The US box-office has been a bit sluggish this year so far. Domestically, the collections are lagging last year by 4.5% for the year-to-date. Not only that, the earnings so far are behind those of each of the last five years for the corresponding period. But while that may make you believe that the studios would be struggling to recoup their investments, that is not the case. The foreign collections continue to soar and as the reach of Hollywood widens globally, the movies are no longer being made to serve the appetite of the Americans alone. So while there has been only one movie that managed breaching the famous $1 billion mark in worldwide earnings, there have still been a lot more blockbuster hits this year. So we decided to set a new threshold, the $700 million mark! It is a figure that guarantees the “superhit” status, even if the movie was made on a budget of $200 million and had another $100 million thrown in for promotional expenses. Not only that, movies with such worldwide earnings can act as a catalyst for launch of sequels / spin-offs if they aren’t already part of one; they will have huge merchandise sales and do well on the home video market too. It’s the club to be in!
Last year, which was a phenomenal year for Hollywood, there were eight movies that earned more than $700 million worldwide. This year so far, despite the weaker domestic collections, seven movies have already become part of this club. One can expect at least three more editions before the year ends (Interstellar, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies). Not a bad year after all, eh!? Here’s looking at those seven blockbusters (the collection figures are as on date of writing).
Transformers: Age of Extinction ($1,080 million)
The fourth movie of the franchise that is loved by fans and hated by the critics is the biggest worldwide earning Hollywood movie of the year so far and the only one to join the billion dollar club. It is also the only movie to open with $100 million domestically. Still the movie has the lowest domestic earnings in the Transformers franchise, though if you look at certain elements of the film as well as its promotional drive, then you’ll realise that Michael Bay was targeting not only the Americans, but one other big section of the audience too. The Chinese. Transformers: Age of Extinction, which was partly shot in China and featured an actress of that country too, stormed the second biggest movie market of the world, and eventually became the biggest Hollywood film in that land. Its overall gross from the Chinese market was in fact higher than that in North America, which puts it on the numero uno position on this list. While Michael Bay appears to be stepping away from the Transformers series finally, one cannot see the franchise coming to a close considering the success of the latest instalment. But whoever takes over the franchise, better carry with you the marketing acumen of Michael Bay to make things work!
Maleficent ($757 million)
Disney’s movie on one of its own characters, from the 1959 film Sleeping Beauty, turned into a global blockbuster that not many would have initially envisaged. It was after all the story of a villain, and so a tough one to sell. But Disney did manage it. And they could not have done it without the sheer star-power of Angelina Jolie. This phenomenal actress gave a smashing performance as the titular character Maleficent who goes through a circle of love, betrayal, hate and love again. The visual effects were spectacular, the kind that go well with a summer blockbuster. Even though the movie opened with about $70 million in North America, which is lower than the other blockbusters of the year (that largely opened above $90 million), its subsequent weekend drops were better than the rest, such that its domestic earnings are on par with the others, and in fact better than a few. Globally, the Angelina Jolie factor is bound to have worked its magic on the audience, and Disney got its $180 million investment turned into a big hit!
X-Men: Days of Future Past ($746 million)
The studios built the most expensive movie of the X-Men franchise this year, at a budget of $200 million. A gamble of sorts. They got back Bryan Singer to helm it. They filled it with a huge cast of actors, the young and the old. And it all paid off! X-Men: Days of Future Past has to be one of the best movies of the franchise, and in fact one of the best in the comic book genre. It is the biggest earner in the franchise, that too by leaps and bounds as none of the X-Men movies had so far crossed even $500 million in worldwide earnings. Singer has changed the scale of this franchise and now much more would be expected from him, as he begins work on the upcoming 2016 movie X-Men: Apocalypse.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier ($714 million)
The movies in Marvel Phase II have all benefited from the phenomenal success of 2012’s The Avengers. Same holds true for Captain America: The Winter Soldier which has earned almost twice as its 2011 predecessor. But keeping the Avengers effect aside, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is an expertly created comic book adaptation which stands out on its own. It is one of the most highly rated movies of the Marvel cinematic universe, and rightly so. The (directors) Russo brothers gave this movie the look and feel of a political thriller while keeping the roots of the original Captain America film as well as the linkages with the Marvel universe intact. Movies of such high quality will just continue to keep the faith of the audience intact with the Marvel brand!
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ($709 million)
The only downside with the box-office results of the sequel to the reboot of the Spider-Man franchise is that it had the potential to do much more. It has the lowest global earnings of the five Spider-Man movies launched by Sony since 2002. But on the upside, it is still a big hit. A big enough hit that the franchise continues, and Sony has now decided to widen the universe of Spider-Man with a movie on the Sinister Six (group of six villains) announced before The Amazing Spider-Man 3. The pairing of Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone was much loved in this movie, the visual effects were a delight, and overall, it was an entertaining affair, and at times the comparisons with Sam Raimi’s franchise seems uncalled for. The web-slinging hero continues to roll for now!
Guardians of the Galaxy ($705 million)
This movie was going to be the litmus test for Marvel. An unknown group of heroes put together, in a Marvel cinematic universe that seems familiar now. The big question was whether the audience would be as excited about new superheroes that have no connection to Joss Whedon’s The Avengers? The answer was a resounding yes. Right from its opening, the movie has seen nothing but success, commercially and critically. Not only the Marvel fans in the USA have enjoyed the film, but globally too, the movie has seen similar success as the Captain America movie. Director James Gunn brought in a much required dose of humour and fun to the superhero genre with Guardians of the Galaxy, and its lead actor Chris Pratt instantly became a household name. While this bunch won’t feature in next year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, the sequel for the movie is already in works and could tie-up with Avengers 3. Marvel definitely passed its litmus test!
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ($700 million)
2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes had been a surprise story that year. This reboot / prequel turned out to be one of the most critically loved movies, and did well commercially too, a bet that paid off rich dividends for 20th Century Fox. Much was expected from this year’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, despite director Rupert Wyatt stepping down and Matt Reeves taking over. Well, this sequel simply blew everyone away. The Shakespearean-like tale revolving around an ape has become one of the highlights of the year in terms of movie-making as well as the extent that technology has moved forward in the movie industry. Caesar is now as big a star as any other character seen this year! The production budget of this movie was almost twice that of the predecessor, so that is another bet that has worked well. The next instalment of this franchise has to follow in the steps of two spectacular movies which can’t be easy, but hopefully the standards would continue to remain this high.