If only Wall Street had bet on Twilight. Or Hannah Montana. Or Kirk Cameron.
With a $167.3 million overall domestic take as Sunday, per Box Office Mojo, Twilight made more than four times its reported $37 million production budget—the best rate of return on any film in the 2008 Top 10, including The Dark Knight.
The Batman epic was a pretty good investment, too, very nearly tripling its gargantuan $185 million budget with a $530.8 million domestic take, Hollywood's second-biggest ever.
Still, The Dark Knight was nothing compared to these off-the-charts performers: High School Musical 3: Senior Year ($89.7 million), which grossed about eight times its $11 million budget; the Hannah Montana concert movie, which made about nine times its $7 million budget; and Cameron's Fireproof, which cost $500,000 to produce, and made $33.1 million—or, more than 60 times its budget.
Other winners—and losers—of the box-office year that was, per stats from Box Office Mojo and The-Numbers.com:
- Titanic. If The Dark Knight couldn't get within even $50 million of the big-boat movie, then maybe it really won't ever be sunk as Hollywood's all-time domestic box-office king.
- Robert Downey Jr. Rising from The Shaggy Dog, Downey was the only star to score two Top 20 live-action hits, Iron Man ($318.3 million) and Tropic Thunder ($110.5 million).
- Will Smith. With apologies to Downey, Smith was the only star to sell a Top 10 movie, Hancock ($227.9 million), solely with his name.
- Women. Tween and teen girls flocked to Twilight. Actresses fronted, or helped front, four Top 20 hits: Sex and the City ($152.6 million), Mamma Mia! ($143.8 million), Wanted ($134.3 million) and Four Christmases ($111.8 million).
- Paris Hilton. Her opus, The Hottie & the Nottie ($27,696), was so not the lowest-grossing movie of the year. In fact, it reigned over films starring Catherine Zeta-Jones (Death Defying Acts, $3,561), Heather Graham (Miss Conception, $1,503) and Nick Stahl (How to Rob a Bank, $711—yes, $711).
- Hollywood. Despite The Dark Knight, overall revenue was down $86.8 million from last year, a drop of about 1 percent. Ticket sales fell even further—a dip of about about 4.25 percent, representing 59.1 million fewer admissions. But, given the nation's economic meltdown, things could have been worse, and, oddly, things got better after Wall Street's collapse in September. "I think the fact that the Industry held its own is remarkable," Exhibitor Relations' Jeff Bock said.
- Speed Racer. In May, this looked like the flop of the year. Then came the $130 million Australia ($44.3 million gross), and the realization by Disney that Prince Caspian ($141.6 million) wasn't The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe ($291.7 million). In the end, Speed was still a bomb—$43.9 million gross; $120 million budget—but it wasn't the bomb.
- Adam Sandler. You Don't Mess with the Zohan ($100 million) didn't bomb, but it didn't clear its $90 million budget by much. Bedtime Stories, which opened on Christmas, isn't bombing, but it isn't Night at the Museum.
- Brendan Fraser. Put him in a $145 million movie, like The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, or a $60 million movie, like Journey to the Center of the Earth, and you get the same result: a so-so $100 million or so gross.
- M. Night Shyamalan. His The Happening ($64.5 million) made more than it cost, but people disliked it about as much as Lady in the Water.
- Wallets. The average ticket price hit $7.20, the National Association of Theatre Owners reported on its blog, a new all-time high.
- Blockbusters. Of the year's 24 members of the $100 million club, four failed to match their budgets with their domestic takes alone: Quantum of Solace ($164.3 million gross; $200 million budget); The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian ($141.6 million gross; $200 million budget); The Incredible Hulk ($134.3 million gross; $150 million budget); and, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor ($102.3 million gross; $145 million budget).
- Prince Capsian. "That one looked like a guaranteed $200 million-plus superhit, with a real chance of surpassing $300 million," Box Office Guru's Gitesh Pandya said in an email. Instead, it might have cost the Narnia trilogy its third leg.
- The X-Files. Fox revived the franchise with a can't-lose $30 million investment only to lose when I Want to to Believe couldn't crack even $21 million.
- 10,000 B.C. ($94.8 million), The Spiderwick Chronicles ($71.2 million), Hellboy II: The Golden Army ($75.8 million) and Mike Myers' The Love Guru ($32.2 million) and every other underperformer.
Here's a look of the top-grossing films of 2008 through Sunday based on numbers compiled by Box Office Mojo:
- The Dark Knight, $530.8 million
- Iron Man, $318.3 million
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, $317 million
- Hancock, $227.9 million
- WALL-E, $223.8 million
- Kung Fu Panda, $215.4 million
- Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, $174.9 million
- Twilight, $167.3 million
- Quantum of Solace, $164.3 million
- Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!, $154.5 million
(Originally published Dec. 29, 2008 at 1:35 p.m. PT)