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Woody Allen Movies: Biggest Box Office Hits (Adjusted)

Alison Pill as Zelda Fitzgerald, Owen Wilson in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris
Alison Pill as Zelda Fitzgerald, Owen Wilson in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris

June 19, '11, update: Following the addition of 94 theaters, Woody Allen's 2011 effort Midnight in Paris was down only 10 percent from last weekend according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. Starring Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, and Marion Cotillard, among others, Midnight in Paris brought in $5.23 million at 1,038 locations – Allen's widest release ever in North America.

Though at no. 9 overall, Midnight in Paris' per-theater average was the fifth highest among the top twelve movies: $5,045, trailing Green Lantern's 3D-boosted $13,806; The Tree of Life's $9,781; Super 8's $6,235; and Mr. Popper's Penguins' $5,451. In other words, there's still room for further expansion.

To date, Midnight in Paris has raked in an estimated $21.71 million in the U.S. and Canada. Even taking inflation into account, this well-received effort is now behind only three Woody Allen movies since 2000: Vicky Cristina Barcelona ($23.21 million), Match Point ($23.15 million), and Small Time Crooks ($17.66 million, or about $25.7 million today).

By next weekend, Midnight in Paris will likely be ahead of all three, thus becoming Woody Allen's biggest domestic box office hit since Hannah and Her Sisters in 1986. That Best Picture Oscar nominee starring Allen, Mia Farrow, Barbara Hershey, Max von Sydow, and Oscar winners Michael Caine and Dianne Wiest earned $40.08 million 25 years ago, or about $85 million today.

Overseas, Midnight in Paris has grossed more than $18 million in France and Spain alone.

Photo: Midnight in Paris (Roger Arpajou / Sony Pictures Classics)

June 17

Owen Wilson, Midnight in Paris
Owen Wilson, Midnight in Paris

Midnight in Paris has become Woody Allen's widest domestic release ever. Today, Allen's well-received homage to the Paris of movies, literature, and romantic fantasies expanded to 1,038 locations – thus surpassing previous Allen record-holder Anything Else, which played at 1,033 theaters back in 2003.

Now, does a record number of theaters necessarily translate into a record number of tickets sold?

The answer is Nope. Not at all.

Here are a few things worth remembering:

  • There exists something called inflation; it's the bug that causes prices to inch up every year. As a result, box office figures are “inflated” when compared to those of previous years.
  • Today's movie houses tend to be much smaller than those of 15 years ago – let alone those of 30 or 35 years ago. In other words, just because a movie is playing at more locations in 2011 doesn't necessarily mean it'll offer more available seats than another movie screened at fewer theaters back in, say, 1981.
  • And finally, bear in mind that Anything Else went on to gross a dismal $3.21 million at the North American box office. In other words, a wider release doesn't necessarily lead to higher box office revenues.

Photo: Midnight in Paris (Roger Arpajou / Sony Pictures Classics)

Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Annie Hall
Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Annie Hall

Starring Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, and Marion Cotillard, Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris – Allen's widest release ever – has taken in $16.56 million after 28 days on North American screens. Even taking inflation into account, only two other Allen movies have earned more than that in the last ten years: the Javier Bardem-Scarlett Johansson-Penélope Cruz vehicle Vicky Cristina Barcelona with $23.21 million in 2008, and the crime/social drama Match Point, starring Johansson and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, with $23.15 million in 2005.

Allen's films weren't major box office draws in the 1990s (and the year 2000), either. Even adjusting for inflation, only three of them earned more than $20 million domestically during that period: Small Time Crooks with $17.66 million in 2000 ($25.74 million today); Bullets Over Broadway with $13.38 million in 1994 ($25.15 million today); and Manhattan Murder Mystery with $11.33 million in 1993 ($21.51 million today), which reunited the filmmaker with his old muse, Diane Keaton, following an acrimonious falling-out with movie muse and real-life partner Mia Farrow.

The '80s were hit-and-miss for Allen. There was one major box office success, the Best Picture Academy Award nominee Hannah and Her Sisters, which grossed $40.08 million in 1986 ($84.91 million today); several mid-range releases, e.g., Radio Days with $14.79 million in 1987 ($29.73 million today), Crimes and Misdemeanors with $18.25 million in 1989 ($36.13 million today); and a couple of major flops: September with $486k in 1987 ($980k today) and Another Woman with $1.56 million in 1988 ($2.98 million today).

Bear in mind that in those days, Woody Allen films that earned less than $30 million or so in 2011 dollars, e.g., Stardust Memories, Zelig, Broadway Danny Rose, The Purple Rose of Cairo, were considered box office disappointments.

In fact, in order to find Woody Allen at his most box office friendly (in North America), one has to go back all the way to the '70s. That's when Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask collected $18.01 million in 1972 ($83 million today); Love and Death drew $20.12 million ($77.14 million today) in 1975; the Best Picture Oscar winner Annie Hall – the most popular Woody Allen release ever in the U.S. and Canada (adjusted for inflation) – took in $38.25 million in 1977/1978 ($135 million today), and Manhattan earned $39.94 million ($125 million today) in 1979.

Imagine a Woody Allen flick grossing just as much as an Adam Sandler or Will Ferrell flick. Unthinkable today, but a reality a little over 30 years ago. Well, if Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell had been starring in movies back then.

I could be wrong, but the impression I have is that Woody Allen's films are much less popular nowadays less because of the films themselves than because of the type of people that flood the multiplexes.

Source box office figures & inflation calculations: Box Office Mojo and its data via the National Association of Theater Owners. Bear in mind that inflation adjustments can be tricky; figures are approximations.


         
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