Movies cost a lot of money and they make a lot of money back. People love seeing movies and they don’t mind paying, even with ticket prices increasing each year. It’s a cultural phenomenon and a little angering when you realize just how much money pushes through these companies. All the same, let’s take a look. Now, I wanted to wait as long as possible to make this list because there are always blockbusters released in December that don’t have time to accumulate as large a box office. Usually December films are just included in the next year’s totals, so we’ll treat them as such here with a quick reference to them at the end. Disclaimer – all facts and figures for this article come from BoxOfficeMojo.com.
As expected, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 was the biggest film of the years, grossing $381 million domestically for a total of $1.328 billion, making it the third highest-grossing film of all time. In a close second comes Transformers: Dark of the Moon with $352 domestic and $1.1 billion total. Note that both of these films released in IMAX 3D, which does factor slightly. Both films also cost between $200-300 million (Potter’s budget is split for two films so it’s hard to specify), so both films made huge gains that gave their respective studios (Warner Bros and Paramount) large second quarters.
Domestically, here’s the breakdown (in millions, obviously):
3 – Twilight: Break Dawn, Part 1 – $267, $648 total
4 – The Hangover Part II – $254, $581 total
5 – Pirates: On Stranger Tides – $241, $1.04 billion total
6 – Fast Five – $209, $626 total
7 – Cars 2 – $191, $551 total
8 – Thor – $181, $449 total
9 – Rise of the Planet of the Apes – $176, $481 total
10 – Captain America – $176, $368 total
11 – The Help – $169, $201 total
It use to be that films made the majority of their box office domestically despite being released worldwide, but in recent years foreign markets have grown more and more important to overall box office. Films like Thor and Cars 2 do poorly in the states, I would argue, but still make good profit overseas. It’s also the overseas market that determines the billion dollar films. No film made over $400 million in the states alone much less pushing things towards the billion dollar mark.
In many ways, though, 2011 is similar to how I predict 2012 will be in that there are a few mega-hits and the rest are just profitable. Three of the ten films to pass a billion dollars are from 2011, but after that, based on worldwide grosses, the next 2011 film is Kung Fu Panda 2 in 49th spot with $669 million. Studios do this a lot, really, in that they make sure their year is profitable off one or two major releases and then can relax around their other films. Some of these more interesting box office figures will be highlighted in an upcoming article.
Total box office gross for 2011, thus far, is $9.651 billion, almost a third of which comes from two films alone. That’s a lot of money by anyone’s standards, but it’s also down from the past two years. Keep in mine there are still two weeks left for films like Holmes, Mission Impossible, and Tintin to give a last minute boost, so we’ll see where things end up, but the different won’t be dramatic. Many analysts seem to agree that 2011 reflects the first year the film industry has truly been hit by the recession that ended years ago or something. This isn’t a complaint in that the industry was still very, very successful and profitable, but overall margins were down and it’s a cautious sign as we move into 2012. I suppose the moral here is…don’t pirate movies, pay to see them in theaters like they deserve to be.
Stay tuned for 2011’s Biggest Box Office Flops!
See: My Favorite Films of 2011