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Will 2015 be the Biggest Box Office Year Ever?

By Brian Byrd | Think Pieces | March 18, 2015 | Comments ()

By Brian Byrd | Think Pieces | March 18, 2015 |


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In shocking box office news, a well-reviewed movie about an iconic Disney princess earned nearly $70 million last weekend. Obviously, Robb Stark fans are legion and enjoy spending money to watch a beautiful woman cook, clean and toil in the kitchen before racing off to stalk a handsome man. This has been Misogynist Interpretations of Classic Movies with Brian Byrd. Please tip your waitress 80 percent of what you would if she were man. Or don’t tip at all since she probably enjoys serving you food and drinks all night and women shouldn’t get paid to do what they love.

The enjoyment gained from occasionally tweaking Pajiba readers isn’t the (only) reason I’m writing about Cinderella this week. While its debut is unquestionably impressive by any standard, there are a slew of upcoming films that will make Cinderella’s remarkable opening weekend seem like a limited-run Chloe Sevigny indie film by comparison.

Take a look at what’s on the docket for the next nine months:

- A preposterously anticipated sequel to the most popular film franchise of all time (a mind-boggling one-fifth of the films in the inflation-adjusted all-time box office top 20 belong to the Star Wars universe)
- Three comic book movies, including the sequel to the third-highest grossing movie of all time (Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, Fantastic Four)
- The concluding chapter to the most successful film franchise since Harry Potter (Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2)
- A sequel to one of the most popular movies ever starring the most in-demand actor on this or any other planet (Jurassic World)
- A sequel to a staggeringly popular racing/action franchise that doubles as a beloved actor’s final film appearance (Furious 7)
- A sequel to Skyfall, the highest-grossing James Bond movie ever (Spectre)
- Two original Pixar movies (Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur) and a Despicable Me spinoff (Minions)
- A Brad Bird film (Tomorrowland) and the sequel to Brad Bird’s last film (MI:5)
- A Melissa McCarthy action-comedy from the director of Bridesmaids (Spy), and a Tina Fey/Amy Poehler comedy about two middle-aged siblings who throw one last house raging house party (Sisters)

The expected returns from these films alone is enough to keep studio execs comfortably employed and able to afford the expensive hookers who bleach their assholes with free-range artisanal Clorox. This is larger than just the call girl economy, however. Thanks to an ideal release schedule and tentpole-laden summer and holiday seasons, 2015 could become the biggest box office year of all time. OF ALL TIME!
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“Hey, DUMBASS! Of course 2015 will set box office records. A ticket costs more than oneadem little French fairy cars that nearly kilt Godzilla.”

The random Skoal-guzzling hermit who randomly crashed my think piece is correct. Ticket prices are at an all-time high. One stub will cost you $8.30 on average, up from $5.39 15 years ago. That 54 percent increase means any honest comparison between annual box office earnings requires inflation-adjusted figures. Fortunately, I’m a math whiz I have access to an online inflation calculator. Here are the annual gross box office totals since 2000 (for many reasons, the year 2000 acts as the beginning of time for this exercise) converted to 2014 dollars:
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And here are the totals in graph form:
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You’ll notice 2002, led by Spider-Man, The Two Towers, Star Wars: Episode II and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, is the reigning champ with $11,948,727,084 billion in grosses, followed closely by 2011 (Avatar mania) and 2003 (Return of the King, Finding Nemo, Pirates of the Caribbean, and both Matrix sequels). In order to snatch the crown, 2015 will have to eclipse $12 billion in gross earnings in an era rife with piracy and alternative viewing options.

Still, it has a damn good chance. Below is every yet-to-be-released 2015 film (plus Cinderella) that I believe will earn more than $100 million, along with an estimated final gross. A word of caution: this exercise relies on long-term forecasts that are far from scientific and makes certain assumptions about a film’s quality that, if incorrect, may dramatically impact ticket sales (YOU’RE GODDAMM RIGHT I’M STARING AT YOU, ANT-MAN AND TERMINATOR: VAGINACYST). Essentially, my estimates are like sex with a sibling: probably wrong even though I desperately want to believe otherwise.
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(click to embiggen)

Using my approximations, 28 films will eclipse the $100 million mark in addition to Fifty Shades of Grey, The SpongeBob Movie, and Kingsman, which have already crossed the threshold. And these are just the movies that should safely reach nine figures. Another two dozen — the football drama Concussion with Will Smith, the Kristen Wiig/Zach Galifianakis/Owen Wilson heist comedy Masterminds, Jake Gyllenhaal’s Everest, Hugh Jackman’s Pan, Robert DeNiro’s The Intern, the Mad Max, Maze Runner and Magic Mike sequels, the Frankenstein, Vacation, and Point Break remakes, Aaron Sorkin’s Steve Jobs biopic, The Peanuts Movie, Entourage, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and Pixels — could easily come close to reaching or even exceed the $100 million benchmark.

Cool story, bloggerface. These 30-odd films might earn serious money. How does this help us determine whether 2015 will surpass every other year this century? Like a necrophiliac searching for older women, let’s dig a little deeper.

One way to get an idea where 2015 stands relative to its challengers is to compare both years’ highest earners. The total estimated gross of the 31 films in the above chart is $6,373,000,000. Again, these are just estimates. Conservative ones, at that. Now let’s check 2002. Adjusted for inflation, the total haul of 2002’s 31 highest-grossing pictures amounts to $6,594,757,837. Huh, 2015 still trails. Well, this was a pretty stupid piece.

Wait! Major studios and independents release a greater number of movies today than they did decade ago — 692 films hit theaters last year compared to 479 in 2002. Granted, many earn less during their theatrical run than a Wal-Mart employee pulls down in a month, but a deeper bench creates more opportunities for hits. Volume eventually rules the day. Especially in a year like 2015 that boasts the right combination of broadly appealing franchise films, diverse R-rated options for adults, and intelligent children’s fare that doesn’t double as parental punishment. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a $130 million earner land outside the top 30.

Even with two films sure to earn more than $550 million, another six or seven likely to finish above $250 million, and dozens more approaching “two-week PowerBall ticket jackpot” range, there’s certainly no guarantee 2015 reaches the mountaintop or even earns a spot on the podium. If this year ultimately falls short, just blame Cinderella for not earning as much as its more masculine contemporaries.


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