Hasn’t 2014 been great? With Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Edge of Tomorrow, Guardians of the Galaxy, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and X-men: Days of Future Past all coming out this summer, it’s hard to think of a year with so many high quality blockbusters, yet for some reason, this hasn’t been reflected in the box office. While this is notable in the worldwide box office, I’m going to look at some of the reasons the UK has had it’s poorest showing in ten years, despite the high quality that’s been on offer.
Contrary to what I’m often told, I’m not an idiot. I know that the quality of a film doesn’t always line up with the amount of money it makes. Just look at Transformers: Age of Extinction being the only film so far this year to break a billion dollars worldwide, whereas Boyhood only made $43 million. While I personally had great fun with Transformers 4, and found Boyhood incredibly dull (remember what I said about being an idiot?), the former is currently sitting at 18% on Rotten Tomatoes, whereas the latter is this years highest rated film by critics. Even with this said, you would think that so many good films week after week would keep people coming back, and spending their precious pennies. So why was this years box office down?
Firstly, there’s been no $100 million dollar film. Yes, I am talking about the UK box office, but the industry as a whole measures box office results in Dollars, and not pounds. Also, $100 million sounds better than £63,346,066 (numbers correct at the time of writing this article). Every year since 2006, with the exception of 2013, has had a film break the $100 million barrier. This is a HUGE contribution to a years overall box office, and the closest a film has come this year so far is The Lego Movie, which finished just short of $57 million. Compare that to 2012, when Skyfall made $161 million, 2011 when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 made $117 million, or 2010 when Toy Story 3 made $116 million.
On top of that, the only film with a real chance of getting anywhere near $100 million is The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, and even that will probably end up closer to $80 million. Yes, Interstellar and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay part 1 are yet to be released, but I’ll touch on that later.
Something else I believe has effected this years box office is the lack of a big British event film. Looking back at recent years, the number one film (or one of the biggest) has often been part of a big, British franchise, which has pretty much been either James Bond, or Harry Potter. I’ve already mentioned Skyfall and Deathly Hallows part 2, but there has been one almost every year. 2010 had Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1, which made $86 million, 2009 had Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince with $84 million, 2008 had Mamma Mia!, $132 million (Mamma Mia was a British and American co-production, so if you’re not happy with that there was also Quantum of Solace, which made more than $80 million). We could keep going back in time until Daniel Radcliffe was only this tall, and Daniel Craig was eating Layer Cake in Munich, but I think I’ve made my point. The closest thing we had this year was The Inbetweeners 2 which earned a respectable $55.5 million, but it’s not up there with the other solid franchises I’ve mentioned.
So, British pride is to blame? Well, This year has also had what feels like an unusually high number of films that have under performed. For example, Transformers 4 is the lowest grossing film in the franchise by around $10 million. Godzilla made $28 million, which seems like hardly anything compared to the haul of other recent monster movie King Kong’s $52.5 million in 2005. The Muppets and 300: Rise of an Empire are both franchise films that finished round $13 million, which came off the back of $27 and $28 million hauls from their predecessors. A Million Ways to Die in the West made $5.3 million, hardly anything compared to Seth MacFarlane’s Ted which made $48.8 million. The Expendables 3, Pompeii, Transcendence and Sin City 2 all had good star power or big visual sequences designed specifically to bring people into the cinema, but they all made less than $5 million, with Dwayne Johnson’s Hercules not faring much better at $8 million. Believe it or not there are more examples but this list is getting a little bit long.
Another area that’s been underwhelming this year is family films. Yes, The Lego Movie is number one for the year so far with a little under $57 million, and How to Train Your Dragon 2 is in sixth place with $41.5 million, but what I’m more specifically referring to is a real lack of any big hits from Disney. Yes, Maleficent brought in a solid $32.7 million, but what about their animations? Tinkerbell and the Pirate Fairy has been their biggest hit so far, and that failed to break $10 million. Next on the list is Planes: Fire and Rescue with $7.7 million, and that’s about it. Compare that to 2013’s three major releases, Frozen, Monster’s University and Wreck it Ralph which combined brought in just under $150 million, and that gap left by Disney becomes even more obvious.
So I know that Interstellar, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay part 1 and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies are yet to be released, but I’ve done some maths (it was hard). Even with this years current numbers 8, 9 and 10 taken out, and replaced with the box office results of Inception, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (which I personally believe are three fair comparisons), the combined figures of 2014’s top ten is still lower than it has been for a decade. I’ve given some reasons as to why this has happened, but none of these observations have taken into account the fact that so many of this years big releases have been so well received. All I can say is that I think 2014 has been great, and ultimately, as long as we keep getting both the quantity and quality of films we’ve had this year, the audience will come back. Right?
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