2012 Box Office Winners & Losers

January 5th, 2013 by

BoxOfficeMojo with its year-end overview of 2012’s winners and losers. For screenwriters, it is important to track these numbers because believe me everyone involved in script acquisition and development does. With all the pressure they feel from corporate overlords to succeed, they often respond to current market trends.

Per BOM, here are some winning areas for 2012 movies: Superheroes, Computer Animation, Channing Tatium, Lionsgate and perhaps the most shocking of all Politics. Per the latter:

Political movies tend not to perform well at the box office and, with the presidential election dominating headlines, it would have been easy to expect that to be the case again this year. Instead, movies with a political tie-in found tons of success in 2012.

The greatest example is Lincoln, which opened in nationwide release less than two weeks after the presidential election; by the end of the year, it has racked up a remarkable $134.2 million, and it still has plenty of money left to earn. Argo wasn’t quite as political as Lincoln—the context of the Iranian Hostage Crisis was secondary to the espionage thrills—though its $108.7 million gross in 2012 is still remarkable for a movie with such heavy real-world subject matter.

On the lighter end, Will Ferrell-Zach Galifianakis comedy The Campaign quietly wound up being one of the biggest comedy hits of the year with $86.9 million. Finally, 2016 Obama’s America became the second-highest-grossing political documentary ever with $33.5 million.

If you ever wanted proof that in Hollywood, nobody knows anything, the performance of political movies this year is it. Conventional wisdom is that politics = box office death. Not so in 2012 and across the board in terms of genres.

As far as box office losers go, here is BOM’s targets: Horror, Taylor Kitsch, 3D Animated Re-Releases, Stop Motion Animation, and Romantic Comedy. Since we had a discussion on this yesterday, here are BOM’s analysis of rom-coms in 2012:

Romantic comedy used to be a thriving genre, but in recent years it has fallen off significantly. Excluding Ted (which is, first-and-foremost, a buddy comedy), the highest-grossing rom-com of 2012 was Think Like a Man with $91.5 million. Otherwise, though, it was a terrible year: What to Expect When You’re Expecting ($41.2 million), The Five-Year Engagement ($28.7 million), and Playing for Keeps ($12.7 million) were all major disappointments. Even Silver Linings Playbook, with all kinds of awards buzz, was only able to earn $28.7 million, though its roll-out was slower than expected and The Weinstein Company seems to have some tricks up its sleeve for early 2013 on this title.

One thing to remember with all of these year-end analyses: No trend is absolutely definitive. In fact, as for example with rom-coms, it’s not even clear the downturn in 2012 is a trend. Rather it could just be the movies weren’t that good or didn’t have the right chemistry-connection with audiences. There will always be a need for rom-coms, just like there will always be a need for horror. Likewise politics will continue to be a dicey arena. In all cases, it’s up to the writer to craft compelling, entertaining and fresh stories.

A final note on this last point: Over the last few weeks, I have been interviewing a bunch of screenwriters including 4 of the 5 Nicholl winners in 2012 and a number who made the 2012 Black List, and if there is one theme I see in all of them, other than great writing, it’s this: They each had a complete, total passion for the script they wrote. I am convinced that energy, combined with their immersion into the story universe as well as sheer writing talent, is what lifted the words from off the page and into the active imaginations of readers. This is especially important as many of the scripts we are talking about fly in the face of Hollywood conventional wisdom.

I will be rolling out those interviews here on GITS over the next several weeks and months, some incredible conversations with great insight. But again, as important as it is to be aware of box office and market trends, at the end of the day, you should be picking stories for which you have ample passion to write.

For more on 2012 box office winners, go here.

For more on 2012 box office losers, go here.

In the next few days, I will be featuring the ROI [Return On Investment] winners from 2012 which is generally a better model for assessing the success of movies than simply box office rank.

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