Movies Make $2 Billion in 2014 So Far Thanks in Part to Women and Children

Writing checks, it is still remarkably easy to slip up and write “2013.” Winter continues its gleefully brutal assault on much of the United States. The new year seems to have hardly begun — and yet, in these mewling kitten days of 2014, Hollywood has already collected $2 billion, Box Office Mojo reports:

As of Sunday, total domestic box office earnings have surpassed $2 billion in 2014. To date, the box office is up around eight percent from last year. If that pattern continues, 2014 would come close to being the first $12 billion year.

When speaking of billions, two is a lot, twice the number of cars in the entire world, and twelve is a-LOT-a-lot, the age of the oldest star clusters. What is behind this tremendous success? Well, a couple of Oscar-season carryovers from 2013, including ”Frozen,” which won Best Animated Film and Best Original Song AND is officially the fastest-selling digital release ever; and ”American Hustle,” which was all flirting and no followthrough, awards-wise, but still an entertaining entry.

Three 2014 originals of varying quality round out the top five earners of the year so far: ”The Lego Movie“ (with a score of 82 on Metacritic), ”Lone Survivor“ (60), and ”Ride Along“ (41). That is to say, Hollywood had made an ocean liner full of cash in just a few months, primarily from the following: two “prestige” pictures, one about women and one co-starring women; one highly regarded children’s film; one gritty war drama; and one urban buddy cop comedy. Not one is a sequel, or based on a comic book, or a board game, or a ride at Disneyland.

Does it really matter, you may ask. Even if original stories, taking seriously the experiences and points of view of children, women, African-Americans, soldiers, and toys, are making bank, will Hollywood ever change?

A Triple Feature for When You’re Feeling 30(ish) and Not Flirty and Not Thriving :/

What 2 watch, by Logan Sachon.

Where to Sit in a Movie Theater

Apparently, I'm on the "which seat is best" beat today, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the best seats in a movie theater are two-thirds away from the screen and in the center. It's because of the acoustics, but also because you're not craning your necks like you would if you sat in the front.

The $48 ‘World War Z’ Mega-ticket

Max Brooks's World War Z is going to be screened in advance tomorrow for moviegoers who buy a $48 "mega-ticket," which includes a digital copy of the movie when it becomes available, a movie poster, and a small popcorn (seriously, they couldn't spring for a large?).

Who Benefits from “12 Years A Slave’s” Oscar Bump?

The Academy Awards are a meaningless popularity contest decided by out-of-touch old white men in suits with the help of an occasional white lady. But if your movie wins one, an Oscar can help make a significant difference in how posterity treats it and, more immediately, in how much money it makes. 12 Years a Slave, which raked in a very respectful $140,000,000 worldwide before it won Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay, is beginning to enjoy its Oscar bump–or perhaps, bumps:

12 Years will make a major expansion in U.S. theaters — Fox Searchlight will be playing the movie in more than 1,000 theaters — even though the slavery drama comes out on DVD Tuesday. … Beyond the big screen, best picture winner 12 Years a Slave is getting a post-Oscar bump for the book it was based on. The 19th-century memoir by ex-slave Solomon Northup jumped from No. 326 on Amazon.com before Sunday night’s Academy Awards ceremony to No. 19 on Monday afternoon.

According to the New York Times, the movie launched its source material to the bestseller lists this past fall. Now its trajectory is steep enough that Oscar-winning director Alfonso (“Gravity”) Cuaron could be called in to film it. When your intrepid author checked on Tuesday, March 4, the paperback remained in the top 20, while the Kindle version had jumped to #17 overall and #2 on several specific lists:

• #2 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Sociology > Race Relations • #2 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > History > Americas > United States • #2 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction

People are rediscovering a lost classic and paying for the privilege! Terrific. But in a case like that of 12 Years a Slave, when the memoirist is long-since deceased, who profits from the book’s Oscar bump? Not to be all Upworthy about it, but the answer may surprise you.

Great 2013 Movies to Stream This Long Weekend

Over the next few weeks, film writers will be busy parsing the Oscar chances of inessential movies like American Hustle and Gravity; praising Sundance movies we mortals won’t be able to see for months, when they’ll slip silently in and out of theaters (if at all); and deriding the crap that’s released this month. Ignore it all. This is the time to discover one great movie you missed last year. Many are streaming for free or for cheap. Here are some.

‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’: A Portrait of Bourgeois Crisis

The film is ostensibly about finding the true spirit of the season amid a hellish, slapstick descent into suburban holiday dysfunction, but the film's "fun, old-fashioned Christmas" is remarkably steeped in wealth's economic markers, which I'll discuss in 2013 dollars.

Things to Watch This Weekend

Things to watch during President's Day.

Can God Make It In Hollywood? Crunching the Numbers

Looking to the premiere of Darren Aronofsky’s upcoming epic film Noah, starring Russell Crowe and The Lord, possibly in that order, the New York Times asks, “Can God Make It In Hollywood?” Religious movies do not always make it past the gatekeepers, and even when they do, they often fall flat with audiences, since viewers would rather watch cars go vroom! and robots go pow! than somber, toga-wearing men in beards talk about sin. The Times reports:

Once, studios routinely made movies with overtly religious themes for the mainstream audience. Classics like “The Ten Commandments,” “Quo Vadis” and “A Man for All Seasons” — each of which was nominated for a best picture Oscar — were box-office winners with a wide range of viewers. But after years of neglect or occasional hostility, the question now is whether Hollywood can still find common ground with religious audiences.

So, is God box office poison? I decided to investigate, using sophisticated analytic measures: I typed “God” into the search engine at Box Office Mojo. Here is what I found:

• The highest-grossing movie with “God” in the title is Godzilla (1998) which has made $136,000,000 worldwide since its release. The wrathful, rampaging character of Godzilla is not that different from the world-destroying character of God in the Noah story, come to think of it.

• The next three highest-grossing movies with “God” in the title are The Godfather, The Godfather Part III, and The Godfather Part II, which is funny since if you ask an aficionado s/he will probably say that Part II is the best film, followed by the original. Also funny: The Godfather has made a whopping $135,000,000 which is more than its two sequels put together. (Sequels! Turns out they are not always the surest and most profitable bet.)

• Next comes a comedy from 1977 called Oh, God! that I’ve never heard of, and I was a Film major. It made $40,000,000 domestically, which is roughly the advertising budget of a movie like Transformers.

Perhaps the Times is right? Or perhaps I am going about this the wrong way.

Here Is Your Open Thread

Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street will be coming out in theaters next week, and Dealbook is looking at the stories the movie won't be talking about: what happened to the victims.

On Fran Lebowitz and Work

Mike: This week, I listened to an interview that Jesse Thorn did with American writer Fran Leibowitz, who has been described as a "modern Dorothy Parker." And she talked a lot about some of the difficulties she faced just doing her job, and some of her thoughts about money. So I thought it might be something interesting to talk about!

Catching Up On 2012′s Movies: An MLK Weekend Guide

January is absolutely the best time of year for movies. Nothing good comes out until spring, but all of a sudden we have this mountain of intel  on last year's best movies, courtesy of awards voters and best-of-2012 lists.