Hits and Flops: Analyzing the Box Office Trends of 2013

Published 10 months ago by

Awards Contenders Perform Well

George Clooney in Gravity Hits and Flops: Analyzing the Box Office Trends of 2013

Last year was noteworthy because six out of the nine Best Picture nominees grossed over $100 million and a seventh (Zero Dark Thirty) was right there with $95.7 million. Usually, the Academy gets criticized for recognizing films most people didn’t see, but that certainly wasn’t the case in 2012. As we geared up for 2013’s awards season, many wondered if this year’s players could continue the trend. While we may not see six $100 million nominees this year, the films being considered are posting solid numbers.

October saw the release of Gravity, which grossed an astonishing $254.5 million domestically and will finish the year as one of 2013′s top ten highest grossing films. Also coming out that month was Captain Phillips, which hung in there despite the presence of Gravity and made $104.2 million. Both films had star power and Gravity enjoyed the added bonus of being a “must see in the theater” experience. It’s little wonder why these movies performed as well as they did.

2013 Box Office Recap Wolf of Wall Street Hits and Flops: Analyzing the Box Office Trends of 2013

December brought about three more awards contenders – and while it’s too early to say if all of them will reach the $100 million milestone, they are all off to solid starts. David O. Russell continued his commercial hot streak with American Hustle. At the time of this writing, the caper has grossed over $60 million and will have a lot of staying power over the next month. Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street started out lower than expected, but still posted a healthy opening total ($34.3 million since Christmas) and Saving Mr. Banks rebounded over the holiday weekend and has now made $37.8 million. If both of these films maintain strong legs, they could theoretically end up in the neighborhood of $100 million.

There are two more contenders that are getting a nationwide release on January 10 – Her and Inside Llewyn Davis. Both have been doing well in limited locations so far. The Coen brothers’ folk-music drama has grossed $4.6 million in 161 theaters while Spike Jonze’s sci-fi romance has made $1.5 million at 47 theaters. With buzz slowly building for both, it’s conceivable that they have respectable domestic totals when they expand early in 2014.

american hustle movie trailer Hits and Flops: Analyzing the Box Office Trends of 2013

Studios are probably thrilled with the turnout for these Oscar-contending films because typically, they cost considerably less than their blockbuster counterparts to produce. Captain Phillips had a budget of $55 million and American Hustle cost “only” $40 million to shoot. That seems like a hefty total, but compared with 47 Ronin’s $200 million price tag, it’s the preferred alternative. A lower production budget increases the chances a film turns a profit, and with moderately budgeted awards dramas getting audience appeal, big studios like Sony and Warner Bros. will continue to green light similar projects instead of committing hundreds of millions to a CGI-fest action movie.

Audiences seem to be making a statement with their wallets, rejecting the vapid and overproduced movies such as Lone Ranger and After Earth while embracing well-crafted films like Gravity and American Hustle. With many people on tight budgets, they have to be conscious on what they spend their hard-earned money on – and that extends to the multiplex. The last few years have shown that if your film is well-written, well-acted, and well-directed, audiences may very well buy a ticket for a rewarding movie experience.

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What do you think the overall impact of 2013′s box office will be? What were some of the biggest trends you noticed? Let us know in the comments section below.

Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisAgar90.

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TAGS: box office

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  1. HOORAY FOR SUPERHEROES!!!

  2. Iron Man 3 sickens me. I was tricked by Marvel/Disney into seeing this trainwreck. This was the first time I have been angry after seeing a movie and I am..urr was Marvel fanboy. Im very worried about future Marvel Movies except for Cap 2. I believe Disney will continue to dumb down the plots and character for mainstream audiences.
    Where the report about Iron Man 3 underperforming with its blu ray and dvd sales?

    • That’s funny, I walked out with a smile on my face, having enjoyed a great movie with a brilliant and funny plot twist that made a lot of sense.

      • IM3 plot brilliant. lol

      • Wow, nasty attitude you got there.

      • Iron Man 3 was a bad movie and a waste of Tony Stark and Co!
        Anyway glad you enjoyed it !

      • I thought it was great too. I didn’t even know who The Mandarain was before going in so I didn’t care that he was totally changed. I found it quite entertaining actually.

        Heck, there was no indication that he’d have magical powers, and he wasn’t even Chinese like the original Mandarin, so I wouldn’t have expected a faithful rendition anyway.

        • There’s a difference between changing the character and turning the character into a joke. Mandarin may not be famous, but deserves WAY better treatment than that. I would have settle for the real bearer of the Makluan Rings to show in the after credits.

    • It sicken me too! I’m so glad I saw it for free online.

    • Completely agree about the “sickening” twist of Iron Man 3. Who thought that was a good idea? I may not be a “true” comic book fan, having never purchased more than 10 actual comics, but even I knew who the Mandarin was/is to Tony Stark.

      Anyway, other than Pepper, the entire movie was a mess. Agree wholeheartedly.

  3. Superheroes!

    Congrats to IM3 and MOS for there reign in theatres and representing comic nerds of DC and Marvel

  4. This article was a ‘meh’ for me,and I wish these writers would quit trying to find new ways to slap around ‘Pacific Rim’,this movie obviously has a passionate fanbase,it did moderately well at the box office and from what I have read on some websites it is doing really well on the home video market,and may yet still spawn a sequel someday,so debating if Pacific Rim was a sucess or a failure,is moot at this point,IMO.

    • It’s not a moot point when you’re writing an article about the money that the big movies made this year. They’re going to mention Pacific Rim.

    • By your logic… ALL of this is a moot point. And you are sort of right. It is what it is, but it is an interesting read for me.

      And “Even Pacific Rim, which made $101.8 million domestically, was labeled as a disappointment because it did not meet studio expectations.” is so far away from “slapping around” Pacific Rim. You are obviously overly sensitive on the subject. If you like it, fantastic. I enjoyed it. On the second weekend at the 3D IMAX. With 4 other people in the theater. That isn’t good.

      • @JB

        You’re American, right?

        No wonder. The movie didn’t so so well there.

        I went on the second weekend in the IMAX 3D format and the entire place was packed. Not a single empty seat. The cinema told me it had been packed like that since PR’s release date the week before. I still saw massive lines that snaked around the building to get into Pacific Rim when I saw The World’s End not long after.

        Maybe the US doesn’t appreciate good movies? (Fact: a poor Adam Sandler sequel did bigger money in the US than PR did on that same weekend, make of that what you will)

        • Maybe overseas viewers are to easily impressed by 3D which is a major turn off to many American viewers, but seems
          to draw in overseas audiences like flies to a dead cat.

          Maybe its Americans don’t appreciate a good movie,maybe its overseas audiences are not discerning enough when it comes to big dumb American films.

          Maybe you’re point about Adam Sandler is on to something because comedy tends to be more local in its appeal.

          Audiences tend to be better served in that genre by films by ones own countrymen made to reflect their every days lives and culture.Adam Sandler films do well in the states because the humor is to our tastes, just like British audiences can watch a British comedy that reflects their tastes.

          Sure some comedies can appeal to everybody, but overall they tend much more so on a local basis.Since America is
          making the lion’s share of event films,there is little choice for overseas audiences when it comes to an American SCI-Fi
          or Superhero films, because outside of the Bond films, and a few other series made to that scale outside of Hollywood.

          Nobody makes a blockbuster like America does.

        • @Dazz – pacific Rim wasn’t really a “good” movie but it wasn’t crappy either. It was everything I wanted in a mid-summer blockbuster honestly. Sequels always do well in the States though because audiences know what to expect – it’s a “safe” bet. Maybe PR was just too original of an idea for people to get behind?

          Was sad to see it under perform so poorly domestically though. It dipped into Lone Ranger territory (eek) and it was definitely better than that mess of a film.

          Paul Young

        • Once again, you can’t hide your anti-American bias (even though you have claimed that you aren’t). JB was absolutely correct to point out that what was written about Pacific Rim in this article wasn’t an example of the movie being “slapped around.” Furthermore, the op wrote that he enjoyed the movie. Yet, you’re still overly sensitive to any perceived criticism of your favorite movie ever. Also, it’s only your opinion, not a fact, that Pacific Rim is a good movie. For 2014, you should strive to dial down your rants about America and how butt hurt you get when people write “negative” things about Pacific Rim.

          • I also responded to him, before I saw your comments.

            It’s as if an American stole his lollipop from him when he was a baby, and he has held onto the hurt ever since (likely only ten years now).

            • Also, Dazz failed to mention that PR did worse than GU II in GB. By Dazz’s “logic”, maybe the UK doesn’t appreciate “good” movies.

        • Eyes rolling. There you go again, Dazz…

          “Maybe he US doesn’t appreciate good movies?”

          Whom else do you dislike and belittle so absolutely, you poor boy?

        • Maybe the US audience just doesn’t care for a movie about giant robots and monsters, Dazz. Have you got action figures from the movie to play with?

    • @Lando’s Son – Actually, American audiences by and large didn’t care for Pacific Rim and it made $90M less than its posted production budget domestically. However, the international market LOVED it and it made over $300M.

      Doesn’t mean we think it was a bad movie but it’s hard to argue with performance numbers.

      Paul Young

  5. *success,sorry my spelling sucks sometimes.

  6. I think superheroes will be big money for the studios for some time to come. Disney and WB will be fine but I worry about FOX work with X Men and FF.

  7. Gotta say, a 200 million dollar return on a $207 investment sounds pretty good to me.

    • Then you need to go back to school.

      • You must have missed it the first 2 times so let me spell it out for you:
        $200,000,000 > $207

    • Have you ever heard of a calculator? Dumb question, just go by one….lol

      • In this context return means a return on investment, AKA profit. It cost $200 million+ and grossed over $400 million worldwide. Way to jump all over someone without first doing a little research.

    • That reminds me of the austrailian dude from Anchorman 2.

      “When I was a boy my father gave me 300 million dollars, and I labored my whole life to turn that sum into 305 million dollars..” *applause “Thank you! Thank you!”

  8. Regarding all of those “young adult” films, I am fairly young at heart and enjoy fantasy, but The Mortal Instruments could not have looked more boring, pointless, generic and uninteresting to me in previews. Many of those films hit a similar vein.

    Hunger Games has a focused-enough premise to stand out in the realm of blockbusters. But most of the other zombie love/possession/mystical whatever YA films just do not appeal to general audiences much, in my estimation. To make big money, they’re going to need to successfully sell themselves as something other than “more of the same” and also be good enough to get positive reviews.

    Generally speaking, I would like to see more original films. I love good franchises, but there is a lot of untapped potential for new stories. I did like Oblivion and enjoyed Pacific Rim.

  9. Most of the films released this year in the Geriatric action genre flopped as well.

  10. Had a free pass to see The Lone Ranger, it stank. The last act was the best part. The theater was half full and some people left. What a disappointment. Can’t see very strong DVD sales for that clunker.

  11. I’m surprised Desolation of Smaug wasn’t mentioned while other December releases were. It was #1 3 weeks in a row and has made almost $200 Million, and is still going strong (poised to make a billion or close to it).

    • Agreed, but this site, as much as I like it, is dominated primarily by fanboys of comic books, and thus, The Hobbit and other great films, some of which (like The Hobbit), make far more money than the comic book movies, aren’t as frequenly discussed, since they don’t produce as many comments from the typical contributor and reader here.

    • The Hobbit was a big earner for sure. It just didn’t really fit into any of the “trends” I chose to highlight in the article. The December releases I focused on were the smaller awards contenders.

  12. Too bad about Ender’s Game; thought it was an incredibly solid film that broached some big, relevant issues. It’s more pensive underpinning may have ultimately done it in though in terms of box office, but I do think it will be one of those films that gains more appreciation as time goes on.

    • What I’m pissed about is that Percy Jackson 2 beat it… That movie was freaking awful and shouldn’t have beaten a movie as good as Ender.

      • That prbly sounds like a super random comparison haha.. They were just mentioned back to back in the article and it stuck out to me.

  13. I’m also glad superheroes are still dominating. It was indeed a shame to see The Mandarin reduced to the position he was – but he’s an old villain for Tony Stark/Iron Man. Extensis is the ‘new’ toy they are playing with now so it kind of made sense to me.

    I also saw PR at an IMAX 3D theater and I saw it on the Thurs night premiere. Well worth it. I hate that Ender’s Game didn’t do as well – it was awesome to watch in IMAX 3D.

    I do agree there were just too many films out this year. I went every weekend during the summer (I even have the Mayorship of my theater) and I still didn’t get to see all the movies I wanted to. I hope the studios realize that releases need to be spaced out and perhaps should not make so many movies!

  14. I like the idea of more award contender films. Gravity and American Hustle were two of my favorite movies this year. I haven’t gotten around to Captain Phillips yet but everybody seems to love it.

    There are definitely too many blockbusters. I feel like Star Trek 2 for example could have had stronger numbers if it didn’t release right after Gatsby (which made a decent amount of money) and right before Fast 6 and The Hangover III. Like the article mentions the market is becoming saturated.

    On another note I’m still bitter than Pacific Rim got beat out in its first week in the states by Grown Ups 2. GROWN UPS 2!?!

    It’ll prbly take me a while to get over that haha.

  15. One of the most underrated movies that I don’t hear a lot about is Rush. I REALLY enjoyed that movie, thought the race scenes were fantastic and kept me at the edge of my seat, and the personal drama with the drivers was also really gripping. It made me really interested in reading up about the true events that inspired the film, and the true events were very close and just as interesting as the movie. I’m glad that movie opened my eyes to such an important series of events in automotive racing history. I honestly don’t see how it isn’t an award contender.