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The 20 Highest Grossing Screenwriters of All Time

By Dustin Rowles | Box Office Round-Ups | January 23, 2012 |

By Dustin Rowles | Box Office Round-Ups | January 23, 2012 |

The year-over-year returns continued to surge this week, as the box-office was 26 percent over last year’s returns for the same weekend. That’s due in large part to the unexpected success of the top two films of the weekend, Underworld Awakening ($25.4 million) and the George Lucas produced Red Tails ($19.1 million). Awakening improved on the most recent entry into the Underworld series (Rise of the Lycans) but came in around the same as Kate Beckinsale’s last entry. No doubt, there will be at least one more, as suggested by ending of Awakening.

The bigger surprise was Red Tails, which few predicted would make much of an impact at the box office. But, no one anticipated school buses and church groups to show up in droves, nor a Cinemascore grade of an A (Prisco will have our review up shortly; it’s not nearly as kind). Apparently, George Lucas still has a little box office mojo left in him.

Speaking of George Lucas, he tops the list of the 20 Highest Grossing Screenwriters of all time, which is largely comprised of the screenwriters of huge blockbuster franchises with lots of sequels. In fact, I think the only guy on this list without a sequel to his name is Chris Sanders, the screenwriter for several of those Disney flicks back in the early 90s, including this week’s number five film, the re-issue of Beauty and the Beast.

1. George Lucas (Star Wars) ($3.3 billion)

2. Terry Rossio (Dead Man’s Chest) ($2.47 billion)

3. Terry Elliot (Dead Man’s Chest ($2.41 billion)

4. David Koepp (Spider-Man) ($2.1 billion)

5. James Cameron (Avatar) ($2.04 billion)

6. Steve Kloves (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) ($1.855 billion)

7. John Hughes (Home Alone) ($1.69 billion)

8. Andrew Stanton (Toy Story 3) ($1.61 billion)

9. Akiva Goldsman (I Am Legend) ($1.59 billion)

10. Chris Sanders (Lion King ($1.322 billion)

11. Alex Kurtzman (Transformers 2) ($1.295 billion)

12. Robert Orci (Transformers 2) ($1.295 billion)

13. John Lasseter (Toy Story 3) ($1.259 billion)

14. Sylvester Stallone (Rambo: First Blood II) ($1.259 billion)

15. Lawrence Kasdan (Return of the Jedi ($1.22 billion)

16. Pete Doctor (Up) ($1.21 billion)

17. Ehren Kruger (Transformers 2) ($1.19 billion)

18. Steven Zaillian (Mission Impossible) ($1.15 billion)

19. Melissa Rosenberg (Twilight Saga: Eclipse ($1.13 billion)

20. Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight) ($1.10 billion)


Not so impressive were the debuts of Haywire and the expansion of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire — which was fairly well received by critics, but not so much by audiences (it received a D+ from Cinemascore) — debuted at number six with $9 million. While that is not so impressive, Haywire was made for only $23 million, so expect it to recoup its investment (Red Tails, meanwhile, costs nearly $60 million and may not make it’s money back). Meanwhile, the treacly Extremely Loud debuted at number four with $11.2 million, and without some Oscar love, it will probably fade quickly, as has the box-office star of Tom Hanks.

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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.