Back in 1997, Titanic broke the ice and became the first film to gross over a billion dollars at the international box office. It was a mighty feat that wasn’t achieved again until 2003 with the release of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. After another three years past, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest joined this prestigious group.
Then in 2008 came The Dark Knight and Avatar in 2009 (which made over two billion). 2010 brought in Alice in Wonderland and Toy Story 3. 2011 was Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, and Transformers: Dark of the Moon. 2012 had the biggest film billionaire year yet with Marvel’s The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Now we are in 2013, and in May, Iron Man 3 crossed the mark. Oh, and this list doesn’t include the rereleases of Star Wars Episode I and Jurassic Park, which brought their worldwide totals over the billion mark.
This brings in a total of 17 films that have grossed over a billion dollars in 16 years. At face value, one might just say this is the result of inflation and the rise of ticket prices. Money does have a big impact on the box office, but there are a few other factors that have caused this group to grow so quickly in recent history.
3D has been a growing trend in films over the past decade, with the technology becoming more refined and appealing to a wider audience over the traditional red and blue “pops out in your face” 3D films of our youth. When used correctly, it can add great visual depth and scope to a film while enhancing the cinematography (take Avatar, for example). But, what film studios like about it is its ability to bring in more money at the box office. Theaters tend to charge anywhere from two to ten dollars extra for a 3D film. 3D can easily give a film the boost it needs to gross over a billion dollars.
Another massive factor in the box office game are franchises. The only film that does not belong to a current or planned (Avatar and Alice in Wonderland) is Titanic, which I guarantee 20th Century Fox has definitely toyed with the idea of doing some sort of related film in Jack and Rose’s world. What this shows is that there is power in a brand. People will go see a film because of a name. It’s an easy buck for studios. They don’t have to worry about advertising as much as they do for other films because people will go see the film regardless.
Now, what does this mean for the future of cinema? In the coming years, a film grossing a billion dollars will be something that’s expected. Four films grossed a billion dollars in 2012, and there is potential for several more to join Iron Man 3 the ranks in the final months of 2013. Success of a film may soon come to be measured on if it can gross a billion dollars or not. More and more franchises will continue to grow and expand, and cinematic universes like Marvel that can link brands will become common practice.
Looking at the coming months, Thor: The Dark World, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Transformers: Age of Extinction all are prime contenders for crossing the mark, which if all of them did, would bring the total from 17 to 23 less than a year.
Franchises are the kings of the world, and they’ll never let go.