It's Not Harry Potter's Fault: Lousy Year for the Movies

Attendance and ticket sales down, animated movies don't pack 'em in like they used to, but, yes, Deathly Hallows Part 2 sure did make a lot of box-office magic in 2011

By Joal Ryan Dec 24, 2011 6:33 PMTags
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There was only so much magic in the wizard.

While Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—Part 2 became the world's third-biggest grossing movie of all time, Hollywood suffered one of its worst box-office years in years.

And it's easy to see why: People just didn't go to the movies.

Specifically, they didn't go to animated movies—at least not in the kind of numbers they have in the past.

In 2010, five toons, led by Toy Story 3, topped $200 million domestically. This year, none did.

Only five animated films broke $100 million. And one, Mars Needs Moms, was a budget-buster for the ages, or at least the near future, grossing less than $40 million worldwide, per numbers, off a $190 million price tag.

Overall movie attendance fell to its lowest levels since the early 1990s, according to BoxOfficeMojo stats, as of Christmas week.

Sky-high prices didn't keep revenues from falling, either. Exhibitor Relations had Hollywood off 3 percent from last year; BoxOfficeMojo had it down about 8 percent, for the lowest collective gross since 2008.

Drilling down into the numbers, such as they were:

• Take away Deathly Hallows—Part 2's $381 million chart-topping domestic gross and the industry would've had its worst year in five years.

• Worldwide HP8 grossed $1.3 billion. Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides each joined the billion-dollar club, too.

• It wasn't just animation that audiences avoided. Folks weren't too fond of spring or fall, either.

• Animation still sold overseas. Kung Fu Panda 2 was Hollywood's fourth-biggest worldwide hit of the year.

Bridesmaids won the prize for being the highest-grossing nonsequel, not-based-on-anything movie of the year. It placed 12th on the list of 2011's domestic champs with a $169 million take.

• Until Tom Cruise's Ghost Protocol comeback began to take, Breaking Dawn Part 1 was doing all the heavy lifting this holiday season, but even it came up short when compared to the previous Twilight sequels. Domestically it's running about $10 million behind New Moon and about $20 million behind Eclipse. The Harry Potter series experienced a similar blip with its next-to-last installment.

• 2011's unlucky number was 21, as in $21 million. Four of the year's biggest money-losers each grossed that amount domestically: Your Highness ($50 million budget); Dream House ($50 million budget); Conan the Barbarian ($90 million budget); and the aforementioned Mars Needs Moms

• To date, 26 movies have grossed $100 million-plus, including Cowboys & Aliens and Green Lantern, which should remind us that grossing $100 million-plus doesn't necessarily mean much today.

Here's a complete look at the year's top movies through Wednesday, per domestic grosses as reported by

  1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—Part 2, $381 million
  2. Transformers: Dark of the Moon, $352.4 million
  3. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part 1, $268.2 million
  4. The Hangover Part II, $254.5 million
  5. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, $241.1 million
  6. Fast Five, $209.8 million
  7. Cars 2, $191.5 million
  8. Thor, $181 million
  9. Rise of the Planet of the Apes, $176.7 million
  10. Captain America: The First Avenger, $176.65 million