Now You See Me — $117 million ($350 million worldwide) on an $80 million budget ($270 million in profit) — A quiet hit over the summer, the caper with the mid-level ensemble was targeted at adult audiences, who are often slow to get to the theater, but word-of-mouth and some crowd-pleasing magic kept this humming along in theaters all summer long.
We’re the Millers — $150 million ($269 million worldwide) on a $37 million budget ($232 million in profit) — Released near the end of the summer after the superhero blockbusters faded into the background, Rawson Thurber’s comedy with Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis quietly dominated the comedy marketplace for several weeks in August and September and even through October, despite initially being dismissed as the movie where Jennifer Aniston strips.
Mama — $71 million ($146 million worldwide) on a $15 million budget ($131 million in profit) — Mama benefited greatly from Guillermo del Toro’s name attached to the producer, and its international draw allowed it to corner the horror market through most of 2013’s first quarter.
This Is the End — $101 million ($125 million worldwide) on a $32 million budget ($93 million in profit). The Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy (with cameos from half of Hollywood’s comedic actors) got demolished in its opening weekend by Man of Steel ($116 million to $20 million), but despite a small international draw, This is the End coasted along quietly from June until September, then bounced again in the box-office rankings with a re-release that pushed it over $100 million.
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa — $100 million ($102 million worldwide) on a $15 million budget ($87 million in profit) — Johnny Knoxville’s super low-budget prank comedy managed to put up $100 million quietly because Jackass movies are the movies we all see but never admit to anyone else.
Warm Bodies — $66 million ($116 million worldwide) on a $35 million budget ($81 million in profit) — Despite very little star-power, the quirky romantic zombie-com hung around theaters for all of February, and despite no real international draw, managed to double its money overseas.
Evil Dead — $54 million ($97 million worldwide) on a $17 million budget ($80 million in profit) — Another low-budget horror movie with no real stars, only a recognizable title, Evil Dead managed to put up solid numbers on a scant budget because it was the rare horror remake that was actually good.
Instructions Not Included — $44 million ($85 million worldwide) on a $5 million budget ($80 million in profit) — The Mexican comedy drama that most of you have never heard of exploited the Hispanic market in the United States, and despite being a Spanish-language film, actually did better in the US than internationally.
Prisoners — $61 million ($118 million worldwide) on a $46 million budget ($72 million in profit) — Like Jake Gyllenhaal quietly successful End of Watch in 2012, Prisoners succeeded thanks to great acting and a strong script that generated solid word of mouth, turning this devastating film into a quiet success.
42 — $95 million (no international release) on a $40 million budget ($55 million in profit) — Studios are often reluctant to release movies these days with no international appeal, and baseball movies are already a hard sell (42 is now the second most successful baseball movie ever at the box office), but the $95 million pull is a testament to solid, earnest storytelling, and the power of the central character in the film, Jackie Robinson.