Best Film 2013: A year of box-office ups and downs

Box office receipts never lie, and in 2013, things really got animated, writes Tara Brady

Laughing all the way to the top: Despicable Me 2. took the No 1 spot at the Irish box office in 2013

Laughing all the way to the top: Despicable Me 2. took the No 1 spot at the Irish box office in 2013


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Well, it’s official. Using the Multiplex Footfall Index – a demographic measurement we’ve just made up – emigration has kicked a great gaping hole through film’s target audience. Overall, the zeroes are fewer and the profits are smaller. Last year, the nation’s two favourite films were Skyfall (cumulative total €5,951,490) and The Dark Knight Rises (€5,499,254). This year’s champ is, as we go to print, Despicable Me 2 (€3,748,710), with a tally just shy of the €4 million mark.

And still quite a way ahead of second-placed Iron Man 3 (€2,826,660).

What gives? The drop off – judging by genre popularity – has happened within the studio system’s primary target demographic: those folks falling between the ages of 17 and 39. They are buying fewer movie tickets in this territory, on account of being in Australia.

In the run up to 2014 instalments of Spider-Man, Captain America, Robocop and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the fanboys and fangirls who once regularly warmed seats at the multiplex are no longer the colossus they were back in 2012, let alone 2010. Their admissions are fewer, and franchise fatigue, conversely, is on the up: tellingly, Star Trek Into Darkness and Fast and Furious 6 failed to crack the Irish top 10, yet both feature on the equivalent US roll call.

That’s not to say the superhero cycle is spent or that adults are done with the picture house. In common with every other territory, Irish audiences flocked to Man of Steel and adult-friendly Gravity.

But the age profile of Johnny Cinema-Goer is definitely shifting. By the close of business for 2012, only one animated feature (Ice Age: Continental Drift) had cracked the top 10.

This year, even if The Smurfs 2 (standing at €1,666,656) gets bounced out of the top 10 by The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – and it likely will – we’ll still have four animated features taking up the higher echelons of the chart, including The Croods at number five with €2,250,907, Monsters University at number seven with €2,164,011 and Wreck-It-Ralph at number eight with €1,970,288. At time of writing, Free Birds was the nation’s second-favourite title of the most recent weekend, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2 has sailed past €1.3 million and, next weekend, Disney’s Frozen, is expected to dislodge Hunger Games: Catching Fire from the top of the Irish pile.

On these shores, animated titles have pushed bigger international hits Oz: The Great and Powerful and World War Z out of the running. Other national idiosyncrasies include the ROI’s big love for Les Mis it was Ireland’s fourth favourite film (with €2,324,380), but polls as low as number 17 in the US.

And what of Hangover III? Having clawed back just $112 million (and the 27th spot in the US market) from a $103 million budget, the threequel would have bombed spectacularly if it weren’t for loyal pockets such as our own. Hangover III rustled up €2,213,343 of its $238,800,000 rest-of-world business here.

We are its one-percent. Answers on a postcard . . .

The year’s biggest global players hardly needed our chump change. Iron Man 3’s $1,215,439,994 haul makes it the undisputed top dog; The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, hanging over from 2012, scored $1,017,003,568 worldwide, and Despicable Me 2 falls just shy of a billion with $918,075,090 in the kitty.

Other global sensations included Fast and Furious 6 ($788,679,850), Monsters University ($743,516,704), Gravity ($615,435,339), and Man of Steel ($662,845,518). Hunger Games, meanwhile, is a boffo hit but it still lags behind the Twilight sequence outside the US. Just 48 per cent of Hunger Games: Catching Fire’s running $576,198,207 total came from the rest-of-world. By Twilight: New Moon, that franchise did 58.2 per cent of its sales in the same nebulous, non-US territory.

In an increasingly busy marketplace – we reviewed more titles this year than ever before – Irish films were, for the most part, totally out of luck. But that, reader, is a sob story for another day.

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