With the acclaimed comedy fantasy Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen has one of his biggest ever domestic hits
Starring Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, and Marion Cotillard, Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris – Allen’s widest release ever – has taken in $16.6 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 $23.2 million in 2008, and the crime/social drama Match Point, starring Johansson and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, with $23.2 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 $17.7 million in 2000 (approx. $26 million today); Bullets Over Broadway with $13.4 million in 1994 (approx. $25 million today); and Manhattan Murder Mystery with $11.3 million in 1993 (approx. $22 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 1980s 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 $40.1 million in 1986 (approx. $85 million today); several mid-range releases, e.g., Radio Days with $14.8 million in 1987 (approx. $30 million today), Crimes and Misdemeanors with $18.3 million in 1989 (approx. $36 million today); and a couple of major flops: September with $486,000 in 1987 (approx. $1 million today) and Another Woman with $1.6 million in 1988 (approx. $3 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 1970s. That’s when Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask collected $18 million in 1972 (approx. $83 million today); Love and Death drew $20.1 million (approx. $77 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 $38.3 million in 1977/1978 (approx. $135 million today), and Manhattan earned $39.9 million (approx. $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 and 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.
Owen Wilson Midnight in Paris movie image: Roger Arpajou | Sony Pictures Classics.