Welcome to my annual Box Office Year in Review, where I review the domestic grosses of the movies that made it into theatres across North America.
It was a year in which tragic events in the United States overshadowed the box office. Impacting most directly were the events at the Century 16 cinemas in Aurora, Colo. when a crazed gunman killed 12 spectators and injured 58 others at a midnight-movie screening of The Dark Knight Rises July 20.
That and other violent incidents in the United States, including the mass killings at Sandy Hook Elementary, have prompted a major debate about the glorification of firearms in the movies. There has been a significant backlash against guns and movies with gun violence.
I expect you will see a response from Hollywood with fewer violent movies being greenlighted. Action movies with assault weapons are probably going to be in short supply in the short term. Hollywood studios are in the business of giving audiences what they want, after all, and right now too many of their loyal customers are saying: "Enough! No more guns!" I expect studios will act accordingly.
Sadly, even the movie theatre is no longer a safe haven of escape from the problems and violence of the real world. In mid-December, a gunman targeted a movie theatre in San Antonio, Texas and two people were injured.
The entire motion picture industry, including all the cinema chains, will need to ask themselves serious questions about the safety of moviegoers as well as the product they show on the screens in the wake of all this violence. As I have said before, I worry we're going down the path where patrons will eventually have to go through security just to get in the theatre to see a movie.
The carnage of 2012 cast a pall over the entire box office race during the year. In fact, the summer season was supposed to be yet another "Year of the Superhero." Everyone expected The Dark Knight Rises, the final movie in the Christopher Nolan trilogy of Batman films, to go toe-to-toe with Marvel's The Avengers in an epic battle for the top box-office prize of the year.
The shootings in Aurora at the screening of The Dark Knight Rises directly impacted the final results. The negative publicity from the shooting frightened away customers and also forced Warner Bros. to curtail its marketing and promotion of the film. Ads ended up being pulled from TV in the wake of the Aurora massacre, and a lot of red-carpet premieres in international markets were cancelled as well.
As a result, The Avengers did not have the kind of serious competition for the box office title that many people expected. It finished the summer, and the year, in first place in the domestic box office with over $600 million gross and a $1.5 billion haul worldwide. As I've said, you couldn't really consider it much of a victory in light of what happened in Aurora.
It's fair to say that there has been no year in recent memory where the box office race mattered less to people than in 2012.
Here is a rundown of the domestic numbers for the top 10 movie releases of 2012, as reported by the box-office tracking site Box Office Mojo Jan. 3. Keep in mind that a few movies are still in theatres and continue to add to their totals, so not all of these are final numbers. But the top 10 domestic grosses for 2012 releases are as follows:
1. Marvel's The Avengers, released by Buena Vista. Total domestic haul of $623,357,910 with a May 4 opening weekend record haul set at $207,438,708.
2. The Dark Knight Rises (finale of director Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy), Warner Bros. Total $448,139,099, with a July 20 opening weekend $160,887,295 - a number obviously depressed by the Aurora theatre massacre.
3. The Hunger Games, Lionsgate. $408,010,692 with a March 23 opening haul of $152,535,747, a record opening for that month.
4. Skyfall (the latest James Bond picture), Sony, $293,046,816 as of Jan. 3; Nov. 9 opening haul of $88,364,714, which is a record for a Bond picture; still in theatres, so final numbers expected to climb further.
5. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, (the finale of the Twilight series) Summit Entertainment, $287,405,261 as of Jan.3, with a Nov. 16 weekend haul of $141,067,634; also still in theatres so numbers expected to climb higher.
6. The Amazing Spider-Man (reboot of Spider-Man franchise), Sony Pictures, $262,030,663 with a haul of $62,004,688 in its first weekend. Its opening came on a Tuesday, however, and its haul of $35,016,884 set the record for the best Tuesday premiere of all time.
7. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Warner Bros., $242,450,337 Dec. 14 weekend haul of $84,617,303, which is a December record; still in theatres and expected to climb as high as fourth or fifth place.
8. Brave (latest Pixar release), Buena Vista, $237,259,580 as of Jan. 3, June 22 opening weekend of $66,323,594. Also still in theatres.
9. Ted (Seth MacFarlane's teddy bear comedy), Universal, $218,665,740, June 29 opening weekend of $54,415,205.
10.Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (latest animated effort featuring the funny animals), Paramount/DreamWorks, $216,391,482 with a June 8 weekend haul of $60,316,738.
Worldwide grosses: Marvel's The Avengers leads with $1.511 billion, followed by The Dark Knight Rises at $1,081 billion and Skyfall at $1,003 billion as of January 3.
Skyfall is also the first James Bond picture to crack $1 billion at the box office and has broken records in the United Kingdom, becoming the first ever movie there to hit 100 million pounds.
Records: The Avengers set a number of them this year including best opening week of all time, as well as records ranging from the best three-day-opening-gross to best-10-day-opening-gross of all time.
That is the story as far as the top of the box office is concerned for 2012. As for my annual ranking of Disappointment of the Year, while there are a number of worthy candidates this year including movies that made even less money than the one I've selected, I still have to give the dishonour of Disappointment of the Year to the Disney sci-fi flop John Carter, from the past spring.
The picture, based on a character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, hauled in a domestic $73 million total on a production budget of $250 million. It made only $282 worldwide. Yikes!
In short, it was a debacle, but more than that, heads rolled in Hollywood! People blamed this movie as the reason Disney studio head Rich Ross was ousted in the spring.
In movies, as in sports, you are hired to be fired. For single-handedly costing the boss of a major Hollywood studio his job, John Carter gets the award from me as this year's clear Box Office Disappointment of the Year.
That wraps up my annual Box Office Year in Review for 2012. I hope 2013 proves to be more fun at the movie theatres than 2012 ended up being for a lot of people.