A look back at the year gone by for Hollywood…
A slow start: 2013 never started off with a bang. A whimper, may also be an exaggeration. But it was nonetheless, mild and subdued. January is not usually the month for blockbuster films, but even when compared to the past years, this January was particularly quite dull. It began with a slasher flick Texas Chainsaw 3D, but not many wanted to start the new year in this fashion. The much awaited Gangster Squad with its ensemble cast was to be the first bright light, but at the box-office even this one faded. The presence of Matt Wahlberg and Russell Crowe could not drive away the dullness of Broken City and the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger was not met with grand salutes or high-fives in The Last Stand. It was left to the wide release of Zero Dark Thirty and the chills of the horror film Mama to deliver the first hits of the year, along with the holdovers of the previous year like Django Unchained, and save a bit of January, as the year began with second-worst collections in the opening month in the past six years at the domestic box-office.
And it got worse: February turned out to be quite a disaster. The solo action hero flicks fared miserably in these opening two months, Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand, Staham’s Parker, Stallone’s Bullet to the Head and Willis’s A Good Day to Die Hard. The surprise package came in the form of Identity Thief starring Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy, in a year which has seen R-rated comedy prosper. Another surprise winner was the zombie rom-com Warm Bodies but it was too little too late. The domestic box-office earnings in the month of February were the weakest in 2013 over the entire past decade! Hollywood was really struggling to match up to the record-breaking year of 2012.
Some respite and a big failure: March brought in the first big-budget film, with close to $200 million in production budget, the Bryan Singer helmed Jack the Giant Slayer. And this movie toppled so badly that no giant could have managed to get it back to its feet. With the dubious distinction of being the first heavy-duty film to fail, Jack the Giant Slayer was quickly forgotten. But to save March, came the “magical” wizard from Kansas in Oz the Great and Powerful as James Franco charmed his way into the hearts of the audience and brought some cheer to what was becoming a terrible box-office run. More respite came for the studios as DreamWorks Animation’s The Croods hit bulls-eye with the worldwide audience, for which a sequel has already been announced. The Gerard Butler thriller Olympus Has Fallen and Dwayne Johnson starrer G.I. Joe: Retaliation did not do too badly either, but by end of March, the domestic box-office numbers were still 21% behind those in the corresponding period of last year.
A slight blip: If things were looking upward after March, there was a slight blip in April. There were only a few releases in this month, and most of them had so-so performances, such as the horror remake Evil Dead, the Tom Cruise sci-fi film Oblivion and Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain. The latest instalment Scary Movie 5 bombed miserably, but the highlight of the month was the baseball film 42, which narrated the story of Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to break the colour barrier in the sport. Starring Chadwick Boseman and Harrison Ford, the movie was loved and appreciated, by critics and audience.
It exploded with style: And then the summer season began with the mega-movie Iron Man 3. With Shane Black directing this venture of Iron Man, Robert Downey, Jr. was again loved as the man behind the suit, and the additions of Ben Kingsley and Guy Pearce did the movie no harm. Iron Man 3 has raked in more than a billion dollars worldwide, and is the numero uno this year, both in terms of domestic and worldwide collections. A week later, the Baz Luhrmann film The Great Gatsby surprised all by its strong opening, and Leonardo DiCaprio was once more dabbling in strong performing movies. Star Trek Into Darkness did better than its predecessor; though despite a masterful movie pieced together by J.J. Abrams, it still feels to have fallen short of its earnings potential. But there were no such worries for the racing movie Fast & Furious 6, which turned out to be the biggest grossing movie of the franchise yet, and this one in fact was appreciated by the critics too. Maybe they have finally started to ignore the laws of physics which get violated in such films and simply enjoy the show! The failure of After Earth, a rare thing for Will Smith, was overshadowed by the surprise hit of Now You See Me, with an ensemble cast that entertained by doing more than just pulling rabbits out of the hat. 2013 was starting to inch closer now to the previous year as this year had the best collections ever reported in the month of May in the USA!
It kept getting better: The year was truly on a roll now. May started off strongly with the low budget film The Purge becoming one of the highest return generating films of the year. And then came Zack Snyder’s Superman, exploding on screen in Man of Steel to amazing collections, even though people had varying opinions on the quality of the film. But had it not been for the success of Man of Steel we may not have a Batman vs Superman face-off in 2015, so be glad. The month was filled with more success stories as Pixar’s Monsters University and the Brad Pitt zombie flick World War Z opened on the same weekend and yet both managed to amass huge earnings. With This Is The End proving successful, the month ended with yet another R-rated movie ruling the box-office as The Heat eclipsed the high-budget film White House Down. Melissa McCarthy had quite a successful year, while for her co-star Sandra Bullock, good things were just beginning to come her way. Now even the collections in June were the best ever seen for this month! By end of June, the domestic box-office collections for 2013 was trailing the previous year by only about 8%.
And then the best surprises walked in: July turned out to be the best month of the year (it usually is!) with $1.37 billion collections in North America, up by about 4% from last year. While there were indeed a host of movies released as the summer was drawing to a close, there was amongst them one of the biggest hits of the year (second biggest in fact in worldwide revenues). Strangely, the first week of July bore the dubious distinction of hosting one of the biggest hits and one of the biggest flops of the year, as the animated sequel Despicable Me 2 simply thrashed the Johnny Depp starrer The Lone Ranger. Despicable Me 2 turned out to be sensation among kids and adults, with everyone falling in love over and over again with Gru and his family and the minions, of course. The Lone Ranger on the other hand became a case study to understand the reasons behind one of the biggest debacles in Hollywood in recent memory. The next weekend followed a similar story as Adam Sandler’s Grown Ups 2 topped Guillermo Del Toro’s sci-fi film Pacific Rim, and while the former was quite a hit for its relatively modest budget, the latter had to look to a stronger foreign run to recoup its costs. There were more surprises in store, a chilly one this time, as the horror film The Conjuring turned out to be a sensation in USA and abroad, making the director James Wan a common name in Hollywood. The Conjuring spooked quite a few movies that weekend, of which the high-budget R.I.P.D. was the most badly affected, making it a terrible year for Ryan Reynolds whose animated film Turbo also fizzled on the box-office. The Wolverine wrapped up a pretty impressive month with a fine start, and increased the anticipation for next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past.
It became quite heated: The month of August was probably the most prolific in terms of movie releases. With varying quality. There were equal hits and misses in the month. The biggest hit and not for the first time, an R-rated comedy surprise was We’re The Millers starring Jennifer Aniston. None of the movies in this month were worthy of a second watch though, barring possibly Lee Daniels’ The Butler which gave a solid performance commercially and critically, and had people talking of Oscar awards in the future. Disney’s Planes became a hit for the studio due to a clever call made to provide this movie with a theatrical run despite the initial idea of a direct-to-video release. The sci-fi Elysium did not match up to the big boys of this genre and had a moderate run. And then there were quite a few duds in the mix of things; to name a few, we recall Kick-Ass 2, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones that should be the last of their on-going/attempted franchises. The month also saw the expansion of Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine which has turned out to be one of his best performing movies in recent years.
A bit of a rest: September is traditionally the lowest performing month as far as box-office collections are concerned. But this year’s September was not bereft of some good movies on display. Insidious Chapter 2 became one of the biggest hits seen in September, keeping the torch aflame for the horror genre which had already scored big previously with Mama and The Conjuring, and also elevating James Wan’s status once again in Hollywood. Hugh Jackman starrer Prisoners and Ron Howard’s Rush became two of the best rated movies of the year, and the month also saw the directorial debut of Joseph Gordon-Levitt with Don Jon. With no competition in animation, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 did farely well for itself. And so the month was relatively quiet, but a positive one nonetheless. By now, 2013 was lagging by only 2% over 2012!
Quality got rewarded: October brought to the screens two of the best movies of the year, and thankfully, both were rewarded by the audience with good collections. Alfonso Cuarón became the man of the month (if not the year!) as his space film Gravity with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney drove people to the theatres in numbers (many came back for repeat viewings). It not only saw a fantastic opening, but also great holding power in the subsequent weeks, which kept it on top of the domestic box-office charts for a long period. Its toughest rival in the month, and rightly saw, was another amazing film, Captain Phillips, which has been directed by Paul Greengrass and sees Tom Cruise in one of his best performances in recent times. Gravity and Captain Phillips hold 97% and 93% scores, respectively, on Rottentomatoes website, one of the many indicators to exemplify the quality they brought to the theatres. Surely Oscar contenders! There were quite a failures in this month too, notably The Fifth Estate and the multi-starrer The Counselor. But another (yes, yet another) R-rated comedy got applauded by the audience, this one called Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa. On the other hand, the Stallone-Schwarzenegger awaited film Escape Plan just failed to get any spark going. Time to get The Expendables back!
The biggies returned: November opened with the latest $100 million+ budget film fail, viz. Ender’s Game, and another franchise attempt doomed. But there were some bigger franchises to save the month. First, Chris Hemsworth returned as the God of Thunder in Thor: The Dark World, which has done better than its predecessor and could rightly set Thor as a standalone hero to look forward to, rather than just a member of the Avengers. And then came the bigger franchise, the Girl on Fire in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Since 2010, this month’s biggest performing movie has been one from the book-to-film categories; in 2010, it was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, then it was The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1, and last year it was The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2. Well, doing better than them, domestically at least, is this year’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire which had the sixth-best opening weekend ever seen in North America. Domestically, this is the second highest grossing movie of the year (and still running in theatres) behind Iron Man 3, and truly has set the box-office on fire! After seeing the likes of Homefront and Delivery Man come and go, the month had a pleasant surprise to offer at the end in the form of Disney’s Frozen. In what has largely been a great year for Disney, Frozen simply added further to the festivities as its sister-love themed movie in the backdrop of a freezing winter brought warmth to the hearts of many. The movie is in fact still running strong in the theatres, and is one of the biggest animated hits for Disney for the past decade.
Right down to the wire: The biggest offering in the final month of the year was The Hobbit: The Desolation of Samug. While the movie’s opening fell short of its predecessor, it has received rave reviews and been largely liked by the audience which bodes well for the finale coming in December of next year. The month also brought a few acclaimed films, David Russell’s American Hustle and Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of the Wall Street, which have seen only a week or two since their wide release but have begun their journey well. As if we hadn’t had enough of those big-budget films failing, the Keanu Reeves starrer 47 Ronin is bound to be the last one as the year draws to a close. Another comedy film Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues got the thumbs up, while the Ben Stiller film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and the Tom Hanks starrer Saving Mr. Banks have had a so-so day on the box-office.
So, as the year draws to a close, the battle of 2013 with 2012 has gone down to the last few days. For the year till 29th December, 2013 box-office collections in North America have been estimated at $10.73 billion, which makes it fall short of the 2012 collections for the same period by only… 0.1%! In the end, 2013 may just fall a few hundreds of million dollars short of the record collections of $10.84 million seen in 2012. But it has been a great battle indeed, recovering well after a dreadful start. There has been enough to rejoice and be pleased about this year… now we wait to see what gifts and surprises 2014 has in store for us!