HomeClassic MoviesBox Office: 1947 Is Banner Domestic Year & 2009 Sets International Record ‘Harry Potter’ No. 1 Worldwide

Box Office: 1947 Is Banner Domestic Year & 2009 Sets International Record ‘Harry Potter’ No. 1 Worldwide

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince with Daniel Radcliffe hanging on to the title of Worldwide Box Office Leader. In 2009, the six major U.S. studios broke box office records around the world thanks to global blockbusters such as Warner Bros.’ Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, 20th Century Fox’s Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Avatar, and DreamWorks/Paramount’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. It goes without saying that without the international market, Hollywood would be a very different – i.e., much smaller and poorer – film factory.

Hooray for Hollywood: Box office records broken internationally

(See previous post: “Box Office Records: Manufactured or Real?”) Jan. 2 update: A total of $10.7 billion. That’s the 2009 international box office gross of Hollywood’s six major studios according to early estimates published in The Hollywood Reporter. That’s also an all-time record and an increase of 7 percent from 2008.

Tellingly, only three of 2009’s Top Ten domestic grossers – The Hangover, Star Trek, and Monsters vs. Aliens – earned more money in the U.S. and Canada than internationally.

Worldwide, the biggest box office hit of 2009 was Warner Bros.’ Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which took in $929.4 million. More than two-thirds of that amount ($627.4 million) came from outside the U.S. and Canada. Directed by David Yates, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince toplines Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson.

In second place was 20th Century Fox’s animated Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, with $887.6 million. Of this total, $691 million (77.9 percent) – more than any other 2009 release – came courtesy of the international market.

In third, Michael Bay’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen raked in $835 million; $432.9 million (51.8 percent) internationally. In the cast: Megan Fox, Shia LaBeouf, and Josh Duhamel.

James Cameron’s Avatar – which opened near the end of the year – came in fourth, with $760 million (not including the last few days in December); $476.2 million (62.7 percent) internationally.

China’s biggest box office hit ever

Roland Emmerich’s 2012 was no. 5 with $734 million – $572.8 million, or 78 percent, internationally, where the disaster flick became China’s biggest box office hit ever. In the cast: John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Thandie Newton.

Rounding out 2009’s Top Ten Worldwide:

  • Pete Docter’s Up with $683 million ($390 million, or 57.1 percent, internationally). The voice cast includes Edward Asner and Christopher Plummer.
  • The (non-major) Summit Entertainment release The Twilight Saga: New Moon with $665.4 million ($381.5 million, or 57.3 percent, internationally).
  • The Ron Howard-Tom Hanks collaboration Angels & Demons, with $485.9 million ($352.6 million, or 72.6 percent, internationally).
  • Todd Phillips’ The Hangover with $459.4 million ($182.1 million, or 39.6 percent, internationally). In the cast: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, and Justin Bartha.
  • The Ben Stiller flick Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, with $412.7 million ($235.4 million, or 57.1 percent, internationally).

Hollywood majors boosted by foreign markets

Looking at these numbers, it’s obvious that the major U.S. studios currently earn most of their money overseas – at least at the box office.

Among the Top Ten worldwide 2009 releases, the only one that made more money domestically than abroad was Todd Phillips’ comedy The Hangover. Even then, nearly 40 percent of its grosses originated outside the U.S. and Canada.

That’s why one shouldn’t underestimate the importance of the international market when it comes to what movies get produced and/or distributed by U.S. studios.

For instance, with the exception of The Twilight Saga: New Moon, in which Kristen Stewart plays the central role, and perhaps Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (no actual humans), last year’s biggest worldwide blockbusters were all focused on male characters (whether live or animated). And as to be expected, action and special effects were most everywhere on screen.

Now, no matter how remarkable these record-breaking figures, they should be placed in context. For starters, the U.S. dollar has lost quite a bit of its value in a number of key movie markets, which means larger dollar amounts after the conversion of local currencies.

Also, the Hollywood studios won’t see all those billions pouring into their coffers, as local distributors, exhibitors, and governments will grab a sizable chunk of the grosses.

Cinema life elsewhere: Local box office hits

If you live in the U.S. and/or read only American publications, it’ll be hard to believe that there are lots of people making movies outside of both Hollywood and the United States. Even so, these movies do get made and some of them are very successful.

Via boxofficemojo.com, here is a list of a few key box office countries and their biggest local hits of the past year:

  • Brazil: If I Were You 2, $32 million.
  • China: The Founding of a Republic, $60.7 million.
  • France*: Le Petit Nicolas, $48.3 million.
  • Germany: Vicky the Viking, $13.55 million.
  • India: Love Aaj Kal, $16.19 million.
  • Italy: Christmas in Beverly Hills, $29.91 million.
  • Japan: Rookies: Sotsugyô, $87.99 million.
  • Mexico: Another Chicken Movie, $8.58 million.
  • Russia/CIS: Dark Planet, $21.83 million.
  • South Korea: Tidal Wave, $67.98 million.
  • Spain: Agora, $30.2 million.
  • Sweden: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, $16.37 million domestically; approx. $95 million worldwide.
  • United Kingdom (not including Warner Bros.’ British-based Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince): Slumdog Millionaire, $52.21 million.

* Includes former colonies Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco, in addition to tiny Monaco.

Australia wasn’t included on the list above because its 2009 box office chart was wholly dominated by U.S. products.

Avatar trailer features one single “name” star: James Cameron (and his movies). Actors – including three-time Oscar nominee Sigourney Weaver – are seen and heard, but their names go unmentioned. On-screen stars or no, Avatar has bounced back to the top of the chart this Christmas weekend, as more box office records have been broken.

‘Avatar’ bounces back to the top as Christmas weekend breaks box office records

Dec. 28 update: After falling behind Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes on Christmas Day (and after falling behind Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel on Wednesday), Avatar ended up victorious at the Christmas weekend box office as per figures found at Box Office Mojo.

Avatar earned pretty much exactly what had been expected: $75.6 million. Its total domestic take currently stand at $212.7 million.

Chiefly thanks to Avatar, Sherlock Holmes’ $65.4 million and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakel‘s $50.2 million – and let’s not ignore Meryl Streep’s It’s Complicated with $22.5 million in fourth place – the 2009 Christmas weekend reached nearly $260 million at the domestic box office. An official record.

According to Box Office Mojo’s chart, the previous record-holder was the July 18–20 ’08 weekend – with $253.5 million – when The Dark Knight led the pack with $158.4 million.

In third place is the The Twilight Saga: New Moon opening weekend (Nov. 20–22 ’09), when the second Twilight installment brought in $142.8 million, helping the weekend total reach $250 million.

The runners-up were the weekends topped by two Johnny Depp star vehicles: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men’s Chest and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End in, respectively, July 2006 and May 2007.

More box office records – but ‘Avatar’ not involved

Dec. 27 update: James Cameron’s Avatar was the no. 2 movie at the domestic box office on Christmas Day, trailing Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes. Christmas figures were highly impressive: Sherlock Holmes took in $24.8 million, while Avatar (with higher ticket prices, but fewer venues) grossed $23.5 million.

Sherlock Holmes has thus shattered Christmas Day box office records. The previous record-holder was the Jennifer Aniston-Owen Wilson sentimental crowd-pleaser Marley & Me, which raked in $14.5 million last year.

The fact that this year’s Christmas fell on a Friday, a typical movie-going day, seems to have given a boost to the box office.

When box office records aren’t really record-setting

Dec. 26: Earlier this week, it was announced with much fanfare that despite these painful economic times the movie business is having a record year, with more than $10.6 billion earned at the domestic box office in 2009.

Outside the U.S. and Canada, the box office gross reached $15 billion, up about 5 percent from 2008, though that figure can be partly explained by the U.S. dollar’s dramatic tumble in a number of major film markets.

As found in the New York Times, domestic attendance figures for 2009 are the highest in five years, with 1.42 billion tickets sold in the United States and Canada at an average price of $7.46.

Now, although the $10 billion earned domestically would be an impressive figure for a number of U.S. industries (definitely not for military contractors), it’s an official box office record only because ticket prices have been going up nearly every year.

In fact, Hollywood could go on breaking box office records annually if ticket prices were hiked up a certain percentage each calendar year so as to offset any expected drop (or lack of increase) in ticket sales.

The inflation factor & ticket sales

At the domestic box office, Hollywood.com estimates that in 2009 ticket sales are up 5 percent in relation to 2008. Yet, as made clear in the New York Times, “when adjusted for inflation, 2002 had sales of $11.21 billion, while the totals for 2001, 2003 and 2004 also exceed this year’s tally.”

Putting things in perspective: as found at Box Office Mojo, 1.403 billion tickets have been sold in 2009, while in 2002 that figure reached 1.575 billion.

And that’s how this year’s widely heralded domestic box office record-breaking feat is made to look considerably less smashing.

Welcome Stranger Bing Crosby Joan Caulfield: 1947 US box office banner yearWelcome Stranger with Bing Crosby, Joan Caulfield, and Robert Shayne. Shortly after the end of WWII, 1947 turned out to be a banner year for Hollywood, as more than 3.5 billion movie tickets were sold in the U.S. alone. Elliott Nugent’s Paramount comedy Welcome Stranger, which brought back together Going My Way stars Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald – and Blue Skies stars Crosby and Joan Caulfield – was one of the year’s top hits, perhaps the top one, depending on the source. (Official figures from that period are hard to come by.) Anyhow, when discussing box office records, 1946 was indisputably the best year ever, with 4.067 billion tickets sold in the U.S.

Domestic box office banner year: 1947

Putting things in even better perspective: As per the National Association of Theater Owners, an estimated 70 million people went to the movies every week in the United States (population: 144 million) in 1947.*

That means approximately 3.664 billion tickets† were sold even without state-of-the-art special effects, multiplexes, and megabudget sequels.

The top movies of 1947?

Nearly all were big-studio star vehicles. Few of these movies boasted special effects (Green Dolphin Street has a major earthquake), offering instead – in middle-to-lowbrow, highly commercial fashion – a mix of romance, adventure, drama, music, and comedy.

It was a vastly different type of audience then – hardly more sophisticated, but certainly older. Besides, television was just starting out, and there was no digital cable, DVD, pay-per-view options, all-sports channels, or online porn flicks and sex chat rooms to keep people away from movie houses.

Top 20 films of 1947

Below is the list of the Top 20 films of 1947, via boxofficereport.com. Their source is unclear – quite possibly Variety, which used to publish annual box office lists.

In any case, take this particular list as an “approximation.”

Bear in mind that late 1946 releases – such as David O. Selznick’s King Vidor-(co-)directed blockbuster Duel in the Sun – aren’t included on the list above. For the record, the color Western starred Jennifer Jones, Gregory Peck, and Joseph Cotten.

* Figures vary depending on the source. The Wall Street Journalestimated that 78.2 million Americans went to the movies every week in 1947.

† U.S. box office records were truly shattered in 1946, when 4.067 billion tickets were sold.

See also: Another domestic record broken?

Daniel Radcliffe Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince image: Warner Bros.

Avatar trailer: 20th Century Fox.

Image of Robert Shayne, Bing Crosby, and Joan Caulfield in the 1947 box office hit Welcome Stranger: Paramount Pictures.

“Box Office: 1947 Is Banner Domestic Year & 2009 Sets International Record Harry Potter No. 1 Worldwide” last updated in March 2018.

8 comments

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8 comments

Doc Rock -

Apparently ‘Box Office Mojo” is an inept organization, as of Sunday the headlines are all reading “Avatar easily beats Holmes at the Box Office”

NEVER trust ANYTHING you read on the Internet before checking it out.

Reply
mh -

@Doc Rock

Thanks for the advice, though I’ve always been fully aware of the unreliability of news sources on the Internet — and elsewhere, for that matter.

Having said that, I must add that Box Office Mojo is as reliable as news sources get. My article, if you read it, covers earnings at the domestic box office on Christmas Day, not over the Christmas Weekend.

‘Avatar’ was #2 on Christmas Day. It was #1 for the weekend (Fri.Sun).

Reply
joe_6285 -

Let’s see if this becomes true or not I want Avatar to win the weekend.

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joe_6285 -

I just found out that Avatar is going to win this weekend let’s hope that happens as it turns out that way only.THIS XMAS WEEKEND BIGGEST EVER! ‘Avatar’ Back On Top For #1 Saturday By Beating ‘Sherlock Holmes’; ‘Squeakquel’ #3.

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Alex -

I left Piracy at the back for a reason, it is huge but not as game-changing as people make it out. The other factors are a lot more important and you have to agree with me on that one. People still watch movies as much as they did, it’s just that they have more ways of doing that now.

And about your piracy questions. Those numbers are very exact since a tracker (sort of a bridge between servers and people downloading a and uploading stuff like movies, music or games) keeps track of the exact number of people that have downloaded a certain file. When it comes to the quality of the movie they vary depending on how soon they are released. They range from cams to Blue-Ray rips in full 1080p glory. And I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to keep track of every single tracker that is offering this stuff so 11 million could very well be 20 million since that site that reported 11 can only keep track of so many torrent trackers.

So piracy is not something to ignore mate.

Reply
Domo -

But piracy is on the rise too

Reply
Alex -

I’m so but this article is very much flawed by comparing a year like 1947 when to only option to see a movie or anything for that matter was going to a theater.

Now we have every single movie that comes out in theaters at home in 6 months or less, either on DVD/Blue-Ray, pay per view or stuff like HBO. And did I mention piracy? Star Trek alone is said to have been downloaded from the internet more then 11 million times. That’s almost 100 million in ticket sells right there, not to mention that a movie that you download can be seen by 2,3,4 or 10 people. So while the movie was downloaded 11 million times, more then 100 million people might have seen it, all of that without paying anything else but their Internet connection.

People like and watch movies just as much (if not more) then they did 62 years ago, it’s just that today we have a lot more ways to do it.

Reply
mh -

@Alex

The lack of other venues for film-watching is mentioned in the article.

TorrentFreak is the source for the 11 million pirated “Star Trek” downloads. Even if their figures are accurate (they’re based on BitTorrent data and I don’t know how that data is compiled), one can download “Star Trek” and still watch it on the big screen. Unless, perhaps, you’re in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia. How good was the pirated version? High-def? Or a crappy recording some idiot did at a movie theater?

Also, those 11 million downloads weren’t all done in the US, and their impact at the US box office is highly debatable regardless of what the MPAA says.

Here’s an interesting article on piracy claims:
huffingtonpost.com/gary-shapiro/dear-fcc-please-dont-let_b_355191.html

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