As per our tradition here at Pajiba, we spend the first full week of the New Year reflecting on the movies of the previous year, because that gives us a chance to actually see most of the movies from the prior year before making our assessments. Also, because the first week of the year is typically a slow news week, and it gives us something to write about.
We begin, of course, with a look back at the year at the box-office, which saw the lowest attendance in 20 years. Most troubling is the fact that attendance is down most year over year among younger people, who have found better things to do with their time, like dogging and Netflix.
Let’s quickly take a look at the 20 biggest hits of the year, worldwide (because worldwide is what really matters these days):
1. Transformers: Age of Extinction: $1.08 billion
2. Guardians of the Galaxy: $772 million
3. Maleficent: $757 million
4. X-Men: Days of Future Past: $746 million
5. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies: $722 million
6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier: $714 million
7. The Amazing Spider-Man 2: $709 million
8. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: $708
9. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1: $695 million
10. Interstellar: $653 million
11. How to Train Your Dragon 2: $618 million
12. Godzilla: $525 million
13. Rio 2: $498 milllion
14. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: $477 million
15. The LEGO Movie: $468 million
16. Lucy: $458 million
17. Big Hero 6: $378 million
18. Edge of Tomorrow: $369 million
19. Noah: $362 million
20. Gone Girl: $362 million
As you can see, there’s only two original properties in the whole damn bunch (Interstellar and Lucy, while everything else was a sequel, based on an existing property, or adapted, though props to both Gone Girl and Edge of Tomorrow for not being franchise movies. Michael Bay, sadly, is still the biggest force at the box-office, with two entries in the top 20 (one as director, one as producer). Meanwhile, given the worldwide success of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, I’m a little surprised by how troubled that franchise is, even if the film didn’t fare as well in America (it was 11th with $202 million). You can see why the box-office is down, however. Last year, there were 5 films with more than $800 million in worldwide grosses, and in 2012, there were four films with more than a billion in grosses.
Studios are so careful about how they spend their money these days, and so conservative in their approach, that true flops (films that make less worldwide than the production budget) are a rarity, although obviously box-office minus production budget is not the best measure because it doesn’t take into account marketing and the fact that studios only get back a percentage of the box office (around 50 percent). However, it’s still the best measure we have statistics for, and as such, these were the year’s biggest flops based on a comparison between the box office and production budgets (and you can extrapolate receipts and marketing from there and draw a fairly accurate conclusion):
1. Legends of Oz:Dorothy’s Return: $18 million on a $70 million budget
2. Winter’s Tale: $30 million on a $60 million budget
3. Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For $40 million on a $65 million budget
4. The Legend of Hercules — $61 million on a $70 million budget
5. Transcendance $103 million on a $100 million budget
6. I, Frankenstein: $71 million on a $65 million budget
7. Pompeii: $117 million on a $100 million budget
8. Sabotage: $17 million on a $35 million budget
9. Tusk: $1.8 million on a $3 million budget
10. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: $1 million on a $3 million purchase price
That’s kind of it. It’s depressing to realize that, thanks to worldwide box office, even duds in America like Need for Speed, Dracula Untold, and Blended made two or three times back their production budgets. Studios simply do not leave a lot of room for failure, which also means they’re not taking a lot of chances, which also means that smaller movies are getting pushed into VOD.
On the other hand, there were quite a few movies that made more money — or experienced much larger profit — than you might have expected.
Let’s take a look at some of the best sleeper examples of 2014:
1. Lucy: $458 million on a $40 million budget
2. The Fault in Our Stars: $304 million on a $12 million budget
3. The Maze Runner: $339 million on a $34 million budget
4. Neighbors: $268 million on an $18 million budget
5. Annabelle: $252 million on a $6.5 million budget
6. Ride Along: $153 million on a $25 million budget
7. Let’s Be Cops: $126 million on a $17 million budget
8. Heaven is for Real: $101 million on a $12 million budget
9. Tammy: $100 million on a $20 million budget
10. The Purge: Anarchy: $110 million on a $9 million budget
A few so-called indie flicks did very well, too. Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel mustered $172 million worldwide (which is Anderson’s biggest hit to date), Nightcrawler has made $38 million on only an $8 million budget (and should continue to add to that during awards season), and Chef’s $45 million makes it probably the purest word-of-mouth hit of the year (Jon Favreau marketed it mostly on social media).