#1 ‘Iron Man 3′ Vs. #16 ‘The Conjuring’
#2 ‘Frozen’ Vs. #15 ‘The Great Gatsby’
#3 ‘Despicable Me 2′ Vs. #14 Star Trek Into Darkness’
#6 ‘Fast & Furious 6′ Vs. #11 ‘The Croods’
#7 ‘Monsters University’ Vs. #10 ‘Thor: The Dark World’
#8 ‘Gravity’ Vs. #9 ‘Man Of Steel’
How They Got Here: Talk about two completely paths to success. When Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was released last Thanksgiving, the only question was how high Katniss Everdeen would soar. She didn’t disappoint, as the film blew past the holiday record for three-day and five-day totals, and it was just about as strong domestically as it was foreign. Contrast that to World War Z, the Marc Forster-directed Brad Pitt- survives-a-zombie-plague movie had all kinds of troubles during its production, and the last act of the movie got scrapped after it was shot because test audiences and Paramount Pictures didn’t like it. It was redrafted and reshot. That added $20 million or more to an already high budget, but worse, the buzz around the film was that it was going to be awful. Surprise. The film’s ending worked very well, and the action shots of zombies collectively swarming over walls like insects made it the most visually compelling zombie film since Night Of The Living Dead. Is that enough to topple The Hunger Games sequel?
The Bottom Line: When it was released, many thought Catching Fire would burn long enough to surpass the billion-dollar gross mark. It didn’t come that close with an $864 million worldwide gross, but it did improve upon the first film’s tally, which is exactly what the second leg of a continuing story is supposed to do. Considering all its hardships, World War Z is lucky just to be in this tournament. Usually, when you hear a film is going to be a train wreck, it usually turns out to be just that. It was laudable to see a studio be willing to pull a film out of a prime release slot, and throw more money into it to rescue it, even if naysayers questioned why it took everybody that long to realize it didn’t work and needed to be fixed. Paramount was happy enough with the results to put elements on a sequel, even if that became creatively complicated by the first film essentially solving the zombie problem.
The Winner: It’s Hunger Games in a walk. Our experts peg the World War Z budget around $269 million, though Paramount argues it was considerably less. Tack on another $160 million to market it, and Pitt’s first-dollar gross deal, and, according to our experts, this film barely broke even. You don’t invest $430 million to make and market a film just to break even, especially when it became the biggest opening of a film starring Pitt, and the biggest-grossing film in his career. Good luck on that sequel.
#4 THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG Vs. #13 OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL
How They Got Here: While it did not crack the billion-dollar worldwide gross mark like the first installment, Warner Bros’ The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug turned in a very respectable $944 million gross. It was also a better movie than the first, with the sense of urgency and high stakes that propelled The Lord Of The Rings but was missing from the whimsical first Hobbit. Lining up against it is Oz The Great And Powerful, a film that combined the vision of Spider-Man helmer Sam Raimi and the public domain work of author L. Frank Baum to prequel-ize a classic.
The Bottom Line: When you are going up against a near billion dollar grossing film that is the fifth in a franchise, a movie like Oz: The Great And Powerful needs to have something exceptional going for it like The Conjuring did to even have a puncher’s chance of an upset. Unfortunately, Oz is undone by a production budget of $215 million — a number that isn’t that far off the $260 million our experts estimate it cost for Peter Jackson to make the second Hobbit film. Jackson has the benefit of having gone through this four times already, with his own facilities right in his New Zealand backyard.
The Winner: The profit participation payout on Oz is much lower than the near $100 million for Hobbit 2, but this one isn’t even close. Oz generated $36.4 million in profit, while Hobbit 2 generated $134.1 million profit. There’s James Franco, floating in the hot air balloon, and look, there’s Smaug, exhaling a fiery breath. Hobbit closes this one out the way that the top seed in a bracket should.
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