The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises combined to gross more than $1 billion domestically. Overall, Hollywood revenue was up from last year. Admissions were up, too, and for the first time since 2009.
All was right with the movie world, except when it wasn't.
A rundown of 2012's box-office movies, stars and trends—the winners and the losers:
Superheroes: If you didn't have The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man, you wouldn't have roughly one-third of the year's top 10.
James Bond If you count 007 as a superhero in a too-tight suit, then Skyfall was yet another hit of the wall-scaling genre. And if you don't, then you should because the biggest Bond ever was a superhero at the box office, now nearing the $1 billion mark worldwide.
Grown-Ups Who Like Grown-Up Movies: The over-25 crowd made Lincoln and Argo $100 million-plus hits, got Denzel Washington's Flight in the neighborhood of nine digits, helped Les Misérables and Django Unchained to fast starts and hung around for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Meryl Streep's Hope Springs. "It's encouraging to see quality as a business model," says exec Dave Hollis of the Disney-backed Lincoln.
Kids Who Like Cartoons: After a soft 2011, animation was back. Six of the year's top 20 hits, from Brave to Hotel Transylvania, were animated family films.
Teens Who Like Dystopia: That The Hunger Games was the year's third-biggest hit was impressive, that it was one of the all-time biggest hits was impressive, that the franchise-starter out-performed the final Harry Potter domestically, and without the benefit of 3-D ticket prices, was off the charts.
Europeans Who Like Edward and Bella: As a domestic franchise, Twilight peaked with New Moon. Internationally, however, the series went out on top with Breaking Dawn Part 2, which made nearly 65 percent of its series-record $800 million worldwide haul from overseas audiences.
Kevin Hart Only Steven Soderbergh's Magic Mike made more money off a smaller budget than the comedian's No. 1-opening Think Like a Man, which saw its reputed $12 million investment grow into a $91.5 million domestic gross.
Tom Cruise Rock of Ages cost $75 million, and made $56 million worldwide; Jack Reacher, while fairly inexpensive for a studio holiday movie, isn't off to a much better start.
People Who Weren't White: Sure, it was a tough year to be Cruise or Mitt Romney, for that matter, but at least they were in the game. In 2012, there wasn't a top 10 movie with a person of color in the foreground. (Note: Samuel Jackson is in the background in posters for The Avengers, and don't even go there with the Hulk.) In the top 20, there was Will Smith in Men in Black 3 and Denzel Washington in Safe House. (The Jamie Foxx-led Django Unchained may get there yet; Hart's Think Like a Man just missed the cut—it's currently in 27th place.) Next up: the Oscars, where two of the highest-profile likely nominees to feature actors of color, Lincoln and Django Unchained, concern slavery.
Remakes of '90s Sci-Fi Movies: Colin Farrell's Total Recall ($199 million worldwide gross) and Dredd ($31 million worldwide gross) were a lot less than the sum of their original parts, Arnold Schwarzengger's Total Recall ($261 million worldwide gross in 1990) and Sylvester Stallone's Judge Dredd ($113 million worldwide gross in 1995).
The Oogieloves' P.R. people: Did you read that Ooogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure posted the "worst [opening] ever for [a] wide release?" Or that the family film was the "biggest box-office bomb of all-time." Of course you did. Did you know neither take is accurate? Probably not. So, here you go: The bar-none worst-ever opening for a wide-release film, meaning a film opening on 600 or more screens, is and was the 2008 drama Proud American. (Oogieloves, which ranks 12th on the all-time loser list, is merely the worst-opening film at 2,000 or more theaters.) As for the "biggest box-office bomb" claim, that's always a tough-to-impossible one to verify. We do know this, however: Even with Oogieloves making just $1 million off a $60 million investment, including production and promo expenses, it's not a bigger bomb than 2010's The Nutcracker in 3D ($16 million worldwide gross; $90 million budget) or 2011's Mars Needs Moms ($39 million worldwide gross; $150 million budget) to name just two latter-day busts. All of this is to argue that in a year when Maggie Gyllenhaal's Won't Back Down and the teen comedy Fun Size also put up historically terrible debuts, Oogieloves was singled out as the bomb of bombs because Goobie, Zoozie and Toofie lacked for proper spin-doctoring. And names—they lacked for proper names, too.
Films That Got Jobbed by Re-Releases: The Avengers could've been the No. 2 domestic hit of all-time if Titanic hadn't come back in 3-D, and added nearly $60 million to its total; Star Wars would still be the all-time-grossing Star Wars movie domestically if The Phantom Menace hadn't come back in 3-D, and pushed past its forerunner with a $43 million boost.
IN A CLASS OF THEIR OWN
Cloud Atlas: On one hand, from a strict budget-to-gross perspective, this Tom Hanks-Halle Berry epic lost more money than noted flops John Carter and Battleship, both of which actually made good on their reported production costs. On the other hand, it grossed $65 million worldwide—maybe not-so bad for a movie nobody understood?
The Dark Knight Rises: For as big as it was, it could've been bigger. (And internationally, it was indeed bigger than 2008's The Dark Knight.) The greatest, and saddest, what-might-have-been box-office story of the year.
Here's a complete rundown of the year's biggest domestic hits, through Wednesday, per BoxOfficeMojo.com stats: