As of last Friday, Iron Man 3 has become the latest film to gross more than $1 billion at the worldwide box office. It has become only the 16th film in history to do so (at least, not adjusted for ticket price inflation), and did so in only 22 days. Now, Shane Black has become the most unlikely of candidates to have directed a billion-dollar flick.
It’s a club that’s becoming slightly less prestigious with every passing year. Foreign markets are becoming even bigger box office draws to the studios than the domestic one, and greater advertising pushes, bigger and more bloated sequels, and effects-heavy action (not to mention rising ticket prices) are leading to bigger and more top-heavy opening weekends. And it’s becoming more common: Four of these films (a full quarter of the list) were released in 2012.
Here are the 16 films that make up the Billion-Dollar Club, from the lowest- to highest-ranked on Flickchart:
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has become the 15th film to cross $1 billion (not adjusted for inflation) in worldwide ticket sales.
The first chapter of Peter Jackson‘s new trilogy based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien crossed this threshold thanks to a 10-day, $37.3 million opening in China. It is the second of Jackson’s films to do so, after The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King grossed over $1 billion after its release in 2003. This makes Jackson the third director to have helmed two billion-dollar movies, after James Cameron and Christopher Nolan.
Of the 15 billion-dollar films, only three – the top two, Cameron’s Avatar and Titanic, and Tim Burton‘s Alice in Wonderland - were not part of pre-existing franchises. The Hobbit is the fourth film released in 2012 to hit the milestone, after The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and Skyfall.
It is interesting to note that The Hobbit‘s domestic take of $301.4 million is well below that of the three Lord of the Rings films, despite having the additional boost of IMAX and 3D ticket sales. It has done far better overseas; by contrast, Return of the King grossed only $10.4 million in China. No doubt controversy over the film’s 48 frames-per-second technology diluted ticket sales, but it has still certainly proven popular enough.
Word of The Hobbit‘s success is good news for New Line and Warner Bros. after the underwhelming and potentially disastrous $28 million opening of Jack the Giant Slayer, a film that reportedly cost north of $200 million, and might prove to be an even bigger train wreck than last year’s box office bomb, John Carter (which also opened in March).
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is currently ranked #8 among 2012 films on Flickchart.
One is the first chapter in an epic trilogy based on the first of three massive novels set in Middle-earth, the fictional world created by author J.R.R. Tolkien. The other is the first chapter in an epic trilogy based on a 100-page children’s book set in that same world (with additional material plundered from Tolkien’s appendices to his work, and from the screenwriters’ imaginations). Ultimately, they are epic films about high adventure, fantastical creatures, magic, swordplay, camaraderie, and magnificent New Zealand landscapes. Eleven years separate their theatrical releases; did that time allow Peter Jackson to craft a superior new adventure, or just continue to prove that the first movie in a franchise is often the best? Step into the Reel Rumbles ring and find out as we pit The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring vs. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
It’s been nine years since the Battle of Pelennor Field. Nine years since Aragorn was coronated, Gollum drowned in the fires of Mount Doom with the One Ring, and Frodo Baggins set sail from the Grey Havens. Nine years since Peter Jackson released the third part of his epic adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “unfilmable” novels, and actually finished shooting the film after it won the Oscar for Best Picture (with pickup shots for the Extended Edition DVD).
Since then, fans of Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy have waited with baited breath for news that Tolkien’s prelude novel, The Hobbit, would get a similar big-screen treatment. A long wait, to be sure, and there were many times when it seemed the road really would go ever on and on, out from the door where it began.
Dragons. Are there any cooler creatures in all of mythology? Unfortunately, in the world of celluloid, these great creatures of imagination have not really gotten their due. (At least, not in live-action cinema; why I have not yet seen How to Train Your Dragon is still beyond me.)
Is there any live-action film in which dragons have truly come off as cool as they deserve? Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire wasn’t too bad, but the dragons aren’t the stars. As I impatiently await the day when Peter Jackson brings his vision of the ultimate dragon, Smaug, to life in The Hobbit, I think about other dragon-themed movies that I have enjoyed in the past. None of them are deserving enough to be called “great”, but I’m very forgiving of movies I want to like. In one of these cases, I was the perfect age to see a dragon with real presence brought to life on the big screen – even if the movie he inhabited was far from perfect. Without further adieu, I present, in ascending order on my Flickchart, my picks for Guilty Pleasures starring dragons.