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The 10 Biggest Costume Dramas of All Time (Sort of)

By Dustin Rowles | Box Office Round-Ups | January 31, 2011 |


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The big news at the weekend box-office was not that The Rite (review soon to come) took the number one spot, with a decent $15 million (decent, that is, for an old person movie -- 64 percent of attendees were over 25), or that The Mechanic debuted softly at number three, with $11.5 million (which is on par with most of Statham's flicks, save for the bad opening of Crank: High Voltage), or even that -- with no new female targeted movies, No Strings Attached held on to number two with $13.5 million. The bigger news was the Oscar bumps for several movies, particularly The King's Speech, which had its biggest weekend yet with $11.1 million. The Black Swan and The Fighter also held well, adding $5.1 million and $4.1 million to their respective totals, while True Grit actually increased over last week's numbers, adding $7.6 million.

What's most unusual here for Oscar flicks is that seven of the ten Best Picture nominees have already surpassed $100 million at the box office or likely will before the end of their run (this is most surprising, perhaps, for The King's Speech, which is a Best Picture nominee and a historical costume drama, which is like 17 strikes against it, for box office purposes).

The only three best picture nominees not likely to break $100 million are The Kids Are All Right ($20 million), Winter's Bone ($6 million) and 127 Hours ($13 million).

For some context on the amazing success of The King's Speech, depending on how loosely or narrowly you apply the Costume Drama label (and assuming it's even loose enough to include The King's Speech), it's $72 million actually makes it the biggest costume drama of all time.

Here are the top ten costume dramas, as defined by The Numbers.

1. The King's Speech -- $72 million (and counting)

2. The Prestige -- $53 million

3. Sense and Sensibility -- $42 million

4. The Illusionist -- $39 million

5. Pride and Prejudice -- $38 million

6. The Other Boleyn Girl -- $26 million

7. Howard's End -- $25 million

8. The Remains of the Day -- $22 million

9. Emma -- $22 million

10. Becoming Jane -- $18 million


Note, however, that I'm not sure how The Numbers categorizes costume dramas. Atonement ($50 million), for instance, feels like a costume drama to me, as does The Age of Innocence ($32 million), but neither are included. You could also probably include Titanic or Cold Mountain or Elizabeth Sommersby. So, clearly, the definition of "costume drama" for these purposes is up for debate. But I like this particular definition because The King's Speech is number one.

Either way, The King's Speech is doing remarkably well for a movie with no special effects, no mind-bending plot, no huge stars, and a somewhat unknown director. It's a performance piece, and it's nice to see that it's appreciated by audiences.


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