Stanford University Press Blog

June 16, 2020 – 02:06 am

BilliondollarclubIn defense of the imaginative potential of the franchise.

21 films have grossed over 1 billion dollars at the box office.

In the history of the world, there have been twenty-one movies that have earned more than a billion dollars at the box office. Two-thirds of them have debuted since 2010, two of which—Furious 7 and Avengers 2—came out just this year. Jurassic World and Minions might join the billion-dollar movie club this summer, the newest James Bond and the final Hunger Games might join in the fall, and the Star Wars installment to be released at Christmas certainly will.

21 Highest Grossing FilmsWhat makes me so confident in these predictions? It’s easy to extrapolate from recent film history what the winning recipe of a blockbuster film looks like today. All twenty-one of the billion-dollar movies hail from Hollywood, most are episodes within larger franchises, and all can boast an international fan base. The trends behind these mega-hits are pronounced and consistent—what can they tell us about movies today?

The Billion-Dollar Movie Club

Studios After The Studios A common perception of the state of the industry is that Hollywood studios are out of ideas, and that as a result they principally make big, dumb movies—sequels—aimed at foreign markets. Leaving aside the implicit nastiness in the notion that foreign audiences want dumber movies than domestic viewers, this cynical stereotype only only glosses over crucial current trends in blockbuster films.

At face value, it’s true that Hollywood aims, at least in part, to appeal to an international market. Though all of the films in the billion-dollar club may be distributed by Hollywood majors they earn most of their box office outside the US and Canada. In the billion-dollar movie club, only one film—The Dark Knight—made more domestically than abroad, and even that was close—so close that it would likely have gone the other way had Chinese authorities allowed it to be distributed there.

Of the twenty-one highest-grossing films, four would not have yielded 10-figure box offices without their Chinese grosses.


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