ByMark Newton, writer at
Movie Pilot Associate Editor. Email: [email protected]
Mark Newton

Even as far back as 2013, people were anticipating big things for the 2015 box office. It seemed that all our cash-cows had come home at once as the year promised a titanic box office battle between various big name franchises including Avengers: Age of Ultron, Jurassic World, and most notably, Star Wars.

What's more, the year also saw the usual spattering of additional projects, often headed by A-list actors, which were supposed to tide us over until the big boys were ready for action. Hidden among this collection were some truly memorable ones (think Mad Max: Fury Road) and some truly forgettable ones (think Mordecai).

Now, to recap the year, I have perused the box office data to uncover the five biggest winners and the five biggest losers of 2015.

The Winners

1. 'Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens'

  • Budget: ???
  • Box Office: ???

It might be odd to put Star Wars: Episode VII at number 1 considering we don't actually have any final or official box office information for it, but I think it's safe to assume The Force Awakens will take the 2015 box office crown.

Already, only five days after its highly anticipated opening, it has accumulated $526 million globally, making it the most successful opening ever. Furthermore, before the film even opened in theaters, it had already gained enough sales in pre-booked tickets to place it at number 11 of the top grossing films of 2015.

The jury is still out on whether Star Wars can eclipse Avatar's long-held top box office position, although most analysts are now predicting it will. Having said that, Star Wars didn't quite match the grandiose predictions made for its opening weekend by some optimistic analysts. They suggested it could make up to $615 million worldwide, although it seems to have not quite captured this target.

2. 'Jurassic World'

  • Budget: $150 million
  • Box Office: $1,668,984,926

Although we expected Jurassic World to do well in the 2015 summer period, few expected to see it rocket to the near astronomical heights it achieved. Currently, Jurassic World sits at number 3 in the all-time global box office charts, just behind James Cameron's Avatar and Titanic.

This is relatively surprising when you consider it was helmed by a fairly unknown director with no major blockbuster experience under his belt. If nothing more, Jurassic World just goes to show how lucrative nostalgia and a beloved franchise can be in drawing in the crowds.

Back in April, I asked readers which blockbuster they thought would dominate this year's box office. Of the 183 people who answered, only 4 voted for Jurassic World, which goes to show just how surprising its huge success actually was.

3. 'Furious 7'

  • Budget: $190 million
  • Box Office: $1,515,047,671

Furious 7 marked a new high for what was, until relatively recently, a stalling action franchise. As well as making the most money of any Fast and Furious movie, Furious 7 also marked the series' first foray into the illustrious billion dollar club.

As is becoming increasingly common, Furious 7 had the Chinese market to thank for much of this achievement. Furious 7 took the record for a single day's box office in China, while its total haul of $390 million was actually more than its US domestic gross ($353 million).

4 'It Follows'

  • Budget: $2 million
  • Box Office: $14,674,076

It Follows might appear at the bottom of 2015's box office charts, but don't think for a second this means it was a failure. Perhaps the most talked about horror of the year, It Follows proves what could be achieved with a strong concept, a small budget and great word of mouth marketing.

Although only produced on a budget of around $2 million, It Follows went to make seven times that figure at the box office. The fact its marketing budget was likely much lower than the blockbusters on this list, also likely means that, comparatively speaking, it's one of the most lucrative movies of 2015.

5. 'Minions'

  • Budget: $74 million
  • Box Office: $1,157,275,017

As a spin-off of only a moderately successful animated movie, Minions could have flopped for Universal. However, in the end, it managed to take the fifth spot for 2015's box office.

Although Inside Out proved more popular domestically, Minions struck a cord globally, making over $1.1 million in worldwide sales. This is likely the result of a marketing campaign by Universal which rather aggressively promoted the movie in foreign markets. As a result 71% of ticket sales came from outside of the US, compared to only 58% for Inside Out.

The Losers

1. 'Pan'

  • Budget: $150 million
  • Box Office: $126,464,818

A Peter Pan reboot headed by Hugh Jackman should have lead to families flooding the cinema, however unfortunately for Warner Bros, that never quite happened.

Instead Pan, which suffered derision from the outset for its marketing campaign, made only $35 million domestically, and $126 million globally. This puts it $24 million short of its stated budget of $150 million, although in reality its losses (once marketing costs are included) are much greater.

2. 'Avengers: Age of Ultron'

  • Budget: $250 million
  • Box Office: $1,405,035,767

I know what you're thinking: How can a movie, which is currently second in this year's box office charts, be considered a failure? Well, I'll tell you.

First of all, it has to admitted that objectively speaking Age of Ultron did great -- I mean, it did make over a billion dollars -- however, when you compare its performance to what was expected, it certainly fell short.

Marvel's The Avengers, which released three years earlier, made $1.5 billion on a budget of $220 million, and people fully expected its sequel to outdo this, especially with its bigger budget. In the end, Age of Ultron failed to fully explode at the box office, and in fact generated over $100 million less than its predecessor. Importantly, its domestic gross reduced by over a quarter, and it's only thanks to the foreign market (which increased from 59% of the total for The Avengers to 67.3% for Age of Ultron) that Age of Ultron did as well as it did.

Furthermore, when you consider the vast amount of marketing that went into Ultron, you have to remember that its budget of $250 million is likely closer to $500 million or even beyond, meaning its failure to overtake its predecessor is even more marked.

So why did it fail to do as well as The Avengers? It's likely a combination of factors including rival blockbusters releasing during the same period (namely Furious 7 releasing a month before it), poorer reviews and word-of-mouth than The Avengers, and audiences feeling oversaturated by superhero and Marvel movies.

3. 'The Man From U.N.C.L.E.'

  • Budget: $75 million
  • Box Office: $109,445,109

Although The Man from U.N.C.L.E. might look like it did well on paper, in reality, the Guy Ritchie-headed spy thriller reboot likely lost quite a bit of money for Warner Bros.

In fact, it was just one in a series of flops for the studio in 2015, which included Jupiter Ascending, the above-mentioned Pan and, more recently, In The Heart of the Sea.

Once again, a combination of factors was likely The Man From U.N.C.L.E.'s undoing, including; poor brand recognition among key demographics, poor reviews, a congested box office and a still relatively unproven leading man in the form of Henry Cavill.

4. 'Fantastic Four'

  • Budget: $120 million
  • Box Office: $167,977,596

Much like The Man From U.N.C.L.E., a quick perusal of Fantastic Four's budget and box figures might fool you into thinking it did well. In reality, however, it was a major flop for Fox.

The film, which was expected to spearhead a new Fantastic Four franchise, and a possible Fox superhero cinematic universe, was killed before it even really had a chance in theaters.

The reboot had seemed to be the subject of controversy since its very inception, and the marketing barely helped in that regard. The trailer was widely mocked, while rumors of discontent on set and the firing of Josh Trank from his Star Wars project also hinted the studio was not happy with the film. Moreover, poor reviews after release didn't help things either. Ultimately, the failure of Fantastic Four led Fox to announce they were rethinking their approach to the property.

5. 'Steve Jobs'

  • Budget: $30 million
  • Box Office: $24,721,830

Now, no one expected the Michael Fassbeder Steve Jobs biopic to explode at the box office, but it was expected to at least make back its relatively meager production budget.

To this end, it failed quite miserably, generating only $17 million domestically, and a paltry $7 million in the rest of the world.


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