Special Feature: Box office hits of 2015

When Roger Bannister broke the four minute mile barrier in 1954 - a feat many previously thought impossible - it was broken again soon after and then several more times in fairly quick succession. Similarly, existing and seemingly unbeatable box office records in 2015 were broken and then broken again in what turned out to be a highly successful year for the cinema. Several titles grossed $1 billion and four of the top five breaking the $1.5 billion barrier. The most spectacular performance is undoubtedly the latest in the Star Wars series, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It's already passed the $1.5 billion mark despite only being in cinemas since mid-December and came close to the number one grossing film spot, finishing just $132,000 behind Jurassic World. With two more films to be produced in the next few years, Disney will enjoy a healthy financial return on its Star Wars investment if the success of The Force Awakens is anything to go by. What can we learn from the top grossing movies?

Older franchises retain their allure
Twenty years after the original film and 14 years since the third, Jurassic World proves there's plenty of life in even the oldest franchises. The same can definitely be said of Star Wars: The Force Awakens as its nearly 40 years since the original back in 1977 and a decade since the last release in 2005. One of the most enduring of all, James Bond, is up there with the high performers over 50 years since the first film, Dr. No, in 1962. Spectre - the 2015 release - finished the year at number six.

Franchises go from strength to strength
Franchises are beloved with major film studios and they're highly popular with audiences, as box office figures testify. No less than five titles feature in the top six of highest grossing films of 2015. Along with Jurassic World and Star Wars, other runaway successes include the Fast and Furious franchise with Furious 7 lying in third place and Disney subsidiary Marvel Studios with its latest Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise release Avengers: Age of Ultron in the top five grossing films.

Originality can find a way
Amidst the franchises and sequels, there's still interest and commercial success from new and one-off titles. An example was Pixar's Inside Out - the highly original animation that occurs largely in the mind of a young girl. This gave Pixar their second highest opening film ever just behind Toy Story 3 and is the seventh highest grossing film of 2015.

Universal and Disney dominate
The two behemoths dominated the top five. Universal had three titles there each grossing over $1.5 billion and Disney, through its ownership of Lucasfilm and Marvel Studios, occupy the other two. Universal's success in 2015 - it passed the record grossing year for a film studio by August - was helped by a mix of films carefully targeted to audiences. Along with the success of its franchises, as discussed above, it also had a strong array of films pitched to the female market such as the years' hot book-to-film adaptation in Fifty Shades of Grey and other diverse yet carefully targeted titles such as Pitch Perfect 2. A broad approach, with different audiences in mind, paid off.

Cinema still the place to see new films
As the plethora of box office records being broken in 2015 shows, cinema-going is still popular despite the competition from streaming and the availability of sophisticated home entertainment equipment to watch films on DVD. While cinema visits have declined over the last five years, increases in ticket prices seem to be keeping those box office grosses high.


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