(all data accurate as of Dec. 30, 2009, and courtesy of BoxOfficeMojo.com)
The Blind Side ($193.0 million+) – Between this and the rom-com breakout of the summer, The Proposal, Sandra Bullock had a banner year and proved that she is still a formidable box office draw. The Blind Side’s widespread appeal to football fans, men, women and families helped turn it into one of the most successful and surprising runs of 2009. The film is still playing strong at the end of the year and will finish at No. 8 with somewhere close to $220-230 million.
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs ($196.6 million) – The first two films were big hits with kids and families and the added appeal of 3D and its premium ticket pricing helped making this the biggest film of the franchise.
Monsters Vs. Aliens ($198.4 million) – Dreamworks’ computer-animated kid-favorite was the biggest film of the spring. Despite 3D prices, it fell just short of the $200 million mark thanks to poor reception outside of its younger audience.
Star Trek ($257.7 million) – Against all odds, J.J. Abrams’ reboot of the venerable sci-fi franchise offered the kind of fun and spectacle that audiences have been sorely craving and missing from summer blockbusters. With the some of the best reviews and word-of-mouth of any film in 2009, Star Trek successfully broke the stigma once attached to the franchise that was on its deathbed just four years ago. Its sequel is now one of the most anticipated projects in the coming years.
The Hangover ($277.3 million) – Todd Phillips’ first film since Old School hit the public zeitgeist with a timely summer/wedding-season release and became the highest grossing comedy of all-time.
The Twilight Saga: New Moon ($283.9 million+) – The overnight sensation of the “Twilight” series came to a boiling point as New Moon posted the third biggest opening weekend of all-time thanks to a rabid fan base that increased in just one year’s time since the first film. Its reception outside of the fan base, however, was quite poor and its legs at the box office were cut short. New Moon will end up with close to $295 million once its run ends.
Up ($293 million) – Pixar’s reputation and continued success were taken to the next level with Up, their first film released in 3D. The heartfelt emotion and whimsical adventure helped it cater to crowds of all ages, making it Pixar’s second highest-grossing film to date.
Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince ($302 million) – Potter’s sixth outing debuted to the biggest midnight performance of all-time (until New Moon) and the added hype from the delay of the film’s release from 2008 helped fuel fan admission. Word-of-mouth was good enough to help it become the first Potter film since 2001’s Sorcerer’s Stone to cross the $300 million threshold.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen ($402.1 million) – The first film was the surprise blockbuster of 2007 with great word-of-mouth as well as fantastic DVD/Blu-Ray sales throughout 2008. This sequel posted the third biggest opening day of all-time and, despite mixed reception from audiences, became the ninth highest grossing film of all-time (not accounting for inflation) here in the States.
Avatar ($268.9 million+) – Filmmaker James Cameron spent 12 years after Titanic writing and developing the technology for this film, which he plans to turn into a franchise. The hype from the Internet and unprecedented premium 3D ticket prices helped it become the second biggest December opening of all-time. It’s enjoying one of the most amazing holiday runs since The Lord of the Rings series and is already assured of surpassing (at least) $425 million to become the top-grossing film of 2009. Where it will stop is hard to predict right now with the average ticket price being almost 40% higher than any other movie this year, but many are speculating that its final total could rival that of The Dark Knight’s $533 million. Around the world, Avatar is virtually locked to become the second-biggest film of all-time behind Titanic with the aid of inflation and 3D prices. Oscar recognition could play a big factor, but with superb word-of-mouth thus far, anything over $450 million domestically and a place in the top 3 or 4 films of all-time is a safe bet.