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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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Great write-up as usual! Its always a pleasure to read them!



Deathly Hallows Part 2 was one of the most emotional and epic theater experiences for me. I was 14 at the time it came out and basically a complete Potterhead as was the rest of my family. Seeing this amazing series get such a great final movie really made me so happy.

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This anti-Rowling/she's transphobic needs to put to rest.


It was astonishing how one reviewer made it seem like she was transphobic and the entire universe went against her. She's not a hateful or deceitful person. 

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20 hours ago, Plain Old Tele said:

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



Some bitches never change.

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12 minutes ago, Noctis said:

This anti-Rowling/she's transphobic needs to put to rest.


It was astonishing how one reviewer made it seem like she was transphobic and the entire universe went against her. She's not a hateful or deceitful person. 

Dude, she puts the capital T in transphobic. I wish it wasn’t the case but it is. 

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Not sure why I hadn't been following this thread, but I'm going to start catching up on it after I submit my assignment this weekend. From what I've read so far these are GREAT write-ups and I'm looking forward to reading them all!

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6 hours ago, Noctis said:

This anti-Rowling/she's transphobic needs to put to rest.


It was astonishing how one reviewer made it seem like she was transphobic and the entire universe went against her. She's not a hateful or deceitful person. 

Even before this year, she was seen liking tweets that had terms like "men in dresses" in them. Sorry, she's a TERF.

3 hours ago, DAJK said:

Not sure why I hadn't been following this thread, but I'm going to start catching up on it after I submit my assignment this weekend. From what I've read so far these are GREAT write-ups and I'm looking forward to reading them all!

Yeah, why haven't you? 😠


Nah but for real, appreciate the love dude! 👍

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My favorite movie of 2011 was The Dark Knight Rises trailers with Potter and Mission Impossible. 



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On 10/30/2020 at 7:55 PM, 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. 

Deathly Hallows Part 2 was to Harry Potter what Endgame was to the MCU. Die-hard fans and more regular audience members both needing to see it ASAP meant it was always going to have little to no staying power.

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34 minutes ago, filmlover said:

Deathly Hallows Part 2 was to Harry Potter what Endgame was to the MCU. Die-hard fans and more regular audience members both needing to see it ASAP meant it was always going to have little to no staying power.

It's one of those cases where quality does not equal legs. One of the best movies of 2011 period imo.

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1 hour ago, filmlover said:

Deathly Hallows Part 2 was to Harry Potter what Endgame was to the MCU. Die-hard fans and more regular audience members both needing to see it ASAP meant it was always going to have little to no staying power.

I thing everyone must understand is that if a film get audience rallied up on day one, it is bound to have a low mathematical multi. It is better to look at absolute numbers it does after that.


Endgame is one of the 4 films to gross $500mn after first weekend in USA. TFA, Titanic and Avatar.


Similarily, DH2 did $213mn after its opening weekend. That is second highest for a Potter film after Sorcerer Stone. DH1 did $170mn after weekend boosted by the Thanksgiving.

Edited by charlie Jatinder

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Barack Obama wins a second term as president, a documentary about Ugandan militia leader Joseph Kony is released online, and Vladimir Putin is elected president of Russia. The Pinta Island tortoise becomes extinct, 620 million Indians lose power, and Hurricane Sandy becomes the largest Atlantic hurricane on record. Sandy Hook Elementary School sees a deadly shooting, resulting in the death of 20 students, Canada cuts ties with Iran, Microsoft releases Windows 8 to the world, and Grumpy Cat is born.


In television, that year’s Super Bowl became the highest-rated broadcast in history yet again, earning 111.3 million viewers, and a lot of shows hit milestone episodes. The Simpsons got to its 500th episode, Spongebob Squarepants became the longest-running series on Nickelodeon, and Law & Order: SVU reached 300 episodes. New shows that year included Scandal, The Legend of Korra, Girls, Veep, Gravity Falls, The Mindy Project, Chicago Fire, Nashville, Arrow, and most notably Lab Rats, which became one of the most important television series in history. Finales were Wizards of Waverly Place, Chuck, One Life to Live, One Tree Hill, CSI: Miami, Desperate Housewives, House, Jersey Shore, Gossip Girl, and iCarly.


Music saw Adele win six Grammys, and along with a Whitney Houston tribute, the Grammys saw record viewership of 39 million viewers. Gaming’s most infamous story was the launch of the Wii U, which was hit by poor marketing and a lack of compelling games, making it one of Nintendo’s worst-performing consoles. Big titles that year consisted of sequel after sequel: Borderlands 2, Mass Effect 3, Halo 4, Black Ops II, Diablo III. Though notable indie titles were Journey, Fez, and Hotline Miami. Deaths this year include Whitney Houston, Etta James, Davy Jones, Earl Scruggs, Mike Wallace, Carlos Fuentes, Donna Summer, Ray Bradbury, Andy Griffith, Ernest Borgnine, Phyllis Diller, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Clarke Duncan.


Film was a pretty big deal this year. Both Universal and Paramount, the oldest living movie studios, celebrated their 100th anniversaries, while Disney acquired in December Lucasfilm, earning them the rights to Star Wars and Indiana Jones, among other films and properties. We’ll get back to that. The box office continued to see gain when it came to the billion-dollar club. Four different movies crossed the mark, beating out 2011’s previous record of three. And with the success of The Lion King’s 3D re-release in 2011, The Phantom Menace and Titanic saw re-releases in digital 3D that allowed both films to cross the 1 billion and 2 billion marks respectively. Other 3D re-releases that year included Beauty and the Beast, Finding Nemo, and Monsters, Inc.


But of course, we all know the real story here. The story of the film that changed everything. The story of a film that has never been done before. The story of the true beginning for the biggest movie franchise ever. The story of one of the greatest box office stories ever told. In a way, even more so than the sequels that followed it. I’m speaking of course about The Avengers.


Loki, the God of Mischief, plans to take over Earth, subjugating its citizens and take over the world. Nick Fury, an agent of the government organization SHIELD, thus recruits some of the mightiest, smartest, most powerful super-powered beings on Earth. Tony Stark, a billionaire playboy with an incredible mechanical suit. Bruce Banner, a scientist with a scary side effect whenever he turns angry. Steve Rogers, a former propaganda piece from the 1940s stuck in the 2010s. Thor, the Norse God of Thunder and brother of the nefarious Loki. Natasha Romanoff, a skilled secret agent with incredible hand-to-hand combat. And Clint Barton, a skilled archer with a sniper mentality. Called The Avengers, this team finds themselves figuring out how to work together and keep the world safe before Loki wins it all.


I said this backstory before when I talked about Iron Man, but just to recap: Decades before Marvel became the biggest thing in pop culture, the comics company was bankrupt and sold their characters to whoever they could find to get a quick buck. Sadly, even with hit films like 2002’s Spider-Man, it wasn’t enough for long-term. And thus, Marvel made a deal in 2005 with Merrill Lynch to produce a slate of films entirely under the complete creative control of Marvel Studios with distribution handled by Paramount Pictures. 


At the time, a good majority of the characters that make up the team of The Avengers did not have their film rights sold, so during a presentation to Wall Street analysts, Marvel stated the plan with this Lynch deal was to develop a series of standalone movies focused on certain heroes like Iron Man and Captain America that would all lead up to one crossover event film where they all worked together as The Avengers. The idea was that because the team was full of so many loud personalities and most non-comic book readers didn’t know who these heroes were, giving each of these figures solo adventures would familiarize them with the world of Marvel and get them more excited for a crossover film as a result. Incredible Hulk screenwriter Zak Penn was put in charge of the screenplay, Jon Favreau was attached as executive producer, casting and deals were made with several different actors, and a release date was set for July 2011. However, due to the release of Thor and The First Avenger, The Avengers was pushed to May 2012.




One of the biggest pitfalls Favreau and Zak Penn had was the idea of combining characters from completely different worlds, especially Thor. Iron Man was a tech-based hero and the film prided itself on a grounded reality. Thor’s mysticism and fantasy nature could have broken the realism down. Zak Penn’s first few drafts dramatically reduced Thor’s presence, though he changed his mind once he saw Chris Hemsworth was cast. Papa Feige argued that Thor did fit into the science-based world of the other heroes, and used the Thor movie as a way to ground the character and introduce many science-based aspects of Asgard.


In April 2010, Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator and horrible person Joss Whedon was in negotiations with Marvel to direct the title, with an official confirmation in July. Whedon’s reason for joining the movie was simple: “"these people shouldn't be in the same room let alone on the same team—and that is the definition of family". However, Whedon’s signing on meant there were a lot of changes for the final product, beginning with Zak Penn’s screenplay. Whedon felt the screenplay was bad and disliked the lack of character connections that he felt were necessary to make the movie work. Whedon would then write a five-page treatment that laid out his plan with the very clever tagline “Avengers: Some Assembly Required”. Marvel liked his plan and allowed Whedon to write and direct, though he still had a few stipulations: the Avengers had to be against Loki, the heroes had to fight each other in the middle, the heroes had to fight the bad guys in the end, and it had to be ready for its May 2012 release.


During the casting process, one notable omission was found: Edward Norton as Bruce Banner. Because Norton was uninterested in continuing to appear in future installments and refusing to be associated with one character, he dropped out of The Avengers, resulting in a recast to Mark Ruffalo. There was also concern that Scarlett Johannson might not appear in the film as Black Widow, which resulted in several drafts that featured the character of The Wasp. Luckily, Johannson was able to appear, resulting in Wasp being written out. Don’t worry, she’ll come back.


Of course, during pre-production in 2010, there was one big-eared elephant in the room. On December 31, 2009, The Walt Disney Company acquired Marvel Comics for $4 billion, which also included Marvel Studios and their independent productions. With rival Paramount being a distributor, there was a lot of concern and questioning on who would distribute this particular title. But luckily, the studios had a compromise...kind of. At the time, Paramount still had distribution rights for both The Avengers and the upcoming Iron Man 3. So with Disney eager to promote their new golden boy, the company paid Paramount $115 million for the distribution rights. The only catch here was Paramount still got their 8% box office fee they would have gotten for distributing the film, and get marquee credit by having their production logo appear in marketing materials and the opening titles. That’s why the onscreen production credit reads “Marvel Studios presents in association with Paramount Pictures”, despite Disney owning, distributing, financing and marketing the movie itself. The selling of the Marvel distribution rights, alongside their contract with Dreamworks Animation finishing in 2012 also arguably resulted in the current box office woes of Paramount Pictures, but that’s another story.




The biggest concern going into the movie was its production happening around the same time Thor and Captain America appeared on the big screen. To Papa Feige, this was a huge risk because Thor and Captain America were still unknown properties that didn’t prove their financial worth yet. Said Feige, “What if people hated Thor? What if people thought Loki was ridiculous? What if people didn't buy this super soldier frozen in ice? We were in the first quarter of production on a giant movie at that time, and we weren't going to stop.” But in the end, the plans looked like they were falling into place. Thor and Captain America were solid box office hits with good reviews backing them up, and both Papa Feige and Disney were putting out all the stops for its marketing.


Starting with an appearance at Comic-Con 2010, the cast and crew for The Avengers popped up in all the right places. The first teaser trailer for the movie aired as a post-credit scene for Captain America: The First Avenger. It had a big presence at Disney’s D23 Expo in August 2011. There was a panel at New York Comic-Con in October. That same month saw the first trailer release, where it already became an instant hit. On iTunes Movie Trailers, its exclusive debut, The Avengers' first trailer was downloaded 10 million times in 24 hours, becoming the most-viewed trailer on the platform in history. Its second trailer, releasing in March 2012, was an even bigger hit, repping 13.7 million downloads in 24 hours. 


And alongside a Super Bowl TV spot, tie-in comics, and too many promotional partners to count, the Mouse House made people aware about The Avengers and what made it so special. And with the success of the previous Marvel titles and the novelty of seeing all these heroes together in a crossover event, it was certain that The Avengers was going to be one of the biggest movies of the summer. But like any great box office story, its run would be one that was simultaneously unpredictable but understandable all the same.




The Avengers opened on May 4. It was the annual Marvel summer kick-off title, releasing at a point where not one major movie even dared to compete against it, either on, before, or after its release date. And things started out well, but nothing too extraordinary. Its midnight screenings amounted to $18.7 million. Objectively fantastic, but a far cry from the Twilight and Potter numbers we saw years ago. But it seemed that a lot of the Avengers audience was waiting for daylight, because The Avengers managed to earn an immaculate $80.8 million opening Friday, the second-biggest opening day ever, only behind Deathly Hallows Part 2. This was further proof that Marvel and Papa Feige’s crazy idea of crossovers and standalone adventures paid off tremendously. But the real stars of the show here were Saturday and Sunday. Kids love superheroes and Marvel, which meant families were out in full force on weekend matinees. This resulted in The Avengers miraculously dropping only 14% on Saturday, $69.6 million. This was far and away the biggest Saturday for any movie, topping Spider-Man 3’s 5-year record. But The Avengers’ box office craziness still wasn’t done. With rave reviews and an A+ Cinemascore rating, The Avengers quickly became the talk of the town and everybody had to check it out. So for its Sunday, it saw yet another 14% drop for $57.1 million, light years ahead of The Dark Knight’s record Sunday back in 2008.


So yeah, if you put all that together, The Avengers did the unthinkable; it crossed $200 million. $207.4 million in fact. This was far and away the biggest opening weekend in the history of domestic box office, beating DH2’s opening less than a year ago by a comfortable margin. And quite obviously, it was the fastest film to reach $200 million, beating out the original record of five days. And even today, The Avengers reaching $200 million on its opening weekend is still surreal to me. I still remember that fateful Sunday. I was fourteen years old and I went to Box Office Mojo that afternoon like I did every Sunday. And when I saw that The Avengers not only broke Potter’s record, but managed to hit over $200 million? My jaw dropped. My mind was blown. It seemed unbelievable. There was no feasible way to me a movie could ever reach that mark. And somehow The Avengers did it.


And when you really think about it, The Avengers had no reason to hit $200 million. Iron Man was a huge hit. Iron Man 2 did just as well. But Thor and Captain America did solid if unamazing business. And this didn’t have Spider-Man or Wolverine or any of the other Marvel icons to help sell it to general moviegoers. And somehow, in just three days, The Avengers grossed more than both Thor and The First Avenger’s entire runs. So what was the winning formula here? What exactly made The Avengers so exciting to the masses in a way that caused it to break records that nobody thought were even possible?


When it comes to some of the biggest box office hits, the one thing that’s needed for a megahit like this is giving audiences something they have never seen before, or at least the perception of it. And The Avengers felt like a one-of-a-kind piece. There have been crossover movies before. Hell, the shared universe concept can be traced back to the 1930s with the Universal Monsters. But The Avengers took those ideas to new heights, to the point where people didn’t know they wanted it in the first place. 


The Avengers wasn’t just a big superhero actioner, but a carefully laid-out finale for a series of other movies. Iron Man led to Incredible Hulk which led to Iron Man 2 which led to Thor which led to Captain America. All of these movies worked fine on their own, but they all had little teases and post-credit stingers to help drum up hype for The Avengers. Every character piece, action scene, and piece of worldbuilding served as stepping stones for The Avengers. These elaborate films with sci-fi action and quippy dialogue were all basically commercials for one movie. Papa Feige basically used the conventions of TV storytelling, having these giant movies serve as episodes that built up to a grand season finale.




And that idea seemed ludicrous at the time and it’s still a miracle considering all the imitators that tried to copy it. This idea made people curious if this crazy idea truly worked. Marvel fans were eager to see how the character personalities they love so much would work off one another. Casual viewers who enjoyed the previous Marvel movies were starting to get invested in the property and had interest in seeing how these movies would lead up to this ambitious project. And even for the people who never saw a Marvel movie in their life and biggest exposure to the previous films were commercials and promos on TV, were curious at this crossover idea. So that meant everybody went to see this movie. They wanted to see whether this crazy idea would work and paid cold hard cash to judge for themselves.


But that was just the opening. The one other key element to The Avengers’ success was that it was...good. Really good in fact. The Avengers managed to combine fun action with strong dialogue, great character moments, and a beating heart that was accessible whether you knew the lore or didn’t. So not only were people curious to check this movie out, they were coming back and bringing their friends along for the ride. And sure enough, as the weeks went on, The Avengers destroyed everything in its path. Weekend 2 saw it drop 50% for a $103.1 million haul, making it by far the biggest second weekend in box office history, with $373.1 million in the can in just 10 days. This was record time for any movie to hit $300 and $350 million, beating The Dark Knight’s record.


Weekend three was only a 46% drop, with The Avengers earning $55.6 million for the weekend and $457.7 million overall. Once again, it beat The Dark Knight’s record of reaching $400 and $450 million, 14 and 17 days respectively. Weekend four, Memorial Day weekend, is where The Avengers reached $500 million in 23 days, beating Avatar, which took 32 days. Weekend five had it hit $20.5 million, becoming one of only four other movies to hit $20 million in five weekends. Avatar, Titanic, and The Sixth Sense. And when the dust was settled, The Avengers managed to finish 3 times above its record opening with a grand total of $623.3 million, making it the third-biggest film ever in the US and Canada. Second if you ignore Titanic’s 3D re-release. Overseas was also impressively massive, catapulting far above the previous Marvel titles, for about $895.4 million. With all that said, The Avengers did the unthinkable and grossed $1.52 billion, making it the third-biggest movie of all time.


It was a crazy experiment that excited the fans and piqued the casuals’ curiosity. And through Papa Feige’s meticulous planning and sharp casting decisions, The Avengers would be a huge reason for the current Marvel domination we see today. In fact, much like 2008’s Iron Man, it comes from one last scene in the credits. It’s revealed at the very end that Loki wasn’t the one in complete control. A big purple dude, unnamed in the movie, was the master of the strings the whole time. The inclusion of this figure was one last-minute decision Whedon made, as a fan of the character and believing it would make sense considering his motivations. Marvel execs and Papa Feige loved the idea, and this last-minute addition changed everything. It gave the MCU further direction now that Phase One was completed, and through several more teases to come, this purple dude would become one of the most beloved villains in blockbuster history and lead to many, many, many, many, many more hits for Marvel and Disney in the years to come. But we’ll save that for later.





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The other big superhero movie that year was Papa Nolan’s grand conclusion of Batman with The Dark Knight Rises. It’s been eight years since the events of the last movie. Batman has disappeared, and Gotham’s crime has been eradicated due to expanded police power. Bane, a revolutionary figure, plans to use nuclear powers to destroy Gotham forever. And thus, Bruce Wayne finds himself encouraged to return to the role of Batman once again, before it’s too late.


The blockbuster success of The Dark Knight, as well as its intense critical adoration, basically made a third Batman movie inevitable, with WB’s president of production Jeff Robinov looking at a 2011 or 2012 release. The one problem? Papa Nolan didn’t know what to do with another installment. Third movies in a trilogy didn’t already have a great track record, and he didn’t want to make the movie only to be bored partway through production. So Papa Nolan said he would only make a third movie if he found a worthwhile story. A rough outline was completed in December 2008 before he would move on to Inception. And in February 2010, Papa Nolan cracked the code, found a story he liked, and production went on. David S. Goyer and Jonathan Nolan worked on the script, but Goyer dropped out midway to work on Man of Steel.


The success and popularity of the Joker made Warner Bros. executives push Papa Nolan to put the Riddler as the bad guy, with Leonardo DiCaprio in the role. Yet for Papa Nolan, he felt it was necessary to have a villain that was vastly different from Joker, resulting in the character of Bane. Papa Nolan didn’t have much knowledge of Bane’s backstory, but liked his more physical appearance and was the total opposite of his previous Batman villain. To contrast between the two, Joker served as a diabolical force of anarchy and destruction while Bane was a classic movie monster with a great brain. The script was also an homage to Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, with Bane serving as a parallel to Madame Defarge.




After The Dark Knight saw great success thanks to the usage of IMAX cameras, The Dark Knight Rises, which started filming in May 2011, was planning to use the technology even further. An hour’s worth of footage in Rises was filmed through IMAX cameras, a massive jump from the last movie’s 28 minutes. Cinematographer Wally Pfister was gunning to have the film entirely shot in IMAX, but its loud noises made it impossible to shoot dialogue scenes. So 30 mm and 70 mm footage was used for those moments instead. Regardless, IMAX Corp. was very happy that one of the most anticipated sequels in history was using their technology, resulting in them pimping out the film as an amazing IMAX experience and IMAX president Greg Foster stating they planned to show The Dark Knight Rises in theaters for two months, well ahead of the contractually obligated two weeks.


Just when filming began that May, so too was the beginning of WB’s marketing campaign for the title with the launch of the official website. The Dark Knight’s quality made everybody excited for this movie, and the marketing was watched like a hawk. So much so, that people deliberately leaked out both the teaser and first full trailer days before they would premiere. And despite leaks, the first theatrical trailer, played in front of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, broke The Avengers’ first trailer’s record for the most downloads off iTunes, with 12.5 million. Then The Avengers’ second trailer broke that movie’s record. Tragic! Alongside a six-minute IMAX prologue playing in front of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, alongside a slew of other viral campaigns and toy and merchandise tie-ins, everybody knew this movie was coming out, and everybody was getting hyped for it.


The Dark Knight Rises released to theaters on July 20, and the excitement was felt across the globe. In North America, analysts said there was a chance the film could earn $200 million for its weekend. And with strong, albeit not as eclectic reviews, it was obvious this would be a box office smash. But unfortunately, The Dark Knight Rises became linked to one of the harshest, most depressing tragedies in recent history.


In Aurora, Colorado, during a midnight screening for the new Batman title at the Century 16 movie theater, a crazed gunman was in attendance. James Eagan Holmes set off tear gas grenades to the crowd and shot at the audience with multiple firearms. 70 people were injured and twelve were confirmed dead. This was by far the deadliest shooting since the Columbine massacre in 1999, and had the largest number of victims for a shooting in modern U.S. history...ya know, for a few years. James Holmes would later be sentenced to life in prison without any parole in 2015.


The effects on the entertainment industry over this were massive. Movie theaters began to increase their security to ensure the safety of moviegoers, and guests in costume were not allowed to go in, especially if they were wearing a mask. The latter is a practice that is still being done today. In 2013, there was a greater push towards earlier preview screenings, with midnight showings basically turning into 7 PM showings, both as a way to help make sure these kinds of midnight massacres can be stopped earlier, and as a way for studios to make even more money off their products. Warner Bros. also instructed cinemas to remove a trailer for the upcoming release of Gangster Squad, which played in front of The Dark Knight Rises and featured a sequence where the main characters shot at a movie theater audience with machine guns. It would be delayed from its September 2012 release date to January 2013, and reshoots were made to replace the scene with a new setting.




For the movie itself, Warner Bros. promptly canceled premieres in Paris, Mexico, and Japan, and suspended Finland’s marketing campaign entirely. Papa Nolan expressed his condolences and Christian Bale himself met the survivors and the memorial in Aurora. WB, and all other studios, refused to report box office results out of respect for the victims. And while nobody can definitively prove this to be the case, and obviously this issue is inconsequential to the main story, the Aurora shootings likely impacted its box office. With pre-release expectations being $180 million or higher, The Dark Knight Rises opened with $160.9 million, including $30.6 million in midnight grosses, the second-biggest midnight launch in history. And disregarding expectations and what the movie could have done without such a tragedy, The Dark Knight Rises still saw the third-biggest opening of all time and the biggest 2D opening of all time. $19 million came from IMAX screenings, another record.


Its second weekend saw a 62% drop, with a $62.1 million weekend and a 10-day haul of $287.1 million, the second-biggest 10-day gross of all time. And with the rest of the summer to itself, The Dark Knight Rises earned $448.1 million domestically and $1.08 billion worldwide, becoming the third film from Warner Bros. and thirteenth film overall to reach that mark. It was also the biggest DC Comics movie ever. And despite being the end of Papa Nolan’s Batman, the brand has still lived on in comics, video games, cartoons, live-action shows, and movies. Ben Affleck would take the reins for a while, and Will Arnett voiced Lego Batman, but for a solo Batman adventure, it’s just around the corner...kind of. In 2022, The Batman starring Robert Pattinson is set to be a box office juggernaut. But can it reach the iconic status of Papa Nolan and Christian Bale? Only time will tell.


Third place was home to the adaptation of the famed Suzanne Collins novel The Hunger Games. It’s the dystopian post-apocalyptic future. A new nation known as Panem has divided itself into The Capitol, home to the rich elites, and 12 different districts all tasked with their own industries. Every year, The Capitol asks two children, one boy and one girl, from every district to compete in The Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death. Katniss, played by Jennifer Lawrence, volunteers in place of her sister and finds herself competing in the brutal Games. And through satirizing reality television and dabbling into themes of political revolution, Katniss’ appearance in these games could be the spark to an even greater rebellion.


Conceived by Suzanne Collins after channel surfing, the original novel for The Hunger Games was a smash success right out of the gate, selling 800,000 copies in the first few months and consistently appearing on the New York Times Best-Seller List. Alongside acclaim from literary critics, The Hunger Games would soon have its film rights up for grabs, and the victor was the production company Color Force, headed by former Disney Studios president Nina Jacobson. Color Force then collaborated with Lionsgate on the project, with Lionsgate president and senior vice president Alli Shearmur and Jim Miller overseeing production.


For the screenplay, Suzanne Collins was in charge as writer, alongside screenwriter Billy Ray and director Gary Ross. Collins wanted to make sure the film’s screenplay was as faithful to the original text as possible. Of course, with the book having a lot of inner monologue from Katniss, the one major change was emphasizing Seneca Crane, the creator of the Games, and their role in the story. This allowed a chance to showcase the actual puppet masters and give a chance for viewers to actually see the machinations. Likewise, the control center for the Gamemakers was also developed to remind audiences of the artificial nature of the arena.


The role of Katniss was one that every young Hollywood actress was vying to get, with about 30 different actresses in consideration: Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Emma Roberts, Saoirse Ronan, Chloe Grace Moretz, and Shailene Woodley were just some of the bigger names. But after all was said and done, Katniss was given to Winter’s Bone star Jennifer Lawrence, who got the role during the time she was filming X-Men: First Class. While she was 20, four years older than Katniss in the book, Collins explained the role needed a sense of maturity and power to it, so an older actress was perfect here. The roles of Peeta and Gale, played by Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth respectively, also had many other actors in consideration. Peeta almost could have been played by Alexander Ludwig, Lucas Till, or Evan Peters, while the likes of David Henrie and Robbie Amell were considered for Gale. The title of director also had a big shortlist, including Sam Mendes, David Slade, Andrew Adamson, Susanna White, Rupert Sanders, and Francis Lawrence, though the job was given to Seabiscuit director Gary Ross.




To prepare for filming, Jennifer Lawrence went through an intense transformation. Not only did she dye her blond hair dark, her training for the role of Katniss included intense sessions of archery, rock and tree climbing, parkour, yoga, combat, and more. This six-week long training was almost cut short when Lawrence hit a wall while running at full speed. Thankfully, Lawrence had no injuries. Lionsgate also hired Olympic bronze-medal archery winner Khatuna Lorig to help teach Lawrence how to shoot an arrow.


During the run up to release, The Hunger Games found itself in a few controversies. Many critics noted how the film took many elements and ideas from the Japanese novel and film Battle Royale, while many took concerns over the violent content in the film, especially considering it was all being done and towards teenagers. The bigger controversies though come from bigots. The casting of characters like Rue, Thresh and Cinna by actors of African-American descent caused outrage from fans, resulting racist tweet after racist tweet, even though Suzanne Collins herself envisioned these characters as Black. People also thought Jennifer Lawrence wasn’t scrawny or starving-looking enough, noticing that she still had baby fat for a character living in poverty...2012 was a terrible time to be alive.


But those controversies did not matter. Releasing at the height of YA novel adaptations, and off an incredible 17.5 million book sales, The Hunger Games was expected to be a really strong hit for Lionsgate. But little did we know this film would be a phenomenon in the making. On March 23, The Hunger Games released to solid reviews and massive fan anticipation. So much so, that on its debut, it managed to earn a mind-bending $152.5 million opening weekend, the third-biggest opening ever up to that point and the biggest non-summer, non-sequel, and March openings ever. And with a devoted fanbase, general audiences interested in checking this weird little franchise out, and zero competition, The Hunger Games continued to put butts into seats.




Weekend two saw it stay at #1, dropping 62% for $58.6 million, the eighth-best second weekend and fourth-best for a non-sequel, with about $248.5 million in the can. The following day saw it cross $250 million, making it beat Avatar as the fastest non-sequel to reach that mark. And this was all without summer weekdays or the Christmas holiday. So this shows just how much buzz there was for the movie. Weekend three, Easter weekend, was a 43% drop for $33.1 million, and crossing $302.5 million in just 17 days. And on weekend four, The Hunger Games still stayed at #1, making it the first film since Avatar to stay #1 four weekends in a row. It dropped 36% for $21.1 million, despite being the weekend after Easter.


As the weeks rolled by, The Hunger Games continued to pack crowds, spending 10 weeks in the top 10. So much so it ended with a grand total of $408 million. Overseas was a bit smaller for some reason. I'm sure somebody will explain why it wasn't a sensation elsewhere, though I guess the concept just wasn't interesting to the rest of the world, as it only earned $286.4 million, but that still led to a dynamite $694.4 million worldwide haul. That number is still pretty surreal. It had a built-in audience, but it was still a fresh new series for many, Jennifer Lawrence was far from the superstar she is now, and the concept of teens killing each other in a battle royale is not necessarily the most commercial premise. But The Hunger Games, thanks to some smart writing and an incredible lead performance, managed to outgross every Harry Potter and Twilight movie in the States.


This would become one of the most talked-about movies of the year, in terms of themes and lead actors, with the biggest beneficiary being Miss Jennifer Lawrence. The blockbuster success of the film turned her into an A-list superstar overnight, and alongside the critical and commercial success of Silver Linings Playbook later that year, which repped her an Oscar win for Best Actress, Lawrence would be in the conversation for years to come up until people got sick of her and she stopped making movies for some reason.


Lionsgate was also a huge beneficiary. Not only was The Hunger Games comparatively cheaper than every other movie that grossed over $400 million, only $75 million, they had a franchise to call their own. Despite acquiring Summit Entertainment that year, their golden goose Twilight, which we’ll get to in a wee bit, was about to end. This was a franchise that was playing with the big boys and had huge potential as a moneymaker. And while the series didn’t necessarily go out gracefully, it still made Lionsgate a strong force in the market share, with the studio still doing solid business to this day, oftentimes toe-to-toe with the legacy studios.


And yeah, Hunger Games lasted a pretty long while as a franchise, and there will be plenty to talk about in the next few iterations.

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James Bond, at least as a film series, saw its 50th anniversary in 2012. And the franchise celebrated in a big way at the box office with the release of Skyfall. This title has Bond investigating an attack on MI6 that’s part of a much grander plot by a former MI6 operative named Raoul Silva, out for vengeance against M for betraying him all those years ago.


Development for Skyfall began shortly after the release of Quantum of Solace, with American Beauty and Road to Perdition director Sam Mendes approached as director. Mendes was hesitant and uninterested in directing a Bond title, but thanks to Daniel Craig’s persuasion, the two worked together on Road to Perdition, Mendes would agree. Famed British writer Peter Morgan was attached to write the screenplay, but soon left the project due to issues with MGM. More specifically, MGM filed for bankruptcy in 2009, resulting in development of the project being completely suspended until MGM exited from bankruptcy in December 2010. In January 2011, an official release date was given, along with an announcement filming would start later that year.


It was imperative to Eon and MGM that the film be released in 2012 in time for the 50th anniversary for the series. Both parties wanted to make this an anniversary to remember and Skyfall served as an important piece, with Michael G. Wilson assigning a documentary crew to record the production of the movie for promotional sake. But after development went back on track and a release date was set, Peter Morgan was conspicuously absent, being replaced by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and John Logan. Morgan later stated the final script was based on his own idea, though Mendes said his ideas were completely discarded once he joined the film.




In November 2011, MGM announced their full cast of actors. Daniel Craig returned as Bond once again, while Judi Dench reprised the role of M for the seventh and final time. The villianous role of Raoul Silvia was given to Javier Bardem, who translated the script to his native Spanish and dyed his hair blond to create a distinct appearance, showing his passion for the role and Mendes’ insistence on making Silvia one of the most memorable Bond baddies. Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw would also originate the Craig-era roles of characters like Miss Moneypenny and Q. And alongside Ralph Fiennes, another major actor was Albert Finney in the role of Kincade. Kincade was actually set to be played by the late Sean Connery, but Mendes rejected the idea because he felt his casting would be too distracting.


James Bond is famous for its hit singles that serve as a tie-in to the new movie. And Skyfall was no exception. In a way, this was the biggest deal yet. Eon contacted Adele in 2011, fresh off the massive success of her 21 album, and she accepted immediately after reading the script. Her song, also titled “Skyfall”, served as a dramatic tribute to the previous Bond themes, capturing the mood and style of the previous themes while also including dark lyrics describing the film’s plot. Not only did “Skyfall” earn instant acclaim, the single would be downloaded 7.2 million times, making it one of the best-selling digital singles of all time. It peaked number two on the UK charts and number eight on the US charts, and was the first Bond song to win an Academy Award. This success was just a symptom of the film itself. As this big anniversary title was by all accounts a pure phenomenon.


Skyfall started its rollout on October 26, with impressive earnings in 25 markets. In particular, the UK earned an opening weekend of $32.4 million, making it the second-biggest opening in the region, only behind the last Harry Potter movie. The following week would find Germany hitting $23.9 million, a 77% jump from Quantum of Solace’s opening, and the UK dropping only 25% for a $25.7 million weekend and a $85.8 million haul. With $287 million worldwide in just 10 days without any US numbers, it was clear Skyfall was going to be an epic performer.


When Skyfall opened in the US on November 9, its $88.4 million ($90.6 million including an exclusive PLF Thursday) debut was legendary. It was above and beyond both Quantum and Casino Royale, more than double the latter in fact, and served as the sixth-biggest November debut in history, as well as the biggest opening for a non-Potter/Twilight film in the month. With about $519 million the span of 17 days, Skyfall was set to pass the final tallies of Casino and Quantum in just a few days.




Its second weekend in the US saw it drop 54% to $41.1 million, resulting in $160.9 million in ten days, just a few million shy of the last two Bond titles. And sure enough, this is when things got crazy. With Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays on the horizon, there was no real other action tentpole to entice the masses until The Hobbit. And reviews and word-of-mouth were positively glowing, with many citing this as one of, if not the best Bond title of the bunch. Along with the 50th anniversary buzz, the excitement for Skyfall remained through the roof, even amongst people uninterested in the franchise. And thus, Skyfall earned itself $304.4 million, a number that still seems insane, 3.36 times its opening.


Alongside international numbers of $804.2 million, where it also became the highest-grossing film of all-time in the UK, Skyfall earned an incredible $1.11 billion worldwide. This was the highest-grossing Bond film of all time, the fourteenth film to hit $1 billion, and the first and only Bond film to reach the milestone. This was also Sony’s first billion-dollar hit, their highest-grossing film ever for a time, and the second-highest grossing film of the year. It was a watershed moment for the franchise and Sam Mendes became a hot director overnight, with his most recent success coming in the form of the Golden Globe-winning 1917. But can James Bond keep the same critical and commercial momentum with his next film?


Fifth domestic and fourth worldwide was the return of Middle-Earth with the prequel The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. It’s the story of Bilbo Baggins, a meek little Hobbit who is convinced by the wizard Gandalf to travel with thirteen dwarves to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from the evil dragon Smaug. And through this long quest, we see Bilbo meet familiar faces, explore vast locations, and fight an Orc or two.


The origins for a live-action Hobbit adaptation trace back to the very beginnings of the Peter Jackson films. Back when Jackson was planning to make Lord of the Rings with Miramax and the Weinsteins (boy did he dodge a bullet), the filmmaker was also interested in developing The Hobbit as a trilogy. But one major snag was that United Artists, a subsidiary of MGM, still had distribution rights for a Hobbit adaptation, believing filmmakers would be more interested in adapting this simple story rather than the vast and ultra-complex Lord of the Rings. So Weinstein pressured Jackson to direct Lord of the Rings instead...only Jackson would leave Weinstein behind and make his movie with New Line Cinema.


So after the success of the Jackson trilogy, both New Line and MGM announced they would collaborate with each other on The Hobbit and its sequel in December 2007, with Peter Jackson in the role of executive producer. The director felt whatever he made couldn’t live up to his trilogy and this deserved a new voice at the helm...interesting. Both companies would finance the project together while MGM, through 20th Century Fox, would distribute the film internationally. In April 2008, it was announced that Guillermo del Toro would direct both movies. Del Toro’s interpretation was set to have a more fairy tale style, with an emphasis on animatronics and many of his acting collaborators like Ron Perlman and Doug Jones set to play characters. 


However, much like Skyfall, nothing could get done because of MGM’s money troubles. The studio’s bankruptcy filing made it impossible to get any projects off the ground, and del Toro was getting tired of waiting for a project that might not ever come. So he left the project, with several directors in consideration. Neill Blomkamp, Brett Ratner, David Yates, and David Dobkin, yes the Wedding Crashers guy, were all considered. Yet in the end, despite disinterest before, Peter Jackson would be the one to take the helm, directing the now-trilogy back-to-back-to-back. He had far more troubles with this film than he did with Lord of the Rings, as del Toro left so late into production, Jackson didn’t have enough preparation time for the project, resulting in him shooting with unfinished scripts and without storyboards.




Perhaps the biggest claim to fame of this movie from a technical standpoint was its frames. Instead of a traditional 24 frames per second, The Hobbit used High Frame Rate technology that made the movie run 48 frames per second. This was done to help make the action and world feel more exciting and believable, and was a huge selling point for the film. The only problem was that most theaters couldn’t play HFR titles, meaning 95% of people watching the movie saw it in the standard 24 fps format...good job Peter.


When An Unexpected Journey opened on December 14, it was a notable one. With $84.6 million in three days, The Hobbit earned itself the biggest December opening of all-time, beating I Am Legend’s five-year record, definitive proof over how much excitement there was for the glorious return of Middle-Earth. The one downside here is that The Hobbit was nowhere near the same critical darling as the previous trilogy. Criticism was thrown towards its length, characterization and HFR technology, which failed to make the movie a slam dunk at the awards circuit or with Tolkien fans. But even still, the Christmas holidays and fantasy wizardry still resulted in the film earning $303 million domestically and $1.02 billion worldwide, putting it below the trilogy in the States, but the second-biggest LOTR title worldwide.


However, its mixed reviews did put this now trilogy into a tight situation, and one that while still strong, wasn’t quite as glowing or incredible as its previous outings.


Sixth place saw The Twilight Saga finally come to an epic conclusion with Breaking Dawn - Part 2. Bella is now a mother and a vampire. But Bella’s child Renesmee is in peril. Thanks to false allegations, Bella and Edward are forced to gather vampire clans to protect their child from the evils of the Volturi.


With this being the epic finale, writer Melissa Rosenberg’s biggest struggle was writing an action scene that was a worthy conclusion to the series. Lasting 25 pages, Rosenberg considered it a three-act story in and of itself, due to its scale, choreography, and characters. In many ways, Breaking Dawn’s two-part structure was similar to that of Deathly Hallows. Part 1 was a more realistic and down-to-earth look at marriage...at least as realistic as a movie about vampires and a freaky birth scene can be I suppose. Meanwhile, Part 2 was an action title, with huge stakes, plenty of set pieces and plenty of fan service. Unlike Harry Potter, the last day of filming was an exciting one for Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. After years of working together and being a part of this massive franchise, there was a sense of excitement and accomplishment between the two when they filmed their final moments. While they would leave the world that gave them their start, there was a sense that wrapping things up would take them to further heights, and their hard work was all worth it.




Breaking Dawn Part 2 opened on November 16 to immense hype from fans, making it inevitable this would be yet another hit for Summit, now a subsidiary of Lionsgate. And sure enough, this finale did exactly that. In fact, almost identical to the previous iterations. Its $141.1 million opening weekend was just ahead of Part 1 and just below New Moon, all of which opened on the same weekend. And wouldn’t you know, it finished with near identical numbers to those movies, at about $292.3 million domestic. Worldwide was a solid increase though at $829.7 million. It’s honestly pretty incredible stuff to think about. This was a franchise that managed to have a strong audience and kept that audience for every iteration. And while none of them were critical darlings, the fanbase still seemed to enjoy every single entry and stayed loyal to the franchise they love. You can’t say the producers didn’t know what their audience wanted I guess.


Along with strong home video sales, Twilight managed to be a strong moneymaker and put Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson on the map. And while both of their careers aren’t as stable as they were in the Twilight era, they’re all sticking around and have their fandoms. Pattinson is set to do something really special in 2022. No word on anything new for the movie series has been announced, but you never know when some random spin-off or prequel will come around the corner.


At seventh place, the other OTHER big superhero movie that year was another Marvel flick titled The Amazing Spider-Man. High schooler Peter Parker, now played by Andrew Garfield, is bit by a radioactive spider, making him gain incredible spider powers and tasking himself by keeping New York safe. And when a green enemy is set to destroy everything he loves, Peter learns that with great power comes great responsibility.


After Spider-Man 3 was a huge hit, a fourth film from Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire was announced for May 5, 2011. James Vanderbilt served as writer, with rewrites by David Lindsay-Abaire and Gary Ross. The main villains this round were set to be John Malkovich as Vulture and Anne Hathaway as Black Cat. Raimi was also interested in Curt Connors turning into The Lizard or having Bruce Campbell as Mysterio. The director felt that Spider-Man 3 was disappointing, and he wanted to make sure that Spider-Man 4 was the greatest Spider-Man movie he ever made up to that point. However, both Sony and Raimi had several disagreements over the project, making it harder to get a May 2011 release date. Raimi felt there was no way he could get the film done in time while also keeping his creative integrity. And so, in January 2010, it was announced that Sony and Sam Raimi split ways and Spider-Man 4 was no more.


However, Sony was not going to let Spider-Man go out so quickly. Spider-Man was Sony’s biggest film franchise by a mile, a fact that is still true today, even in a post-Jumanji climate. And when they made that deal with Marvel Comics back in the day, they had a set time to produce Spider-Man films before they lost their license. And Sony didn't want their rival Disney to rake in all that Spider-Man money. So Sony had to think of something and fast. Sure enough, instead of continuing the Raimi universe, Spider-Man would be completely rebooted with a new story, new cast, new crew, new everything. This was a bit of a risky move, as these types of reboots take at least a few years of a hiatus before they return. Spider-Man 3 was less than three years old at that point and was still fresh in people’s minds. But hey, Sony wasn’t going to lose their cash cow, so who am I to judge?


Days after Raimi’s departure, Sony announced that (500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb would helm the title for two reasons: the studio wanted a director who could give the film a sharp focus on Peter’s life and romance, and Webb’s last name was too good of a pun to pass up. Webb was skeptical at first, but he knew he could not miss this opportunity, and believed that Spider-Man was such a great concept that a new director like him could give it an interesting spin...sorry.




There were a lot of fresh young actors gunning for the role of a lifetime. Jamie Bell, Alden Ehrenreich, Josh Hutcherson, Anton Yelchin, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Logan Lerman. But for Peter Parker, Andrew Garfield was given the title role, with Webb knowing he was perfect as Spider-Man during a cutscene where he was eating a cheeseburger while telling his love interest Gwen Stacy to calm down. Not making that up. Gwen Stacy also had a big shortlist of young actresses: Lilly Collins, Imogen Poots, Teresa Palmer, Emma Roberts, Mary Elizabeth Winstead. And in the end, Emma Stone got the big part, with the big reason being the strong chemistry she and Garfield had with each other during a screen test. Incidentally, their time on set with each other would lead to the two being a couple in real life for a while.


And I guess as a side-note, since I don’t have anywhere else to put it, the casting call for Peter Parker in this movie would lead to the creation of one of the most famous comic book characters of the decade. When it was announced that Sony was going to reboot Spider-Man, a surprisingly large amount of people were supporting Community actor Donald Glover for the role of Peter Parker, with huge online fan campaigns online. To my knowledge, he didn’t even get an audition, but this campaign would get referenced in the season 2 premiere episode of Community, directed by Joe Russo, where Glover’s Troy is seen wearing Spider-Man pajamas. This image would serve as an inspiration for comic artist Brian Michael Bendis. Bendis loved this image and knew there was potential for a Black Spider-Man. And wouldn’t you know it, Marvel Comics was looking to create a Black Spider-Man before and especially after the inaugration of Barack Obama. So thanks to Childish Gambino’s fanbase, we got the character of Miles Morales, a young Afro-Latino kid granted the powers of Spider-Man by a radioactive spider. Miles would go on to star in his own feature movie, his own upcoming video game, and become just as popular and iconic as Peter Parker in just the span of a few years. Glover would also appear in Spider-Man: Homecoming in 2017.


Going back to the Webb movie, the director’s most important goal was reinventing Spider-Man, creating a new take that was anything but the Raimi story. The biggest change from the Maguire character was that Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker had artificial web shooters like the character does in the comics. Maguire’s web shooting came naturally from his body. Webb wanted to showcase Peter’s intellect and believed the web-shooters were the perfect avenue. His Spider-Man costume was also more lithe with bug-yellow eyes, with the design of both this and the web-shooters made under the idea of “how would a kid make it?” This was all done as a way to make a Spider-Man film that felt more realistic and grounded than the goofy personality of the Raimi films, echoing the style of Batman Begins. Man I’ve talked about Batman Begins a lot in this retrospective, have I?




Anyways, Sony knew they had to make this new Spider-Man seem fresh and exciting to the masses. They had to retain these rights for a reason. And thus, a year-long marketing campaign went underway, beginning with a teaser trailer that showed a unique point-of-view sequence a la Mirror’s Edge that played at Comic-Con 2011 and at screenings of Captain America: The First Avenger. And with trailer after trailer, TV promo after TV promo, and toy after toy, you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing Andrew Garfield in your face. A viral campaign with Spider-Man graffiti was found in major cities for goodness sake! But there was one thing that The Amazing Spider-Man had to account for that the Raimi films didn’t: competition. Specifically, superhero competition. The film was sandwiched right inbetween The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises, both of which were part of well-established and loved interpretations of these characters. Spider-Man still had to prove itself worthy compared to the Maguire iteration and didn’t have the same established trust as those other movies have. So Marc Webb needed to have something really good to make it stand out. Did he do it?


Opening on July 3, The Amazing Spider-Man’s Tuesday-to-Sunday launch was $137 million, becoming the fifth-biggest Independence Day extended opening. But with positive, but not glowing reviews and The Dark Knight Rises two weeks later, The Amazing Spider-Man finished with $262 million, a far cry from the megahits of the Raimi series. Worldwide was $757.9 million, also a franchise low. However, that didn’t mean it did poorly. Considering it was such a huge reboot to a franchise that was still new and exciting, the fact it managed to gross boffo enough numbers was enough to make Sony at ease and keep the Spider-Man brand alive a little while longer. And hey, with its good reviews and praise for its cast, the series can only go up from here, right...right?

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Pixar had yet another hit this year with Brave, reaching eighth domestic. In the Scottish Highlands, a young princess named Merida is forced into marriage due to custom and tradition. Refusing to be married and have her destiny controlled by others, the kingdom is in chaos. And when her mother falls victim to a curse that turns her into a bear, Merida looks within herself to carve her own destiny and save the kingdom from itself.


Initially announced in 2008 under the title of The Bear and the Bow, Brave was a big deal for Pixar and a major departure from the studio’s earlier work. It was their first fairy tale and was the first film of theirs to star a woman in the lead role. And with her being a princess, Merida also became the first Disney Princess to be created by Pixar, a move that I’m sure made Disney executives very happy. Brave was also notable in that it was set to be the first Pixar film to be directed by a woman. Enter Brenda Chapman, best known as the director for the Dreamworks hit The Prince of Egypt. Chapman based the film off her own experiences with her daughter and conceived the project as a Hans Christain Anderson/Brothers Grimm-style fable. 


But as development continued, things became a problem. She had several disagreements on the project with studio head and horrible person John Lasseter, to the point where she was taken off the project entirely, with Mark Andrews now in charge. Gotta love corporate assholes, right? Either way, the project was still going through, with or without Brenda Chapman. And a strong cast of actors were set and ready to voice the characters. Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters. But for the role of Merida, for a brief while, Reese Witherspoon was set to play the heroine, despite not having any Scottish blood in her. And sure enough, through a combination of her not nailing a Scottish accent and Witherspoon being preoccupied with more and more projects, she was replaced by actual Scotswoman Kelly Macdonald, best known at the time for her work on Boardwalk Empire.




Brave would release on June 22 with opening weekend expectations ranging on the lower end for Pixar, about $55 to $65 million, believing that a Princess title would alienate some of the younger male demographics Pixar usually earns. But sure enough, Brave would be yet another hit for Pixar with an opening of $66.3 million. And alongside positive, if unenthusiastic reviews, Brave continued to play well throughout the summer, earning an impressive $237.3 million and $539 million worldwide. Not much else to say frankly. It was yet another hit for Pixar and a showcase at how untouchable and exciting the brand was to people around the world, with the film also winning the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and selling Merida dolls for years to come.


However, one question remained: what did Brenda Chapman, the woman who created the idea and was forcibly thrown out due to several creative disagreements, think of the film? In a later interview, while Chapman was still devastated at her upheaval from Pixar, she still believed her vision came through in the final product and still remained very proud of her movie and herself for standing up for her artistry. It’s a heartwarming story really. The woman destroyed by corporatism is still happy in the end, the multi-billion-dollar conglomerate got a property they can exploit to little girls. Every cup's a winner!


Ninth place was the raunchy comedy Ted, directed, written, and starring Seth MacFarlane. Mark Wahlberg plays John. When he was a young boy, John wished on a shooting star for his jumbo teddy bear named Ted to come to life. And sure enough, he magically does. Cut to 27 years later, and this magical moment has outstayed its welcome. Ted, now voiced by Seth MacFarlane, is still living with John, but he’s become an alcoholic, foul-mouthed and lustful teddy bear. And with John trying to move on with his life with his new girlfriend, Ted might be overstaying his welcome, which puts their friendship possibly on the line.


If you know anything about television history, especially television animation, you probably know who Seth MacFarlane is. Creator of animated shows like Family Guy, American Dad, and The Cleveland Show, MacFarlane was one of the biggest names in the industry in the late 2000s and early 2010s. He had three hit shows and his distinct brand of comedy, featuring pop culture references, cutaway gags, and foul-mouthed one-liners, gained him a substantial following. And when you’ve already dominated television, you might as well go into movies. And sure enough, his directorial film debut would be based on a concept he had for another animated show.


Originally, 20th Century Fox were planning to finance and distribute the movie. Considering the massive success MacFarlane brought to the TV side of Fox, it only made sense the film division would want him on his first film project. The one downside though was the film’s budget. Seth asked for $65 million for his project, mainly due to the expensive CGI and motion capture technology needed to bring the character of Ted to life. Fox felt the price was too high for an R-rated comedy, especially from a first-time director, and backed out of the project. But sure enough, Universal saw potential in Seth’s crazy idea and agreed to give him $65 million for his project. Although ironically, Ted would go down to cost only $50 million. Go figure.


Universal set Ted for a July 13 release, one week before The Dark Knight Rises. But at the very last minute, Ted moved to June 29, right when the highly-anticipated G. I. Joe: Retaliation moved from summer 2012 to March 2013 weeks before its debut. This was a brilliant move from Universal, as it now had an empty week to call its own, and distanced itself from the male-skewing Dark Knight Rises just a bit further. Universal also put out all the stops in its marketing campaign, with red-band and green-band trailers highlighting the goofy premise and offensive laughs that felt reminiscent of Seth’s animated shows.




And when it premiered, both MacFarlane diehards and casual audiences flocked to find some R-rated laughs. Ted earned $54.4 million on its opening weekend, making it the third-biggest opening for an R-rated comedy, only behind Hangover 2 and Sex and the City. Those were based on huge brands, so the fact that a completely original piece was able to open on par with an iconic HBO comedy series really showed just how much clout Seth MacFarlane had on people. And sure enough, people ate this movie up. Combining raunchy laughs with just a hint of heart, Ted followed in the spirit of Bridesmaids and The Hangover, becoming a leggy beast of a title.


Weekend two, Independence Day weekend, dropped only 41% despite competition from The Amazing Spider-Man, resulting in $119.8 million in the span of 10 days. Weekend three was where it dropped 30% for a $22.4 million weekend tally. A steeper drop followed due to The Dark Knight Rises and its unfortunate tragedy, but with little competition, Ted still finished with four times its opening, resulting in a total of $218.8 million domestically and $549.4 million worldwide. It was far and away Universal’s biggest movie that year and even ahead of some of the more high-profile tentpoles that summer like Prometheus or Snow White and the Huntsman. That’s what you get when you have a strong creative talent and a clever premise, and Universal benefited from that gracefully.


And sure enough, the success of Ted made Seth MacFarlane an even bigger Hollywood star overnight. He was the dominant force of primetime animation, he had a hit film right out of the gate, he brought Cosmos back to television, and hosted the Oscars to record ratings. He was on top of the world and it seemed like he could do anything. But ironically, Ted’s success would see a bit of a decline for MacFarlane, though he was obviously still very successful. The Cleveland Show was canceled in 2013, his foray into live-action sitcoms with Dads was a bust, he produced another animated show named Bordertown, but that didn’t go anywhere. And for movies, his next film, A Million Ways to Die in the West, was panned by critics and only earned $87.2 million worldwide, a far cry from the record success of Ted. And in 2015, Ted 2 was released, again to poor reviews and less than half of the first film’s box office, only $216.7 million worldwide. Seth has yet to direct another movie since. Regardless, he still has hits like Family Guy and American Dad printing money for him, his Star Trek parody show The Orville is set to air its third season on Hulu, and just this year, Seth made a deal with NBCUniversal to create new television productions. And this Universal deal was all thanks to Fox being chicken over a $65 million pricetag. I’m sure Disney is beyond pissed at those executives.


Tenth place (eighth worldwide) was Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted. In the endless quest to return back home, the Madagascar animals find themselves in Europe, where they are hunted down by a psychotic animal control agent. In order to hide themselves and find passageway to America, the gang join a struggling circus and through their time with the other animals, learn and discover what their home truly was.


Immediately after the financial success of Madagascar 2 in 2008, alongside the eventual release of the television spin-off The Penguins of Madagascar, Jeffrey Katzenberg confirmed to the press there would be one more Madagascar title to round out the trilogy, with him also confirming in January 2009 it was already planned for release for summer 2012. As one would expect from the title, the biggest hook for this adventure were its European locales. And similar to the last movie, a big selling point were the new characters and voice cast, all of which filled with big names. Frances McDormand is the bad guy, while the circus animals consist of Bryan Cranston, Jessica Chastain, and Martin Short.


One of the more interesting decisions for this film creatively was one of its screenwriters. Eric Darnell, one of the directors and writers for all three films, of course gave his contributions to the screenplay, giving the film the wacky comedy it is known for. Yet the co-writer for this, who contributed rewrites to about 60 pages of the script, was Noah Baumbach. Yes, the Squid and the Whale/Frances Ha Noah Baumbach. And perhaps one of the funniest things about Baumbach’s contributions to the film just might have to do with his most recent title Marriage Story. Reports first came about that he took part in the screenplay in 2010, the same year Baumbach announced his divorce to Jennifer Jason Leigh. And while not a direct parallel, his divorce with Leigh, along with his parents’, were a heavy influence on the screenplay. So yeah, Adam Driver was probably working on Madagascar 3 when this was all going down. Guess Ben Stiller being the star really compelled him to work on it.




Madagascar 3 opened on June 8, riding high on the success of the last two movies and becoming a premier movie franchise for kids. And thanks to the best reviews of the entire trilogy, a premiere at Cannes, and a Circus Afro song that played in every commercial break for about two months (God was that annoying), it was obvious Madagascar 3 was going to be big. And sure enough, it was a powerhouse performer for the series.


With $60.1 million in its opening weekend, Madagascar 3 only barely missed the series high of Madagascar 2, showing there was still interest in these characters despite a 3.5-year gap. But while Madagascar 2 fizzled out, people couldn’t seem to get enough of this movie. With stronger reviews and summer weekdays, this threequel continued to be a hit with family audiences, despite the release of Brave two weeks later. In fact, the Pixar flick didn’t seem to phase Madagascar in the slightest. This all resulted in $216.4 million domestically and $746.9 million worldwide, making it far and away the biggest film in the series. And along with the Penguins television series being a solid hit on Nick, it seemed like the brand was unstoppable. But what comes up must come down, and Madagascar would see a decline.


In 2014, Penguins of Madagascar was released to theaters, but failed to capture any of the same success as the other titles, only earning $83.8 million domestically and $373.5 million worldwide. And while a Madagascar 4 was set for release in 2018, several commercial failures at Dreamworks and a corporate restructuring of the animation studio resulted in the fourquel being scrapped entirely, though series director Tom McGrath does believe a fourth one could happen some day. Since then, Madagascar lives on through streaming television series, with All Hail King Julien on Netflix in 2014 and just this past September, a preschool series titled Madagascar: A Little Wild appeared on Hulu and Peacock.

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Fourteenth domestic and tenth worldwide was Big Willie’s final time as an agent with Men in Black 3. An alien criminal and old enemy of Agent K has escaped from prison and traveled back in time to kill the younger K so that his species could take over the Earth. And so, Agent J must go back in time and meet up with K’s younger self, played by Josh Brolin, to help save his partner and the world itself.


This premise found its origins back when Will Smith and Barry Sonnenfeld were filming Men in Black II. With the idea of using time travel to go further into K’s backstory, the premise went through years and years of development and changes because of the complicated subject matter of time travel. But after Sonnenfeld cracked the code, the next issue came from Smith and Sony executives. The conflicts that emerged during the production of Men in Black II made these parties leery over doing another film with Sonnefeld, but after several negotiations and the director’s passion towards the material, MIB3 became a Sonnenfeld production and was announced in 2009 at a ShoWest presentation. Etan Cohen was hired as screenwriter in October 2009, and both Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones announced to reprise their roles. David Koepp and Jeff Nathanson took charge in rewrites.


When filming started in November 2010, Sonnenfeld had one issue: the script wasn’t ready. He still didn’t have a complete second and third act, and the deadline was looming faster and faster. So in a brilliant move...I guess, Sonnenfeld went through and went along with the movie despite being incomplete, as he felt he had enough ideas and passion to see the project through. Said Sonnenfeld, “"Was it responsible? The answer is, if this movie does as well as I think it will, it was genius. If it's a total failure, then it was a really stupid idea." And boy was Sonnenfeld’s production a big one. With the hefty paychecks he, Smith, and Jones commanded to return to this project, as well as all the aliens and setpieces, Men in Black 3 cost a fortune. A production budget of $215 million to be exact, making it the most expensive comedy film in history. So this had to really deliver to make Sony execs happy to work with Sonnenfeld’s crazy idea.




Opening on May 25, Men in Black 3 was set to be the big Memorial Day title for the year. And sure enough, it opened to $69.3 million over the long weekend, unseating The Avengers from its 3-week domination. The last two films opened midweek, so comparisons weren’t completely perfect. However, MIB3's 3-Day of $54.6 million was only barely above the last two movies. And the other movies came out over 10 years ago when ticket prices were lower and 3D and IMAX surcharges weren’t a thing. Hell, 3’s four-day didn’t even rank in the top 10 Memorial Day openings. But at the same time, Men in Black 3 still did okay considering it was a decade-old franchise. It still managed to earn $179 million domestically, albeit a series low, and $624 million worldwide, a series high.


And reportedly, Sony was still interested in continuing the franchise. But that would lead to a long and winding road of failed projects. A Men in Black 4 that directly followed the events of the movie was announced and all parties were on board, with 22 Jump Street/Cloverfield Paradox writer Oren Uziel attached in 2013. But nothing ever came from that. Next in the docket was a planned crossover with the 21 Jump Street movies titled MIB 23. It was announced in 2016 and James Bobin of The Muppets fame was attached to direct, but that too never went anywhere. And finally, in 2019, a spin-off called Men in Black International was released in 2019 without Smith or Jones, and instead starring Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson. It was panned by critics and hit a franchise low of $253.9 million. And so ended the reign of the MIB.


Despite only earning sixteenth place in the United States and Canada, this film actually managed to earn fifth worldwide thanks to some of that good overseas money. I’m of course talking about Ice Age: Continental Drift. In Scrat’s acorn conquest, he manages to inadvertently cause a sudden continental break-up that splits Manny, Sid, and Diego from their loved ones. And as they try to get back home, they find themselves facing off against a band of pirates. You know, like you do.


The first details for this fourth entry arrived in a New York Times article. In January 2010, a few months after the record-breaking success of Dawn of the Dinosaurs, reports came out that Blue Sky was already beginning work on a new installment and was beginning negotiations with the voice cast. Sure enough, in May 2010, Fox revealed Continental Drift to the world, announcing a release date of July 2012. In April 2011, both old and new cast members were announced, with newbies including Peter Dinklage, Wanda Sykes, Jennifer Lopez, and many more.


The immense popularity of the series meant that Fox was going to push the hell out of it when it was set for release, and this resulted in a pretty lengthy ad campaign. The first teaser trailer, showing Scrat breaking up the Earth’s continents, aired in theaters in December 2010 in front of Gulliver’s Travels, while a second teaser, where Scrat discovers a pirate ship, was put online in November 2011. It was a clear sign that Fox wanted to make sure Ice Age stayed in the conversation and that they wanted this to be a hit.




And when you just look at its domestic numbers, unaware at what the international haul is, it seems like the movie just did okay. Opening on July 13, Continental Drift’s domestic opening weekend amounted to $46.6 million. The second-best opening for the series, even if only barely ahead of the first movie back in 2002, and a grand finish of $161.3 million, the lowest for the series. Nothing horrible, but still a distant third place in the summer animated box office, and even below titles like Wreck-It Ralph or The Lorax. But when you look at the rest of the world, it’s a different story. In late June, the film premiered in 34 markets and opened number one in all of them, with a grand opening of $80.3 million, with opening day records in Russia and Sweden, as well as the second-biggest opening day for an animated movie in France. With huge numbers just about everywhere in the world, becoming the second-biggest movie of the year in Latin America, only behind The Avengers, Continental Drift earned $715.9 million overseas, resulting in $877.2 million worldwide, almost 82% coming from overseas. This made Continental Drift the sixth-biggest animated film of all time worldwide.


Animated movies have been cash cow behemoths for almost all film studios, especially in the 21st century. But one issue that makes it difficult for an animated film to soar in every single territory comes down to comedy. Not to say that animated movies don’t play well worldwide. However, comedy movies are a hard worldwide sell, as what countries find funny vary from nation to nation and language barriers do make certain bits and timing hard to catch on to other people. But slapstick is always something that sells, because there’s no language barrier over people getting hit in the head. So when a character like Scrat, a mute, occasionally screaming animal with one set, understandable goal, headlines a feature, it can be an easy sell to all audiences and just about everyone can have a good time with it. It’s a big reason why Despicable Me and the Minion characters are a huge hit across the globe. And for a while, Ice Age was the one franchise everybody could enjoy.


However, this wouldn’t last for long. In 2016, Ice Age: Collision Course released to awful results. Critics panned it as the worst the series had to offer, and Continental Drift was far from a critical darling, and even overseas audiences were getting tired of the series, with only $408.6 million globally. And while a few ideas are reportedly out there for a sixth film, there’s no indication from Blue Sky they will make a new movie anytime soon. However, rumors are out there Disney is planning to bring back the series with a Disney+ show.


In nineteenth place, Sony Pictures Animation saw the humble beginnings of their biggest franchise ever. In Hotel Transylvania, Adam Sandler plays the infamous Count Dracula. Frustrated over humans, Drac has created a hotel for monsters where they can go and take a rest when they want to get away from human civilization. Some of the most famous monsters have been invited for a visit to celebrate Dracula’s daughter Mavis’ 118th birthday. But when a human named Johnny stumbles on the hotel, Dracula does everything in his power to keep his human identity a secret from his guests, as well as make sure Johnny doesn’t fall in love with his daughter.


The idea was conceived by comedy writer Todd Durham, who first originated the idea as a children’s book. He would then go to Sony Pictures and create a bible for a potential franchise based on the idea of a hotel for monsters. Movies, TV shows, video games, books, toys, theme park rides, you name it. Durham would become one of the first of many creatives to work on this movie, with the project going through years and years of development hell before it got to the silver screen.


In 2006, Open Season co-director Anthony Stacchi and Cartoon Network’s Cow and Chicken creator David Feiss were the first directors tasked to helm the film. But in 2008, those two were dropped, with fellow Open Season director Jill Culton in charge of the project. Culton then left the film and Disney effects animator and Surf’s Up producer Chris Jenkins became the director. After that, Jenkins also resigned from the film with Gary Wilderman, a man who doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page, becoming the new director in 2010. Wilderman also abandoned the idea. It was clear at this point that Sony didn’t know what to do with Durham’s odd idea. It certainly had potential, but there needed to be a distinct and creative voice that would carry the project through.




Sure enough, in February 2011, Sony finally got the man they were looking for with Genndy Tartakovsky. Sixth times the charm I suppose. If that name sounds familiar, you may know him from his work on some of the most famous and iconic Cartoon Network shows, including Dexter’s Laboratory, The Powerpuff Girls, and Samurai Jack. And Tartakovsky figured out how to make this idea fun and interesting to audiences. As a huge fan of Tex Avery, he decided to take this goofy idea and play it to the utmost extreme, with broad physical comedy, fast-paced character animation, and crazy facial expressions, all of which made it play out like a CGI Looney Tunes. CG animated movies were mainly focusing on realism and veered far away from the cartooniness of 2D animation, mainly because it was difficult to push computers into creating something unreal and cartoonish. However, Genndy believed there was value in trying to use CGI as a way to create zany antics, and in many ways evolved CGI animation, allowing studios a shot to make more animated CG films that involve zippy movements and hilarious expressions.


With Adam Sandler on board, many of his usual co-stars voiced the other monsters. Kevin James is Frankenstein, Steve Buscemi’s The Wolfman, David Spade’s The Invisible Man. And for Mavis, Disney Channel alumni Selena Gomez voiced her. However, the original voice for Mavis was fellow Disney Channel alum Miley Cyrus. Yet in March 2012, just months before the film’s release, she was replaced by Gomez. Cyrus explained she wanted to focus on other projects, but in 2019, she revealed she was actually fired from Sony. Cyrus was already trying to move away from her Hannah Montana image with more suggestive music and appearances on shows like Saturday Night Live and Two and a Half Men. But when TMZ leaked footage of her giving her then-fiancé Liam Hemsworth a penis-shaped birthday cake and then later licking said cake, Sony felt Cyrus had too much baggage. She was too adult and parent groups were complaining that this grown celebrity was a terrible role model for their children. So she was dumped in favor of the more conventionally safe Gomez. If only soccer moms minded their own business and didn’t force teenage celebrities to babysit their kids for them.


Releasing on September 28, Hotel Transylvania was one of those sleeper hits that kind of came out of nowhere. With little animated competition and a fun premise, Hotel Transylvania overcame its mixed reviews and earned $42.5 million. Not only was this a high for Sony Animation, but it also beat Sweet Home Alabama’s 10-year record and earned the biggest September opening weekend of all time. And thanks to its spooky themes, Hotel Transylvania continued to play well into Halloween and beyond, with $148.3 million domestically and $358.4 million worldwide.


This was a huge win for all parties. Genndy Tartakovsky had a new franchise that featured his distinct touch, while Sony finally had another hit animated film to call their own. With this and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, the fledgling studio earned their own distinct brand: wacky comedy with innovative animation techniques. And while the studio’s repertoire has been hit-and-miss in the years to come, they are still a solid presence in the animation scene, with Hotel Transylvania being their biggest cash cow. Alongside a television series in 2017, Hotel Transylvania 2 released in September 2015. With the popularity of the first movie and a similar release date strategy, the sequel managed to increase from its predecessor, earning the biggest September opening weekend and jumping to $474.8 million worldwide. And in 2018, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation earned even better box office, $528.6 million, becoming Sony’s highest-grossing animated film of all time. A fourth film is currently set for release in August 2021.


Moving down to twenty-eighth place, we see the sick dance moves of Magic Mike. A young man named Adam is out looking for a job, and stumbles upon the world of male strippers. Becoming “The Kid”, Adam befriends “Magic Mike”, played by Channing Tatum, who he keeps under Adam’s wing. And through meeting other strippers and taking part in several night events, Adam, and by extension the audience, discover the confusing, troubling, and exciting world of adult male entertainment.


This film’s existence owes a lot to the backstory of Channing Tatum himself. Long before he became a movie star, his first job at the age of 18 was a stripper in Tampa, Florida. Tatum saw potential in a movie about those experiences, trying to recapture the atmosphere and energy of the clubs he worked at, though he also made sure the story and characters were completely fictional, so as there were more creative opportunities. Tatum planned to get Nicholas Refn of Drive fame to direct, seeing as how both planned to work together on a movie before. But due to both men’s increasingly busy schedules, Tatum brought the idea over to Steven Soderbergh during production of Haywire. Sure enough, Soderbergh joined the project, Reid Carolin wrote the screenplay, and production went underway, with both Soderbergh and Tatum financing the project.


Along with Tatum and Alex Pettyfer, one of the first actors cast for the project was Matthew McConaughey. Soderbergh pitched him the movie over the phone, and 10 minutes later, the actor accepted the role of Dallas, the club owner. The rest of the cast members, including Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, and Adam Rodriguez, all visited different strip clubs to understand the atmosphere, the music, and the backstage drama that happens every day. All the while, McConaughey took part in regular waxing, Bomer gained 15 pounds, and Rodriguez went through intense cardio and weights training to get in shape. Stand-up comedian Gabriel Iglesias was also a cast member and revealed in a stand-up special that Manganiello needed...rubber parts for his character of Big Dick Richie. I’ll actually link Iglesias’ whole segment because it’s pretty funny stuff, with moments I don’t think WB wants out in the open.



While a stripper movie didn’t seem like it had tons of potential, Warner Bros. felt they had something with this movie, marketing the film as an event for women with several trailers and TV spots, as well as the cast appearing at the MTV Movie Awards. But one thing that surprised Warner Bros. was that the film had interest in not just adult women, but gay men. This resulted in a last-minute pivot in the campaign. While the first trailer made it seem like a romantic comedy with an emphasis on Mike and his relationship with Cody Horn’s character Brooke, the following trailers focused on the action and dance moves, focusing on the male sex appeal. The film was also promoted as a float during the West Hollywood gay pride parade and at several other pride events a few weeks before its release. This ensured to WB the film served several demographics and that interest was growing stronger and stronger.


Sure enough, Magic Mike released on June 29 to very positive reviews and was an immediate success. Its opening day, including $2 million in midnight screenings, amounted to $19.4 million. Of course, all the beefcake and WB’s insistence on making sure their target audiences see the film did leave the film’s weekend to be frontloaded, amounting to its opening Friday being about half of the whole weekend. Still, a $39.1 million weekend was very much worth celebrating, especially with the film’s $7 million production budget, and the film opened well ahead of expectations. It would continue to play on through the rest of the summer, earning $113.7 million domestically and $167.7 million worldwide.


This and Ted, which opened on the exact same day, show the value in the kinds of movies that Hollywood frankly doesn’t make anymore. By combining a strong premise with a likable star in the center, you can get audiences intrigued and invested in your project, especially if you deliver the goods like these movies do. And speaking of its star, this was yet another notch in Channing Tatum’s impressive 2012 belt. This was a banner year for the man, with three movies all releasing in the span of a few months. And in a Jim Carrey-esque manner, all three of those movies were hits. The Vow zoomed past expectations with a $41.2 million opening, earning the sixth-best February debut ever. 21 Jump Street saw the second-biggest opening for a non-summer R-rated comedy and managed to hold its own despite the juggernaut that was The Hunger Games. And Magic Mike earned solid returns solely on the back of Tatum and his sick dance moves. In a way, it’s more impressive than the run Jim Carrey had back in 1994, since all three movies were completely different from one another in terms of style, tone, and genre. This would make Channing Tatum one of the biggest movie stars for a while, until he kind of just disappeared after an unfortunate divorce.


In 2015, a sequel titled Magic Mike XXL was released, earning $122.5 million worldwide. A Broadway show is reportedly in development, and Magic Mike Live events, all presented by Channing Tatum, are set to debut in Las Vegas, London, Australia, and Berlin.

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2012, what a year. It was the first time visiting New York for me after graduating, I still remember all the Brave merch in the Times Square Disney store and the huuuuge promotional ads for TDKR all over Manhattan. Those were the times.

Thank you for this read, I‘m always anticipating new posts from you in this thread. 

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With every year, for every few hits, there were some misses. And 2012 had two of the most notable box office bombs in recent memory. The first, and arguably more infamous, is 41st place’s John Carter. A Civil War army captain named John Carter is inexplicably transported to the planet of Mars, called Barsoom by its denizens, and soon finds himself entangled in an epic conflict between several alien nations. Through his own military know-how, Carter soon rediscovers his own humanity and must protect Barsoom and its people before it’s too late.


The original Barsoom novels by Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs, starring the character of John Carter, are an important one to all of science fiction. Its stories, themes, characters, and worlds influence many a science fiction writer, and especially film. Flash Gordon, Star Wars, and Avatar all take something from the Barsoom novels. And with such a legacy, Hollywood has tried to adapt these stories for decades. In 1931, Burroughs was approached by famed Looney Tunes director Bob Clampett for an animated film adaptation for A Princess of Mars, the first novel. Burroughs loved the idea, and Clampett could have beat Snow White to become the first American animated feature film. The plan was for MGM to release Clampett’s cartoons, broken up into a serial format, and all the studio heads loved what Clampett made. It couldn’t possibly fail.


However, when US exhibitors saw test footage in 1936, reactions were negative, as they believed the idea was too outlandish and weird for Midwestern audiences. The series would thus not go forward, though ironically Universal’s Flash Gordon series would become a huge hit the following year. And any plans for a new John Carter movie were left abandoned, though famed stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen did express interest in the 1950s. But in the 1980s, producers Mario Kassar and Andrew J. Vajna bought the film rights for Walt Disney Studios via their production company Cinergi Pictures, planning to use John Carter to compete with the likes of Star Wars and Conan the Barbarian. Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio served as writers and John McTiernan and Tom Cruise were set to direct and star respectively. But after McTiernan realized that visual effects weren’t advanced enough to fulfill Burroughs’ original vision, the project was scrapped and the rights reverted back to the Burroughs estate.


Fast forward to the mid 2000s and producer James Jacks, who loved the original book series as a kid, convinced Paramount into buying the film rights. A bidding war with Sony followed with Paramount finishing on top. Robert Rodriguez was attached as director in 2004, with filming set to begin in 2005 with the same all-digital stages Rodriguez used for Sin City. However, Rodriguez found himself in controversy with Sin City. For the film, Rodrigruez credited Frank Miller, the creator of Sin City, as a co-director for his adaptation, which broke all the Directors Guild rules. So Rodriguez left the DGA, which meant Paramount had to find a new director. Enter Sky Captain director Kerry Conran. Ehren Kruger of Transformers 2 fame was set as a writer and Australia was considered for a filming location, but Conran left the project for unknown reasons. Enter Jon Favreau as a director in 2005. Favreau went along pretty far in development, with his vision emphasizing practical effects, with the original Planet of the Apes serving as a major inspiration. But then Paramount’s film rights deal expired and they wanted to focus more on rebooting Star Trek instead. Honestly the better move. Favreau then went on to direct Iron Man, another good move.




Things seemed quiet on the John Carter front, but then Pixar director Andrew Stanton convinced Disney to buy the film rights, pitching the idea as “Indiana Jones on Mars”. Disney was very skeptical, as Stanton never directed a live-action movie before, he specifically stated he wanted no major stars in his film, and his screenplay was considered confusing and difficult to follow. But because Stanton managed to pull through the pre-production woes of both Finding Nemo and Wall-E, Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook gave him a chance and greenlit the project. And thus, Stanton’s movie went underway and the production from hell was born.


John Carter began filming in January 2010, and there were already issues from the beginning. While Stanton had success as a director, animation and live-action are two very different mediums with their own way of doing things. Because Stanton had no live-action experience, he would often reshoot the movie twice. And while reshoots are a common practice, his reshoots ended up being towards the majority of the movie, an unheard of practice even today. With the film already trying to capture the epic scale of Barsoom, this all led to a massive budget of $263.7 million, making it one of the most expensive films ever made. So this meant Disney really needed to have one strong marketing campaign to give this odd project any sort of success.


Unfortunately, that did not happen. The head of Walt Disney Studios Marketing at the time was M. T. Carney, an industry outsider who previously ran a marketing boutique in New York. Her being unable to gel with the industry types was bad enough, but Andrew Stanton played a heavy part in the marketing, and reportedly rejected several ideas from the advertising team. Stanton approved the use of Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir in the trailer, despite the song making the film seem less current to younger audiences. Stanton also created billboard imagery that failed to resonate or excite passerbys and developed a preview reel that failed to intrigue a convention audience. Much of the marketing was purposefully vague and basic, solely because Stanton wanted people to know as little as possible. “My joy when I saw the first trailer for Star Wars is I saw a little bit of almost everything in the movie, and I had no idea how it connected, and I had to go see the movie. So the last thing I'm going to do is ruin that little kid's experience." I guess nobody told Andrew Stanton this wasn’t the 1970s anymore.


So in short, John Carter was a film made by a man with no live-action filming experience, had vague and confusing marketing that failed to appeal to anyone, and was coming out just two weeks before The Hunger Games broke every record under the sun. What did you think happened on that fateful premiere day of March 9? With mixed reviews and awful marketing, not only did John Carter open to a disastrous $30.2 million, it didn’t even open in first place, instead earning a silver medal with The Lorax’s second weekend at #1. This was an awful start, seeing as how box office experts believed the film needed to hit at least $600 million worldwide to see any kind of success. And sure enough, the competition was just too much for John Carter to handle, resulting in only $73.1 million domestically and $284.1 million worldwide, just barely ahead of its production budget. Not only did Disney immediately cancel any and all sequel plans, but John Carter’s giant budget meant that the company took a $200 million write-down solely because of this one movie, making it one of the biggest box office bombs in history.




There’s a lot that went wrong here. Stanton’s inexperience, poor marketing, no mention of its source material in any of the posters or promos, but one possible reason cited was a change in management. The project was greenlit by former Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook, who stepped down in September 2009, with the new Disney chairman being Rich Ross, who despite having no experience working in feature films, was in charge of Disney Channel in the 2000s, developing hit shows like Hannah Montana and That’s So Raven. While Ross did not greenlight the film, he did have the power to cancel the project or try to minimize the budget. But instead, Ross gave Stanton the budget he requested, along with a $100 million marketing budget, but allowing Stanton to not have any merchandise or ancillary tie-ins. So when John Carter became a bomb for the ages, it wasn’t hard to point fingers at Rich Ross for his decisions.


But despite Ross having all the powers and agreeing to let Stanton have the control he had on the movie, Ross sought to blame Pixar for John Carter’s failure. The top Pixar executives already had issues with Ross to begin with, but this blame game prompted them to turn against the chairman. Sure enough, weeks after John Carter’s release, Rich Ross resigned from the role of Disney Studios Chairman. But oddly enough, the failure of John Carter arguably changed the studio for the better.


In 2011, Alan Horn was fired from his position of chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures by the Time Warner executives. Despite producing hit after hit for the studio since 1999, Time Warner believed that Horn was getting too old for the job. He reportedly hated The Hangover for its crude humor, and with him being 68 at the time, Warner thought he was a dinosaur and the studio needed new blood to keep up with today’s audiences. So Horn left and retired from the industry. But after Ross’ resignation, Bob Iger came to Alan F. Horn with a proposition: get out of retirement and become the chairman for Walt Disney Studios. Horn agreed, and began developing a new working experience with Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, Marvel, and later Lucasfilm. And as you can imagine, since mid-2012, the rest is history.


People like to say that Disney can sell just about anything, and people will eat it up. And while Disney’s brand recognition is an unmatched one, there is an art to making money that people fail to really recognize. You need to have a solid understanding about what audiences want to see, what audiences didn’t know they wanted to see, and have talented people who know how to deliver something fun and interesting to said audience. And Horn is the master of this kind of stuff. In his time with Warner Bros., he arguably laid the groundwork for all future hit movies to come for Disney and all other studios. Big-budget, often effects-filled extravaganzas that have easy appeal to international audiences and made by talented filmmakers who know what people like. And that was seen in his WB credits: The Perfect Storm, 300, Happy Feet, Ocean’s Eleven, Sherlock Holmes, The Dark Knight, Inception, and especially Harry Potter. He oversaw all those projects, giving his own input and ideas to these productions, and they all turned out as worldwide hits.


Sure enough, Horn’s input allowed Disney to soar higher in the box office for years to come, with hit after hit after hit from all of its divisions. And it was all thanks to Stanton’s delusions of grandeur we have Horn’s input and the Disney domination we see today. And trust me, we have a lot to talk to about when it comes to Disney domination.


And finally, we have to go down. All the way down to #211 in the domestic charts. It’s here we have to talk about the epic failure that was The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure. Three creatures known as The Oogieloves are set to have an awesome surprise birthday party for their talking pillow Schluufy. But when their friend J. Edgar, a talking vacuum cleaner, accidentally loses the five magical balloons intended for the birthday party, the Oogieloves decide to travel across the world to retrieve all five balloons. And on their way, they meet and interact with several D-list celebrities, including Cloris Leachman as a woman obsessed with polka dots, Chazz Palminteri as a milkshake restaurant owner, Toni Braxton as a singer who loves roses but is also allergic to them, Cary Elwes as a cowboy obsessed with bubbles, and Jaimie Pressly and Christopher Lloyd as a Spanish couple who live in a giant flying sombrero. Would you believe this was made by the people who did Teletubbies?


Okay, I kind of kid there. This was a unique passion project for somebody who worked on Teletubbies though. Kenn Viselman was a major player for several preschool franchises. He brought Teletubbies and Thomas the Tank Engine over to North America, so he had a lot of experience working in kids media. Viselman saw potential for a Teletubbies movie after the show became a hit...somehow, but he had several disputes over Teletubbies’ creator Anne Wood in getting a film adaptation off the ground, resulting in Wood point-blank refusing for Viselman to make a film production of her show. Defeated, he found inspiration when he went to a screening of the Tyler Perry comedy Madea Goes to Jail...stay with me on this. He noticed the audience he was with was weirdly into the film, often shouting out advice to the characters on the screen on what they should do. This gave Viselman an idea. Seeing as how many preschool shows already have an interactive element, as shows like Dora the Explorer and Blue’s Clues, he should make a theatrical movie in the vein of Teletubbies.


So the one thing that made Oogieloves so unique was how it encouraged the kids watching in the theater to play a part in the movie. During musical numbers, the movie asks the kids to dance and sing along, along with asking kids to recite such catchphrases as “Goofy Toofie, pick up your pants” and “Testing, Testing. Wam! Bam! Pow! Goobielove, can you hear me now?” when they are said by characters...people paid money to see this in theaters...not a lot, but somebody did, I’m sure. This was a bold move for Viselman, as he believed there was value in putting all that kind of interactivity into a feature film.




Viselman also believed there was potential with Oogieloves as a way to give something new to the Pixar and Dreamworks kids movie market. Specifically, a happy, conflict-free alternative. Viselman was reportedly very upset that the current market of kids and family films featured evil characters or sad moments. God forbid kids watch something that has conflict and drama in it. Said Kenn Viselman, “Why can't we have something that's all love, where we don't even have the color black? Pixar always has the triumph of good over evil. But why does there have to be evil in the first place?" Um...mission accomplished?


The Oogieloves was backed by Freestyle Releasing, with several of the film’s investors attempting to promote it through billboards and mommy blogs. But it was not really worth it in the end. Opening on Oogust 29, the period of time when parents are making sure their kids are ready for school, The Oogieloves opened in 2,160 theaters to disastrous results. In five days, the film only generated $669,489. To understand how bad that is, its three-day of $443.9 thousand amounted to an average of $205 per theater. So if every single theater, all 2,160 of them, played the movie for five showings on an average ticket price of $7, that would rack up to about less than two people per showing. This made it far and away the worst opening for a movie in over 2,000 theaters, beating out the infamous 2008 animated flop Delgo, which also opened in 2,160 theaters and was also released by Freestyle Releasing. It’s like it was meant to be.


Sure enough, the film dropped to about one or two showtimes in the morning in almost all theaters, which Kenn Viselman believed could still turn the film’s success around. The film’s bombing gave it notoriety, and the limited showtimes meant the people who really wanted to check it out had to see it right away. Viselman even compared it to something like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, “but in the morning instead of midnight”...sure buddy. And after two more weeks of playtime with almost every theater dropping the title, The Oogieloves finished with nothing more than $1,065,907 at the box office, and has lived on as one of the weirdest box office stories in history. Eight years later, no wide-release movie has even come close to the numbers Oogieloves earned, though the likes of Jem and the Holograms and Playmobil: The Movie certainly tried. And quite honestly, I don’t think I ever want to see a bomb as glorious as this ever again.


And that was 2012. This was a hard one to write, because I missed so many other amazing stories. But hey, that’s what this round-up is for. The Lorax became one of the biggest March openings in history. Wreck-It Ralph showed Disney Animation doesn’t need princesses to make big bucks. Lincoln gave DDL an overdue Oscar. Django Unchained became Tarantino’s biggest hit ever. Snow White and the Huntsman capitalized on Disney remakes/dark fairy tales to solid returns. Les Miserables became a polarizing, but highly successful musical adaptation. Taken 2 continued Liam Neeson’s dominance. Argo gave Ben Affleck an Oscar...kind of. Prometheus brought back Alien to mixed results. Safe House became another hit for Denzel. Ang Lee’s spiritual Life of Pi was both very good and very expensive. Jeremy Renner took up the Bourne mantle to mixed results. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island continued Dwayne Johnson’s popularity. Rise of the Guardians became Dreamworks Animation’s first flop in ages. 


Zero Dark Thirty’s waterboarding garnered huge controversy. Flight gave us Zemeckis’ only hit movie this decade. The Campaign capitalized on Will Ferrell and Zack Galifianakis’ career highs. Wrath of the Titans was a sequel nobody asked for. Tim Burton made a Dark Shadows movie for some reason. This is 40 was a weird Knocked Up spin-off. Looper made Rian Johnson a name. Battleship was a sad attempt at adapting a board game. Pitch Perfect became a sensation to teen girls everywhere. Mirror Mirror was The Wild to Snow White and the Huntsman’s Madagascar. Chronicle was the beginning of the short-lived career of Josh Trank. The Dictator was SBC’s ill-fated attempt at capturing Borat magic. Total Recall was remade and nobody liked it. American Pie and The Three Stooges returned to the world. Ghost Rider got a sequel that’s only claim to fame was Nicolas Cage peeing fire. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was a sleeper hit. Moonrise Kingdom became a success story for Wes Anderson. Josh Peck was in a Red Dawn remake. The Cabin in the Woods was Whedon’s other 2012 movie. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was a cool premise with weak execution. That’s My Boy was a notable flop for Adam Sandler. Frankenweenie was turned into a stop-motion cartoon. The Wachowskis’ Cloud Atlas was a weird mess but a cult hit. A Thousand Words ended Eddie Murphy’s film career. Killing Them Softly got an F Cinemascore. The Raid: Redemption was a hit with action fans. And lastly, Rock of Ages...came out I guess.


This was 2012

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