This week Neil Calloway looks at what made money in 2014, and what to expect at your local multiplex in 2015…
What’s the highest grossing film of 2014? I’d have guessed Guardians of the Galaxy, and with regard to US box office, I’d have been correct. Internationally however, the highest grossing film of 2014 is Transformers: Age of Extinction. That’s right, no film has made more money at the global box office than the fourth film in a Michael Bay franchise that’s based on a series of toys released thirty years ago. It has also become the tenth highest grossing film of all time, so let’s not worry about Hollywood running out of ideas and playing safe with franchises that appeal to only a small percentage of the population, because the new Transformers movie made over a billion.
Of the top twenty films at the global box office this year, only two – Interstellar (at number nine) and Lucy (at fifteen) are original films, and not a franchise, remake, reboot, adaptation, sequel, any combination of the above or based on little plastic bricks you played with as a kid (Noah, at number eighteen, is not explicitly credited as an adaptation, but it can hardly be considered an original story).
I was pleasantly surprised to see The Inbetweeners 2 at number two in the UK box office chart for this year, just over a million shy of The Lego Movie‘s gross at £35.7 million, not because I’m fan of the film, but because it shows we can still cut it and make a film that makes money, even if it is the sequel to a spin off movie from a TV series.
What is worth noting is that of the international top ten, only The Lego Movie made more than half of his money in the US. There was a time when domestic box office was king, but that is now over. As recently as 2008 The Dark Knight was the number one film at the global box office, with most of its takings coming in the US. Iron Man 3 had additional scenes filmed for its release in China, and the 2012 Red Dawn remake changed the invading army from China to North Korea so it didn’t harm its box office in Beijing (it was a more innocent age when the studios didn’t care what Pyongyang thought about the films they were releasing). Nowadays you’re as likely to see London destroyed in an action film as you are New York. That’s partly down to shooting films internationally often costs less than shooting them purely in the US, but it is also an acknowledgement that setting films outside North America might lead to bigger takings abroad, too.
If we get the politicians we deserve, we also get the films we deserve. If avant garde arthouse movies made money then the multiplexes would be full of impenetrable black and white French films rather than comic book movies, as it is, they aren’t, and that’s only because the films that people want to see are what is familiar to them. Franchises, reboots, remakes and sequels are also easier to sell; if you’re making films that are relentlessly put in front of focus groups before, during and after production, projects with name recognition are going to be more popular than those without it (one of the reasons I like Pacific Rim so much is that is is everything a comic book movie should be, but it is completely original).
My one hope for 2015 in cinema is that we see more original films aimed at grown ups. It’s looking good so far, with Hot Tub Time Machine 2, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Furious 7, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Jurassic World, Ted 2, Ant-Man, The Man from U.N.C.L.E, Mission:Impossible 5 and Star Wars: The Force Awakens all being slated for release. All good, original films, right?
The next time the dictator of a rogue state orders his cyber army to hack a film studio, he shouldn’t just demand they pull the release of a Seth Rogen and James Franco movie, he should demand more serious films for adults. He’d have my backing.
Neil Calloway is a pub quiz extraordinaire and Top Gun obsessive. Check back here every Sunday for future installments.