Welcome to my annual look back at the winners and losers at the movies over the past year. Yes indeed, it is the Box Office Year in Review for 2014, a look back at the motion pictures that you, the audience, flocked to see.
What is most remarkable about last year has not been the overall box office story, but all the other nonsense that went on. I am talking, of course, about the massive cyberhacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. that brought that company literally to its knees.
The multitude of confidential information and emails that were leaked, many of them embarrassing, as well as the threats made against the release of The Interview were clearly the story of the year.
Of course, the whole saga of The Interview being pulled from cinemas, and then reinstated shortly after alongside a major digital release, was another major news item.
In the end, I am not convinced that whole mess made much of a difference to the overall big picture with Hollywood in 2014. As I said before, The Interview probably would have flopped on its own merits had these North Korean sympathizers left the movie alone and not raised heck about its portrayal of supreme leader Kim Jong-un.
Keep in mind Sony’s original plan was to release this movie in October, and anyone who knows the movie industry knows October is “dead season” at cinemas when the flops and other junk is released. Clearly, Sony did not have confidence in The Interview to begin with. All the problems associated with that release would have made no difference at all in the grand scheme of things as far as which movies would have made it to the Top 10 for the year at the box office. That is all I have to say about The Interview, Sony and that whole controversy.
Now, a look at the overall box office results.
The big line of bull we got from people about the box office had to do with how digital technology, pirating and competition from video games, iPads and the like was to blame for the drop off in revenues at the cinemas in 2014.
I’m sorry, but this had nothing to do with it! It was a down year because the movies at the theatres were unoriginal. It was a boring lineup served up by Hollywood.
It’s as simple as that. That’s the reason people stayed home to play video games and use their iPads and watch their big-screen TVs, because going to the movies just wasn’t worth it.
We had one retread after another all summer long. We had yet another Spider-Man movie, yet another X-Men and another Planet of the Apes. They brought back Godzilla from the ocean depths and then they served up yet another bad Transformers movie, and on and on. They even brought back Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and threw Megan Fox of Transformers fame into the cast, just for the heck of it.
In fact, if you look at the top movies for the year, it’s really telling that among the big hits were (a) The Lego Movie and (b) Guardians of the Galaxy. Why did these two do well? Maybe it was because these movies were new franchises, with new characters and fresh ideas, for a change.
Now, granted, not all the retreads were bad movies. In fact, some of them were pretty good. In general, though, people were starved for original entertainment. These two movies delivered in spades and the box office reflected it.
Overall the lineup of movies was, with few exceptions, not of the calibre where movie fans were inspired to jump up and down and say “wow, I want to see this movie.” That’s why, according to Rentrak Corp., movie-going revenue was down over 5.2 per cent for the year, to $10.35 billion. During the summer months, the box office was down even more, something like 15 per cent.
And I am convinced the doldrums will continue. Maybe 2015 will be better simply due to the numbers of major movies being released, but the only way the box office will really rebound is when we again see some compelling, buzz-worthy projects released, such as that Batman-Superman movie that has long been talked about. We need to see the kind of movie that will excite the masses the way Avatar did or The Dark Knight or The Avengers. Only then will you see people marching back to the theatres in droves.
Summing it up, 2014 was a lousy year, in all kinds of ways. The hacking at Sony really was the icing on the cake.
Now here is a look at the 2014 releases that finished in the Top Ten for the year, with domestic revenues as of Jan. 6, 2014. The numbers are courtesy the folks at Box Office Mojo.
Sneaking into number 10 is Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Fox) with a domestic haul of $208,545,589.
At number 9 is the animated Big Hero 6, from Buena Vista, with a haul of $211,561,351 and counting. Its Nov. 7 opening weekend drew $56,215,889.
Number 8, and also still counting, is The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Warner Bros.), which has hauled in $222,379,434. Its Dec. 17 release made $54,724,334 on its opening weekend.
At no. 7 was X-Men: Days of Future Past (Fox) with a haul of $233,921,534. Its opening in May drew $90,823,660.
Number 6 was Maleficent (Buena Vista), starring Angelina Jolie, with a haul of $241,410,378
Number 5 was Transformers: Age of Extinction (Paramount), which made $245,439,076 after an opening weekend total in June of over $100 million.
At number 4, The LEGO Movie (Warner Bros.), with a haul of $257,760,692. Most notable was that this was a February release that dominated the box office for the early portion of the year.
At number 3, Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Buena Vista), made $259,766,572. Also notable was the fact this movie was released in April, and therefore set records for the month when it was released. Its opening weekend topped out at $95,023,721, which was an April record.
Now, we come to the battle for first place for the year.
Usually, this is the point in the column where I would declare a box office champion for 2014 with all the bells and whistles associated with it. But I am in no position to do that because, as of this week, the race is still too close to call.
As of Jan. 6, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (Lions Gate Films) had made a domestic box office total of $324,301,247. Its opening weekend in November totalled $121,897,634.
Not far ahead, at the moment, is Guardians of the Galaxy (Buena Vista), which is the current leader at $333,055,258. Its Aug. 1 opening weekend haul was $94,320,883.
The problem for Guardians of the Galaxy is that it has made about as much money as it is going to make. Mockingjay Part I, meanwhile, is still in theatres and still making money. Last weekend alone, it took in over $7 million.
It should be another week or two before Mockingjay Part I passes Guardians of the Galaxy to become the Number One movie at the domestic box office for 2014.
Here’s another thing to consider, that latest Hobbit movie, which currently sits at number 8 overall, is still in theatres and still making money. Last weekend it made $20 million alone. So it has an outside chance at eventually catching Mockingjay for the lead if it keeps on making money. At this point I would say it is a long shot.
The bottom line is, I cannot tell you with certainty which movie is the box office champion of 2014. From my vantage point, it looks like it will be Mockingjay Part I, but nothing is official yet.
That about does it for my look back at 2014 at the box office! What will 2015 bring?
Well, let’s see. Taking a quick look at the calendar, there’s going to be another Avengers movie, another Ted movie, another Magic Mike, another Terminator, another Alvin and the Chipmunks, another Mission Impossible, another Star Wars movie and of course, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part II.
Yes, it looks like another year of the same old, same old at the cinemas in 2015. Just like it was in 2014.