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A Look at The Biggest Box Office Stories from 1972-present (THABOS: The History of Amazing Box Office Stories) | IT'S FINALLY COMPLETE!!!!!!!

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2014

 

West Africa is hit with an Ebola epidemic, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappears over the Gulf of Thailand, and the Flint water crisis begins, which is still a hot topic well into 2020. The Gaza Strip is hit by several missiles, America begins their airstrike campaign upon Syria, a Black teenager named Michael Brown is shot, resulting in major riots and a greater push towards the Black Lives Matter movement, and we would see the beginnings of warmer relations between the United States and Cuba. Bill Cosby’s rape allegations also came back to light after a comedy routine by Hannibal Burress, resulting in several dropped projects and his name destroying the immense legacy of his comedy and sitcom career.

 

For music, Sam Smith hit the scene with their second album, while Taylor Swift’s 1989 sold over 1 million copies in its first week, becoming another major success for Swift at a time when album sales were hitting lows due to the digital streaming marketplace. Ariana Grande, fresh off her success at Nickelodeon, also had a banner year, with several of her singles becoming radio sensations.

 

Television’s biggest events had to deal with late night. First was the retirement of Jay Leno as host of The Tonight Show with Late Night’s Jimmy Fallon stepping in his shoes in February, during NBC’s broadcast of the Sochi Olympics. Fallon has continued to host the series, with many of his segments becoming viral sensations. Seth Meyers took over for Fallon on Late Night. The Colbert Report also aired its final episode in 2014, as he would go on to become host for CBS’ The Late Show in 2015. 

 

Notable premieres include True Detective, Broad City, Silicon Valley, Fargo, Penny Dreadful, Girl Meets World, Henry Danger, The Knick, Bojack Horseman, Gotham, Black-ish, How to Get Away with Murder, The Flash, Jane the Virgin, and Transparent. The final show would become one of the first awards darlings for the fledgling Amazon Prime Video service, which would go on to host hit series like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and The Boys. Conclusions/cancellations were Psych, The Boondocks, Boardwalk Empire, Sons of Anarchy, The Newsroom, White Collar, and How I Met Your Mother. The latter’s finale...did not go over well.

 

Losses this year were too many to count. Shirely Temple, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sid Caesar, Mickey Rooney, H. R. Giger, Maya Angelou, Casey Kasem, James Garner, Robin Williams, Lauren Bacall, Richard Attenborough, Joan Rivers and Joe Cocker are just to name a few.

 

Meanwhile, the box office was...kind of boring. Not godawful, but certainly a decline from the heights of previous years, with no real surprise stories. Hell, I was struggling to find good contenders for the “not top 10 DOM/WW” part of this retrospective. Only one film earned a billion this year, and it wasn’t even that mind-blowing of a result. In fact, the number one film domestically barely even played in 2014. It was a platform release on Christmas and earned almost all its money in January 2015 onwards. I was honestly contemplating whether or not I should even include this in the 2014 retrospective, but since it came out in that year, and I already got my hands full in 2015, might as well highlight it here.

 

Let’s talk about Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper. It’s the true story of Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL sniper who became known for being the deadliest marksman in the history of the United States military, with 225 kills from four different tours in the Iraq War. He’s hailed as a hero by the government and even his loved ones. But all these tours put a toll on Kyle and his family’s life.

 

The original 2012 memoir of the same name was a success right out of the gate, hitting the New York Times Best Seller list for 37 weeks, which prompted Warner Bros. to acquire the rights for a film adaptation. Sure enough, Bradley Cooper signed on as a producer, with plans for Chris Pratt in the role of Chris Kyle. However, WB would only approve of the movie if Cooper was the star, so Cooper ended up playing Kyle. 

 

David O. Russell expressed interest to direct, but for a while, this was almost going to be directed by Steven Spielberg. Spielberg loved the original memoir, and was very eager to add a psychological conflict to the piece. However, Spielberg’s numerous ideas, including an “enemy sniper” character, caused the original screenplay to last 160 pages. Because of WB’s tight budget constraints, Spielberg felt he couldn’t get his vision onto the screen. And thus, he dropped out, with Clint Eastwood taking charge as director.

 

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After a premiere at the AFI Festival, where it launched to positive reviews, American Sniper was set to have a typical awards release, with a platform release on Christmas Day with an expansion to wide release the following January. And even back when the film debuted in four theaters, things looked extremely positive, with the movie earning $633.5 thousand, a killer average of $158.4 thousand, earning the second-best opening PTA for a live-action title. The first was some Kevin Smith movie called Red State. It continued to play packed showtimes in those four theaters over the next two weeks, with weekend two actually increasing to $676.9 thousand for a $169.2 thousand theater average, which, again, only put it behind Red State. Just at a first glance, American Sniper was set to be a big hit when it came out. But on January 16, MLK weekend, something truly amazing happened.

 

Off the back of immense buzz from both the platform release and six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Bradley Cooper, American Sniper went into wide release with expectations in the $40 million range. Already stellar for a war film. But things started to look interesting when Thursday previews rolled in. With about $5.3 million in the bank, it already generated numbers that would be impressive for a tentpole title. This would then lead to $30.3 million on its opening Friday. At this point, things were looking weird. This movie somehow managed to earn in one day just $10 million less than what general expectations were for the whole weekend. And because this was an older-skewing title, American Sniper increased on Saturday to earn $34.5 million. And when all was said and done, American Sniper’s three day weekend amounted to $89.3 million. The four day was $107.2 million, with a then cume of $110.6 million.

 

There’s so much to unpack here, but to understand things from a record standpoint, American Sniper was a marvel. Not only did it earn the biggest January opening and the biggest January weekend ever, it did something I had no idea until doing research. American Sniper’s 3-Day was actually the largest winter opening weekend. From December to February, no other film came close. It beat out Hannibal, Lord of the Rings, Avatar, and The Hobbit.

 

This translated into an incredible run in the weeks ahead. With absolutely no competition, American Sniper dominated the next few weeks with strong and consistent holds. Weekend two saw a 28% drop for $64.6 million. Weekend three did see a dent due to the Super Bowl, but that still meant it threepeated at #1, earning $30.7 million. February rolled around, and it dropped 24% on weekend four, with $23.3 million. Weekend five, President’s Day weekend, was down 29% for $16.4 million. Weekend six was down 39% for $10 million. Weekend seven was its final weekend in the top 10, earning $7.4 million. And with consistent drops as the weeks went by, American Sniper managed to earn $350.1 million at the domestic box office. This not only made American Sniper the #1 movie of the year, the first R-rated film to do so since Saving Private Ryan in 1998, but it also served as the fourth-biggest Warner Bros. movie of all time, and the second-biggest R-rated movie of all time. Worldwide was also not too shabby, helped by a strong performance in Italy of all places, resulting in $547.4 million worldwide. This made it the highest-grossing war film of all-time and the highest-grossing Eastwood film of all time. Deadline estimates a net profit of $243 million.

 

What makes it even crazier is there was no real reason why American Sniper exploded the way it did. War movies with big stars did well before, but almost everything else’s domestic totals were around what American Sniper grossed in one weekend. And while it had IMAX, it didn’t have 3D to bolster numbers either. It was based on a book, but it didn’t have that big of brand recognition like, say, Hunger Games. It wasn’t an established film property like Star Wars. It was a PTSD drama that focused on the side effects of war and violence on a person, and it somehow managed to outgross every movie in 2014 to become the #1 film of the year and one of the biggest films in Warner history. In a day and age where audiences are getting increasingly allergic to non-Disney/non-tentpole titles, American Sniper’s numbers are nothing short of a miracle.

 

So what was the winning formula here? You could point to Clint Eastwood, but it wasn’t like his movies were doing that well, Gran Torino aside. Maybe it’s Bradley Cooper, who since The Hangover has become one of the biggest movie stars working today. But that feels like a stretch to pin it on one guy. In the humble opinion of this autistic bisexual weirdo who is obsessed with cartoon animals and Timothee Chalamet, the reason for this movie’s success can all be traced back to one trailer.

 

 

The teaser trailer for American Sniper, depicting Cooper’s Chris Kyle and his uncertainties on whether he should shoot an Iraqi boy is brilliant. I’d dare say it’s one of the greatest trailers ever made, and is the kind of trailer I’d recommend anyone who looks to go into film marketing should try to recreate. I remember seeing this teaser while waiting for a showing of Gone Girl to play. In fact, I think it was theater exclusive for a while. And it’s been seared into my brain ever since. The editing, the dialogue, the footage. It all perfectly encapsulated what the movie was about in just a minute. And it ends on such a hard-hitting cliffhanger that I can still remember the gasps and sighs when the title came up. And I think within that teaser that it explains why the movie was a hit. At least for American audiences, it had something for everyone.

 

The War on Terror was still a hot topic in 2014 and 2015, and everybody on the political spectrum had something to say about it. But American Sniper’s themes and messaging had something for everyone. For conservatives living in flyover states, the film was a patriotic tale celebrating an American hero who helped keep our country safe. For liberal coastal elites, the film was a cautionary tale about the dangers of war and how it can damage a person’s psyche and relationships with other people. There was truly something for everyone and it never leaned into any specific political affiliation. This made it an easy sell for all audiences and everybody got something out of it.

 

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I don’t really think this kind of both sides should work for all war/political films. And of course, not everybody was pleased with the film. Criticism was made over the film’s historical accuracy and how it depicts the Iraq War. However, it does at least show, as I have reiterated multiple times, how to make an “original film” a four-quad beast that gets butts in seats. If you have an easy, understandable hook, put in some good ads, and find a likable star that people like, you can do amazing things at the box office. And American Sniper found the perfect balance, resulting in a hit unlike any other. Bradley Cooper continued to have solid hits after Sniper’s release, and even Clint Eastwood found some love, as both Sully and The Mule turned out to be decent box office hits. Just ignore 15:17 to Paris and Richard Jewell just like everybody else did.

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Second in the domestic charts was The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1. After Katniss survives The Hunger Games twice, Katniss returns to District 13 and finds herself the symbol of a new rebellion against the evils of the Capitol. And as the nation is moved by her courage, Katniss finds herself forced to fight against the evil government and save Panem from such tyranny.

 

As Catching Fire was wrapping up, Lionsgate was put into a corner. Hunger Games was basically the only franchise they had left that was in any way viable, and when Mockingjay ends, that’s it when it comes to movies. So after seeing the monstrous success Harry Potter had splitting the last movie into two parts, with Twilight also looking to have great success, it was announced July 2012 that Mockingjay would be two feature-length movies divided into two parts. This would kind of bite Lionsgate in the ass, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

 

Regardless, Mockingjay was looking to get some new creatives in charge. Rian Johnson and Alfonso Cuaron were considered as directors, but Francis Lawrence ended up returning to direct both parts. However, one change to the creatives was with the screenplay. In December 2012, it was announced Danny Strong, then known for the HBO movie Game Change and later writing Lee Daniels’ The Butler and the hit FOX show Empire, would write both Mockingjay 1 and 2. He completed Part 1’s script February 2013.

 

Filming began just before Catching Fire was released in September 2013, with both parts being shot back-to-back. Production for both films ended in June 2014, but during filming, tragedy struck. On February 2, 2014, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who played Plutarch Heavensbee, died from a drug overdose. He was 46. Thankfully, he filmed all his scenes for Part 1, which gave us all a chance to see his talents one last time.

 

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Lionsgate once again put out all the stops when it comes to the marketing campaign. Viral videos and photos were everywhere, mobile games were developed, Cannes and Comic-Con appearances were made. Trailers, some of which served as broadcasts from the Capitol, also became huge hits online. Hell, the franchise was starting to become big in the political world. One day before Mockingjay Part 1 was set to release in the United States, showings in Thailand were canceled as the franchise’s three-finger salute began to be commonly used against the country’s military government. Days later, the salute and quotes from the Mockingjay book appeared in Hong Kong and the United States respectively. It seemed to say that Mockingjay was set to be another smash hit for Lionsgate. And on its November 21 opening, it was...with a bit of an asterisk.

 

Opening to $121.9 million, Mockingjay Part 1 saw the biggest opening weekend of the year, solidifying its status as one of the biggest movie franchises out there. However, it was a bit of a concerning drop from the previous movies. About 23% lower than Catching Fire’s opening in fact. Now that’s not entirely fair to pin against the movie. These penultimate Part 1s typically decreased from their predecessors, judging by Potter and Twilight so far. The movie also didn’t have IMAX, which arguably hurt its appeal as an event title. But still, it was a bit alarming and confusing, considering the critical acclaim and goodwill Catching Fire generated.

 

The film generated about $337.1 million domestically, making it the lowest of the series so far, but overseas picked up the slack considerably, resulting in $755.4 million worldwide, fifth place on the global charts. A net profit of $211.61 million isn’t half-bad either. And hey, considering how much of a boost Potter and Twilight had with their Part 2s, this would only lead to some truly amazing numbers for Part 2 next year, right? Right? RIGHT???

 

Marvel dominance continued with a film that shocked everybody. Both because of how good it was and because of the money it made. This was the James Gunn smash Guardians of the Galaxy, which earned third place both domestically and worldwide. Peter Quill is an intergalactic thief, raised by alien smugglers after his mother’s death. After stealing the artifact of a lifetime, he then finds himself inadvertently teaming up with a group of other criminals. An assassin named Gamora, the daughter of Thanos, a buff warrior named Drax, who lost his family to Thanos, and the crime duo Rocket and Groot, a raccoon and talking tree respectively. But as this group finds themselves on the run, they may just become the only people who can protect the galaxy itself.

 

One of the things that Papa Feige focused on with his MCU project was the inherent appeal of seeing the core Avengers brought to life on the big screen. But there was also an interest in bringing obscure properties to the big screen, so as to expand the appeal of Marvel even further. And Guardians of the Galaxy fit the bill perfectly. It had an interesting ensemble like X-Men and Avengers, and it had strong potential as an outer space epic. And the first inklings of a Guardians of the Galaxy movie can be traced all the way back to 2009.

 

Nicole Perlman was enrolled in Marvel’s screenwriting program back in 2009, and was offered several lesser known properties she could write a screenplay for. Because Perlman loved space and science fiction, she decided to choose Guardians as her screenplay. Perlman worked on the draft for the next two years. And sure enough, Marvel liked the script so much they requested Perlman to continue working on a new draft in late 2011. And sure enough, the project was formally announced to the public at Comic-Con 2012, where it was revealed that it would release in August 2014 and feature Star-Lord, Drax, Gamora, Rocket, and Groot.

 

Shortly after the Comic-Con showcase, Troma alum James Gunn was attached to direct, though future MCU directors like Peyton Reed and Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck were in consideration. Gunn’s inclusion as director also meant a huge change to the screenplay. To fit with Gunn’s comedic sensibilities, Perlman’s script was completely rewritten by Gunn, changing the story, the character arcs, and adding in more 80s pop culture items like the Walkman. Although Perlman was still credited due to WGA rules, Gunn was the one who truly took charge on the script. You make your own metaphor on that.

 

With the script done, casting was underway. The real trouble came from casting Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord. Actors like Joel Edgerton, Jack Huston, Jim Sturgess, Eddie Redmayne, Zachary Levi, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Rosenbaum, John Gallagher Jr., and even Lee Pace, who ended up in the role of Ronan the Accuser. For a while, Gunn had no idea who would fit the role, but casting director Sarah Finn suggested Parks and Recreation actor Chris Pratt. While Gunn rejected the idea, Finn put the two together for a meeting. The men hit it off, and Pratt was cast. However, because Pratt was the furthest thing from an action star, he was rejected for both Star Trek and Avatar, he didn’t quite have the build you would expect from a Marvel hero. In fact, he gained weight for his role in the 2013 Vince Vaughn comedy Delivery Man. So Pratt went under a strict diet and training regimen that resulted in him losing 60 pounds in just six months. He also took a temporary leave from Parks and Rec to work over at Marvel.

 

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In fact, just about all the lead cast members had to go through a lot of work to make the film we have today. Dave Bautista and Zoe Saldana, the actors for Drax and Gamora respectively, had to go through hours of makeup every morning before shooting began so that the characters could come to life. Vin Diesel, the voice of the tree-like alien Groot, only had one phrase, “I am Groot”. However, Diesel not only had to find a way to make this one line work for several emotional moments, but also had to dub the film in several foreign languages. Bradley Cooper, the voice of Rocket, was not on set, with James Gunn’s director Sean being used as a stand-in for Rocket, meaning he had to use his own imagination and filmed footage to bring the character, with a Joe Pesci from Goodfellas-style voice, to life. Even for Karen Gillian, who plays Gamora’s sister Nebula, she had to completely shave her head for the role and apply hours of makeup. Michael Rooker as Yondu also had to deal with four hours of makeup every day.

 

The supporting cast was also full of big names. John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Djimon Honsou, Benicio del Toro. But one of the most important supporting characters had to deal with a character first seen in 2012’s The Avengers. Guardians of the Galaxy was set to be a turning point for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially for the incoming Phase Three. This not only meant the inclusion of several Infinity Stones, which were first introduced in Thor: The Dark World, but also the return of Thanos. Of course, the actor who played him in The Avengers was a no-name actor, so Marvel and Papa Feige knew they needed significant starpower for the role. That must have hurt for Damion Poitier. So for this film, it was revealed that Thanos would be played from now on by Josh Brolin. Brolin’s portrayal of Thanos would soon become one of the most loved aspects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

 

Box office expectations for Guardians of the Galaxy were pretty high. Marvel was becoming a bigger and bigger name thanks to The Avengers. But there was an element of risk to the whole piece. This was a Z-list team of heroes, there was only one real human on the team, and the film featuring a talking raccoon and tree might have made the movie seem too goofy for some. So expectations were that the film would open in the $70 million range, below Thor: The Dark World or Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

 

Things started to lean very positive towards Guardians of the Galaxy when its marketing campaign hit. The first trailer launched February 2014 to huge excitement. Alien action, edgy comedy, and scant 80s references were all featured with the Blue Swede version of Hooked on a Feeling serving as the trailer song. This first teaser was almost scrapped in favor of a more generic and cheesy trailer that didn’t sell what the original movie was about. But even though the other teaser did better in test screenings, Gunn fought for his original cut of the trailer to be shown to the public. Gunn won out in the end, and the trailer was an instant viral hit. It was shared and discussed on social media as much as films like Man of Steel and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which both were established properties, earned 22.8 million views in just 24 hours, and "Hooked on a Feeling" saw a humongous boost in sales after the trailer launched. As trailers and online videos continued to launch throughout the summer, something just seemed to click with people. The film looked like something that was both fun and innovative for the genre. A film that combined great Marvel action with a unique setting and characters.

 

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On its debut of August 1, Guardians of the Galaxy saw a massive $94.3 million opening. This surpassed all industry expectations, resulting in the third-biggest debut of the year and the best August debut in history. In a way, it’s kind of a miracle. Guardians was a no-name property, yet its debut feature surpassed the debut features of X-Men, Thor, Hulk, and Captain America. It was actually the seventh-best debut for a non-sequel. The reasons for this film’s instant success are plenty, but much of it comes down to both familiarity and originality. At this point, Marvel Studios was the Pixar of the superhero genre. They earned consistently positive reviews and people loved what they put out every few months. It was a given people were gonna have a good time with this. At the same time, Guardians of the Galaxy felt fresh and new from the rest of the summer line-up. Its comedy and characters were unlike anything else, and at a time when people were craving something exciting and interesting and well-made, this was exactly what people wanted. And sure enough, with rave reviews and most of August to itself, Guardians continued to play to packed houses, with it even returning to #1 on its fourth, fifth, and sixth weekends. Its final domestic total was $333.2 million, 3.54 times its opening

 

With a worldwide total of $772.8 million, as well as a net profit of $204.2 million, Guardians managed to become the biggest Marvel title of the year, an incredible feat considering Cap, Spider-Man, and X-Men also had movies out this year. And sure enough, Guardians of the Galaxy would go from one of the most obscure Marvel properties to one of their biggest franchises today. If anything, it’s as popular if not more than some of those aforementioned franchises. Awesome Mix Vol. 1, the Walkman tape Peter listens to throughout the movie, would go on to be sold as a soundtrack album, and hit number 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. This was the first time ever a soundtrack album consisting entirely of previously released songs hit #1, and would soon go on to be the second-best-selling soundtrack album of the year, only behind Frozen. And along with an animated series on Disney XD and way too many Baby Groot Funko Pops to count, Guardians of the Galaxy won’t go away anytime soon, hard as Mike Cernovich may try.

 

Fourth place, though seventh worldwide was yet another Marvel sensation with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. As Steve Rogers tries to adapt himself into a modern world he still has little understanding of, a conspiracy is hit within SHIELD. And it’s up to Captain America, alongside Black Widow and Nick Fury, to uncover what’s going on through the inside. All the while, a mysterious assassin named the Winter Soldier is on the loose and may have connections to Steve Roger’s past in the 1940s.

 

Screenwriters Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely were already attached to a sequel to their film The First Avenger before it even released. And as they began writing the movie, they knew that it would be best if the film was set in the present day, which would allow a fish out of water element. However, they made sure there was no obnoxious comedy to come from his time displacement. This contrast of a man from the 40s stuck in the 21st century gave Markus and McFeely the idea of making the film a conspiracy thriller, with some influences including Three Days of the Condor, The Parallax View, and Marathon Man being major influences. In a politically corrupt world like today, it perfectly tests Steve’s allegiance to his government and his own trust issues. In fact, Markus and McFeely used the reinvention Stan Lee used with Cap during the 60s and 70s. Because Cap returned during the time period of The Vietnam War and Watergate, it allowed the character to grow and understand the black and white world he was once part of is an increasingly gray beast.

 

When it was time to find a director, three different contenders were on the docket. Adjustment Bureau director George Nolfi, Italian Job director F. Gary Gray, and Community alumni Joe and Anthony Russo. Papa Feige chose the Russos in particular for their work in the Community episode “For a Few Paintballs More”. If these two could do so well parodying Star Wars and sci-fi action movies, why wouldn’t they do well in a typical genre piece? Joe and Anthony knew that to make this political thriller work well, it has to focus on what was going on in contemporary politics, and the issues emerging in the early 2010s. This meant The Winter Soldier focused on themes of drone warfare, targeted killing, and global surveillance. And out of sheer coincidence, when filming started in 2013, the NSA leaks from Edward Snowden were in the news, making the film all the more topical. Go figure I guess.

 

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With strong marketing, including the first trailer reaching 23.5 million views and a choice Super Bowl promo, the excitement for Winter Soldier was through the roof. And when the reviews came out, it was already hailed as one of the best Marvel titles ever. Like Guardians, it was a breath of fresh air, as Winter Soldier focused less on CGI and more on hard-hitting action and political intrigue. With all this buzz going into it, Winter Soldier was yet another hit for the Marvel machine.

 

Opening on April 4, The Winter Soldier opened itself to $95 million. This was by far the biggest April opening ever, toppling Fast Five’s previous record, and was an astonishing increase of 46% from its predecessor. By comparison, The Dark World’s opening was a 31% improvement from the last movie. And with zero competition throughout April, The Winter Soldier stayed #1 for three weeks in a row, effectively finishing with $259.8 million domestically. An already impressive feat for the film, as it gained 47% from its predecessor. However, the film saw a huge boost overseas, helped, once again, by the success of The Avengers, which meant its overseas gross of $454.6 million, boosted from China in particular, was actually higher than The First Avenger’s worldwide haul. Not so bad for a character Marvel feared was too American. With a worldwide gross of $714.4 million, it was 93% ahead of the last film, and saw a net profit of $166.2 million. And sure enough, the box office success and critical appeal more than cemented Captain America as one of the most popular characters in the MCU, helped especially by both the Russos and Chris Evans himself, as both figures would play pivotal roles in the future success stories in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But we’ll save that for later.

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Fifth place saw the animated hit The Lego Movie. In a world entirely comprised by Legos, an evil businessman president named Lord Business has taken control of the world and plans to destroy all creativity by gluing all the Lego characters into one place. And as a resistance group known as the Master Builders plan to thwart Lord Business, it seems the only one who can stop him is a simple construction worker named Emmett who is apparently prophesied as “The Special”.

 

Lego is a toy brand that needs no introduction. A construction toy series all about building little blocks together, this Danish toy brand is an iconic childhood staple for many, with literally thousands of themes and licenses made through the years. There have even been several TV movies based on Lego characters, so a theatrical release seemed like a no-brainer. And sure enough, producer Dan Lin, best known for producing the Ritchie Sherlock Holmes titles, conceived the idea with producer buddy Roy Lee. And funny enough, this idea also hit close to home for WB CEO Kevin Tsujihara, who helped engineer the purchase of video game developer Traveler’s Tales, the team behind games like Lego Star Wars and Lego Harry Potter. With how successful the video games were, Tsujihara thought it only made sense people would flock to a Lego movie.

 

Sure enough, writers Dan and Kevin Hageman began working on the screenplay, with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’ Phil Lord and Chris Miller signing on to write and direct the final product in June 2010. Warner Bros. finally announced The Lego Movie in 2011 with plans for a 2014 release date and the animation to be done by Animal Logic, best known for their work on Happy Feet. Not only was this an attempt to capitalize on an iconic toy property, but this was set to be Warner’s first big swing in feature animation in years. In 2013, Warner announced the creation of Warner Animation Group.

 

Warner Animation Group, or WAG, was designed as a unique studio compared to the other animated game. WAG not only outsourced their projects to other animation studios, but the screenplays were developed by a think tank full of comedy directors. Examples include Lord and Miller, Forgetting Sarah Marshall director Nicholas Stoller, and Crazy, Stupid Love directors John Requa and Glenn Ficarra. The idea from Warner was that considering these men had such great success as comedy directors, their contributions to their own works and each other’s could lead to box office success for their animated features, which Warner Bros. had consistently struggled with before. Sure enough, The Lego Movie would be their first.

 

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One of the most important things the team at Animal Logic did was matching the aesthetic of Lego. Specifically, the movements and style of Lego brickfilms, or stop-motion shorts involving Lego figures. This meant the characters, despite being computer-generated, moved and interacted like they were stop-motion figures, with the animation rigs following the same a articulation actual Lego figures have. The film also tried to replicate live-action cinematography to give the movie a homemade, kid playing with his toys feel. Says animation supervisor Chris McKay, “We wanted to make the film feel like the way you play, the way I remember playing. We wanted to make it feel as epic and ambitious and self-serious as a kid feels when they play with Lego. We took something you could claim is the most cynical cash grab in cinematic history, basically a 90 minute Lego commercial, and turned it into a celebration of creativity, fun and invention, in the spirit of just having a good time and how ridiculous it can look when you make things up. And we had fun doing it.”

 

The Lego Movie opened on February 7 with several hit trailers and ads. And even more surprisingly, good reviews. Really good reviews. The Lego Movie was hailed as an animated masterpiece by critics, praising the film for its mile-a-minute comedy and sincere storyline. The Lego Movie wasn’t just a movie capitalizing on a popular toy. It was a movie capitalizing on a popular toy and letting audiences know why the toy is so special in the first place. And with this serving as the first major animated piece since Frozen, The Lego Movie served as a grand beginning for WB’s fledgling animation studio.

 

On its opening weekend, The Lego Movie generated $69.1 million, making it the second-biggest February opening weekend in history, as well as the third-best opening weekend for a non-summer animated title. And sure enough, people couldn’t get enough of the film’s fast-paced humor. Weekend two, President’s Day weekend, saw it repeat at #1 and only dropped 28% for $49.8 million. Weekend three saw it hit #1 yet again, with a drop of 37% for $31.3 million. And with very little else in the way of competition within the next few months, The Lego Movie managed to gross 3.73 times its opening for $257.8 million. Worldwide was $468.1 million, with estimates the film earned a net profit of $229 million.

 

It was a rousing success for all parties. Phil Lord and Chris Miller continued their hot streak started from both Cloudy and 21 Jump Street, making them some of the most powerful comedy/animation directors/producers in the business today. Lego saw a huge influx of popularity, with reports of shortages occurring in September 2014. And for Warner Bros., they managed to earn themselves a hit animation studio and a popular movie franchise they can add to their portfolio. Ultimately for WB, neither really panned out in the way they hoped.

 

Warner Animation Group has had several films since Lego Movie’s release, the majority of them Lego, but none of them have captured the same lightning in a bottle success. Original titles like Storks and Smallfoot were nonstarters, while the Lego franchise was hit with consistent diminishing returns. 2017’s The Lego Batman Movie saw strong results, with good reviews and $312 million worldwide, but the same year’s Lego Ninjago saw poor reception, with it only grossing $123 million. In 2019, a proper sequel, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, was released, but failed to gross even half of the first movie, ultimately making $192.3 million worldwide. Since then, several Lego projects at WB have been canceled, with the film rights to Lego moving to Universal Pictures. We’ll see if they can turn the tide when their movies ever happen.

 

Other pieces of media that spawned since the release of The Lego Movie include several short films, a 4-D movie at Legoland, and a Cartoon Network series based on the character Unikitty. Oh yeah, and a lot of toy sets.

 

Sixth domestic but second worldwide was the (not-so) epic conclusion The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. After Smaug is taken down, Bilbo and friends find themselves having to defend the Lonely Mountain and its riches. With several armies all fighting for the Mountain, Bilbo must  defend his crew so as to not have the Mountain fall towards darkness.

 

As I have said several times over the past two entries, The Hobbit infamously was changed from two to three movies months before An Unexpected Journey’s release, believing it would work better in terms of story and pacing. For Five Armies, this film focused on the big climax at the end of the original book, while also using the extensive appendices Tolkien made for Return of the King. The film largely used footage already shot for the first and second films back when this was supposed to be a duology, but new footage was shot to help make the film more cohesive..

 

Originally the film’s subtitle was There and Back Again, but in April 2014, Peter Jackson revealed on his Facebook page the film changed its title to The Battle of the Five Armies, believing it fit the film’s subject better. Says Jackson, “There and Back Again felt like the right name for the second of a two film telling of the quest to reclaim Erebor, when Bilbo's arrival there, and departure, were both contained within the second film. But with three movies, it suddenly felt misplaced—after all, Bilbo has already arrived 'there' in the Desolation of Smaug."

 

Like the films before it, Battle of the Five Armies had a large marketing campaign attached to it, including several trailers, video game tie-ins, and even an appearance by Smaug, performed by Cumberbatch and animated by WETA, on one of the last episodes of The Colbert Report. But one thorn in the film’s advertising campaign had to do with its reviews. With a 59 on both Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, this was by far the worst critical reception ever given to a Lord of the Rings title. 

 

If I can go off on a tangent here, I still remember seeing Battle of the Five Armies with my dad, and the disappointed silence we both shared with each other on the car ride home. And while my dad will stop everything whenever a Lord of the Rings movie is on cable, I have never seen him watch Battle of the Five Armies since that initial release. And my dad likes everything! Anyways, the lukewarm critical reception already says a lot since the previous two Hobbit titles were not critical darlings, though it’s debatable how much of a concern this was for Tolkien fanboys who were gonna show up no matter what.

 

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Battle of the Five Armies opened on December 17, following the original trilogy by going with a Wednesday opening. With $89.1 million over the first five days, it’s a bit hard to really judge the film’s opening against the other two, which opened on a Friday. Either way, it still set the movie up for strong financial returns. After staying #1 three weekends in a row, Battle of the Five Armies finished with $255.1 million domestically and $956 million worldwide. Its net profit was $103.4 million. This barely put it behind Smaug to become the lowest grosser in the Hobbit trilogy, with the film failing to hit $1 billion like many box office pundits thought it would. It also became the lowest-grossing Middle-Earth adaptation in the United States and Canada. But as I have said before, $250 million is still $250 million. And the fact that The Hobbit made nearly $3 billion combined in box office revenue shows how much love there was both for Tolkien and Jackson’s vision of Lord of the Rings.

 

Since then, not much has happened when it comes to Jackson’s Middle-Earth. Both Christopher Lee and Ian Holm would pass away after this film’s release, with this serving as the final film for both actors, and Peter Jackson moved on to direct documentaries. But this isn’t the end for Lord of the Rings. In November 2017, Amazon announced they bought the television rights for the Tolkien series, and are set to make a five-season epic worth $1 billion, making it the most expensive television series ever made. The first season is set to release in 2021, so we’ll soon see if Amazon can follow Peter Jackson and put the world into a new kind of Tolkien fever.

 

Despite only getting seventh place in the States, Transformers: Age of Extinction was actually the #1 film worldwide. Taking place five years after the events of Dark of the Moon, this film does not feature Sam Witwicky, but rather Mark Wahlberg as a mechanic named Cade Yeager. The Transformers are currently hunted by a black ops organization ready to destroy their kind, while an ancient Transformer menace, the Dinobots, are set to conquer the Earth. And thus, it’s up to Marky Mark and Optimus Prime to save humanity once again.

 

After Dark of the Moon released, both Shia LaBeouf and Michael Bay agreed that while there will likely be more Transformers movies, this would be the final film for both of them. Sure enough, Paramount was on the hunt for a new director, with Roland Emmerich, Joe Johnston, Jon Turteltaub, Stephen Sommers, Louis Leterrier and David Yates all rumored for the part. Jason Statham was also rumored to be the film’s star. However, as it turns out, Bay was announced to produce and direct the fourth entry in February 2012, with plans for a June 2014 release date.

 

However, while Baby came back, LaBeouf moved on from the series entirely, which prompted a new, albeit Stathamless cast. Mark Wahlberg signed on as the new lead in November 2012, with a shortlist made for Wahlberg’s daughter and her boyfriend as the co-leads. Jack Reynor was cast as the boyfriend while competing against Luke Grimes, Brenton Thwaites and Hunter Parrish, while Nicola Peltz was cast as the daughter while competing against Margaret Qualley, Isabelle Cornish, and Gabriella Wilde.

 

During filming, Michael Bay made history, as Age of Extinction was the first feature film to use smaller digital IMAX 3D cameras. In fact, the movie was shot in about nine different formats, including IMAX 70mm film cameras, digital stereo 3-D, and anamorphic and spherical 35mm film. With so many formats, as well as the movie boasting 90 minutes of visual effects, this was the biggest project in ILM VFX supervisor Scott Farrar’s career. Five hundred crews worked on the movie, which meant this was going to be an absolute epic for fans and general audiences.

 

Opening on June 27, at first glance, Age of Extinction’s $100 million opening isn’t that peculiar. In fact, it was the fourth-biggest opening for a June release. However, the authenticity of Age of Extinction’s opening was one that was under heavy scrutiny. Rentrak, a firm that has a direct line into the vast majority of US theaters, projected that the film grossed $95.9 million from the 4,100 theaters they tackled. So including the remaining 133 or so theaters in there, Age of Extinction should have generated $97.5 million. This led to concerns that Paramount inflated their box office results for the film so they could have the first $100 million opening of the year. But either way, that didn’t really do much to help the movie. Critical reception was at an all-time low, with critics slamming the film for its screenplay, runtime, and direction. This resulted in poor legs in the coming weeks with Age of Extinction finishing with $245.4 million domestically, making it the lowest-grossing Transformers title in the territory.

 

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However, overseas was a different story. The film managed to stay #1 internationally for four weeks in a row despite competition from the World Cup. And in China specifically, the film was an absolute juggernaut. The film, which was co-produced by Chinese production companies China Movie Channel and Jiaflix Enterprises, earned $301-320 million in the region. This meant the film surpassed Avatar and became the highest-grossing film of all time in China, helped by the property becoming iconic in China even in the 80s and 90s. This helped the film boost to $858.6 million overseas, resulting in $1.1 billion worldwide. This made Age of Extinction the second-biggest Transformers title, become the most profitable movie of the year with a net profit of $250.2 million, as well as the 10th biggest film of all time, as well as ensuring that Transformers was here to stay, even if there might be diminishing returns in North America.

 

Or at least, that was the idea. After Age of Extinction, Paramount planned to create an entire cinematic universe built around Transformers with Oscar winner Akiva Goldsman in charge. Sequels, prequels, and spin-offs were all planned for this shared universe, with things really kicking off with 2017’s The Last Knight, which was set to be Bay’s last Transformers movie. It did not go over well, as despite strong pre-release hype, the film saw even worse reviews than Age of Extinction, and despite grossing $605.4 million, it was both the lowest grossing film in the franchise and is estimated to have lost $100 million for both Paramount and Hasbro. A planned sequel for that film in 2019 was effectively scrapped.

 

In 2018, a prequel based on the character of Bumblebee was released, and while it too became the lowest-grossing film of the franchise with $468 million worldwide, the lower budget meant this was still a financial success and positive reviews helped turn around goodwill for the series. And since then, like with Star Trek, Paramount is looking to continue with Transformers, but doesn’t really know what to do with their property. A Bumblebee sequel is in development, but there’s also plans for an animated prequel directed by Toy Story 4’s Josh Cooley, as well as a film based on the Beast Wars series. Also there might still be a Last Knight sequel in development? And Creed 2 director Steven Caple Jr. is supposed to direct a Transformers movie that might be one of the movies I listed? I dunno man, Paramount is weird like that.

 

Eighth domestic and fourth worldwide was Maleficent. This served as a Wicked-style retelling of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. This time, through the perspective of the evil witch Maleficent, played by Angelina Jolie, and her confusing and conflicting relationship between Princess Aurora and her father. And it perhaps shows that Maleficent isn’t as evil as she appears to be.

 

Initially planned to be an animated film, this project first became public in March 2010. Only this time, it would be a live-action title starring Angelina Jolie in the title role. Jolie was a huge fan of Sleeping Beauty as a little girl, and she especially loved Maleficent, the Mistress of All Evil, which made her adamant in playing this part as a childhood dream come true. Linda Woolverton was in charge of the screenplay, and Tim Burton was approached to direct for a brief while, but chose not to pursue it. Later, Alice in Wonderland production designer Robert Stromberg signed on for the film in his directorial debut. Elle Fanning would later be cast as Aurora, with Stromberg highlighting her casting due to how well she conveyed Aurora as a beacon of light compared to Maleficent’s darkness and treachery.

 

During screenplay development, Woolverton went through 15 different versions of the script. The final shooting script featured the fairy king and fairy queen, played by Peter Capaldi and Miranda Richardson. But despite their scenes being filmed, the fairy world segments and these characters were cut in the first act for pacing reasons. Reshoots done by Stromberg and Blind Side director John Lee Hancock were done to help tighten the first act.

 

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Beginning with D23 and ending with a Lana Del Ray cover of Once Upon a Dream, Maleficent was marketed everywhere. And with the success of the previous Disney live-action fairy tales and Jolie’s starpower, it only made sense that Maleficent would be another success story for Disney. And you would be right. Opening on May 30, Maleficent debuted to the tune of $69.4 million. It was below both Oz and Alice, but it was still a smashing success, becoming Angelina Jolie’s biggest opening ever. And despite mixed reviews, the film managed to have pretty strong legs, serving as a popular destination for families, especially young girls. Grossing almost 3.5 times its opening, Maleficent finished ahead of Oz to earn $241.4 million domestically. And thanks to Jolie, the film was a smash overseas, with the film ultimately hitting $758.4 million worldwide.

 

Even despite everything going for it, the overall success of Maleficent was pretty insane, considering all the summer competition surrounding it like X-Men and Godzilla. Yet it managed to outgross a majority of the summer’s releases. The reason for this success? Girls. While the darker subject matter compared to the Disney animated film might be considered a deterrent towards little kids, the “grown-up” look at the fairy tale, featuring an allegory towards rape culture, made it compelling towards young adults and teenagers, and the Disney Princess connections still intrigued kids. This female audience was underserved for a long while, and along with Frozen, it made Disney aware the value in making tentpole event pieces for women. This would of course result in several future hits for Disney targeted towards women, including Cinderella, Moana, Beauty and the Beast, and even to an extent the Star Wars sequel trilogy and Captain Marvel. And Maleficent’s success ensured Disney would have many more hits both for that audience and the audience that love live-action remakes for years to come.

 

In 2019, a sequel, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil was released, grossing $491 million, just barely behind the $500 million mark for it to make a profit.

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At ninth place (sixth worldwide), we had one of the most iconic X-Men films of the bunch with Days of Future Past. Based on the famous comic book storyline, the future is a bleak one, as the Sentinels, a robot army sent to destroy mutants, has put the Earth in peril. And the only way to stop this from happening is to go back to the very event itself. So Wolverine travels back in time to 1973, meets up with younger versions of Professor X, Mystique, and Magneto, and try to stop the event that spells doom for both mutants and humans alike.

 

The biggest drawback with the way I designed this series was limiting the scope to only a few notable stories. This meant for X-Men that I had to ignore a lot of their own history. So to give a quick recap between The Last Stand and Days of Future Past...despite the massive success of The Last Stand, the contracts for the original cast were all up, and producer Lauren Shuler Donner had to do renegotiations. The new cast members were signed on, the old ones were not. And thus, Donner had to be creative and rework some ideas to continue X-Men. X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a spin-off prequel based on the character of Logan was released. And despite box office success, its critical failures led to future Origins projects being nipped in the bud.

 

However, the prequel idea did stick, as 2011 saw X-Men: First Class, which showed Professor X and Magneto meeting in college, creating a team of mutants, and later their rivalry. While it was not a major hit at the box office, it did well enough and was received well enough to encourage Donner to make a trilogy that course-corrected some of the more mediocre titles in the lineup. And thus, the First Class sequel would finally give us an adaptation of Days of Future Past, which was something Donner wanted to make for years. Matthew Vaughn was set to direct while Bryan Singer was set to produce in what was supposed to be The Dark Knight to First ClassBatman Begins. I’m so tired of this comparison guys.

 

Ultimately, Vaughn would not take charge of the film. Because he was set to direct Kingsman: The Secret Service, he dropped out of the film entirely. Sure enough, Bryan Singer would then be in charge of directing, returning more than a decade after doing X2. Singer brought back the majority of the crew that worked on X-Men and X2 for this, but the real stinger was who else was returning. While the majority of the First Class cast returned to reprise their roles, this also had much of the original cast from the first couple X-Men movies back too. Hugh Jackman, Elliott Page, Anna Paquin, Halle Berry, James Marsden, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan. This was a brilliant push to excite audiences, as the film not only continued what made First Class work, but also bring back the elements that made X-Men a powerhouse franchise to begin with. Everybody was happy and everybody was excited to see how this massive film in a big franchise would turn out in the end.

 

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Beginning with a set tour and a midcredits scene after The Wolverine in July 2013, there was a period in time where you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing Days of Future Past in your face. Footage dropped at Comic-Con, Wondercon, the MTV Movie Awards, and even during screenings of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Yeah, so the story on that is Marc Webb had a contract with Fox Searchlight. And while Fox allowed Webb to direct Amazing Spider-Man, the catch was that Sony promoted Days of Future Past as a midcredits scene in Amazing Spider-Man 2 free of charge. So even the competition was trying to push this movie. The only real hurdle...was Bryan Singer. In April 2014, Singer was accused in a civil lawsuit over sexual assault of a minor.

 

But even though it probably should have damaged the picture, people were still flocking to see what Days of Future Past was all about. On May 23, Memorial Day weekend, the X-Men title earned itself an impressive $90.8 million for the 3-day and $110.6 million for the four-day. This wasn’t as big as The Last Stand, but it was still a fantastic debut that put X-Men back on top after a few decent-to-middling performers. This would result in a boffo total of $233.9 million, making it just barely behind Last Stand.

 

Of course the real kicker was the overseas box office. Opening day-and-date in almost every territory, Days of Future Past saw $172 million internationally on its opening weekend, making it the biggest OS debut ever for a Fox title. This would of course also lead to $512.1 million in other countries for a global finish of $746 million, making it the highest-grossing X-Men film of all time. This was the real kick in the pants Fox needed to put X-Men up there as one of the biggest superhero franchises at a time when the MCU was beginning their global domination. And sure enough, the success of DOFP also ensured another planned idea from Fox.

 

One of the reasons why Days of Future Past was greenlit was to help fix the mistakes of the past. Logan’s time travel effectively erased several of the bad X-Men films, like Last Stand, out of the current continuity. And sure enough, this would soon lead to Fox attempting to create their own shared universe, with a direct sequel to Future Past, and spin-offs focusing on certain characters. There’s a lot to talk about with a few of these titles, but for now, we’ll briefly talk about the direct follow-ups. In 2016, X-Men: Apocalypse opened, with much of the same First Class cast members, and Bryan Singer returning to the director’s chair. But despite the success of Future Past, Apocalypse suffered from poor reviews and mediocre box office, grossing only $543.9 million, below expectations. Another sequel, titled Dark Phoenix, also released in 2019, which umm...less said about that the better.

 

Tenth domestic for the year was Walt Disney Animation Studios adapting Marvel for a change with Big Hero 6. In the futuristic city of San Fransokyo lives a young boy named Hiro Hamada. A young robotic prodigy hit with tragedy upon the death of his brother, he soon finds friendship with his brother’s last creation, a healthcare robot named Baymax. But when a masked villain sets to destroy the world, Hiro finds himself training Baymax to become a fighting robot, the antithesis of his creation. And with the help of a group of college-aged tech wizards, Hiro finds himself in charge of an incredible superhero team.

 

The acquisition of Marvel Comics from Disney meant that an animated Marvel movie was somewhat an inevitability. However, it’s fair to say nobody expected this to be the comic series Disney Animation would adapt first. The thought process from the studio at the time was that picking an obscure title meant the studio could take more creative liberties and alienate fewer fans. And while directing Winnie the Pooh, Don Hall scrolled through Marvel’s database and found a title he never heard of, the Japanese-centric Big Hero 6. The title alone was enough to sell him on the idea, and the film was announced in June 2012.

 

During story development, Don Hall and his team wanted to have Big Hero 6 serve as their own unique piece that allowed them to create their own story and mythology. So head of story Paul Briggs only read a few issues of the comic, while screenwriter Robert Baird didn’t read any. However, several Marvel creatives were involved in the film’s production, including Joe Quesada, the Marvel CCO, and Jeph Loeb, the head of Marvel Television. Reportedly both Disney Animation and Marvel got along very well, with Quesada praising the crew for bringing this obscure comic to life.

 

For the design of Baymax, Don Hall wanted to create a robot that looked like something nobody has ever seen before. The only thing they knew they had to have was make him a huggable robot, as suggested by artist Lisa Keene. During the development process, Hall and the design team visited Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute for inspiration. Learning about how the team was trying to pioneer soft robotics via inflatable vinyl. Sure enough, Baymax would soon evolve into the inflatable, huggable design we know today.

 

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The production design was also a unique one, combining the Eastern world culture of Tokyo with the Western world culture of California to help create San Fransokyo. This helped create a distinct locale that felt both futuristic and retro all at once. This was also done because there had yet to be a Marvel comic book series that took place in San Francisco, as well as the iconic aspects of the city would translate well to animation. Blade Runner was an influence for the city, while the design of the movie itself was influenced by Japanese anime like Ghibli and Pokemon, as well as Shogun Warriors Toys.

 

Opening on November 7, Big Hero 6 was billed as the grand follow-up to Frozen. And while obviously not as big as that film, it was a rousing success, opening to $56.2 million. And thanks to very positive reviews from all audiences, Big Hero 6 continued to pack in audiences through the November and December holidays, ultimately finishing with $222.5 million, almost four times its opening. And alongside impressive numbers overseas, including a record gross in China and becoming the second-biggest Disney animated film in Japan, Big Hero 6 earned $657.9 million worldwide. Its net profit was $187.34 million. This meant Big Hero 6 was the third-highest-grossing film from Walt Disney Animation Studios, only behind Frozen and The Lion King, showing that Frozen was not just a fluke.

 

A sequel was reportedly in consideration, but no word has been made on the project since 2015. However, in March 2016, it was announced Big Hero 6 would see a television series on Disney XD created by Kim Possible’s Mark McCorkle and Bob Schooley. It released in 2017 and just recently began its third season. And in 2022, another series, this time focused on Baymax, is set to debut on Disney+ in 2022.

 

Eleventh domestic and eighth worldwide is when audiences saw the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. 10 years after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, humanity has been severely reduced due to the Simian Flu, with San Francisco in complete ruins. As such, we follow a group of people in San Francisco struggling to stay alive, while Caesar tries to maintain his dominance over the ape community.

 

A sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes was already in heavy consideration during that film’s development. Both director Rupert Wyatt and writer/producer Rick Jaffa had plenty of ideas on how to continue the story, the big one being a notable time jump from the last movie, with Rise planting some of the seeds for future follow-ups. And wouldn’t you know it, in November 2011, Andy Serkis signed on for a sequel. Reprising his role as Caesar, Serkis reportedly earned a seven-figure deal for the role. May 2012 saw Bourne Ultimatum writer Scott Z. Burns hired to do rewrites for Jaffa and Amanda Silver’s script. It seemed everything was going smoothly for a while.

 

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But then, tragedy struck. Okay, not really. However, Rupert Wyatt felt that the planned May 2014 release date was too little time for him to make a proper quality film. So Wyatt dropped out, with Cloverfield director Matt Reeves taking helm and Die Hard 4 writer Mark Bomback doing a rewrite for Reeves. With a big time jump and new director, a new cast was made. James Franco left because he felt the movie wouldn’t be the same without Rupert Wyatt, while Frieda Pinto also left the sequel. In their place were actors Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Keri Russell.

 

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes opened on July 11, backed by a year-long marketing campaign and rave reviews from critics, citing it as the best popcorn movie of the summer. This did not go unnoticed by audiences. Sure enough, Dawn opened to $72.6 million, a major 33% increase from the last movie. And with little competition and strong reception, Dawn earned $208.5 million domestically and $710.6 million worldwide. This was helped by China, where the film earned one of the best openings ever for a Hollywood title, as well as becoming the fourth Hollywood release to cross $100 million. Including a net profit of $182.18 million, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes became the highest-grossing film in the franchise.

 

In 2017, a sequel titled War for the Planet of the Apes was released with Matt Reeves returning as director. And despite earning even better reviews, the film saw a bit of a substantial drop, only earning $490.7 million and served as the end to the trilogy. However, in December 2019, it was announced Maze Runner director Wes Ball would be in charge of a new Planet of the Apes film that would still be set in the reboot universe. It is still currently in development, though it is expected to start production soon.

 

Twelfth place, ninth worldwide was the infamous The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Peter Parker has been Spider-Man for a few years now, and just recently he graduated high school. And alongside his superhero duties, Peter finds himself juggling between his relationship with Gwen Stacy, investigating the murder of his parents, dealing with a new electric threat, and meeting an old friend named Harry Osborn, who is struggling with a genetic disease.

 

After the success of The Amazing Spider-Man, a sequel was immediately thrown into development. And after a brief period of hesitance, Marc Webb was brought back as a director, alongside Andrew Garfield returning as Peter and Emma Stone as Gwen. The villain was revealed to be Electro with Jamie Foxx in the role. Foxx mentioned in interviews the design for Electro would be more grounded and based more on the Ultimate Marvel design. As time went on, other actors like Dane DeHaan as Harry, Paul Giamatti as the Rhino and Felicity Jones as Felicia Hardy were all signed on. Perhaps the most interesting casting choice of all was something that wasn’t even in the final product. Fault in Our Stars and Divergent star Shailene Woodley was cast as Mary Jane Watson and had only a few small scenes filmed for the movie. But as the film was starting to go through post-production, Mary Jane’s scenes seemed superfluous and all of Woodley’s scenes were cut. That's gotta hurt.

 

Sony also had major plans for this sequel. With so many characters being introduced here, the plan was for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to set up a shared universe similar to the MCU. In 2013, Sony already announced The Amazing Spider-Man 3 for 2016 and The Amazing Spider-Man 4 for 2018. Marc Webb, as well as the writers for Amazing Spider-Man 2, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Jeff Pinkner were set to write the screenplay for the third one. But the introduction of so many characters in this sequel also laid the groundwork for several planned spin-offs. A Venom movie was set to be written by Kurtzman, while a Sinister Six movie was written by Daredevil creator Drew Goddard. A film starring Felicity Jones’ Felicia Hardy/Black Cat and a movie based on the character Spider-Man 2099 were also in consideration. So this meant Amazing Spider-Man 2 had to be an Iron Man style slam dunk, both in terms of box office and critical reviews, if they wanted this cinematic universe to stand strong.

 

Opening on May 2, The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s $91.6 million debut seems fine at first glance. Nowhere near the numbers movies like The Avengers or Iron Man 3 generated, but a good enough start, serving as the 7th-best debut for this weekend. However, the problem comes when you look at prior Spider-Man openings. This was the lowest Spider-Man opening by far, excluding Amazing Spider-Man which opened on a Tuesday, and was even below The Winter Soldier a month prior. Not a great immediate start, especially since the movie had a budget somewhere between $200-293 million, as well as a marketing budget worth $180-190 million.

 

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And things only got worse from there. While Amazing Spider-Man didn’t have glowing reception, Amazing Spider-Man 2 got dealt with far worse hate. The film earned heavy criticism for its villains, its length, and its script, with many citing the movie as the worst Spider-Man title since 2007’s Spider-Man 3. This poor reception soon led to a drop of 61% on its second weekend, generating $35.5 million for a $146.2 million 10-day haul. It continued to erode business from there, finishing with 2.21 times its opening, $202.8 million. Worldwide amounted to $709 million.

 

Despite being an objective success, with a net profit of $70.38 million, things didn’t seem that great when you looked past the numbers. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was by far the lowest-grossing Spider-Man film up to that point. Not a good sign for a cinematic universe starter. And alongside mixed reviews, it was clear that Garfield’s interpretation was not catching on with audiences the same way Maguire did last decade. And at this point, even if they turned a profit on Amazing Spider-Man 3, it was going to be a rough case of diminishing returns if they kept on with the Webb universe. But Sony didn’t want to get rid of Spider-Man. Remember, even in a day and age where Sony has Jumanji and Bad Boys, Spider-Man is still their most lucrative property.

 

Sure enough, a compromise was made in 2015. And Sony decided to crawl its way to the very thing it tried to compete with. There’s a lot to talk about with the Tom Holland iteration of Spider-Man, but this section has gone on long enough. Needless to say, Amazing Spider-Man wasn’t a complete failure. In fact, both Andrew Garfield and Jamie Foxx are reportedly set to return as Peter Parker and Electro in the upcoming third MCU Spider-Man outing thanks to some confusing and jumbled multiverse mumbo jumbo planned for Phase 4. So I guess this reboot series wasn’t a total loss after all.

 

Thirteenth place was the return of the big bad lizard Godzilla. US soldier Aaron Taylor-Johnson finds himself, like the rest of the world, dealing with being in the crossfire against two monsters: the lizard king Godzilla and two parasitic monsters known as MUTOs. Whether or not Johnson can return to his family or the Earth can survive this monster destruction is still up in the air.

 

This American version of the famed Japanese character was a bit of a major one for the Godzilla franchise as a whole. In 2004, after the release of Godzilla: Final Wars, production company Toho announced they would no longer produce any new Godzilla projects for the next 10 years. At the same time, the rights for Godzilla in the West, owned by TriStar, the studio behind the infamous 1998 Godzilla film, expired in 2003. So there was a pretty solid dearth of Godzilla content that was just ready for some company to pounce on.

 

In 2004, Godzilla vs. Hedorah director Yoshimitsu Banno secured the rights from Toho to make an IMAX 3D short film titled Godzilla 3D to the Max. Serving as a remake to his vs. Hedorah film, Banno had several creatives join his odd little project, including cinematographer Peter Anderson, producer Brian Rogers, and practical visual effects company Kerner Optical. But as time went on, the funds were getting harder to find, with Kerner’s financial woes in particular threatening to hurt the project entirely.

 

This soon led to Legendary Pictures being asked to back the project. However, Legendary soon took the idea of a short IMAX film and expanded it into a big-budget feature film. In August 2010, Legendary officially announced they acquired the Godzilla license from Toho and were planning to create their own reboot of the series, with Warner Bros. distributing and co-financing. Legendary paid for 75% of the budget, WB 25%. Gareth Edwards signed on to the project in January 2011, with plans for a 2012 release date. However, the film remained in active development through 2012, with the script going through several writers and the crew going through several designs and concept art.

 

One of the big reasons why Legendary stepped in to create a new Godzilla movie was to pay more respect towards the original Toho character that the 1998 film failed to do. So this meant Edwards’ vision was as authentic and accurate to the original 1954 classic as possible. And that was especially applied to the design of Godzilla himself. Edwards reviewed every previous iteration of the character to help create the definitive version of the character that stayed true to all aspects of its design. Elements of the faces of bears, dogs and eagles were also incorporated into the design process, while motion capture was used for the movements of the film’s monsters. Andy Serkis even provided consultation for these moments.

 

Backed by a marketing campaign of $100 million, this Godzilla reboot was everywhere, with trailers giving viewers small little teases of the monster mayhem to come. It worked like a dream, showcasing this as a dark, gritty, action-packed kaiju piece. And sure enough, on its May 16 opening, Godzilla overperformed in a big, big way. Earning $93.2 million, Godzilla managed to earn the second-biggest debut of the year up to that point and actually outgrossed The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s opening, a thought that nobody had going into the summer. By this point, Legendary was on top of the world, with Godzilla set to be one of the biggest hits of the year.

 

However, like with Amazing Spider-Man 2, things were not very rosy in later weeks. While it did earn positive reviews from some, including Toho themselves, Gareth Edwards’ film saw significant backlash. Godzilla was barely in the film, and the monster action people were hyped over barely even happened. And one of the actors, Bryan Cranston, who was fresh off the success of Breaking Bad, was all over the trailers and marketing. But then he gets killed off early on in the movie.

 

Needless to say, a lot of customers were not happy, and this led to pretty awful legs in the weeks to come. Godzilla dropped 67% on its second weekend, despite it being Memorial Day weekend, while weekend three saw a 61% fall. This soon led to a $200.7 million domestic gross, only barely double its opening weekend. It was the lowest gross ever for a movie that opened to more than $90 million. Worldwide the movie earned $525 million and a net profit of $52.48 million.

 

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A trilogy of films from Gareth Edwards was planned, but Edwards left the franchise to pursue smaller projects in 2016. So instead, Legendary decided to follow what the cool kids were doing and create an entire shared universe. In 2015, the Legendary title Kong: Skull Island moved from Universal to Warner Bros., as a setup for the MonsterVerse, which would allow the chance for King Kong and Godzilla to meet up and fight. Kong: Skull Island would soon release in 2017, earning decent reviews and grossing $566.6 million worldwide. And in 2019, a proper sequel to Godzilla, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, was released without any of Edwards’ involvement. However, this failed to achieve the same success as the previous two films. It saw mixed-to-negative reviews from critics and performed far below box office expectations, grossing $386.6 million. In 2021, Godzilla vs. Kong is set for release...somewhere and will likely serve as the end of the Legendary MonsterVerse.

 

However, this is still just the US side of things. The success of Edwards’ film prompted Toho to produce a new Godzilla film for Japanese viewers. Shin Godzilla then released in 2016 to critical acclaim and box office success, earning $75.4 million in Japan and becoming the biggest live-action title in the region. Toho would also go on to produce a trilogy of anime Godzilla titles in association with Polygon Pictures and Netflix. In a way, while Legendary wasn’t totally successful, they did manage to bring Godzilla back and make him bigger and better than ever.

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Sixteenth saw Papa Nolan do his thing yet again with Interstellar. It’s the future, and humanity is struggling to stay alive. And so, a group of astronauts find themselves traveling into a wormhole in order to search for a brand new home that will save mankind. As such, these astronauts find themselves in the adventure of a lifetime.

 

This basic premise first saw life from producer Lynda Obst and theoretical physicist Kip Thorne. The idea was to create a movie based on Thorne’s work, where the most fantastical and unreal events in the universe are suddenly accessible to humans. Sure enough, the film began development in June 2006, with Paramount Pictures distributing and Steven Spielberg directing. Later in March 2007, Jonathan Nolan was attached to write the screenplay. But after Spielberg moved his production studio Dreamworks away from Paramount and towards Disney, Spielberg left Interstellar, and the hunt for a new director was on.

 

Luckily, Jonathan Nolan was already attached to the project and recommended his brother Christopher for the job. Papa Nolan thus joined the project in 2012, with the goal of this film to encourage human spaceflight. Papa Nolan also merged his screenplay with his brother’s to help create the perfect fusion of a script, and earned a salary of $20 million against 20% of the total gross. Warner Bros., back when them and Papa Nolan loved each other, also joined the party, putting a stake into the production. As such, both WB and Paramount agreed to co-finance on this project, along with Paramount co-financing a new Friday the 13th film and South Park film with Warner Bros. Those movies...went nowhere. Legendary Pictures also financed 25% of the production.

 

Papa Nolan wanted to make sure the lead role was perfect, with the vision being an actor who can easily portray the everyman role experiencing these fantastical events. Matthew McConaughey was chosen after Papa Nolan saw an early cut of Mud. Anne Hathaway was actually invited to Papa Nolan’s house to read the script, and later signed on along with Jessica Chastain. The late great Irrfan Khan was also set to play the character Dr. Mann, but had to reject due to scheduling conflicts. Matt Damon filled in for the role instead.

 

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Filming in 2013, Interstellar was an ambitious title in terms of production values. Not only was the film shot in 35mm and IMAX 70mm, but Papa Nolan limited the use of computer-generated effects, favoring extensive practical and miniature effects, as well as gigantic sets. Papa Nolan also took heavy influence from several classic sci-fi features, including Metropolis, 2001, Blade  Runner, Star Wars, and Alien, alongside films like The Mirror, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Jaws, Close Encounters, The Right Stuff, and Man of Steel. Y’know, all the classics. But even with all the tech and inspiration, Interstellar was still a film shrouded in mystery. The trailers only gave the bare minimum, and the script was securely guarded to avoid any potential plot leaks. Yet solely because of Papa Nolan’s presence, Interstellar was hyped up to be one of the most exciting movies of the year.

 

Sure enough, Interstellar went on to be a very solid success. Opening on November 6, it debuted at #2, only behind Big Hero 6, with $47.5 million, $49.7 million when including early IMAX screenings. It wasn’t as big as Gravity, but it served as an impressive bow considering Papa Nolan and space stuff was the only thing selling the movie. And with generally favorable reviews, as well as hype from IMAX screenings, Interstellar was a bit of a leggy beast, nearing 4 times its opening for $188 million. Overseas was also great, including record numbers in both China and South Korea, boosting the movie to $677.9 million worldwide, making it the tenth highest-grossing film of 2014, earning a net profit of $47.2 million. Subsequent re-releases, notably in 2020, moved the needle up to $702.5 million. Interstellar has continued to live on as a favorite amongst Nolanites.

 

Seventeenth place would see How to Train Your Dragon 2. Taking place five years after the first film, vikings and dragons co-exist and Hiccup finds himself charting the islands for new territories and new dragons. But during Hiccup’s adventures, he finds both his long-lost mother, a dangerous villain set to conquer the world, and the balance between human and dragon at stake.

 

A sequel to the first How to Train Your Dragon was announced literally one month after the film’s debut for a planned 2013 release, later bumped to 2014. The first movie’s co-director, Dean DeBlois, returned, while fellow director Chris Sanders served only as executive producer due to his commitment to filming The Croods. DeBlois specifically directed this movie on the one condition he can make an entire trilogy of Dragon titles. This sequel was set to be a pivotal chapter that set up a final film, with The Empire Strikes Back and My Neighbor Totoro as major influences.

 

At the same time the sequel was in development, Dreamworks was going through a major overhaul in the production workflow and animation software, all of which helped add more luscious visuals and details for this second installment. Not only did new processors help artists get rich, complex images in real time rather than within eight hours, new animation and lighting software allowed more subtlety in movements, improved facial animations, and even allowing “"the sense of fat, jiggle, loose skin, the sensation of skin moving over muscle instead of masses moving together."

 

Going into its June 20 release, How to Train Your Dragon 2 had all the ingredients for a smash hit. The first movie was a WOM sensation, critical reviews for this film were exceedingly high, and there was zero major animated releases all summer. It had every reason to be a smash. Yet in the United States, that didn’t happen. It did not flop of course. And its opening weekend was an increase, with about $49.4 million. Yet judging by what previous animated sequels did, it made sense for it to do a fair bit higher than this, especially since it wouldn’t be as leggy as the original. And so, the sequel finished domestically with $177 million, a 19% drop from the first movie.

 

But looking outside of America, things were very rosy. Including a record animated opening in China, How to Train Your Dragon 2 saw an overseas haul of $444.5 million, just behind the $495 million worldwide total of the first movie. This $621.5 million worldwide total resulted in a net profit of $107.3 million, and still ensured How to Train Your Dragon as a formidable franchise for Dreamworks. This would result in a television series on Netflix starting in 2015, and at long last the third and final film of the trilogy, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, in 2019. The Hidden World did see a decrease from its predecessor, raking in $524.4 million, but it did still serve as a strong hit for Dreamworks, repping an even greater net profit at $130 million. And with another Netflix series, Dragons: Rescue Riders, as well as a holiday special subtitled Homecoming both releasing in late 2019, the franchise looks to not leave any time soon.

 

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But despite the success of Dragon 2, disregarding underperformances in North America, things were not so hot at Dreamworks Animation. In 2014, the studio released two other titles, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, and Penguins of Madagascar. Because Katzenberg’s model of relying solely on feature films with an occasional Nickelodeon series meant every film of theirs had to be a hit, the system they had was so faulty one slip-up could cause money troubles and lay-offs. And while they had similar bumps with films like Rise of the Guardians and Turbo, both Sherman and Penguins failing to launch at the box office in one calendar year meant the studio had to lay off 500 employees, go through a total corporate restructuring, cancel several titles that were already heavily into development and suffer a $57.1 million write down in the last quarter of 2014.

 

Later in 2016, Universal Pictures would end up buying Dreamworks Animation wholesale, with Jeffrey Katzenberg ceding control to make some flop streaming service that only lasted a few months. The current film slate for Dreamworks and Universal is too early to tell when it comes to its success rate, although things have been arguably up and down. However, at the same time Dreamworks has found success in streaming with several hit Netflix television shows, consisting of spin-offs of their movies to original pieces like Trollhunters by Guillermo del Toro to adaptations of properties like Voltron, She-Ra...Jurassic World...and Fast and Furious? Well, you can’t say Universal isn’t trying to utilize their assets I suppose.

 

Eighteenth place is where we find the David Fincher adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. This mystery title follows Ben Affleck as a teacher named Nick Dunne, whose wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike, goes missing. Amy, herself the basis of a children’s book series, and her disappearance causes panic and scandal, with Nick becoming a prime suspect for her disappearance. And as the film progresses, we learn little by little about the confusing, troubling, and conflicting relationship Nick and Amy shared and how it all links to this convoluted mystery.

 

While initially published in 2012, producer Leslie Dixon obtained a copy of the manuscript in 2011, and sent it to Reese Witherspoon, with the plan being Reese would both produce and star as Amazing Amy. The two, alongside producer Bruna Papandrea and Flynn’s agent Shari Smiley, began meeting with film studios in early 2012. And after the novel hit the shelf and became an instant best seller in June 2012, 20th Century Fox earned the film rights. Fox also optioned a deal with Gillian Flynn to write the screenplay for the movie. In fact, Flynn was hard at work adapting her book while simultaneously taking part in the book’s promotional tour.

 

This was Flynn’s first time writing a screenplay, which did lead to some growing pains in terms of figuring out how to write a movie. Flynn then submitted her first draft to Fox in December 2012, with the one and only David Fincher later announced as a director. After the two met in a meeting, a pretty cool thing happened here: most times, when an author writes a screenplay based on their work, they only work on the first draft, and then an experienced screenwriter improves on that. However, Fincher was so impressed and so passionate about Flynn’s writing, he decided he would work with Flynn throughout the entire project. Flynn would then go on to read several screenplay books and get advice from Harry Potter writer Steve Kloves.

 

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After debuting at the New York Film Festival, Gone Girl had immense hype. Not only was the original novel already a major hit, but the film was a huge critical darling. Praise was showered over Fincher’s direction, Flynn’s screenplay, and the performances, including Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, and even Tyler Perry. The trailers, which made sure to avoid any and all spoilers, only further drummed up hype for both fans and newcomers to the story. This would result in a very strong $37.5 million opening weekend on October 3. This was not just the biggest opening in David Fincher’s career, but it also became the tenth-biggest opening for an October release ever. And sure enough, its high quality as a fun mystery thriller. And that praise led to the film sticking around in the top 10 for 10 whole weeks, finishing with $167.8 million domestically, 4.47 times its opening, and $369.3 million worldwide.

 

While a success story for almost everybody, although Rosamund Pike didn’t go anywhere for some reason, this was especially big for David Fincher and Gillian Flynn. This was by far Fincher’s biggest movie ever in what was a banner decade. This, Social Network, and Dragon Tattoo introduced Fincher to millions of young cinephiles, and while he wasn’t able to get a new project off the ground at any of the major studios, curse you corporate franchises, Fincher is alive and well over at Netflix, with shows like House of Cards and Mindhunter, as well as the recently released Mank. Gillian Flynn also became pretty big in the world of screenwriting. In 2018, she saw her 2006 novel Sharp Objects adapted into an HBO miniseries and she wrote three of the episodes. Also in 2018, she co-wrote the screenplay for Widows with director Steve McQueen. And in 2020, Flynn created her own television series Utopia for Amazon. While it was canceled after one season, it’s easy to say Flynn won’t be leaving us any time soon. An idea for a Gone Girl sequel has been thrown around in the years since.

 

And finally, way, way, way down in 141st place was the Seth Rogen comedy The Interview. Rogen and James Franco play two journalists who set up an interview with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. But things start to get crazy when the CIA become involved. The CIA actually ask these two men to assassinate Kim during their interview. And as you would imagine, hi-jinx ensue.

 

The idea of a journalist being required to assassinate a world leader was in the mind of Rogen and Evan Goldberg back in the late 2000s, with the plan being to focus on Kim Jong-il, but the plan was reworked when Jong-il died and his son Jong-un took his place. Because he was around the same age as Rogen and Franco, that made the idea even funnier. Alongside Daily Show writer Dan Sterling, they researched meticulously on the project, reading several non-fiction books and watching countless hours of North Korea video footage. A DOS employee also looked over the script. The idea was that Rogen and Goldberg wanted the film to seem relevant and more satirical compared to his previous films.

 

After the script was done, Rogen and Goldberg brought along James Franco and Columbia Pictures as the financers, putting $30 million to the production. The role of Kim Jong-un was given to comedian Randall Park, who was the first to audition and immediately got the part. Park gained 15 pounds and shaved his head to better resemble the real-life figure, and would become the highlight of the film itself. If anything, his role in the movie, alongside the success of the ABC sitcom Fresh Off the Boat, helped Park become one of the biggest character actors working today.

 

Set for release in October 2014, and then later Christmas 2014, The Interview was already a film rife with controversy. When the trailer released that June, The Guardian reported that the film touched a nerve with the North Korean government, believing the film served as a threat to the country. The Korean Central News Agency would even go on to report the government would retaliate if this film saw a release, believing it to be an act of war against the government. KCNA even called Barack Obama in July 2014, demanding the film to be pulled entirely. This was already pretty scary and insane stuff as is. But nothing could prepare for what happened later in the year.

 

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On November 24, 2014, an anonymous group known as the Guardians of Peace hacked the computer networks of Sony Pictures Entertainment. This resulted in several accounts of leaked information, including personal information from Sony employees, internal company emails, scripts for future films, and even entire copies of unreleased films, like Annie, Mr. Turner, Still Alice, and To Write Love on Her Arms. That’s not even getting into so much other information. During the hack, the Guardians of Peace demanded The Interview become pulled from release, threatening terrorist attacks at both the premiere and to theaters planning to show the movie. This resulted in all the major chains dropping the movie and putting the film’s chances for release in total jeopardy. All the while, Sony had to deal with one PR nightmare after another. While the North Korea government has stated they had nothing to do with this hack, US intelligence officials have traced that the attack was at the very least sponsored by the North Korea government.

 

Regardless of how the hack happened, Sony was at an impasse. Releasing the movie could cause terrorism. That’s bad. Not releasing the movie meant we were being submissive to a tyranny. That’s also bad. Finally, Sony put up a compromise. On Christmas Day, The Interview would be released in 300 arthouse and independent theaters, allowing US viewers to see the movie in the way it was intended. However, on December 24, the film also became available to rent on digital stores. So if you wanted to see the movie but were afraid of your safety, you still had the option to watch it.

 

So how did the movie do? Was it a hit in the end? Well...it’s unconfirmed. At the box office, The Interview only tallied $6.1 million domestically and $11.8 million worldwide. And in terms of rentals, it did become the best-selling movie on Google Play and YouTube for 2014, with an estimate on the movie reaching $40 million from online sales and rentals. But whether it actually turned a profit was up in the air. Sony said they broke even thanks to both VOD sales and saving millions on marketing. The National Association of Theater Owners say Sony lost $30 million due to its awful box office. Either way, it did say quite a bit that no other movie followed this strategy. Although no other movie had a reason to do this until...now. And yeah, the debate on whether or not a movie can succeed through video on demand has been a contested one that still doesn’t quite have a clear answer.

 

Either way, this movie really did more harm than good, especially for Sony. After the emails got out, Sony Pictures president Amy Pascal was put in a bad light, with emails showcasing her racist attitude towards Barack Obama and a major gender pay gap within the company itself. Pascal would thus be fired from her position in May 2015. However, she would turn herself around by creating her own production company Pascal Pictures. Pascal Pictures was founded in 2016 and went on to produce several projects for Sony, including the Ghostbusters reboot, every Spider-Man title since 2017, and most recently Greta Gerwig’s Little Women.

 

And speaking of, while Sony find themselves becoming a laughingstock, due to the hacking scandal and several failed franchise starters, the studio has managed to turn itself around a bit. Things obviously aren’t perfect, but with the help of franchises like Spider-Man, Jumanji, Peter Rabbit, and Bad Boys, alongside films like Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Just goes to show you can get yourself up when you’re at rock bottom.

 

And that was just a small taste of all the stuff 2014 had to offer. While not as memorable as previous years, there was still plenty of stories I didn’t have time to mention. 22 Jump Street leapfrogged over its predecessor. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles earned one of the biggest August debuts ever. Divergent was a YA franchise that later went very south. Neighbors was a Seth Rogen comedy that saw zero controversy. Rio 2 served as a solid-grossing sequel. Into the Woods was another success for Disney/Rob Marshall. Ride Along made Kevin Hart a movie star. Lucy was a win for ScarJo. Thie Fault in Our Stars turned John Green into a sensation. Unbroken was Angelina Jolie’s big directorial hit. Night at the Museum ended with grace. 300 got a sequel nobody cared about. The Maze Runner became a modest YA performer for Fox. The Equalizer took the famed crime show to the big screen. Noah was a biblical epic that was highly divisive.

 

Edge of Tomorrow was an underrated Tom Cruise hit. Non-Stop continued Liam Neeson’s dominance in action adult thrillers. The Imitation Game gave us math and gayness. Dumb and Dumber got a sequel for some reason. Tammy was an infamous McCarthy dud. Annabelle continued The Conjuring Universe. Think Like a Man Too failed to capture the same success as the first film. RoboCop was remade to “eh” results. Several Christain films hit it big in 2014. The Nut Job gave us an animated Gangnam Style. Muppets Most Wanted led to the franchise being dormant. The Book of Life walked so Coco could run. Jersey Boys was the other 2014 Eastwood title. Birdman gave Innaritu Oscar gold. John Wick would find its humble beginnings. Chef became a summer sleeper. Boyhood was a 12-year epic.

 

And finally, Pompeii...came out I guess.

 

This was 2014

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4 hours ago, excel1 said:

This year had no big openers oddly. Everyone thought GODZILLAs opening day was huge lmao 

 

It was extremely huge compared to other movies of its genre and general expectations. Despite the poor legs, G14 surely was one of the minor success storys of 2014.

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Great write up on one of the most interesting recent years for box office (though I may be a little biased, since 2014 was my first year on here 😉 ). No billion dollar films, the biggest domestic hit wasn't a blockbuster, plenty of genre and studio representation... from Frozen taking the first weekend of the year to the Sony hack it was just a fascinating twelve months all around, and one that I'm really glad I got to be here for. Like you say it really was kind of the last year before the big films truly took over.

 

I'm looking forward to 2015, particularly because I saw a ton of films in the theater that year.

Edited by Sir Tiki
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2014 was such a weird but somehow exciting box office year. It was kinda comical watching big movie after big movie crack $90 million over opening weekend but miss 100 in the spring and summer (save for one of the most obvious fudge jobs in history with Age of Extinction), but it kinda made sense since none of them really seemed like sure bets for nine-figure openings for a variety of reasons. Looking back now, it’s pretty wild that there wasn’t one gigantic movie that was thought to be way out in front of the others for the summer crown, and then the winner ended up being a weird-looking MCU flick that seemed like a bit of a gamble before it came out.

 

In reading back over the write up (great job!), I remembered that I saw just about every single one of these movies by running about 4 miles from the house I was living in to the mall; I was in a community-based grad school program at the time and didn’t have a car, so I’d typically get up early on Saturdays, go for a run with enough time to cool down and browse the mall before heading up to the cinema on the top floor. I felt like I’d damn well earned sitting for a couple hours to catch a movie (or occasionally two)... before running the same 4-ish miles back.

Edited by Webslinger
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Godzilla had outstanding marketing, no doubt. But $90m aint a "huge" opening in a world when films had opened to $150m+ the last few years. 

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It's a new year. Might as well give you guys...a new year.

 

With the top two having a lot to talk about, they will get their own post all to themselves. Hope you guys like this, because I had a blast researching this.

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2015

The Parisian satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo is attacked by terrorists, ISIS, Boko Haram, and other terrorist groups puts the world into panic throughout the year, and Nepal is hit by two earthquakes. Greece goes through a major government debt crisis, Cuba and the United States reestablish diplomatic relations, Queen Elizabeth becomes the oldest-living monarch in England, Justin Trudeau becomes Canada’s Prime Minister, and both Ireland and the United States legalize same-sex marriage across their country.

 

Katy Perry had a banner year, as she performed for the Super Bowl halftime show and saw her single “Dark Horse” cross 1 billion views, becoming the most-viewed music video by a woman. Adele also returned with her album 25, which saw the biggest album sales in the first week of all time. Video games included Bloodborne, Witcher III, Metal Gear Solid V, SplatoonRocket League, Super Mario Maker, Life is Strange, and Undertale, among many other hits.

 

TV saw a major anniversary as Saturday Night Live celebrated 40 years on the air with an anniversary special that was so big it became the most-watched telecast on the network since the 2004 season finale of ER. An HBO crime documentary The Jinx also saw headlines when Robert Durst, the subject of the case, accidentally confessed committing murder, failing to realize his microphone was still on while he used the bathroom. Stephen Colbert and disease of a man James Corden become CBS’ new talk show hosts, and Trevor Noah begins his tenure as host of The Daily Show.

 

Cancelations/finales were Parenthood, Two and a Half Men, Parks and Recreation, Glee, Justified, Community, Phineas and Ferb, Hannibal, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, CSI, and Mad Men. The biggest newbie this year was Empire, a music drama that broke viewership records, with every episode garnering more and more viewers every week, a rarity in this day and age. Other premieres were The Man in the High Castle, Fresh Off the Boat, Schitt’s Creek, Better Call Saul, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, iZombie, Grace and Frankie, Ballers, Mr. Robot, Fear the Walking Dead, Narcos, and Descendants, a Disney Channel Original Movie that would go on to be one of the biggest brands for the channel and even to an extent the company itself, much like High School Musical before it. Deaths this year were Mario Cuomo, Rod Taylor, Leonard Nimoy, Terry Pratchett, Christopher Lee, James Horner, Omar Sharif, Satoru Iwata, Yvonne Craig, Oliver Sacks, Jackie Collins, Yogi Berra, and Maureen O’Hara.

 

The box office was where we started getting into the haves and have nots era we’re in today. Some studios get a good chunk of the box office pie, while the others find themselves flailing and trying to keep up to little avail. This year was also home to plenty of notable records, all of which we’ll discuss in due time. Yet there were two notable feats here that trump them all. Two films that took the world by storm and brought back two fan-favorite franchises for a whole new generation and breathing new life to the worlds and characters such franchises inhabit. It also happens that both manage to have very divisive follow-ups.

 

But of course, for the very first one of the bunch, I’m of course talking about the one and only Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It’s been 30 years since Return of the Jedi, and despite the fall of the Galactic Empire, a new autocracy known as The First Order has brought despair and destruction to the galaxy, led by the ruthless Kylo Ren. Only a Resistance led by famed General Leia Organa is there to oppose it. But the one key to stop this First Order seems to lie on Luke Skywalker, who went missing for decades. And in a quest to find him, Han Solo, alongside a fighter pilot named Poe, a former Stormtrooper named Finn and a supposed nobody named Rey, they may just have found the key to save the galaxy from further destruction.

 

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The idea of a sequel trilogy, Episodes 7-9, was something George Lucas had considered even back when the original trilogy was still in development. And while a few ideas and philosophical themes were thrown around, Lucas ended up abandoning the idea of three more movies, though some ideas would live on in Return of the Jedi, deciding to just stick with one trilogy. Of course, in the 90s, Lucas would decide to work on a prequel trilogy. During development, not only did Lucas say he refused to make a sequel trilogy, but he also said nobody, point blank, will ever direct another Star Wars movie but him. Not only was the prequel trilogy a huge and exhausting time sink for him, but he was going to be in his 70s by the time he did a new one. And to him, those six movies told all that was needed. This series was about the tragedy of Darth Vader, and that was it. With Vader dead and redeemed, there was no more story. Point blank.

 

Of course, that started to change when we reached the 2010s. When Star Tours: The Adventures Continue opened at Disney World, George Lucas was at the premiere for the new attraction. During his time in Orlando, Disney CEO Bob Iger invited Lucas to breakfast to propose a proposition. With Lucas not doing much of anything with Star Wars or his production company Lucasfilm, and Iger eager to conquer the entertainment media landscape, Iger suggested to Lucas he should sell his company to Disney. Lucas was considering retirement for a while, but was still unsure if he really wanted to do this. In fact, he was interested for a while in directing Episode VII for a May 2015 release date and then later sell off his company.

 

But in early 2012, after the dismal box office for Red Tails, Lucas said he was going to retire, with all future projects at his studio being made by new filmmakers. And thus, he began to pass the torch to famed producer Kathleen Kennedy, with Kennedy taking full charge one year later. The duo would also go on to create their own version of Episode VII with Toy Story 3 writer Michael Arndt and Star Wars vet Lawrence Kasdan. Lucas also began making talks with Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford. His version was set to be the most spiritual of the trilogy, with a focus on the relationships between the Jedi, the Force, midi-chlorians, and something called the Whills.

 

Finally, in October 2012, a deal was made. George Lucas sold Lucasfilm to The Walt Disney Company for $4.05 billion. This not only made Lucas super rich, with a net worth of $6.8 billion, but it also meant Disney had ownership of the most iconic science fiction franchise of all time and also some guy with a fedora and a couple other movies nobody cares about...sorry Willow fans. However, there were a few conditions Lucas made with Disney’s new planned trilogy. While Disney had full control on the movies themselves, they did have to follow Lucas’ rough story treatments, and said treatments were only allowed to be read by certain Disney employees, such as Iger, Kennedy, Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn, and acquisitions manager turned TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer. Lucas would play a part as a creative consultant in the beginning of story meetings, but it was later revealed that his ideas were completely discarded with him having no involvement in the film. Lucas was reportedly devastated and betrayed at that decision, but he’s also rich as hell, so...I dunno, can’t really get all that upset for him.

 

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Michael Arndt would then go on to write the screenplay, with some of Lucas’ ideas being in tact in conjunction with new ideas created by Lucasfilm. The hunt for a new director shortly followed, with names like David Fincher, Brad Bird, Jon Favreau, Ben Affleck, and Guillermo del Toro all being thrown around. But after a suggestion by Steven Spielberg, the role of director for Episode VII was given to none other than J. J. Abrams, who himself revitalized Star Trek to great success. Things started to go on the right track, but the writing process started to go through some issues. Arndt was working on the screenplay for eight months, but he needed 18 more, far above what Disney and Abrams gave him. This resulted in Arndt leaving the project in October 2013, with Lawerence Kasdan and Abrams taking charge of the script and its release date moving from May 2015, the month Star Wars was famous for, to December 2015. Abrams was very relieved at that date change since it bought him some time, and the script was finally complete in January 2014.

 

Casting began in August 2013, with the plan already being set for Hamill, Fisher, and Ford to return. But for new characters, things really went into effect on January 2014, with screen tests happening just weeks before the official announcement. Actors like Saoirse Ronan, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, and Frida Gustavsson all reportedly auditioned for new characters, alongside Adam Driver and Jesse Plemons. But for the heroes, Abrams was adamant on getting three unknown actors. And on April 29, 2014, the cast was finally announced. Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Domnhall Gleeson, Andy Serkis, and original cast members, including the aforementioned, Peter Mayhew, and Anthony Daniels, with a photo of the first table read also revealed that day. Filming began in May, with an announcement that IMAX 65mm cameras would be used during filming.

 

One of the biggest things Abrams made sure to do with this new title was to have Star Wars go back to basics. Storylines from the Star Wars expanded universe were completely thrown out the window apart from the animated series The Clone Wars, and the script would be much more focused on emotion rather than explanation. But most importantly, Abrams wanted this film to seem natural in terms of visual effects. The film emphasized real locations, scale models, and practical effects and animatronics, a stark contrast from CGI technology that not only hit the prequels, but a majority of other blockbuster films at that time. This helped the film recreate the visual design of the original trilogy, as well as serving as a way to say to fans who were burnt out by the more divisive aspects of the prequel trilogy that this was a reset. One that did away with the talky elements and more into pulpy sci-fi adventure. And that idea, of going back to what made Star Wars so beloved in the first place, was a huge selling point in the advertising leading up to the film’s release.

 

I generally don’t like the idea of adding in my personal experiences with these movies during this series. Partially because I often don’t have much to add with my experiences, partially because I’m a bit of a private person, and partially because I think THABOS works better more as a historical lookback rather than my own personal journey. But I think when it comes to the rest of this look at this sci-fi epic, my viewpoint is one that needs to be understood and explained to help people truly understand how much of a cultural event The Force Awakens was. Mainly because I was one of the few people in the world who did not grow up with Star Wars. Obviously I heard of it all my life and knew some of the character names, but I grew up in the wrong time to be into Star Wars. The first two prequel titles came out when I was way too young, so I really only learned that Star Wars was a thing until when Episode III came out. And while my parents did watch and like the original trilogy when they first came out, they never had the DVDs or anything else to pass on to me. In fact, as a kid, I was confused why Episodes 4-6 came out before Episodes 1-3. So when Episode VII was announced, I didn’t really pay any mind to it. I’m sure it was gonna be fine and do well, but I didn’t really care.

 

But by the time the marketing and trailers went into effect, I started to sing a different tune. While the trailers were very reliant on nostalgic memories, the way the film advertised the action, effects, music, cinematography, and the legacy of the franchise...it spoke to me. And I feel like it spoke to a lot of other people too. The way Disney shoved the film down people’s throats was encroaching but also inviting. It seemed both familiar and fresh all at once. And that led to marketing stunt after marketing stunt. And all of them indicated that this return of Star Wars was gonna be big.

 

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The first teaser trailer launched in November 2014, little more than a year after its December debut. Earning a record 58.2 million views in the first week, it was an easy wake-up call to the people that Star Wars was coming back and in a big way. In April 2015, a second teaser trailer unleashed at Star Wars Celebration to thunderous applause. Kathleen Kennedy herself said the reaction from con attendees was unreal, as if she was at a rock concert. This too saw record trailer views, earning 88 million viewers in the first 24 hours. Vanity Fair detailed the film as a cover story in May 2015, as they have done with all previous Star Wars titles, and the film got a panel at Comic-Con with a featurette showcasing the behind-the-scenes practical effects of the title. August 2015 saw a brief glimpse at the D23 Expo, with a commemorative poster for the movie drawn by the one and only Drew Struzan.

 

And then, October 2015 rolled around. The final trailer aired on Monday Night Football, and that’s when I knew I had to see a movie from a franchise I never cared about. Everything from the action to how they teased the new characters made this seem exciting, suspenseful, and action-packed. And sure enough, this was the piece de resistance. Not only did this break trailer view records yet again, earning 128 million views in just 24 hours, this was when tickets were finally on sale. Movie ticket sites the world over crashed due to the massive fan rush, with IMAX repping $6.5 million sales in just one day, along with over $50 million overall in just one day, a record in presales. Alongside a huge launch of tie-in merchandise in early November, titled Force Friday by Disney, the whole world was caught up in Star Wars fever. And when the film finally launched on December 18, the world was never truly the same.

 

Immediately the film broke records, earning $57 million in Thursday previews, beating the 4-year old record made by Deathly Hallows Part 2. This astonishing number, including $5.7 million from IMAX screenings, combined with the rest of Friday for an opening day of $119.1 million. It became the first film in history to gross $100 million in one day. This opening day would thus lead to an opening weekend of $248 million, just barely behind what Return of the Jedi grossed in its original run (yes I know about inflation, shut up). This was by far the biggest opening weekend in history, releasing in December, a time when opening weekends are depressed due to holiday preparations and extra free time in the weeks ahead. There was probably a decent shot this could have opened to $300 million in the summer or something. Of course, not that Disney cares. It was still more than 19% ahead of the previous record holder.

 

At the same time, the film also launched internationally with records in the UK, Germany, and Australia, alongside boffo debuts in France, Spain, Italy, and Japan. In five days the film earned an estimated $281 million overseas for a grand worldwide debut of $529 million. This was the biggest worldwide opening of all time, and one of only two movies to open worldwide over $500 million.

 

I was one of the first people to see this movie in America. Thursday, December 17, @ 7 PM in 3D. And what made me realize how big of a hit this would become was how much I loved it. Star Wars is one of those interesting properties where, much like Pokemon, the eras, characters, and storylines that are most interesting to fans was what they first grew up with. That’s why there’s been a recent reappraisal of the prequel trilogy from the generation that grew up with it after decades of being a punching bag online.

 

And to me, what made me fall in love with The Force Awakens was how this served as a strong introduction to Star Wars while also smartly containing the elements that people loved from the previous titles. Abrams found a way to make the idea of seeing characters and iconography from the old films pop up fun and exciting, even if you have no attachment to it. All the while, Abrams made sure to make the new set of characters just as compelling. In fact, characters like Rey, Finn, and Kylo Ren are the people I care about when it comes to Star Wars. The way they battle their inner demons, insecurities, and previous identities was both compelling and relatable to me as somebody set for college the year after and trying to figure out who I want to be, and all the actors sell it expertly throughout the entire trilogy. Plus the way the cast plays off one another is absolutely fantastic. These are the characters that make Star Wars special to me. These are the characters I care about and empathize with, even more so than Luke or Han or Leia. Without them, I probably would stay the same and fail to be invested in the series. And while I can’t speak for everyone, I think this was the case for many other people.

 

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Weekend two saw Christmas legs work their magic, as the film dropped only 40% in North America, resulting in $149.2 million, making it the biggest second weekend gross in history. International did see a bigger fall at 51% for $136.9 million, both on a mediocre launch in India and Star Wars not being as iconic or nostalgic in other territories. Either way, it was still impressive stuff, as the film crossed $1 billion in just 12 days, becoming the fastest film to reach the mark. Weekend three saw $90.2 million, earning the biggest third weekend of all time, with a 17-day total of $742.2 million, becoming the second film ever to gross $700 million in North America. This was less than $20 million away from Avatar’s numbers, and sure enough, the Star Wars title finally toppled Avatar on January 6, 20 days of release, to become the highest-grossing film of all time in the United States and Canada, a record it still holds to this very day.

 

When the dust finally settled, The Force Awakens earned $936.7 million in the domestic market, making it as of now the only film in history to reach the $900 million mark in the domestic market unadjusted for inflation. And since COVID has destroyed everything, I don’t think any movie ever will beat what The Force Awakens made here. Internationally, the film wasn’t quite as mind-boggling. Again, some markets, notably China, were not as Star Wars fanatical going in. But even still, with help from a record UK gross and even China repping significant dollars, The Force Awakens earned $1.13 billion overseas, becoming the first Disney film, third 2015 film, and fifth film overall to achieve such a feat. With $2.07 billion worldwide, this made it the third highest-grossing film of all time and the third film to reach $2 billion.

 

It was by all accounts a rousing success, with the film estimated to have earned a net profit of $780.1 million, making it the most profitable film in the last seven years. The film did garner criticisms for its derivative story. George Lucas himself disliked the lack of originality. And the sequel trilogy’s further grosses weren’t quite as euphoric as the trilogy starter. But it still served as a masterful rebirth and introduction of an iconic franchise, and I am still glad this was my introduction to such an amazing franchise. And looking in the next few years and well into the future, I think a lot of other people, especially the young kids experiencing it for the first time, will be grateful for this movie too.

 

 

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For second place, while not as massive as the film above it, this was something that truly came out of nowhere and brought in some real excitement in a property that lay dormant for years. And since then, blockbusters truly haven't been the same. That film is titled Jurassic World. More than 20 years after the events of Jurassic Park, an actual dinosaur theme park finally opened to the public. For nearly a decade, the park has been operating smoothly. But when the park plays God and creates a new dinosaur species known as the Indominus rex, havoc runs amok, and only raptor trainer Chris Pratt can save the park.

 

Jurassic Park IV was one of those movies that took forever and a half to come out. The idea first started getting traction in 2001, the same year as Jurassic Park III. Spielberg had the story late in JP3’s production. While Joe Johnston was hesitant to return as director, Spielberg was fast tracking the idea by late 2002, with William Monahan as a screenwriter and both him and Kathleen Kennedy as producers. Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum were being considered to return, and the plan was for this to be the final movie in the series and it would ignore the events of its predecessor.

 

The initial story involved dinosaurs migrating to the Costa Rican mainland. Ian Malcolm and Alan Grant discover the dinosaurs are breeding on an offshore island and they have to try and restrict the dinos from breeding any further or else prevent an ecological disaster. Monahan’s first draft was sent in 2003, with plans for Sam Neill to return and Keira Knightley to play an unknown role. But in 2004, Monahan left the project to work on the film Kingdom of Heaven. And thus, the project was left abandoned. However, that same year, Frank Marshall joined the project and John Sayles signed on as the new screenwriter. Sayles’ script focused on a new character, a mercenary named Rick Harris, who finds himself trying to extract some dinosaur DNA for John Hammond, only to be kidnapped by a Swiss company that now owns Isla Nubar and is forced to train genetically modified raptors for use on rescue missions and combatting drug dealers. Yes, this is real. The idea of a human training raptors came from Spielberg.

 

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Alex Proyas was in negotiations to direct with plans for a late 2005 release. But shortly after, Proyas was uninterested and the script was apparently too crazy and weird for a Jurassic Park sequel. And sure enough, after countless revisions, Spielberg didn’t like the direction the movie was going, resulting in the film being stalled in 2005. Spielberg went on to focus on other projects. Then in early 2006, Frank Marshall revealed a new script was made and Joe Johnston was set to direct. However, things started to get murky.

 

Apparently there was no script written yet, and both the filming date and release date was delayed further and further. From 2008 then all the way to 2009. Joe Johnston then mentioned he was involved in the fourth movie, with the plan being for this to kickstart a brand new trilogy and be completely different from the previous drafts. In 2011, Mark Protosevich was attached to write a fourth installment, but both of his treatments never went anywhere, as Spielberg felt the story wasn’t adequate enough. Finally, in June 2012, things started to change when Rise of the Planet of the Apes writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver joined the project. The writers incorporated three different ideas Spielberg had for a fourth Jurassic Park title. The setting was a fully functional dinosaur theme park. There’s a human who has a relationship with some trained raptors. And there was a human-eating dinosaur that serves as the bad guy.

 

Finally, a 2014 release date was set in January 2013. But who was going to direct it? JA Bayona was considered for a while, but scheduling conflicts led to him dropping out. Believe it or not, the director came from Incredibles director Brad Bird. Back when Bird was in negotiations to direct The Force Awakens, he suggested to Kathleen Kennedy that Colin Trevorrow, a man whose only film credit was the 2012 comedy Safety Not Guaranteed, serve as a stand-in for him during the film’s pre-production, with Bird stepping in after he wrapped up the future box office bomb Tomorrowland. Ultimately, Bird wouldn’t even direct The Force Awakens. But that Trevorrow kid intrigued Kennedy. Her and her husband Frank Marshall would watch Safety Not Guaranteed, and both thought it was impressive stuff. Real impressive. They soon realized Colin Trevorrow was the one and only person who could direct Jurassic Park IV. And after a few negotiations, Trevorrow joined the project while Jaffa and Silver were still working on their screenplay.

 

One of the first things Trevorrow did after joining the project was completely throwing away the script already written. Feeling it lacked much excitement or scale, Trevorrow rewrote the entire piece with his partner Derek Connolly. David Koepp was an advisor.  This led to the film being delayed from a summer 2014 release all the way to a then unspecified date. This not only allowed time to improve the script but also allowed the crew to build practical sets for the fictional theme park. The ideas Trevorrow and Connolly had were two ideas that were developing over the past 20 years in society. The pursuit of money leading to environmental disaster and the ubiquity of technology leading to ignorance and taking for granted the idea of scientific wonders. One of the first ideas when it came to those themes was a teenager texting his girlfriend while a T-rex was right behind him in protective glass. It was a parallel to audiences themselves. The CGI on Jurassic Park was groundbreaking in 1993, as it was unlike anything else. But now? CGI is so commonplace it has nothing interesting to offer.

 

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Sure enough, the film was given a June 2015 release date, saw co-financing by Legendary Pictures, and saw a title change from Jurassic Park IV to Jurassic World. The reason for the title change was done to help differentiate it from the rest of the series, as while it was taking place in the same continuity, it was practically a reboot in terms of story, tone, and characters. It even took place on a different island. In fact, despite Neill, Goldblum, Laura Dern, and Richard Attenborough all being set to return from 2003 to 2008 during previous iterations, none of them are in Jurassic World. Trevorrow felt that if there was no real good reason to add them into the movie, they shouldn’t come back at all. Only BD Wong’s Dr. Wu from the first movie returned for this film.

 

Shortly after the script was done, casting went underway. Bryce Dallas Howard, who was set to be in the film even before production was delayed, starred as the female lead Claire. Ty Simpkins was cast as the child lead in October 2013 with Nick Robinson as his older brother. Jake Johnson was considered for a role as well, and for the male lead, a raptor tamer named Owen, both John Krasinski and Josh Brolin were in negotiations before both were dropped. Ultimately, Chris Pratt was given the role, and at a convenient time too. After filming for the movie wrapped in August 2014, Chris Pratt just had his new Marvel movie Guardians of the Galaxy release to theaters. Alongside the success of The Lego Movie, Pratt became a movie star overnight, which resulted in a movie that already had plenty going for it in terms of brand recognition get a nice feather in its cap. Vincent D’Onofrio, Irrfan Khan, and Omar Sy joined in early 2014.

 

The first bits of marketing occurred in summer 2014, with pictures of the film set and film stills releasing. A Comic-Con panel followed shortly after with an exclusive poster being made with the famous tagline “The Park is Open”. The first trailer finally dropped on November 25, in time for an NBC Thanksgiving football game. Another TV spot debuted at the Super Bowl, with a clip from the movie, which later got panned by woke bae Joss Whedon, aired at the MTV Movie Awards. And in late April, in time with the release of Age of Ultron, one final trailer released. Trevorrow was disappointed in how the last trailer spoiled so much, but Universal had to do it. While Jurassic World wasn’t a risky venture, the disappointing critical and commercial success of Jurassic Park III did mean this movie had to do a lot to get the bad taste out of people’s mouths. Little did we know Jurassic World would do a lot to get rid of that taste for people.

 

A few weeks before its June 12 release, projections and tracking for the title were pretty solid, with about $125 million. It's a good opening that would have very much solidified Jurassic World as a solid reboot that keeps the franchise going as a theatrical play. But it started to feel as if something special was brewing with this title. The buzz was starting to pick up more and more, and with decent reviews, Chris Pratt’s starpower, and the nostalgia machine, people were really hyped up for this. Little did we know that Jurassic World inexplicably got itself a record all its own.

 

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Things seemed pretty crazy already when the film earned itself $81.9 million on its opening day, repping the third-biggest opening day of all time. Already heads were turning at this movie that was projected to open in the $125 million range. And sure enough, on Saturday, word of mouth was starting to spread. Despite only garnering okay reviews, people were digging the dino action on display. So much so, the film only dropped 15% on Saturday, earning $69.6 million, the biggest Saturday of all time. And with a further drop of 18% on Sunday, as people continued to see what this hyped beast of a film was all about, it saw an extra $57.2 million, another record. All told, Jurassic World did the unthinkable. With an opening weekend of $208.8 million, Jurassic World beat out The Avengers and earned the biggest opening weekend in history...then Force Awakens stole its thunder. At the same time, the film saw a record worldwide opening of $524.4 million, becoming the first film ever to open with $500 million in one weekend. Then you know...Force Awakens stole its thunder.

 

Even today, it’s still confusing and surreal to me that Jurassic World broke these records. I was there during the run-up to release. And while people seemed excited for it, it didn’t seem like that many people were hyping this up or were gunning to see it. It also didn’t seem like box office experts expected much from this title either. So when I saw that this movie not only opened the way it did, but surpassed The Avengers, I was completely confused. I would have understood if this movie did $150 million. But how did this movie, coming off two mediocre predecessors, had okay reviews, and a solid, if not too crazy marketing campaign, opened the way it did? And yeah, I still don’t have a clear answer. Maybe it was nostalgia. Maybe it was Chris Pratt. Maybe it was the appeal of seeing dinosaurs on the big screen after years of dormancy. Maybe it was a lack of another event title in the marketplace.

 

Either way, Jurassic Park was back and it was bigger than ever. And it was just one of many, many, many titles that gave Universal Pictures a banner year for the ages. The weeks went on, and Jurassic World continued to be flocked as the film of choice, with its second weekend becoming the biggest second weekend of all time, $106.6 million for a 10-day total of $402.8 million, making it the fastest movie to reach every conceivable box office milestone you could think of. Its third weekend saw it drop another 49%, resulting in $54.5 million and a 17-day total of $500.4 million. It became the fastest movie ever to reach $500 million. It finally finished its run at $652.3 million, making it the third-highest grossing movie of all time, only behind Avatar and Titanic, and the highest-grossing Universal Pictures movie in history. Worldwide grosses saw the film leap to $1.67 billion, which was, again, the third-biggest gross in history, behind the Cameron duo. A net profit of $474 million was made.

 

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Within the box office community, Jurassic World was very much overshadowed by the release of The Force Awakens, which opened and finished far above it across all metrics just a couple months later. But if I can be honest, Jurassic World was the bigger success story here, solely due to the surprise factor. If you just do what’s expected, it’s not really that compelling or interesting. And while maybe only until a few months prior, people didn’t think The Force Awakens would get the numbers it did receive, we all knew it was going to be a monster. We all knew there was immense hype at the very idea of Star Wars: Episode VII, so while its near-billion dollar domestic total was a shocker, it wasn’t that crazy to say it would do amazing.

 

Jurassic World was a film nobody expected to hit $400 million, let alone $600 million. The expectation was nothing more than a solid blockbuster hit, but it instead exploded into an opening for the ages and revitalized one of the greatest, most iconic movie franchises of all time. And since then, Jurassic World has lived on as a unique entity, at least domestically. In a day and age where Disney completely dominates the blockbuster box office landscape, Jurassic World is one of the few major competitors towards the numbers Marvel, Star Wars, and Pixar has generated in the latter half of the 2010s. And looking at all the stuff Jurassic World has done since its 2015 release, this franchise isn’t going away any time soon.

 

Since 2015, several JW projects have found their way in the world. Several Lego specials and TV shows based on Jurassic World have been released since 2016. In 2019, Universal Studios Hollywood released Jurassic World: The Ride, a retheme of the iconic water ride with a JW skin. In 2021, Universal’s Islands of Adventure plans to have the Velocicoaster, a dinosaur-themed roller coaster. And in 2020, Netflix and Dreamworks Animation released Jurassic World: Camp Creteacous, an animated prequel series that has its second season set for release this January. As for an actual sequel? Well, we’ll get to that in a little bit.

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Third place was the highly-anticipated sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron. Tony Stark finds himself in a pickle after he and Bruce Banner create a new AI program named Ultron. Intended to be a peacekeeping program, Ultron believes that the only way to make the Earth peaceful is to eradicate humanity itself. And thus, it’s up to the Avengers to save the day once again.

 

An Avengers sequel was pretty much inevitable since day 1, with the plan being for Avengers 2 to serve as the big finale for Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What wasn’t inevitable was Joss Whedon. Whedon was interested in making an Avengers sequel, particularly one that was a bit smaller in scale, but he was still unsure if he wanted to helm the big follow-up to his big movie. When you direct one of the biggest movies in history, where do you go from there? Regardless, it was formally announced in August 2012 that Whedon would write and direct Avengers 2 for a May 2015 release date. An outline was completed in December 2012, although some elements, such as the inclusion of Captain Marvel, were cut.

 

One of the more interesting things about this project was that two of the new heroes introduced were characters Disney only partially had the film rights to. The sibling duo Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch were included as Whedon loved their dynamic and unique superpowers, as well as how they added a unique conflict to the story. The issue however was that they were X-Men characters. They were Magneto’s kids actually. And seen as how Disney couldn’t include the X-Men or mutants in their Avengers title due to rights issues, a compromise was made. They were included in the movie, but their origin story was completely rewritten by Whedon to avoid anything related to mutants.

 

Ultron also saw a rewrite to his backstory. Because Hank Pym wasn’t featured in any of the movies yet, and Edgar Wright still had rights to the character back when he was developing his own movie (we’ll get back to that), Ultron was conceived by the Avengers. Whedon also felt this made the story stronger, as this was a monster the heroes created. Many were surprised and disappointed that Ultron was the big baddie and not Thanos, considering the tease we got in the first Avengers. However, Whedon said he was never meant to be the next villain. Considering Thanos was the lord of all villainy, it was too early to introduce him.

 

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Age of Ultron was a film so hyped, its marketing campaign began two years before its release. At Comic-Con 2013, Whedon hosted a panel on the title, giving just a tiny little teaser that revealed the title and Ultron’s helmet design. Sneak peeks and tiny drops of information continued from there, as concept art and interviews hit online and during Marvel-themed TV broadcasts. It appeared again at Comic-Con 2014, with the cast and footage unveiled. It actually became the second-biggest thing at that Comic-Con in terms of social media mentions, only behind Batman v Superman. It did earn a higher intend-to-see response though.

 

Finally, the first trailer leaked online October 22, 2014. With a remix of Pinocchio’s "I Got No Strings", Age of Ultron’s first trailer saw 34.3 million views worldwide in the first 24 hours, making it the highest-viewed trailer in history up to that point. And after that, trailer after featurette after cross-promotion after exclusive clips released, all in preparation for the big event on May 1. And hey, there were plenty of expectations for this to become yet another record-breaker in terms of opening. All the other MCU sequels saw an increase, and people fell in love with the first movie. Surely, this will follow tradition.

 

Of course that didn’t actually happen. With an opening of $191.3 million, it earned itself the second-biggest opening of all time. But with all the hype going into it, as well as how much excitement there was from fanboys, it seems strange that the film dropped 10% below the first film’s opening. Some say it was just coming down to Earth, others say it was some boxing match's fault. Whatever the reason, it was still by all accounts an objective hit, even if it wasn’t as sky-high as many would have liked.

 

The film would continue to play okay in the weeks to come. Reception was alright, its legs were frontloaded but nothing too alarming. With about $459 million domestically and $1.4 billion worldwide, Age of Ultron became the fifth highest-grossing film of all time and an estimated net profit of $382.32 million. But when all is said and done, even today, people don’t really know how to respond to Ultron’s performance. It made a lot of money, and was yet another success story for the MCU. But its opening and legs left something to be desired, which meant money could have been left on the table. Maybe The Avengers was just so huge it’s hard to really justify any further increase? Maybe the MCU is getting more and more insular and fan-driven that it’s hard for it to go any further than what Avengers 1 did. Whether you believe it was another mega hit or the highest-grossing disappointment in film history, it did at least show that Marvel fever was still maintained for a good chunk of the moviegoing population. And without getting into spoilers, when it comes to the next batch of Avengers titles, it’s fair to say their determination in terms of success or failure is a bit more concrete.

 

Pixar did what they did best in fourth place (seventh worldwide) with Inside Out. The setting for this animated film is the mind of an 11-year old girl named Riley. Riley, and the rest of the world for that matter, is controlled by five distinct emotions personified: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust. Riley’s emotions try to help Riley adjust to her new surroundings after her family move from Minnesota to San Francisco, but this soon leads to a massive adventure for Joy and Sadness that sees them traveling through all the facets of Riley’s mind.

 

This was directed by Up’s Pete Docter, who got inspiration for the concept from his own life. His family relocated to Denmark when he was a young boy, and while his sisters had an easy time adjusting to new surroundings, Pete felt he was constantly judged by his peers, with him developing social anxiety. Years later, when Docter found success at Pixar and made a family of his own, he started to notice his pre-teen daughter was exhibiting a lot of the similar shyness and insecurities he had growing up, a contrast to her bubbly personality as a little kid. This led to him imagining what goes on in the human mind itself as a person matures and develops. And thus, Pete Docter had the next idea for his new animated project. A film literally about strong, caricatured personalities.

 

Doctor began researching the mind to help make the film work, which resulted in several consultants joining the project, such as famed psychologist Paul Ekman and psychology professor at Berkeley Dacher Keltner. Ekman was the one who coined that the human mind has six emotions: joy, sadness, anger, disgust, fear, and surprise. Doctor felt fear and surprise were too similar, so the latter was tossed out. And since then, the film underwent four years of story development. This was a unique story crew, as while the animation industry is dominated by men, half of the crew were women. This helped lead to the decision to make the setting of the film be the mind of a girl, as girls ages 11 to 17 are more attuned to expressions and emotions than other demographics.

 

Initially the plot for the movie would have focused on Joy and Fear getting lost, as the team felt they had the best contrast and comedic potential. But by July 2012, after an evaluation screening, Pete Docter realized the film was not working. He thought the movie was so bad in fact that it might lead to him getting fired from Pixar. Later one Sunday afternoon, Docter took a nice long walk, thinking about how he was a failure for not getting the film to work and that he should resign himself from the project. And during that walk, he began to think what he would miss most if he left Pixar, concluding he would miss his coworkers and friends most of all. And then it hit him. Emotions are used to connect people together and relationships are the most important thing in one’s life. This resulted in Docter replacing Fear with Sadness and developing a story all about the importance of being sad and how our emotions connect us to the people we love.

 

The film’s art design was a unique one. While the exterior of Riley’s world is realistic, with more handheld camera shots and realistic animation and movements, the interior of Riley’s head was something else. Not only did it take inspiration from 1950s Broadway musicals, but also the likes of Tex Avery and Chuck Jones. The character designs were specifically caricatured with a cartoony look, with their designs shaped to look like items that can be associated with each emotion. Joy looks like a star, Sadness looks like a tear, Anger a Brick, Fear a frayed nerve, Disgust a piece of broccoli. This allowed for a film that was distinct from not just Pixar, but many other animated movies at the time.

 

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While Disney and Pixar executives did approve of the project, especially after Up’s success proved audiences enjoyed more sophisticated animated fare, there was concern going in on how to market the picture. There was concern that due to the film’s complex themes and ideas, it wouldn’t be as easy to promote or sell, especially to kids. Thankfully, the film went into a test screening shortly before the film came out, and the kids in the audience reacted really positively to the feature. And sure enough, Pixar put out a major marketing campaign hyping up the film, including a premiere at Cannes. Alongside a press screening at CinemaCon, Inside Out was hyped up as an incredible work of art. It earned praise for its animation, characters, comedy, and especially its story, being hailed as some of the best Pixar has ever done, at a time when reception to Pixar titles were becoming less celebratory and more generally positive. With all this acclaim, it set the hype even further, ensuring to audiences this was both a fun family film and a powerful look at the human mind and the value of human emotions.

 

When the film finally released on June 19, this broke a streak for Pixar. Inside Out was the first film to not open to #1 upon its release, as Jurassic World repeated at the slot. This may seem bad at first glance, but then you take one look at its opening. On its opening weekend, it earned itself an incredible $90.4 million opening weekend. This not only meant that Inside Out earned the second-biggest Pixar opening, only behind Toy Story 3, but it also saw the biggest opening for a film that did not debut at #1, beating The Day After Tomorrow’s 11-year record. And yeah, at this point, who knows if that record will ever be toppled? But more importantly, Inside Out held the distinction of earning the highest opening weekend ever for a completely original film, with no originating source material to draw from, beating out Avatar six years ago.

 

And as it turns out, Inside Out continued to gain universal praise, with people loving so much of the world, characters, and themes. This resulted in the film becoming a leggy beast throughout the summer, despite heavy competition from fellow summer animated opener Minions. In fact, on its third weekend, it actually managed to hit #1. This would of course lead to an incredible $356.5 million domestic total and $857.6 million worldwide, making it the second-biggest Pixar movie ever domestically up to that point, only behind Toy Story 3, and the third-biggest Pixar release worldwide, behind TS3 and Finding Nemo. Net profit was $279.51 million.

 

It was a monumental success and one that succeeded solely due to quality merits and the supposed return of a quality brand name. While films like Brave or Monsters University had their fans, Inside Out was a return to films like Ratatouille or Up. Films that struck a chord with all audiences, and tapping into a strong emotional core that keeps all ages invested in the story. And in the years since, Inside Out has still cultivated a passionate fan base, with many arguing this is the best film Pixar has ever made. A sequel has been mentioned once or twice, but there are currently no real plans for a successor.

 

Fifth place saw Fast and Furious soar to new heights with Furious 7, the third biggest release worldwide that year. Dom and Brian have returned to the US after earning amnesty for their past crimes. But an assassin named Deckard Shaw, played by Jason Statham, seeks revenge after the Fast crew put his brother Owen into a comatose state in the last movie. The team is danger again and once more find themselves called into action in a globe-trotting epic.

 

When Vin Diesel and Neil Moritz began developing Fast and Furious into a sprawling franchise, one idea that was planned was for Fast Six and Fast Seven to be filmed back to back with a single storyline running between the two films, a la the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels. Said Diesel, “We have to pay off this story, we have to service all of these character relationships, and when we started mapping all that out it just went beyond 110 pages...The studio said, 'You can't fit all that story in one damn movie!'”. Ultimately, that didn’t happen, as weather issues in filming locations made it difficult to film both titles simultaneously. So instead, Furious 7’s filming took place after the release of Fast & Furious 6.

 

One of the bigger departures that emerged was that Justin Lin, the man who directed the last three Fast and Furious titles, was not returning as a director. While Lin was still invested as a director, Universal put a seriously bad crunch in terms of release schedule. Universal had very few reliable franchises at the time compared to studios like Disney or Warner Bros. so they wanted their next F&F movie to be released in summer 2014, one year after the release of Fast & Furious 6. This meant Lin had to go through pre-production while taking part in post production for F&F 6. Because he felt the lack of preparation would hurt the quality of the movie, Lin left the director’s chair. Not long after, famed horror director James Wan was put in charge of the project, with an official release date of July 2014.

 

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One of the biggest things stunt coordinator Spiro Razatos pushed for this title was a sense of realism. While all of the action and car chases were ludicrous and ridiculous, he still wanted there to be a sense that what was happening could be achieved. So for something like the airdrop sequence, where a bunch of cars fell out of an airplane, they actually had those cars plummet from the sky, although clever editing techniques were also used. There’s another scene where Brian  is jumping off a bus off a cliff, and that stuntman actually was jumping for his life, with no CGI in sight. And funny enough, this sequence almost didn’t happen. Razatos wanted the sequence, which took place near the woods, to be filmed in Colorado. But the studio wanted it in Georgia because Colorado had no tax breaks, with the plan being to put CGI trees in the background. But Razatos felt audiences would tell the trees were artificial, and ultimately Razatos got his way.

 

Of course, as we all know, Furious 7’s production was one hit with sadness. Production began in September 2013, and things went smooth enough for the film, with a fair amount of scenes shot. But on November 30, 2013, tragedy struck. While on a Thanksgiving break, Paul Walker was killed in a single-car crash, dying at the tragically young age of 40. This was a devastating loss, especially for Fast & Furious fans the world over. Here was a young actor who had been lighting up movie screens for almost an entire decade in a film franchise so many had a fondness for just...taken away. And this certainly led to a complicated future for the film’s remaining production schedule. Production was delayed the following day, with it being on an indefinite hold a few days later. Furious 7 would get delayed about 9 months, April 2015, and it wasn’t until April 2014 production started up again.

 

There were many debates over what should happen to Brian O’Connor, but it was decided it was best for the character to retire instead of be killed off, and several new scenes were developed that would allow the franchise to continue without him. For the many scenes that featured Brian that were yet to be shot, the filmmakers had Weta Digital, the people behind the VFX for Lord of the Rings, Avatar and Planet of the Apes. Alongside Paul’s brothers Caleb and Cody serving as stand-in, Weta superimposed Walker’s face over the bodies of Paul’s brothers or actor John Brotherton in 350 effects shots. 260 shots were a computer-generated face, and 90 shots repurposed actual footage of Paul Walker from deleted scenes or older footage. This created a seamless integration of the actor that was still tasteful and respectful.

 

The loss of Walker also led to a complete rework of the ending, which featured an emotional tribute montage of Walker in the previous films, Brian driving off into the sunset, and a certain hit single. “See You Again” was performed by Wiz Khalifa and relative unknown Charlie Puth. The latter was approached by his publishing company to create a melody that would help pay tribute to Walker for this new movie. Sure enough, Puth wrote and performed the piece, and used the life of a college friend of his, who himself lost his life in a motorcycle accident, to help create a strong emotional crux. Wiz Khalifa later joined the song to create the rap verses, and it would become, in many ways, a major highlight to the film itself.

 

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The film finally released on April 3, Easter weekend. During the run-up to release, featuring a world premiere at SXSW, it was one of those films that rose higher and higher in terms of box office potential. Projections started at $115 million, only to rise to $150 million by the time of its release. And sure enough, Furious 7 was a hit for the ages. Its $147.2 million opening is one of those instances where its records are too many to count. It was the ninth-biggest opening weekend in history, the third-biggest non-summer opening, the biggest April opening, the biggest Fast & Furious opening, and the biggest opening ever for Universal Pictures. In fact, it was the first time ever a Universal movie hit $100 million in an opening weekend. At the same time, the film’s international debut saw it reach $240.4 million overseas, resulting in the third-biggest international opening. The worldwide debut of $384 million gave it the fourth-biggest worldwide opening ever.

 

Of course, when it comes to markets, the big success story here was with China. Its opening day of $68.6 million was the biggest first day for any film there, whether Chinese or foreign. This would soon lead to Furious 7 becoming the first film ever to reach 2 billion in renminbi, and actually became the film’s biggest territory with $390.9 million. And with incredible box office numbers just about everywhere else, Furious 7 got itself $353 million domestically, $1.16 billion overseas, a grand total of $1.51 billion worldwide, and a net profit of $354 million. This made Furious 7 the fourth-biggest movie of all time, as well as the very first film from Universal Pictures that reached $1 billion in its initial first run.

 

“See You Again” was also a smash success. It spent 12 non-consecutive weeks at #1 on the Billboard charts, tying “Lose Yourself” for the longest-running rap single, was the most-streamed song on Spotify for its first day, was the highest-viewed music video in history, earned three Grammy nominations and a Golden Globe nomination, and became the best-selling song of 2015 worldwide. All the while, unknown Charlie Puth became a music superstar overnight, with him going on to earn two studio albums.

 

The performance of Fast & Furious as a franchise is a surreal one. In 2001, the first title was a nice, midbudget title that focused on the niche topic of drag racing that made solid money. And for a while, the sequels didn’t do much to write home about. Fast forward to 2015 and it spawned an epic franchise that consistently hit box office records. As I’ve said many times in the past, the future success of Fast and Furious can be traced to a lot of surprise events and a lot of creativity on Neil Moritz’ part. Instead of just doing the same thing over and over again, the Fast sequels got more and more creative with each installment, expanding the world, adding new characters, raising the stakes, and upping the ante, all while keeping what people liked about the series intact. Characters like Roman and Tej breathed new life when Vin Diesel called it quits. A new direction for the franchise with Fast Five helped it become more accessible to general audiences. Adding in fan favorite characters helped excite the people who were there from the beginning. Making the films more and more ridiculous and crazy with each installment made people curious what the series would do next.

 

It’s this idea of smart worldbuilding and memorable characters that defines some of the biggest movie franchises today. People love the MCU because of the colorful cast and unique worlds. People love Star Wars because of the memorable characters and interesting philosophies. People love Jurassic Park for the charming dinos and its themes of science and coexistence. This is what allowed Fast and Furious to become one of the all-time box office greats, and it’s fair to say we still have a lot more to discuss in the years to come.

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Illumination scored a real winner in sixth place with Minions. This prequel looks at the very beginning of the Minion creatures. These small, gibberish speaking creatures have been around since the dawn of time, existing solely to serve the most evil masters. So before they met Gru, three Minions go out on the search for a new evil villain named Scarlet Overkill. And it’s here where these Minions, Kevin, Stuart, and Bob, find themselves in the adventure of a lifetime.

 

After the smash success of the first Despicable Me, a spin-off title based on the Minion characters was announced in July 2012. Brian Lynch, a co-writer for Illumination’s Hop and the Universal ride Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, signed on as writer for the project. Initially, the plan was for the film to be released in December 2014. However, the massive success of Despicable Me 2 in the summer made Universal realize the money they can make with a July release date. To say nothing of the merchandise potential that could be exploited with a summer release rather than a winter one. This led the film being pushed back to July 2015.

 

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Speaking of merchandise, this was a film that was marketed up the wazoo. To the point where you really could not turn a corner without seeing something with a Minion on it. The film’s marketing campaign started literally at the very end of Despicable Me 2, with the end credits hyping up the future spin-off. And alongside several trailers and TV spots, Universal’s parent company Comcast and promotional partners like Chiquita, McDonald’s, General Mills, and even Amazon spent $593 million in advertisements just for this one movie. Despicable Me quickly became one of the biggest animated properties in history, and Universal made sure that they would keep it that way. And wouldn’t you know it, Minions was yet another success story for a series full of success stories.

Opening on July 10, Minions was expected to be a monster upon its release, generating anywhere between $100-120 million. And with the immense popularity of the franchise, especially the Minion characters, this spin-off prequel...thing opened to $115.7 million. This was double what the first film generated, becoming the biggest three-day opening for the franchise, and was the second-biggest opening ever for an animated film. An impressive display, as this didn’t have Gru or any of the other characters involved. A true showcase on how much people really loved these goofy little guys.

 

The film wasn’t quite as leggy as the previous two films, chalk that up to mixed reception, but it still left $336 million domestically. The real story however came worldwide. Thanks to some very healthy returns internationally, Minions grossed $1.16 billion worldwide. This meant the film made history and became the first animated film not made by Disney to gross $1 billion, and the second-biggest animated film of all time, as well as a net profit of $525 million, thanks to its thrifty $75 million production budget. This also broke ground when it came to its distributor. With this, Furious 7, and Jurassic World, Universal became the first studio in history to have three movies hit one billion in one calendar year. In fact, in 2015, Universal went from zero billion-dollar hits, at least in its initial theatrical run, to just three. 

 

Alongside several other hit titles, many of which we’ll discuss further down the line, this was the year that truly rebirthed the studio from just putting its head above water into an impressive beast of a studio, with several hit franchises and several strong producers generating hits for the studio. Fast and Furious, Jurassic World, and Despicable Me would all continue to be consistent moneymakers worldwide, with theme park rides, TV shows, and an endless supply of merchandise. A sequel to Minions, Minions: The Rise of Gru, is set to release in 2021.

 

Seventh place was a bit of a disappointment with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2. Following the events of Part 1, Katniss is still on a quest to win the war against President Snow. And with the help of the many friends she made through her journey, she might just have enough to kill Snow and take down the Capitol itself.

 

As said before, in a way to keep Lionsgate’s only viable franchise afloat a wee bit longer, Mockingjay was cut down to two parts, which put the pressure on Francis Lawrence. Catching Fire was him proving himself to fans and moviegoers he could do the book justice. And now that he had to direct two movies, he found himself recognizing he had to raise the bar and give something even better for the fans.

 

During production for both movies, Philip Seymour Hoffman passed away due to a mixed drug intoxication. While Hoffman had finished almost all of his scenes, two of them were not yet filmed. Initially it was announced that a CG recreation of Hoffman would be used for a major scene, but Lawrence insisted that was not the case. Rather, these two scenes were rewritten with other actors. For instance, one scene was supposed to have Hoffman’s Plutarch talk with Katniss while she was in detention, Woody Harrelson’s Haymitch instead reads a letter from him.

 

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While Mockingjay Part 1 did decline from the last two movies, expectations were higher for Part 2. Deathly Hallows and Breaking Dawn saw declines for Part 1 only to explode in popularity with Part 2. People loved the first two movies and with this being the big epic finale, everybody was just gonna flock back to check this movie out. Right????

 

Projections for Part 2’s opening weekend were about on par with Part 1, $120-125 million. But as the weeks went by, the buzz seemed like it was deflating. And projections were getting lower and lower, ending with about a mid-$110 million range. And when it finally opened on November 20, its grand debut was just $102.7 million. This was still a successful opening by all accounts, but it was a series low and a significant drop from all the previous films. And again, a stark contrast to what Potter and Twilight generated with their Part 2s. Overseas was also below expectations, with an international opening of $144.5 million, below the $165-185 million projections. Worldwide opening measured to $247.2 million.

 

This was one of the rare kind of opening that was so disappointing and lukewarm that it actually led to a decline in Lionsgate’s stock the following Monday. And this led to a lot of questions as to why Mockingjay Part 2 ended on such a whimper. Lionsgate co-chairman Rob Freidman blamed both the tragic Paris attacks as something that limited European interest, as well as the incoming Force Awakens sucking up all the attention from moviegoers. Freidman said that without those two elements, the movie would have gotten an extra $50-100 million. Other reasons could be that the decision to split the final book into two chapters was becoming more of an annoyance with moviegoers or that the lack of any actual Hunger Games, the hook for the first two movies, made this less enticing to moviegoers.

 

Whatever the reason, the film’s $281.7 million domestic and $658.3 million worldwide grosses seem fine at first glance. The movie even turned a solid net profit of $134.3 million. But this big grand finale for Lionsgate’s biggest franchise ended up becoming the lowest-grossing film in the franchise, ultimately being a whimper for the series. However, that didn’t stop Lionsgate from trying to milk some money out of it. Spin-offs were already being considered as early as 2017, but things seem to be going underway with a new prequel. Early in 2020, a new novel by Suzanne Collins, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, was put onto bookshelves, telling the origin story of President Snow. And wouldn't’ you know it, Lionsgate, alongside Francis Lawrence and many of the other Hunger Games creatives, are already developing a film based on the book. Will it take the series back to glory? Only time will tell.

 

Eighth domestic and tenth worldwide, we have The Martian. After a failed mission to Mars, one astronaut, a botanist named Mark Watney, finds himself stranded alone on the red planet. Following that, the film looks at two different stories. One of them is Watney, played by Matt Damon, trying to survive and keep himself alive by any means necessary. And the other one is the crew back at NASA trying to find a way to get Watney home before its too late.

 

Based on the Andy Weir novel from 2011, a film project was optioned by 20th Century Fox in March 2013, with Simon Kinberg as a producer. The following May would see Drew Goddard entering negotiations not just as a writer on the film, but also as a director. Matt Damon later expressed interest in the project under Goddard’s direction. Ultimately, while Goddard did get a script down, his attachment to a Sinister Six movie meant the director’s seat was open. Sure enough, Ridley Scott entered negotiations in May 2014. Scott really loved how the novel and script emphasized science and felt there was something exciting about making a movie that balanced entertainment and education. And after Scott signed on, the project quickly grew pace, with filming starting in November 2014.

 

Like with the original novel, The Martian movie saw a lot of involvement and consulting from NASA, ensuring the science and technology used was accurate, as they believed the film could be a good vessel to promote space exploration. What was different from the original novel was the characterization of Mark Watney. Watney in the book was a wisecracker and quick thinker. And while those elements and comedy was used in the movie, Scott focused on the isolation Watney found himself within the dusty Martian landscape, giving the film a bit more of a distressing angle and a stark contrast from the business of the NASA sequences. Around 20 sets were also constructed for the film.

 

Another major change in the novel had to do with the ethnicities of some of the characters. The character Mindy Park was Korean in the book, but was played by white actress Mackenzie Davis in the movie. Asian-Indian character Venkat Kapoor was also played by non-Indian actor Chiwetel Ejiofor and given the name Vincent Kapoor. This caused a bit of controversy by the Media Action Network for Asian-Americans (MANAA), as considering the limited roles already given to Asian actors in Hollywood, this whitewashing and refusal to give Asian actors a slot in a major Hollywood production did not sit well with many. Ultimately, it did very little to diminish the hype people had for the title.

 

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Helped by a major viral marketing campaign that pushed the film as an event piece rather than a sci-fi drama, The Martian was already tracking to do great business, with projections on the film earning an opening in the $40 million range. But thanks to great reviews, a popular source material, and even reports about water found on Mars, The Martian managed to open far above expectations, opening to $54.3 million. This was both the second-biggest October opening of all time, only behind Gravity, as well as the second-biggest Matt Damon opening of all time, only behind The Bourne Ultimatum, and the second-biggest Ridley Scott opening of all time, only behind Hannibal. That’s a lot of twos.

 

It was a smash hit right out of the gate, helped by a good source, a good concept, and a likable actor. And with the film generating significant awards buzz over the next few months, The Martian was a powerhouse in the next few weeks, with it staying the #1 movie on its second weekend with a 32% drop. And while it did go to #2 on its third weekend due to the release of Goosebumps, The Martian would jump back to #1 on its fourth and fifth weekend. And despite competition through November, The Martian continued to pack houses week after week. The film wrapped up with $228.4 million domestically and $655.2 million worldwide, becoming both Ridley Scott and Matt Damon’s biggest movie of all time. And with numerous accolades during awards season, alongside appearing on several best of the year list from critics, The Martian was a success through and through, in terms of critical reviews, industry acclaim, and box office grosses, with a net profit of $150.32 million according to Deadline. This film would continue Ridley Scott’s very healthy relationship with 20th Century Fox, even after the Disney buyout. Alien: Covenant would release in 2017, while The Last Duel is set for release in 2021. A movie about Napoleon, Kitbag, is also currently in development with Joaquin Phoenix in the role.

 

Disney scored yet another remake hit with Cinderella, earning ninth domestically. After the death of her family, a young woman named Ella finds herself forced to be a scullery maid by her cruel stepmother and boorish stepsisters. But after meeting a dashing young stranger, her life is changed forever. And with the help of a fairy godmother, as well as her own virtues of kindness and courage, Ella may find herself in a new world of royal proportions.

 

While not the first movie to see a release, this live-action Cinderella, inspired by the iconic 1950 animated Disney classic, was one of the first of these remakes to get greenlit after the record-breaking success of Alice in Wonderland. May 2010 was the first real inklings of information given, with Devil Wears Prada’s Aline Brosh McKenna as a writer and Simon Kinberg as a producer. In August 2011, One Hour Photo director Mark Romanek was brought on to direct, and Chris Weitz took charge to rewrite McKenna’s script in February 2012. One year later, January 2013, Romanek left the project due to creative differences. His version was initially set to be darker than what Disney originally intended, and that didn’t fly with the head executives. So why they got the One Hour Photo guy on this movie I'll never understand.

 

This was a major labor of love to Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn. Reportedly he wanted this live-action Cinderella to be the definitive adaptation of the timeless classic, and was willing to spend whatever was needed to make it happen. Of course, Disney already made the definitive Cinderella movie a few decades earlier, but whatever. The film finally began seeing traction when Kenneth Branagh signed on as director, but it still wasn’t an easy development process. Cate Blanchett was the first official cast member, playing Lady Tremaine. But Cinderella herself went through a few casting changes. Emma Watson was the first actress planned, but a deal couldn’t work out. Don’t worry. She’ll be fine. Gabriella Wilde, Saoirse Ronan, Alicia Vikander, Bella Heathcote and even Margot Robbie were also in consideration for the role. But when all was said and done, Lily James would go on to play the iconic character.

 

A big highlight of the film was the costume design by Sandy Powell of Shakespeare in Love and The Aviator fame. Powell’s designs could be traced back to 2011, two years before filming began, with the aim for the film to look like a 19th century period piece made in the 1940s or 1950s. The famed ball gown in the film was heavily inspired by the animated film, with Powell intending for it to look almost like Cinderella was floating with the dress, almost like a watercolor painting. Nine dresses were made for the movie, each 270 yards of fabric and 10,000 crystals. Powell would gain serious kudos for her work, earning Oscar, BAFTA, Empire, and Critics Choice nominations for her work.

 

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Cinderella was a very important film for Disney, as both another live-action remake and another avenue to promote the Disney Princess line. This not only led to several trailers, the second of which went on to be the most viewed non-Marvel trailer ever for Disney, but even a Frozen short titled Frozen Fever. Every little girl was hyped for this. And sure enough, Cinderella would be a boffo success for Disney. The film earned immensely positive reviews, with praise towards the actors, Branagh’s direction, and the costume and art direction. And at the box office, the film was just one of the many hits that defined Disney in 2015.

 

Opening on March 13, Cinderella saw an opening of $67.9 million. This was not only the biggest opening of Kenneth Branagh’s career, but it was also the fourth-biggest Disney March opening and the seventh-biggest March opening in general. And with positive reception, Cinderella managed to gross $201.1 million domestically and $542.3 million worldwide. Net profit earned was $164.77 million. On the lower end of the Disney remakes, but still an impressive haul considering the lack of action or starpower. This also made Cinderella the biggest Branagh film of all time, ensuring he would have several other directorial works for years to come...of course, the monkey’s paw here is that we got Artemis Fowl out of this. And of course, Cinderella would sell dolls and produce future remakes in the years to come.

 

Bond’s Skyfall follow-up Spectre landed in tenth place domestically and sixth place worldwide. Bond finds himself pitted against the sinister global crime organization Spectre, led by Ernst Blofeld, played by Christoph Waltz. Blofeld plans to launch a national surveillance network that would mastermind criminal activities across the globe. And of course, 007 is the only one who can save the day.

 

In March 2013, Sam Mendes, the director of Skyfall, stated he would not return to direct the next movie. However, not long after, Mendes would go on to say he found a good script and liked the plans Eon had for the franchise long-term. Funny enough, Drive’s Nicholas Winding Refn was in consideration for the director’s chair. Regardless, Mendes would become the first director since John Glen to direct at least two consecutive Bond titles. Other Skyfall alumni included Daniel Craig, Naomie Harris, and Ben Wishaw in the cast, as well as writers John Logan, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.

 

The usage of the Spectre organization was a big deal, as this marked the end of several long and confusing litigations between Eon Productions and producer Kevin McClory. McClory sued Ian Fleming in 1961 claiming ownership over certain elements in the novel Thunderball, resulting in McClory getting the film rights for Spectre and its characters. November 2013 saw MGM and the McClory estate settle the issue with Danjaq, resulting in MGM finally getting these rights, allowing them to use it for future Bond movies.

 

One of the many interesting new characters introduced was Mr. Hinx, a silent assassin that only says one line in the whole movie. Eon wanted an actor with a background in contact sports for the role, resulting in Dave Bautista as Hinx. Mendes was nervous Bautista wouldn’t want to play a character with only one line, but Bautista was immediately on board. Not only is Bautista a lifelong Bond fan, he loved the challenge of playing a character that didn’t speak. Bautista would become universally regarded as one of the best parts of the movie.

 

Like with many of the other Bond releases, Spectre was distributed by Sony. During renegotiations with MGM on the franchise in 2011, Sony was tasked to provide 25% of the negative cost for both Skyfall and this, in exchange for receiving 25% of the profits plus distribution fees. This was already a pretty significant amount of change, as Spectre had an estimated production budget of $245-300 million, making it one of the most expensive movies ever made. But Sony had even worse news to deal with. With the Sony hack of November 2014, memos related to Spectre’s production were released. Such memos revealed the film was over budget, early drafts written by John Logan were leaked, and Sony reportedly was frustrated with the project and how it was coming along.

 

06SPECTRE-superJumbo-v2.jpg

 

However, despite the leaked information from the hack, nothing could stop excitement from Bond fans. And sure enough, Spectre would go on to be another hit, even if a bit underwhelming after the boffo success of Skyfall. Even the song by Sam Smith underwhelmed, despite an Oscar win. Its domestic opening of $70.4 million was the second-biggest Bond opening ever, only behind Skyfall, but it was considered below industry expectations. At the same time, despite having a lot of the same creative team, reviews were much more mixed, with criticism towards its screenplay and pacing being a major factor. This would result in Spectre having to fudge its way to $200 million in the United States and Canada, leading to a few weeks of epic money manipulation. Worldwide saw the film at $880.7 million, making it, again, the second-biggest Bond title unadjusted.

 

For its net profit, Deadline estimated the film earned about $98.4 million. But for Sony, they were left with chump change. It was estimated that if the film performed on level with Skyfall, Sony would have earned a net profit of $38 million. But because the movie did 20% less than Skyfall, Sony only got $24.6 million in profit. Remember, Sony had to pay a lot for this movie’s production costs, and they only got 25% of certain profits. They also had to spend millions in marketing and even had to give MGM some of the profit for their non-Bond titles like 22 Jump Street...for some reason.

 

Ultimately, this led to Sony not renewing their contract with MGM, with Universal Pictures getting international rights and United Artists, a subsidiary of MGM, taking charge of US distribution for the next Bond title No Time to Die. Set to be the final outing for Daniel Craig, this Bond title is perhaps most infamous for being the first movie to be delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with it currently set for release in April 2021. We’ll see if that sticks or if it will actually turn out well. 

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