Box Office: The 20 Most Profitable Films of 2013

The Conjuring Farmiga Wilson - H 2013
Warner Bros. Pictures

The Conjuring Farmiga Wilson - H 2013

A diverse slate of films -- from "Iron Man 3" to "The Conjuring" to "Lee Daniels' The Butler" -- delivered the film business its best year on record at the North American box office, despite a handful of monumental bombs.

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).

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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.

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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.).