ZAMM.COM: The Year's Top 10

By Martin Grove,

The Year's Top 10: Looking back at what worked best at the 2013 box office, it's clear that Hollywood knows the formula for success. Simply put, big brands plus big budgets plus massive marketing money plus broad playability plus 3D equals blockbuster business. But, unfortunately, not every time. There always seem to be some exceptions to remind us that the formula's not entirely foolproof. But because it works well mostly, it's unlikely to change any time soon.

Of the year's Top Ten, seven were familiar brand names driven by successful books, comics or earlier hit movies. All 10 titles were very costly to produce and market. Six were rated PG-13 and none were rated R. Eight were presented in 3D at premium ticket prices. Six opened in the early to mid-summer weeks when moviegoing peaks. Here's a quick look at the films that dominated the box office this past year with their grosses through Dec. 29:

1. Iron Man 3
2013's top grossing movie was Marvel Studios, Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Pictures' PG-13 rated 3D sci-fi action adventure Iron Man 3, directed by Shane Black. It opened May 3 to $174.1 million.

With $409 million in domestic theatrical ticket sales, IM3 easily took first place for the year--although in 2012, its gross would only have ranked it third behind Marvel's The Avengers ($623.4 million) and The Dark Knight Rises ($448.1 million). The success of IM3 brought the franchise's domestic total to $1 billion. It's a textbook case of what happens when you have the right material, star and marketing in place at the same time. 

2. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Lionsgate's PG-13 sci-fi action adventure The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was a strong number two for the year with $391.1 million through last weekend. It opened Nov. 22 to $158.1 million.

The franchise's domestic total is now $799.1 million. Fire's still playing in over 2,300 theatres and took in $10.2 million last weekend. Its domestic cume will continue to grow early in the New Year.

Directed by Francis Lawrence, it's based on the second book in the best-selling trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Not only is the Hunger franchise driven by Collins' books, but it's also benefiting from the tremendous success that star Jennifer Lawrence has enjoyed since making the first episode. Lawrence won the 2013 Best Actress Oscar for her role in David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook and is being talked about now as a likely supporting actress Oscar nominee for her performance in Russell's new film American Hustle.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 is scheduled to open Nov. 21, 2014. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, meanwhile, is set for Nov. 20, 2015. The series' two concluding episodes will both be directed by Francis Lawrence.

3. Despicable Me 2
Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment's PG-rated 3D animated comedy Despicable Me 2 placed third with $367.6 million. It opened July 3 to $83.5 million. Directed by Pierre Coffin & Chris Renaud, it stars the voices of Steve Carell, Al Pacino and Kristen Wiig. The series' domestic cume is now $619.1 million.

4. Man of Steel
Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures' PG-13 3D fantasy action adventure Man of Steel finished fourth with $291 million. It opened June 14 to $116.6 million. Directed by Zack Snyder,  it stars Henry Cavill as Clark Kent and Superman, Amy Adams as Lois Lane and Russell Crowe as Jor-El. This reboot of the modern day Superman franchise was the most successful episode in the series that began in 1978. The six titles to date have grossed $809.2 million domestically.

5. Monsters University
Fifth place on the 2013 chart went to Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios' G-rated 3D animated comedy adventure Monsters University with $268.5 million. It opened June 21 to $82.4 million. Directed by Dan Scanlon, it stars the voices of Billy Crystal, John Goodman and Steve Buscemi. The series' first episode, Monsters, Inc., grossed $255.9 million in 2001.

6. Gravity
The year's sixth ranking boxoffice hit is Warner Bros. and Heyday Films' PG-13 3D sci-fi thriller Gravity with $254.1 million. It opened Oct. 4 to $55.8 million. Directed by Alfonso Curaron, it stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Unlike most of the year's other Top 10 hits, Gravity is an original film and not based on a comic book or a series of best-selling novels. There's a strong best picture Oscar buzz circulating for Gravity, which has already received four Golden Globe nominations (including best picture - drama, director, actress and original score), 10 Critics Choice noms (including best picture, director and actress) and a Screen Actors Guild best lead actress nom.

7. Frozen
The year's seventh biggest film wasn't in the Top10 before the holiday season got underway. However, strong ticket sales over Christmas for Walt Disney Pictures' PG-rated 3D animated action adventure Frozen have boosted its cume to $248.4 million. That total will grow over New Year's, which means it could overtake Gravity in sixth place. It opened Nov. 22 in limited release to $243,390 and went wide Nov. 27 with $67.4 million.

Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, it stars the voices of Kristen Bell, Josh Gad and Idina Menzel.

8. Fast & Furious 6
Universal Pictures' PG-13 action crime thriller Fast & Furious 6 placed eighth with $238.7 million. It opened May 24 to $97.4 million.

Directed by Justin Lin, it reunited series stars Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Dwayne Johnson.

The series to date has grossed $937.8 million domestically. Its next episode, Fast & Furious 7, had been scheduled for release July 11, 2014, but following the tragic death of Paul Walker in a car crash last Nov. 30 was rescheduled for April 10, 2015. Production, which was only about half-finished when Walker died, was shut down immediately while Universal, director James Wan and producers Vin Diesel and Neal H. Moritz decided how to proceed without one of the series' biggest stars.

9. Oz the Great and Powerful
Walt Disney Pictures and Roth Films' 3D fantasy action adventure Oz The Great and Powerful is ninth with $234.9 million. It opened March 8 to $79.1 million.

Directed by Spider-Man trilogy director Sam Raimi, it stars James Franco, Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz.

10. Star Trek: Into Darkness
Rounding out the year's Top 10 is Paramount Pictures, Skydance Productions and Bad Robot's PG-13 3D sci-fi action adventure Star Trek Into Darkness with $228.8 million. It opened May 16 to $70.2 million. The series' 12 titles to date (going back to 1979) have grossed $1.2 billion domestically.

Directed by Star Trek director J.J. Abrams, it stars Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and Zoe Saldana.

Bottom line: 2013's ending on a jolly box office note with the success of the PG-13 3D fantasy adventure drama The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug from Warner Bros., New Line Cinema, MGM and WingNut Films.

Directed by Peter Jackson, it opened Dec. 13 to $73.6 million and hasn't had enough playing time to make the year's Top 10. Last weekend, Smaug held on to first place for the third straight week with $29.9 million. Its $190.3 million cume promises to grow nicely in the New Year.

The first episode in the Hobbit trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, opened Dec. 14, 2012 to $84.6 million and wound up doing $303 million domestically. The franchise's concluding chapter, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, is scheduled to open Dec. 17, 2014. Now it's on to 2014, which I hope will be a very Happy New Year for us all!

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