman named Skeeter Phelan, played by Emma Stone, is looking to make her mark as a journalist. In her attempts to find success as a writer, she decides to write a book about Jackson, Mississippi from the perspective of “the help”, Black women who serve as maids and housekeepers for rich white households. And through interviewing and developing a friendship between two maids, played by Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, she exposes the racism the help face from these white families.

 

The Help first saw life as a 2009 novel written by Kathryn Stockett. Stockett conceived the premise after the 9/11 attacks and worked on the novel for five long years. Her work was rejected by over 60 literary agents for the next three years, only for agent Susan Ramer to come along to represent Stockett. And once The Help hit store shelves, it became an instant hit, selling 7 million copies and getting published in 35 different countries. So naturally, the film rights became a hot-ticket item. And in December 2009, Chris Columbus, Michael Barnathan, and Mark Radcliffe would serve as producers under their company 1492 Pictures. Tate Taylor, a childhood friend of Kathryn Stockett, would serve as director and writer. Dreamworks Pictures would later acquire production rights in March 2010, alongside Reliance Entertainment and Participant Media as co-producers.

 

Filming began in July 2010 in Greenwood, Mississippi. Stockett was adamant the film had to be shot in the state, and Tate Taylor created a photo album of Greenwood to convince the Dreamworks executives to film in the region. It also helped there were a lot of tax incentives to shoot in Mississippi. Sure enough, the film became the biggest production to be shot in Mississippi since O Brother, Where Art Thou? in 2001. Dreamworks also compiled a massive cast of actors for the project, including Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Jessica Chastain, Bryce Dallas Howard, Allison Janney, and Octavia Spencer. Funny enough, Spencer in the role of Minny was Kathryn Stockett’s first and only choice, and actually voiced Minny for the film’s initial audiobook.

 

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The Help was distributed by Disney under their Touchstone division, as in 2009, Dreamworks made a long-term, 30-picture distribution deal with the company after dissolving their distribution arm. And with an opening on August 10, The Help, thanks to solid reviews and Oscar buzz, opened to surprisingly buff numbers, earning $35.9 million in its first five days. This set the film up for easy success, and it was clear people were already loving it for its feel-good nature, evidenced by an A+ Cinemascore. And sure enough, The Help became one of those hits that were obvious, but nobody saw coming until it already came out.

 

On its second weekend, The Help became one of the rare movies to start out below #1, only to earn the gold medal the following week. Its second weekend was $20 million, a slim 23% drop from the 3-Day, and earning a very impressive cume of $71.3 million. It was clear at this point The Help was a hit. It was set to be bigger than most of the big summer blockbusters that came out that year. Weekend three saw The Help drop only 27% despite Hurricane Irene smashing the East Coast, for a $14.5 million weekend and another first-place victory. And on Labor Day weekend, The Help stayed at #1 yet again, becoming the first film to stay #1 for three whole weekends since Inception, earning $19.9 million over the long weekend.

 

It was clear at this point The Help was an event, exciting all kinds of demographics, with love for its story, actors, and emotional heft. And with it staying #1 at the box office for 25 days in a row, the longest uninterrupted streak for a movie since The Sixth Sense all the way back in 1999. And with continued Oscar buzz and passionate fans, The Help would leg itself out to $169.7 million, 4.7 times its 5-day opening. Worldwide was $216.6 million.

 

The Help’s powerful box office and solid reviews turned all the lead actors into superstars overnight. Emma Stone continued her incredible box office momentum, Jessica Chastain had this as a part of her major banner year, and both Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer went on to hit after hit in both television and movies. But with all that said, 9 years later, not everything has been positive. The Help has earned a lot of backlash from critics and activists for portraying a white savior narrative, as the white Skeeter is the one who tells the stories of two Black women and seemingly solves racism after publishing her story.

 

The Association of Black Women Historians criticized the film trivializing and distorting the actual experiences of Black domestic workers, as well as playing into stereotypes of African-American vernacular, Black men being absent or cruel, and ignoring the sexual harassment Black domestic workers faced during these times. Even Viola Davis has gone on to say years later she regretted starring in the movie, saying she feels as if she betrayed herself and her people, failed to capture what the experiences of Black domestic workers were like, as well as being “created in the filter and the cesspool of systemic racism". And wouldn’t you know it, nine years later, despite not being an accurate depiction of racism at the time, The Help saw a resurgence of popularity when it released on Netflix during the current Black Lives Matter protests. I guess some things never have changed.

 

Fourteenth place was another female-centric megahit with the raunchy comedy Bridesmaids. Kristen Wiig plays Annie, a woman asked to be the maid of honor for her best friend Lillian, played by Maya Rudolph. And despite Annie’s life being in shambles, she has to go through a series of bizarre and expensive rituals, among other misfortunes, to make sure this wedding is absolutely perfect.

 

The project first saw life in 2006, with the title Maid of Honor, written by both Wiig and Annie Mumolo, who became friends in the early 2000s when they were a part of the comedy troupe The Groundlings. Shortly after, Wiig was cast in the Judd Apatow comedy Knocked Up. Apatow loved her comedic talent in her bit role, and similar to how he approached Steve Carell, Apatow asked Wiig if she had a good idea for a movie. And thus, Maid of Honor was turned into Bridesmaids. Both Wiig and Mumolo worked on the screenplay for years, with Wiig busy on Saturday Night Live and Mumolo writing the script in Los Angeles. Both ladies would meet on weekends and worked with Apatow on table reads for drafts.

 

Bridesmaids served as a unique piece for female-centered comedies. The biggest claim to fame for this movie was that it took the Judd Apatow/Todd Phillips style of raunchy comedy and put women in the forefront. The stereotypical chick flick comedy usually has light, broad comedy strokes to appeal to women. But Wiig wanted to make sure there were plenty of gross-out in there, because she knew there was a female audience for these kinds of movies. Wiig also wanted to have this movie serve as a chance to showcase several female comedic talents, much like how 40-Year-Old Virgin did for men. The cast included Rose Byrne, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, Melissa McCarthy, and a relative unknown in the states, Rebel Wilson.

 

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Opening on May 13, Bridesmaids was an instant critical darling, hailed as a subversive and feminist take on gross-out comedy movies. This immense buzz resulted in a very strong second place debut of $26.2 million. The film surged well past box office expectations at the time and indicated there was interest in a female-centric movie like this. But the real excitement for this movie came in the weeks ahead. People couldn’t get enough of the cast and comedy writing here, and word-of-mouth spread to both men and women as something people could not miss.

 

On its second weekend, Bridesmaids saw an incredibly slim 20% fall, earning $20.9 million and repping $59.3 million in only 10 days. While other R-rated comedies saw slim drops for weekend two, this still surpassed the likes of Wedding Crashers, 40-Year-Old Virgin, and even The Hangover. It’s pretty clear that people were loving what they saw, and things were going to get even crazier. Memorial Day weekend would soon follow, but there was still concern that Hangover II could siphon away some of Bridesmaids’ audience. But even then, this Wiig vehicle was a legs machine, dropping 21% from last weekend for a $16.6 million three-day and a $20.7 million four-day, earning $89.3 million in eighteen days. And even after the holiday weekend, it still dropped 27% for a $12 million weekend.

 

Long story short, Bridesmaids was a leg machine. It didn’t even drop more than 40% until its eighteenth weekend of release, and people continued to flock to the movie just to see the wacky comedic hi-jinx in tow. And when all was said and done, Bridesmaids finished with a gross 6.45 times its opening, $169.1 million, the biggest box office ever for an Apatow production. Even back in 2011, having your legs go above 6 is a complete rarity. But the reason why Bridesmaids became such a leggy phenomenon comes down to the always important representation.

 

Obviously this was not the first movie to star women, but the big selling point was the film showcasing a wide variety of comediennes taking part in a domain that was typically reserved for the likes of Seth Rogen or Will Ferrell. All the while, the film smartly looked at the relationships women have with one another that felt fresh, unique, and feminist all at the same time. People haven’t seen something like this before, while many demographics never got this story told, and sometimes giving a microphone to somebody who hasn’t had their story told is all you need to make people care about something.

 

Sure enough, this was a major bombshell moment for the comedy world. Now more and more comediennes got their foot in the door and showed they had crossover appeal. The likes of Amy Schumer and Tiffany Haddish have this film to thank. And of course all the actresses involved saw huge success and opportunities in both movies and TV, but the one that really benefited from it all was Melissa McCarthy. Most everyone agreed McCarthy’s performance was the standout piece of the feature, so much so she actually earned an Oscar nomination for the movie, one of the rare comedy performances to get this kind of treatment. And so, McCarthy would go on to be one of the biggest comedy stars of the 2010s, with films like The Heat, Identity Thief, Spy, Ghostbusters, and many more, with her next major role being Ursula in the upcoming Little Mermaid remake. Rumors of a sequel did come out after the film’s release, though Wiig and Mumolo have no interest in the idea.

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Fifteenth place, though sixth worldwide, was the Dreamworks sequel Kung Fu Panda 2. Po and The Furious Five find themselves face-to-face with an evil peacock named Lord Shen who has a powerful weapon that he intends to use to conquer China. Po has to stop the peacock from his evil plans, while also learning more about his past and how Shen connects to it.

 

Immediately after the first film’s release, Dreamworks announced a sequel to Kung Fu Panda with the subtitle of Pandamonium...then it got changed to The Kaboom of Doom...then it got changed to Kung Fu Panda 2...weird. Anyways, Katzenberg had high hopes this would be another Shrek or Madagascar for the studio, which resulted in an animated series on Nickelodeon and plans to develop five whole sequels! I don’t think any animated franchise has even gotten close to that many sequels before. But it was clear to Dreamworks that hopes were high.

 

This was a bit of a milestone piece, as Jennifer Yuh Nelson, the head of story for the first film, took the reins as director. This was a huge career boost for her, and signified Kung Fu Panda 2 as the first major American animated film to be directed by a woman and an Asian-American. Other major filmmakers joined this project as well. Guillermo del Toro signed on as an executive producer, while Charlie Kaufman was a consultant on the screenplay.

 

This was set to be a darker, more mature sequel, with an emphasis on more complex themes of family and adoption. This was also set to be a more faithful look at Chinese culture. The success of the first movie in the region prompted Jeffrey Katzenberg to take the creative heads to the city of Chengdu, the panda hometown of China. Katzenberg stated Chengdu was a heavy influence in terms of the designs and architecture for the movie, as well as a baby panda serving as a reference for baby Po during a flashback scene. This only further pushed the franchise as a place where the culture, legacy, and history of China is celebrated with taste and respect, and a stepping stone to the unfortunate pandering movie execs are doing to the Middle Kingdom.

 

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Kung Fu Panda 2 debuted on May 26 with pretty strong expectations. The first film was a commercial and critical darling, there was no animated competition to speak of, and reviews were just as, if not better than its predecessor. Like many other animated sequels, this probably should have increased from its predecessor. But for some reason, it didn’t. Over the long Memorial Day weekend, Kung Fu Panda 2 only earned $66.7 million over its first five days. That was less than the first movie’s five day run without the help of a holiday weekend to boost numbers. And after the holiday, Kung Fu Panda 2 saw a domestic decline of 23% for $165.2 million.

 

A great number for sure, but it still seemed mediocre considering the popularity of the franchise at that time and seemed to put the validity of the franchise as an ongoing piece up in the air. However, overseas numbers did pick up considerable slack, especially in China. It wound up earning well over the last film’s $26 million there with about $93.19 million, making it the biggest animated film of all time in China until the release of 2015’s Monkey King: Hero is Back. The worldwide total amounted to just above the last movie with $631.7 million. This also made it the highest-grossing film to be directed by a woman.

 

But of course, Kung Fu Panda’s cracks were starting to show as a franchise, and the planned six movies were scaled back considerably. In 2016, Kung Fu Panda 3 was released to positive reviews but the worst box office, earning only $521 million. And while a fourth film has been considered, it’s unlikely to pop up any time soon. However, the franchise does still live on as a fan-favorite among Dreamworks fans, with a new television series hitting Amazon Prime in 2018.

 

Finally, we end this year off with what is perhaps the best, most beloved film of the bunch. In 20th place, we have The Smurfs. A colony of small, blue creatures live in a quaint little town named Smurf Village. And one day, after fleeing from the evil wizard Gargamel, some of the Smurfs find a magic portal that transports them to New York City. Stuck in a new foreign world, the Smurfs try to find a way to get back home before Gargamel finds them.

 

The idea of bringing back the classic comic strip/Hanna-Barbera cartoon series to the big screen came from Mighty Ducks producer Jordan Kerner, who sent a series of letters to The Smurfs’ licensing agent Lafig Belgium in 1997 for the film rights. However, it wasn’t until 2002 when the children of Smurfs creator Peyo read Kerner’s script for his adaptation of Charlotte’s Web. Peyo’s kids wanted to make a Smurfs movie for years and it seemed like Kerner was the only one who shared their vision and enthusiasm. The project then saw life in 2006 under Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies as a CGI feature.

 

However, the project would later get turned over to Sony Pictures in 2008. This was thanks to a conversation Jordan Kerner had with Sony Pictures chairman and CEO Michael Lynton, who grew up with The Smurfs as a young boy in the Netherlands. “He relished them as I do and suggested that it should be a live-action/CG film. Amy Pascal felt equally that there was potentially a series of films in the making". And so, the plan was for a hybrid movie a la Alvin and the Chipmunks, with Scooby-Doo director Raja Gosnell behind the camera and an all-star cast including Jonathan Winters, Craig Ferguson, Hank Azaria, Neil Patrick Harris, George Lopez, and Katy Perry. For a while, Quentin Tarantino was considered for the role of Brainy Smurf, but he turned it down. Can’t say I blame him.

 

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With a world premiere so big its setting, the city of Juzcar, painted all their houses blue, there was certainly curiosity in the project. However, due to very negative reviews, expectations for the film put it around the mid-20s for its opening. But thanks to a massive marketing campaign, The Smurfs managed to tap into the nostalgia crowd and stupid baby children crowd quite well. On its debut on July 29, The Smurfs was notable for actually tying for #1 in the weekend estimates. Alongside the Jon Favreau tentpole Cowboys and Aliens, it was estimated that both films earned $36.2 million. This was already a massive overperformance for The Smurfs and showcasing there was interest amongst families. And while it did adjust down to second place with $35.6 million, it would end up being the bigger box office story than Cowboys and Aliens. With little in the way of competition, The Smurfs managed to earn a fair amount of dough, $142.6 million domestically in fact. Despite awful reviews, it somehow earned four times its opening. Parents must have been real desperate that summer. And thanks to the property’s well-established overseas presence, The Smurfs also racked up a very strong $563.7 million worldwide, making it the ninth-biggest movie of the year. Isn’t that strange?

 

But despite the incredible box office success, the franchise’s longevity was cut short real fast. In 2013, The Smurfs 2 was released to theaters, though dropped like a rock due to stronger kidpic competition and garnering even worse reviews than the last film. It earned only $347.5 million, far below Sony’s expectations, resulting in a planned 2015 release for The Smurfs 3 to be completely canned. In 2017, Sony Pictures Animation released a total reboot for the franchise called Smurfs: The Lost Village, which was fully animated and much more in spirit with the Hanna-Barbera cartoon. It also saw mixed reviews, though better than the last two, and even worse box office, only earning $197.1 million worldwide.

 

But of course, that’s not all what 2011 had to offer. As always, we had plenty of stories here that I just couldn’t fit. Puss in Boots was a solid Dreamworks hit. X-Men: First Class brought the franchise back to critical goodness but okay returns. Rio became another franchise for Blue Sky. Alvin and the Chipmunks’ schtick started to grow old. J. J. Abrams made a Spielberg tribute through Super 8. Rango gave Nickelodeon an Oscar. Horrible Bosses and Bad Teacher were the other summer comedy hits. Green Lantern was a disastrous attempt at a DC shared universe. Paranormal Activity saw a record franchise gross. Hop was an ill-fated follow-up for Illumination. Fincher brought Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to the US. Cowboys & Aliens mixed genres to...mixed results. 

 

Gnomeo & Juliet fell just short of $100 million. The Green Hornet was Seth Rogen’s lame attempt at a superhero movie. The Lion King was re-released in 3D to great success. The Muppets were brought back to solid business. Hugh Jackman played a robot boxing coach in Real Steel. Steven Spielberg had two middling Christmas performers. Kevin James worked with talking animals in Zookeeper. Matt Damon bought a zoo. Tower Heist was one of the last times general audiences saw Eddie Murphy in a thing. Contagion hits too close to home now. Moneyball brought together math and baseball. Jack and Jill was the beginning of the end for Adam Sandler’s box office career. Justin Bieber had a hip 3D concert. Hugo was Scorsese’s attempt at a kids movie. Happy Feet Two dropped like a rock from the hit movie’s success. Alex Pettyfer was in a few flop YA titles. Arthur Christmas was Aardman’s attempt at another CG title. Scream 4 flopped to the surprise of everyone apparently. Spy Kids was brought back for some reason. And lastly, Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son...came out I guess.

 

This was 2011.

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@baumer @Brainbug @excel1 @YourMother the Edgelord @Webslinger @charlie Jatinder @Noctis @Plain Old Tele I'll admit I was nervous going into 2011, because I didn't think there would be enough fun production or box office histories to talk about, but I actually enjoyed a lot of what I read, and I was surprised at how big the OS box office truly was at the time due to exchange rates or whatnot. My dumb American brain makes me think entirely about domestic, so it was kind of cool to see all these billion-dollar hits. I'm really excited for 2012 though. There's a lot of great stories to talk about there, too many to count in fact, and I think you guys will really enjoy some of the stuff there.

 

I guess I'll also @Cap because...ya know

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4 hours ago, Eric Karga said:

@baumer @Brainbug @excel1 @YourMother the Edgelord @Webslinger @charlie Jatinder @Noctis @Plain Old Tele I'll admit I was nervous going into 2011, because I didn't think there would be enough fun production or box office histories to talk about, but I actually enjoyed a lot of what I read, and I was surprised at how big the OS box office truly was at the time due to exchange rates or whatnot. My dumb American brain makes me think entirely about domestic, so it was kind of cool to see all these billion-dollar hits. I'm really excited for 2012 though. There's a lot of great stories to talk about there, too many to count in fact, and I think you guys will really enjoy some of the stuff there.

 

I guess I'll also @Cap because...ya know


The only movie I wanna give a shout-out to is FAST FIVE. :lol:

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It just occurred to me that the opening day numbers for DH2 surpassed the entire OW for the first Harry Potter movie. Not to diminish the obvious fact that the movie still made a lot of money, but that does put into perspective how front-loaded it was. 

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1 minute ago, WittyUsername said:

It just occurred to me that the opening day numbers for DH2 surpassed the entire OW for the first Harry Potter movie. Not to diminish the obvious fact that the movie still made a lot of money, but that does put into perspective how front-loaded it was. 


Maybe cuz it wasn’t very good? :ph34r:

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42 minutes ago, Plain Old Tele said:


Maybe cuz it wasn’t very good? :ph34r:

Fans seem to like it just fine, and I don’t see why it would be considered worse than any of the other Harry Potter films by the average viewer. 

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6 hours ago, Eric Karga said:

@baumer @Brainbug @excel1 @YourMother the Edgelord @Webslinger @charlie Jatinder @Noctis @Plain Old Tele I'll admit I was nervous going into 2011, because I didn't think there would be enough fun production or box office histories to talk about, but I actually enjoyed a lot of what I read, and I was surprised at how big the OS box office truly was at the time due to exchange rates or whatnot. My dumb American brain makes me think entirely about domestic, so it was kind of cool to see all these billion-dollar hits. I'm really excited for 2012 though. There's a lot of great stories to talk about there, too many to count in fact, and I think you guys will really enjoy some of the stuff there.

 

I guess I'll also @Cap because...ya know

Oh, definitely. There was so much cognitive dissonance at play when On Stranger Tides was a noticeable disappointment domestically but made gobs of money overseas - something that would be replicated six years later with The Fate of the Furious. 

 

Even though my relationship to Harry Potter is now somewhat complicated by its creator's awful transphobia, I'll still always look back fondly on the release of the finale. That midnight number and the opening weekend number were absolutely mind-blowing at the time, even if we all knew it was going to immediately fall off a cliff afterward. Crazily enough though, even with that 72% drop and a second place finish to Captain America, it still had the biggest second weekend of any 2011 release.

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1 hour ago, Plain Old Tele said:


Maybe cuz it wasn’t very good? :ph34r:

 

giphy.gif

 

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