The Word Garage

The Word Garage

2010 Box Office Wrap: Hollywood Has Second-Best Year Ever

This is the time of year when motion picture industry pundits weigh in on two important issues: The best films (and actors and directors and etc.) of the year and the year-end box office results. The former is a gauge of popularity and art; the later a gauge of popularity and business.

Anne Thompson, of Moviefone sister site indieWIRE, has just posted her take on the 2010 box office, and she paints a mixed picture for Hollywood. According to Thompson, while there was a whole flotilla of sinking “uber-flops … thanks to holdover ‘Avatar’ and premium 3-D ticket prices, (the studios) enjoyed their second-best year at the domestic box office with $10.46 billion, off less than 2 percent from 2009’s all-time haul of $10.6 billion.” Much of that take was due to higher ticker prices: the average price went from $7.46 in 2009 to $7.85 in the third quarter, thanks mostly to premium 3-D pricing. On the other hand, admissions fell 6 percent from 1.42 billion in 2009 to 1.33 billion in 2010. That’s a lot fewer butts in seats, Thompson notes.

Despite the yin/yang box office totals (more money/fewer seats sold), Thompson happily reports that “theatrical, which had lost ground to DVDs, the internet and TiVo during the early part of the century, is again the leading film revenue stream against declining DVD sales and fledgling VOD ancillaries.”

According to Thompson, consumers are spending less on building DVD libraries and more on movies-as-destinations and “unforgettable visual trips”: Giant screen IMAX saw its global box office double to a new record of $546 million over 2009’s $270 million, mostly due to Disney’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ ‘TRON: Legacy.’

And audiences flocked to 3-D, of course, paying premium prices for the privilege of wearing nerdy 3-D glasses. Although audiences of 3-D screenings of ‘Toy Story 3’ and ‘Despicable Me’ were half that of 2-D viewings, older crowds took to ‘Avatar’ and ‘Alice in Wonderland’ in 3-D by a large margin over flat screenings.

According to Thompson, “it remains to be seen how the 3-D story will play out in 2011, which promises 30 3-D titles. Are film fans dying to see ‘Smurfs 3-D’ and ‘Final Destination 5’?”

The Top 10 films of 2010 by box office:
1. Toy Story 3: $415,0 mil
2. Alice in Wonderland $334.2 mil
3. Iron Man 2 $312.1 mil
4. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse $300.5 mil
5. Inception $292.6 mil
6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 $285.3 mil
7. Despicable Me $251.2 mil
8. Shrek Forever After $238.4 mil
9. How to Train Your Dragon $217.6 mil
10. The Karate Kid $176.6 mil

Thompson’s post goes on to analyze box office performance by studio (Warner Bros. is No. 1, followed by Paramount, Disney, Fox, Sony and Universal) and looks at how the industry successfully — or unsuccessfully — marketed their films (ill-fated marriages between stars and concepts, banking on fanboys, poor holiday scheduling, adult dramas, etc.) and much more. It’s a must read for anyone who wants to take — and understand — the pulse of the industry.