In my nearly 20 years of tracking box office (since 1993 to be exact), I cannot recall another year that endured so many ups and downs, triumphs and tragedies and head scratch-inducing moments. Here are some of the reasons:
The Watch gets caught in the crossfire: A rare situation in which a film’s marketing campaign had to be effectively scrubbed, re-configured and the film re-titled. This in response to the Trayvon Martin shooting by a neighborhood watch captain named George Zimmerman. Originally titled Neighborhood Watch, the science fiction comedy starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, and Richard Ayoade was re-named The Watch and in the wake of the controversy surrounding the shooting, the film pretty much lost its marketing momentum and wound up with only about $34.3 million in domestic receipts.
The Dark Knight Rises & critic death threats: Death threats against critics who dared to give the film less than stellar reviews raised the irrational ire of a tiny portion of the fanboy base who clearly could not handle anyone daring to (in their twisted minds) disrespect the franchise.
The Aurora, Colo. movie theater shootings: The world was shocked when the sanctity and safety of the movie theater were disrupted by a gun-wielding maniac who turned a fun night out at the movies into an unspeakable tragedy. The brilliant The Dark Knight Rises was unfortunately playing in the theater that night and was unfairly and forever associated with this senseless act of random violence. In sensitivity to the tragic events, Warner Bros. did not release the grosses for the film at the end of the weekend and in an absolutely unprecedented act of solidarity, the other studios followed suit.
Gangster Squad gets bumped off: In a crazy twist of fate, many theaters playing The Dark Knight Rises were showing a trailer for the much anticipated mob period piece starring Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Josh Brolin and a host of other great actors. Unfortunately, within the trailer was a scene of mobsters crashing through a movie theater screen and shooting up an audience with machine guns. The trailer (and reportedly the movie itself) was re-cut excising the scene, the release date moved to January 2013 and those looking forward to the fall release of the film were hugely disappointed.
Hurricane Sandy Blows into town, blows out the box office: The weekend of October 26 was characterized by The Associated Press this way: "Sandy took a toll on the movie box office even before it made landfall. Ticket sales were down more than 11 percent compared to the same weekend last year, said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com." This weekend's top film, Argo, collected $12.1 million. The top film during the same weekend in 2011, Puss in Boots, earned $34 million. And that’s just part of the story. The entire marketplace came in at a paltry $93 million. Argo was No. 1 in its third weekend and Cloud Atlas could not break the $10 million mark. However, storm or no, none of the newcomers were ever on track to open to blockbuster numbers thus one could argue that it was the product not the storm that may have ultimately blown out the weekend’s numbers. Mass movie theater closings on the East Coast during and following Sandy, however, might not help upcoming films' efforts.
Still, here's looking forward to a remainder of the box office year filled with positive tales of the successes of Bond, Bella & Edward, Hitchcock and a Hobbit named Bilbo.
[Image Credit: Warner Bros. (2); 20th Century Fox]
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