Martin Grove’s Hollywood Report 12-26-11

On the set of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2”

On the set of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2”

“Transformers: Dark of the Moon” – In Theaters June 29th

“Transformers: Dark of the Moon” – In Theaters June 29th

“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1” – In theaters November 18th

“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1” – In theaters November 18th

Top Ten: Tis the season to be jolly and for movie critics that means compiling Top Ten lists honoring the movies they liked most.

As the year winds down, Top Ten lists will be flying all over the place, mostly celebrating the same handful of awards contenders embraced by reviewers everywhere.

But does this really make them the year’s best films? I’ve maintained for a long time that there aren’t any good movies and there aren’t any bad ones. It’s just a matter of what you like. That’s what makes a movie good.

But if there absolutely must be a year-end Top Ten list, I think it should reflect what moviegoers actually have voted for. Although that sounds like a big project with millions of votes to somehow be obtained and tabulated, it’s actually not a big deal at all. That’s because those votes have already been cast at the boxoffice.

The year’s best films are the ones audiences voted for with their boxoffice dollars. There’s no need to add anything up because the numbers are already on record.

As it turns out, the first seven of these titles are all franchise episodes or sequels, clearly an indication that moviegoers gravitate to the familiar. The last three titles on the list include two comic book driven films that are launching new franchises and one sci-fi action drama that rebooted a franchise that’s been dormant for the past decade. Here’s a quick look back at 2011 and the films that were magnets for the most moviegoers.

(1) The year’s top grossing movie was “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2,” the final episode in Warner Bros.’ blockbuster franchise based on J.K. Rowley’s best-selling novels.

Directed by David Yates (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1”) and written by Steve Kloves (“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”), “Hallows 2” re-teamed Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint.

With $381 million in domestic theatrical grosses, “Hallows 2” was 2011’s Number One movie. The franchise’s eight titles have grossed $2.4 billion domestically.

The big question for “Hallows 2” is whether it can manage to snag a best picture Oscar nomination. Big commercial movies like this don’t usually get recognized by the Academy, but that’s what did happen when “The Lord of the Rings” franchise concluded in 2003. “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” wound up winning 11 Oscars, including best picture, director (Peter Jackson) and adapted screenplay (Fran Walsh, Phillipa Boyens & Peter Jackson).

Will Oscar lightning strike again for the last of the “Harry Potters?” Warner Bros. certainly hopes so and is campaigning for Academy recognition. One recent studio ad headlined “consider…” reminded Oscar voters that “Hallows 2” has already been honored with Critics’ Choice noms from the Broadcast Film Critics (not, however, for best picture), was named “One of the Best Pictures of the Year” by the National Board of Review and received an AFI Special Award (for the series).

If the franchise had ended last year it would have had a better chance of landing an Academy best picture nod because at the time there still were 10 slots to fill in that category. When the Academy went from five to 10 best picture noms two years ago, that was widely seen as a way in which to make room for commercial films like Warner Bros.’ “The Dark Knight” that were well regarded but not the kind of small “artistic” movies that resonate with Oscar voters nowadays.

This year, however, the Academy changed its best picture nominations rules. Instead of having 10 nominees, it now has between five and 10 slots for films that, basically, secure at least five percent of the first place best picture votes. That translates into having 250 to 300 Academy members who are passionate about nominating a given film. Whether “Hallows 2” can elicit such support is, of course, unknown.

(2) “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” from Paramount and Hasbro was a close second with $352.4 million.

Directed by Michael Bay (“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”), this latest episode in the “Transformers” franchise was written by Ehren Kruger (“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”) and again starred Shia LaBoeuf as Sam Witwicky. The franchise’s three titles have grossed about $1.1 billion domestically.

(3) “The Twilight Sage: Breaking Dawn, Part 1” from Summit Entertainment finished third with over $270 million, a total that’s still growing because it’s the only film in the boxoffice Top Ten that’s still playing in theatres. It was in 1,603 theatres over Christmas weekend and took in about $1.5 million.

Directed by Bill Condon (“Dreamgirls”), it re-teamed Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner. Its screenplay by Melissa Rosenberg (“The Twilight Saga: Eclipse”) was based on Stephanie Meyer’s best-selling books. “Part 2,” the second half of the franchise’s conclusion, opens next Nov. 16. The franchise’s four titles to date have grossed about $1.1 billion.

(4) “The Hangover, Part II” from Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures took fourth place with $254.5 million.

Directed by Todd Phillips (“The Hangover”), its screenplay was written by Craig Mazin (“Scary Movie 3 & 4”), Scot Armstrong (“Old School”) and Todd Phillips. Starring again were Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms, who starred in the 2009 original. The franchise’s two episodes have grossed about $532 million domestically.

(5) “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” from Walt Disney Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer Films finished fifth with $241.1 million. The franchise’s four episodes have grossed $1.3 billion domestically.

Directed by Rob Marshall (“Chicago”), its screenplay was written by Ted Elliott (“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”) and Terry Rossio (“Shrek”). It re-teamed Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow and Geoffrey Rush as Barbossa.

(6) Universal’s “Fast Five” came in sixth with $209.8 million. It’s the fifth film in “The Fast and Furious” franchise, which has grossed a total of $699.1 million.

Directed by Justin Lin (“Fast and Furious”) and written by Chris Morgan (“Fast and Furious”), it re-teamed Vin Diesel and Paul Walker.

(7) Disney and Pixar Animation’s 3D animated “Cars 2” parked in seventh place with $191.5 million. Between them, the franchise’s two titles have grossed $435.6 million.

Directed by John Lasseter (“Cars”) & Brad Lewis (a producer of “Ratatouille”), its screenplay was written by Ben Queen (TV’s “Drive”). The film’s voice talents included Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy and Michael Caine.

(8) “Thor” from Marvel Entertainment and Paramount was eighth with $181 million. Unlike the first seven titles on this list, this one was an original and launched its own franchise. “Thor 2” is slated to open Nov. 15, 2013 from Marvel and Disney (which now owns Marvel).

Directed by Kenneth Branagh (“Sleuth”), “Thor’s” screenplay was written by Ashley Miller (“X-Men: First Class”) & Zack Stentz (“X-Men: First Class”) and Don Payne (“Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer”). Starring were Chris Hemsworth (as the title’s Marvel comic book character) and Natalie Portman.

(9) “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” from 20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment finished ninth with $176.7 million.

“Rise” is technically the seventh film in the Fox franchise that began in 1968 with “Planet of the Apes” and over the years has generated $438.5 million.

On the other hand, “Rise” is also the film that reboots the vintage franchise. It follows by 10 years 2001’s “Planet of the Apes,” which was meant to reboot the series then, but didn’t despite grossing $180 million. But now, after the success of “Rise,” a new and as yet untitled episode is slated for 2013.

Directed by Rupert Wyatt (“The Escapist”), it was written by Rick Jaffa (“The Relic”) and Amanda Silver (“Eye for an Eye”) and starred James Franco, Andy Serkis and Freida Pinto.

(10) “Captain America: The First Avenger” from Paramount and Marvel Entertainment rounded out the year’s Top Ten with $176.7 million.

Directed by Joe Johnston (“The Wolfman”), this 3D sci-fi action adventure was written by Christopher Markus (“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”) & Stephen McFeeley (“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”) and starred Chris Evans in the title role.

Although “Captain America” was an original, it served to introduce the Marvel comic book character to moviegoers about a year before the May 4, 2012 release of Marvel and Disney’s release of “The Avengers” in which Captain America will join other Marvel characters like Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson), Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). They’ll all team up to save earth from a space aliens invasion.

Bottom line: What resonated best at the 2011 boxoffice were big budget popcorn movies. For the most part, they were summer openings. Exceptions: “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1” (Nov. 18) and “Fast Five” (Apr. 29).

Almost all of them were franchise episodes driven by moviegoers’ familiarity with their roots in comic books, best-selling novels or earlier blockbusters. Exceptions: The comic book based “Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger,” which will live on in new franchises.