Box Office Winners and Losers of 2014

Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment; Courtesy of Universal Pictures; Courtesy of Tristar Pictures

Female films find an audience while sword-and-sandal movies suffer

It was a tumultuous year for the box office. Revenue looks to have come in at $10.35 billion, down more than 5 percent from 2013's record $10.9 billion. Worse, attendance hit a two-decade low, with roughly 1.27 billion going to the movies, compared to 1.34 billion in 2013. A dismal summer was the biggest culprit (revenues tumbled 15 percent for the season).

Still, there were plenty of happy endings, thanks to a strong international marketplace, especially with China's growing influence helping to boost some films, like Transformers: Age of Extinction which took in $1.08 billion worldwide for the top spot for the year. And there were unexpected surprises in the U.S. and abroad like Gone Girl and Guardians of the Galaxy. Here, The Hollywood Reporter looks at 2014's biggest winners and losers at the box office:

WINNERS:

Female Films
It was a strong year for movies starring women or aimed mainly at female audiences. Lucy, the action film starring Scarlett Johansson, stunned many when it outmuscled big-budget actioner Hercules for the top spot at the box office when it opened in July. The Universal movie, which was watched by both men and women evenly, had a stellar $43.9 million debut and went on to earn $458.9 million worldwide, a stunning number for a movie costing $40 million. Fox's adaptation of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars proved that young women are a desirable moviegoing demographic when they turned out in droves to watch the tearjerker. The Shailene Woodley-starrer saw females make up roughly 82 percent of its opening weekend audience, and earned a stellar $304.2 million worldwide. And a female-led movie took the title of the No. 3 movie of the year. Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie as the evil witch, cast a spell over audiences to earn $757.8 million worldwide. Jolie finished off her stellar year with her directorial project Unbroken, which won over the hearts of moviegoers when it began hitting theaters in December. Based on the life of WWII prisoner of war Louis Zamperini, Unbroken earned a strong $30.6 million in its domestic opening weekend, and will continue to thrive into the new year. Jolie's 2015 is also looking promising: Her next directorial project By the Sea, in which she stars alongside husband Brad Pitt, will hit theaters this year.

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Marvel

Marvel had the top movie of 2012 with the star-studded ensemble pic The Avengers, but its accomplishments in 2014 may be even more admirable. Instead of resting on the safety of its already-successful Avengers characters, the studio launched a new franchise with Guardians of the Galaxy. Based on a relatively unknown comic about a ragtag group of space heroes, Guardians starred Chris Pratt, an actor who, at the time, was not considered a movie star, best known for his work on the NBC comedy Parks and Recreation. But the film, directed by James Gunn, rocketed to huge success, earning $772.5 million worldwide to become the No. 2 film of the year (behind Transformers: Age of Extinction's $1.09 billion). Marvel also launched the next installment in the Captain America series, with The Winter Soldier earning a hefty $714 million worldwide, making nearly twice as much as the first Captain America film ($370.5 million).

Fox
The studio had quite a year between strong tentpole performances and surprise hits, and will top the domestic box office for the first time in several years. In 2013, Fox placed sixth domestically with a tally of $1.064 billion; its 2014 total is estimated at $1.769 billion. Worldwide, its biggest moneymakers included the star-studded X-Men: Days of Future Past which earned $746 million; sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which earned strong critical acclaim and a huge box office cume of $708.3 million worldwide; animated sequel Rio 2, which soared to $498.8 million worldwide; and DreamWorks Animation's How to Train Your Dragon 2, released by Fox, has earned $618.9 million worldwide. And then there were the overperformers. The adaptation of Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl had amazing staying power at the domestic box office, remaining in the top 10 for 10 weeks. It became David Fincher's top-grossing film when it earned $356.8 million worldwide. Another book adaptation, tearjerker Fault In Our Stars, also stunned at the box office, with a worldwide total of $304.2 million. And another YA film, The Maze Runner, launched a new franchise when it sprinted to $339.8 million worldwide.

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China
The world's second biggest film market surged 36 percent in 2014, raking in $4.76 billion (29.6 billion yuan) at the box office. The moviegoing power of China helped boost Transformers: Age of Extinction, the only film to cross the $1 billion mark, to the No. 1 spot at the worldwide box office for the year. The film, which featured custom Chinese elements in that market, earned $320 million from China.
 
Kevin Hart
Hart proved his box office power with three successful movies in 2014. He kicked off the year with Ride Along, a $25 million comedy that topped the domestic box office for three straight weekends, a rare feat mostly accomplished by big tentpoles. After a $41.5 million U.S. debut, Ride Along rolled along to a total domestic tally of $134.9 million. Then, he won over Valentine's Day couples with About Last Night, which had a $25.6 million U.S. debut (with African-Americans making up 72 percent of its opening audience) on its way to $48.6 million domestically. In June, Think Like a Man Too debuted No. 1 domestically with $29.3 million on its way to $65.2 million. Hart's star will likely continue to rise with two more comedies hitting theaters in 2015: The Wedding Ringer in January and Get Hard, starring Will Ferrell, in March.

LOSERS:

Sports Movies
Sports movies, overall, weren't able to score at the box office in 2014. Draft Day, starring Kevin Costner, opened to a soft $9.8 million in its U.S. debut for a fourth place finish. The football film earned $29.5 million worldwide. Another football film, TriStar's When the Game Stands Tall, earned a nearly identical amount, ending its run with $30 million on a $15 million budget. And Million Dollar Arm, starring John Hamm, debuted to a disappointing $10.5 million, which is low even by baseball movie standards. The $25 million film went on to make just $38.3 million worldwide.

Sword-and-Sandal Movies
Moviegoers seem to have little interest in returning to the times of tunics and Hercules. Three sword and sandal movies stumbled at the box office this year.  In January, the first of two Hercules movies marched into theaters. But Legend of Hercules, starring Kellan Lutz, made only $61.3 million worldwide, a poor performance for a film that cost $70 million to make. Then, Pompeii (with a budget of $100 million), starring Game of Thrones' Kit Harington, only earned $117.8 million worldwide after opening in February. Paramount's Hercules, starring Dwayne Johnson, also struggled when it opened in July to $29.8 million, losing its opening weekend domestic box office battle to sci-fi action film Lucy ($43.9 million). The film, costing $100 million to make, earned a soft $243.8 million worldwide.

Male Stars
Some male actors who were at one time considered box-office staples couldn't deliver this year. Johnny Depp, who has raked in huge business as the lead in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, was the star of sci-fi thriller Transcendence, which stalled at the box office when it debuted to only $10.9 million. With a $100 million budget, Transcendence was a big disappointment when it only earned $103 million worldwide. Another male lead with huge international pull, Tom Cruise, starred in sci-fi action film Edge of Tomorrow. Although the film had strong reviews, it couldn't grab the domestic audience, debuting to a soft $28.7 million to place third behind Fault in Our Stars ($48 million U.S. debut) and Maleficent ($34.3 million in its second weekend). The film, costing $178 million, ended up earning only $100 million domestically, but was able to pull in better business overseas for a worldwide total of $369.2 million.

Seth MacFarlane
MacFarlane's raunchy comedy Ted was a breakout hit in 2012, but his 2014 effort, A Million Ways to Die in the West, didn't survive the box office slaughter. MacFarlane, who is considered one of the biggest stars in the comedy TV world with hits like Family Guy, starred in and directed the comedy, which was made for $40 million but only earned $86.4 million worldwide. Several other comedies underperformed this year, including Blended ($126 million worldwide on a $40 million budget), and Sex Tape ($126 million on a $40 million budget).

Domestic Box Office
There were plenty of empty seats at movie theaters in North America last year. According to estimates, roughly 1.26 billion consumers purchased cinema tickets in 2014, making it the the lowest since since 1.21 billion in 1995. Year-over-year, attendance is about 6 percent lower than 2013, when admissions clocked in at 1.34 billion.

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