2015 was a record breaking year at the box office in North America, largely thanks to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. There were more industry records broken in 2015 than any other year in recent recorded history.
From a new opening weekend record (beaten twice, first by Jurassic World with $208.8 million, then Star Wars: The Force Awakens with $248 million) to a new domestic champ (Star Wars: The Force Awakens with $887.1 million and counting), and more new records than I can count, 2015 was a year of box office superlatives.
A total of 692 movies released in 2015 grossed $11,126.6 million, a new domestic record. For the first time ever the industry collected more than $11 billion at the box office. That has to be good for everyone, right? Well sadly the answer is no. The problem here is about a third of that money came from the top 10 films of 2015, so basically the big boys got most of the cake, leaving very little to the rest.
29 movies released in 2015 earned more than $100 million in the US, down from 33 in 2014, 35 in 2013, 31 in 2012, 30 in 2011, 30 in 2010 and 32 in 2009. We have to go back all the way to 2008 to find another year with 29, which further solidifies what I said above regarding sharing the cake.
Further more only 9 movies made over $200 million last year in the US, which is also down from prior years. And now here’s where things improve, a record 6 films grossed more than $300 million in 2015 (previously the record belonged to 2012 with 5), 3 over $400 million (tie with 2012), 2 over $600 million (new record) and for the first time ever 1 over $800 million, very soon $900 million.
So basically it was a very good year for big franchises and some other blockbusters. As far as studios go, 2015 was the best ever for both Universal Pictures and Disney, not so much for the rest. Actually 7 of the top 10 films of 2015 were released by Disney and Universal, so you can see how there maybe wasn’t that much room for anyone else at the table.
So without further ado here and the most successful movies of 2015 at the box office, in North America. Keep in mind that some of these films are still in theaters and those will be marked with an asterisk (*), but as far as placement goes nothing is going to change regardless of how much more they end up making.
10. Spectre – $199.3 million*
After the incredible success of Skyfall ($304.4 million, 4th in 2012), I was expecting to see the 24th Bond film rank higher, but at least it made the top 10, if only barely. As usual for a 007 flick, Spectre shined the most overseas, and that reflects in the film ranking higher worldwide. You will see that specific top 10 later today.
9. Cinderella – $201.2 million
First with Alice in Wonderland in 2010 (which is getting a sequel this year), then Maleficent in 2014 and last year Cinderella (and The Jungle Book in April this year), Disney found the perfect way to milk their beloved animated past by reimagining those features in live-action for a new generation as well as the old one. Between this venture, their animated division (including Pixar), Marvel Studios and Lucas Films, Disney are set for a very long time, and they’re maybe a couple of decades (at best) removed from pretty much owning the entire film industry. Maybe I’m joking, maybe not.
8. The Martian – $227.7 million*
The Martian is the only movie in the top 10 nominated for Best Picture, and besides that the Ridley Scott directed film is up for 6 other awards at the Oscars in February. I guess we could say the autumn space film strikes again, a tradition that began with Gravity in 2013, continued in 2014 by Interstellar and now this. I think Passengers might be next in line.
7. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 – $280.5 million*
From $424.7 million (Catching Fire) in 2013 to $280.5 million in 2015, that’s quite a drop, particularly for a young-adult franchise as these films are known to maintain their audience between installments better than other sub-genres. While splitting the 3rd book in two installments hurt the individual films, overall Lionsgate made a lot more money from Mockingjay Part 1 and Part 2 than they could ever have from a single release. Yes, numbers for both films took a dive (and so did the quality of the movies), but can you really blame the studio for trying to make more money?
6. Minions – $336 million
I guess a spin-off can indeed make more money than the films that inspired it. Ok, maybe not as much in the US (Despicable Me 2 finished with $368.1 million in 2013), but quite a bit more worldwide (as you will see later today).
5. Furious 7 – $353 million
Considering the circumstance surrounding this movie, it was pretty much expected that Furious 7 would turn into the series’ top grosser, and it did and then some. The 7th installment in the popular racing franchise (that’s less and less about fast cars and more about heists) made almost 50% more than the previous entry in the US, Fast & Furious 6 ($238.7 million), and close to twice as much worldwide. There will be a new one in 2018, called Fast 8, but don’t expect anywhere near as much from it. As it stands, Furious 7 might very well be the ceiling for this franchise, at least domestically.
4. Inside Out – $356.5 million
Pixar delivered in a big way with their first animation in 2 years, Inside Out, both in quality and at the box office. But as luck would have it, only a couple of months later they underdelievered with The Good Dinosaur (the studio’s lowest grossing film, $120.1 million in 26th). Leave it to Pixar to release one of their top animations yet as well as their least popular one within 6 months of each other. One lesson they could learn here is maybe don’t release 2 movies a year. Now guess which Disney owned animation studio has 2 features scheduled for both 2017 and 2020.
3. Avengers: Age of Ultron – $459 million
We already saw The Avengers assemble in 2012 to $623.4 million, so getting the band back together the second time around was never going to be anywhere near as impressive. While Age of Ultron made considerably less than The Avengers, it’s still the 2nd highest grossing film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
2. Jurassic World – $652.3 million
Just when I thought the Jurassic franchise didn’t have much left, in comes Jurassic World to prove me wrong. As far as 2015’s biggest surprises at the box office go, for me at least Jurassic World might be it. I mean this made more than three times as much as I predicted it would a year ago (worldwide), so there’s that. Obviously we’re going to see a lot more Jurassic stuff in the future, starting with Jurassic World 2 (not the final title, I hope) in 2018.
1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens – $887.1 million*
Without the success of this film 2015 would have been nowhere near as big as it is. Actually the large majority of the 2015 broken records come from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The new domestic all-time champ is still bringing in money and will probably stop around $920 million, making this one record that might take a while to fall. Episode VIII is now set to open December 15th 2017 and I’m absolutely looking forward to seeing how that ends up performing.
For a few laughs here’s what I thought 2015 would look like domestically about a year ago:
10. The Good Dinosaur – $200 Million
9. Minions – $200 Million
8. Fifty Shades of Grey – $200 Million
7. Mission: Impossible 5 – $240 Million
6. Furious 7 – $250 Million
5. Ted 2 – $250-300 Million
4. Spectre – $280 Million
3. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 – $350 Million
2. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens – $500-600 Million
1. Avengers: Age of Ultron – $600-620 Million
Hey, 6 of those made the real top 10 and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation was very close too (11th, $4.4 million behind Spectre), I mean it could have been a lot worse.
That’s that for the US in 2015, up next are the top 10 highest grossing movies of last year worldwide.