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No one in Hollywood could believe it when New Line and Warner Bros.’ horror pic The Conjuring, released in late July, came out of nowhere to earn $316.7 million worldwide, handily beating big-budget summer disasters The Lone Ranger and After Earth.
It was smaller films like The Conjuring, or Summit’s magician heist pic Now You See Me, that played a leading role in helping to fuel a record year at the North American box office, where revenue clocked in at $10.9 billion for the calendar year, besting last year’s $10.8 billion by 1 percent (attendance, however, is slightly down, thanks to higher ticket prices).
To be sure, the upper reaches of the box-office chart was loaded with tentpoles (many of them franchise installments) that were global Goliaths, with a top five including Disney’s Iron Man 3 ($1.2 billion), Universal’s Despicable Me 2 ($918.8 million), Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire ($797.5 million), Universal’s Fast & Furious 6 ($788.7 million) and Pixar’s Monsters University ($743.6 million). All five titles are on the list of the year’s most profitable films, followed by the next five on the chart: Man of Steel ($662.8 million), Gravity ($653.3 million), The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug ($633.1 million) — all three titles are from Warner Bros. — Disney’s Thor: The Dark World ($629.9 million) and DreamWorks Animation/Fox’s The Croods ($587.2 million).
Paramount’s Star Trek Into Darkness, coming in No. 14, also was a profit driver after grossing $467.4 million. Ditto for Fox’s The Wolverine, which grossed $414.8 million and placed No. 15 globally.
Among non-tentpoles, The Conjuring was a massive profit generator, considering it cost just $20 million to make. It was among several horror titles minting money. The $5 million Insidious Chapter 2, from producer Jason Blum, FilmDistrict and IM Global, topped out at $160 million worldwide, while Mama, costing $15 million to make, earned $146.4 million. And The Purge, with a $3 million production budget, took in $89.3 million.
Now You See Me, with a $75 million production budget, also turned a profit. Ditto for New Line title We’re the Millers, which took in a surprise $269.2 million globally after costing $37 million to make.
Another breakout was Pantelion Films’ Instructions Not Included. The film, costing $5 million to make, grossed $44.5 million in the U.S. to become the top-grossing Spanish-language film of all time and took in another $41.1 million in Mexico for a world total of $85.5 million.
Among indie films, Lee Daniels’ The Butler is the biggest standout, costing under $35 million to make and grossing $162 million worldwide (it took in $116.2 million domestically for The Weinstein Co.).
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