January 13, 2021
For most of the 12 or so years this column has been around, we’ve focused on box office and industry trends, with commentary taking a secondary role to industry babble.
With Covid-19 keeping most people home in 2020, the theater industry has not really been worth covering, and so this column has taken on a few different shapes.
We’ve talked about streaming, old movies, TV shows, even sports. And, also, of course, we’ve talked about how 2020 has affected the industry and will continue to affect the industry.
With a vaccine starting to get out, we can finally begin looking forward a little bit, cautiously. In the event the vaccine is a grand slam and Covid numbers drop and we can start going back to the theater in 2021 (highly unlikely), it’ll very possibly be one of the great years in cinema history, as pretty much all of the blockbusters and prestige films that were supposed to come out in 2020 were shelved until theaters were safe to attend again.
But before we look forward, let’s take a week to look back at the anomaly that was the 2020 box office year at the movies. Here are the Top 10 grossing films in America, with some thoughts on each of them.
10. The Call of the Wild
Director: Chris Sanders
It’s cute, it’s fun, it has dogs in it, Harrison Ford looks super cool as a mountain man, and the whole family can watch it. Is it great cinema? No, of course not. But it has dogs in it. Dogs trump cinema. ($62 million).
9. The Invisible Man
Director: Leigh Whannell
I can’t deny it anymore, Elisabeth Moss is a movie star and can lead a film. But it wasn’t this ho-hum horror remake that did it for me. It was Alex Ross Perry’s excellent Her Smell, which probably should have won Moss an Oscar and is much, much more worthy of your time than another remake of a classic. ($64 million).
8. Little Women
Director: Greta Gerwig
I like Greta. I really do. I’ve been on her side since Hannah Takes the Stairs came out on DVD in 2008. At that time I thought we’d found the new Meg Ryan. I’ve followed her closely all along, and even saw her proper directorial debut, 2008’s Nights and Weekends, when it came out. I understand that she is now a symbol for gender inequality in Hollywood, and I’m on her side. That being said, I’m not a blind supporter of anything. I consider Lady Bird to be maybe the most overrated modern film. It’s not a classic, it’s a John Hughes film updated for millennials. And another Little Women remake? Hard pass. Pretty sure this movie will be largely forgotten. ($70 million).
Director: Stephen Gaghan
I don’t have much to say about this one other than that I’m shocked it was made by Stephen Gaghan and it’s a prime example of Hollywood leaning way too hard on established IP. ($77 million).
6. Birds of Prey
Director: Cathy Yan
ScreenTime readers know by now that I’m not a DC Comics fan. I think the comic book trend is killing an artform. That being said, I loved this movie. I watched it because, real talk, I wanted to look at Margot Robbie’s face for two hours. Turns out Birds of Prey is super fun, cool, and well made. And yeah, Margot. She’s incredible. ($84 million).
5. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Director: J.J. Abrams
I tried hard to like this one. Couldn’t finish it. A total mess that’s not worthy of the Skywalker name. ($124.5 million in 2020).
4. Jumanji: The Next Level
Director: Jake Kasdan
So fun. Maybe the most I had watching a film in 2020. Typically I hate when Hollywood revisits old IP, but Kasdan and his crew do it right with their new Jumanji films. So. Dang. Fun. And funny. ($124.7 million in 2020 million).
3. Sonic the Hedgehog
Director: Jeff Fowler
I have nothing to say about this one. Ha. I like Jim Carrey, I played Sonic a lot growing up, but I’m a 41-year-old man, and I’m pretty sure I’d fall asleep before this movie got rolling. That being said, it probably did well enough that we’re going to get a second Sonic film. If it makes kids happy, that’s great. And I suppose it’s fun to see Jim Carrey in the limelight again. ($146 million).
Director: Sam Mendes
Released at the very end of 2019, 1917 was able to make some decent money before Covid set in. A great war flick that will be remembered as more of a technical accomplishment than a memorable story. And that’s okay! It’s great to see an original movie that’s this well made do so well at the box office. ($158 million in 2020).
1. Bad Boys for Life
Director: Adil and Bilall
Admittedly, I’ve not seen this one yet. I’m not much of a Will Smith fan these days and was pretty bummed to learn that Michael Bay wasn’t directing the third Bad Boys film. I’ll see it eventually, though. Probably. Supposedly it’s a lot of fun. ($204 million).
That’s $1.114 billion brought in by the Top 10 films of 2020. Compare that to the $4.37 billion that the Top 10 of 2019 brought in for context. Not nearly as bad as I thought, but still, whoa.
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