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The 15 Directors Who Made the Most Films Before Directing Their First $100 Million Movie

By Dustin Rowles | Box Office Round-Ups | October 1, 2012 |

By Dustin Rowles | Box Office Round-Ups | October 1, 2012 |

The number two movie at the box office this weekend was Rian Johnson’s outstanding time-travel flick, Looper, which is not only one of the more entertaining films of the year, it’s one of those films that sticks with you for days as you work through the film’s time travel rules. Like many of you, I’m sure, I watched Looper on the same weekend as the Amy Pond “Doctor Who” finale, and all the wibbly wobbly timey wimey rules nearly caused my head to explode (OMG! Is Rory closing the loop?). It was a solid $21 million opening weekend, and I’m hoping good word of mouth keeps it going for a few weeks (a cool note on Looper: It’s the first film to ever have a bigger opening in China than anywhere else in the world, according to Box Office Mojo).

I was also happy to see one of Pajiba’s favorite directors, Rian Johnson, finally make a movie that was accepted by mainstream audiences after The Brothers Bloom and Brick failed to find huge box-office success. It also got me thinking about directors with lengthy careers, and how most fit into either one category — those who make big movies from the beginning, and score $100 million success in their first or second try — or another other — indie film types who spend years, or even decades being successful directors without ever making a $100 million film (Wes Anderson, Woody Allen, Kevin Smith).

But what about those who do spend decades making films but finally do discover mainstream success later in their careers? That’s the topic of this week’s box-office list: The 16 directors who made the most films before directing their first $100 million movie.

Here are the 15 directors, how many films it took them to achieve that mark, and their first film to cross $100 million.

15. Ang Lee — 7th Film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

14. Danny Boyle — 8th Film, Slumdog Millionaire

13. George Miller — 9th Film, Happy Feet

12. Jonathan Demme — 9th Film, Silence of the Lambs

11. Joel Schumacher — 10th Film, Batman Forever

10. Sam Raimi — 10th Film, Spider-Man

9. Ridley Scott — 10th Film, Gladiator

8. Kenneth Branagh — 11th Film, Thor

7. Alan Pakula — 12th Film, The Pelican Brief

6. Mike Newell — 12th Film, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

5. Brian DePalma — 13th Film, Mission Impossible

4. Wes Craven — 13th Film, Scream

3. Clint Eastwood — 16th Film, Unforgiven

2. Martin Scorcese — 17th Film, The Aviator

1. The Coen Brothers — 17th Film, True Grit

The irony about most of them is that they’d all be considered successful, influential directors even if they’d never managed to make that big crossover hit.

Elsewhere at the box office, Hotel Transylvania actually finished at number one. In fact, it’s $43 million opening was the biggest September opening weekend of all time, putting it ahead of Sweet Home Alabama’s $35 million. It’s also Adam Sandler’s second biggest debut weekend, behind The Longest Yard.

Meanwhile, End of Watch had a nice hold (falling only 39 percent) to $8 million, good for third at the box office, while Trouble with the Curve dropped only 38 percent to land at number four. House at the End of the Street was at number five.

Joanna will have a review of Pitch Perfect up later today, as I didn’t anticipate that it would do so well in limited release. It landed at number six with $5.2 million in only 335 theaters. It goes wide this weekend, and I guess people are really excited about it. On othe other side of the ledger, Won’t Back Down — which opened in eight times more theaters than Pitch Perfect, nevertheless pulled in only half its gross with $2.7 million. That is actually the second worst opening ever for a movie opening in over 2500 theaters, behind only The Rocker.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.