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Top 12 Film Industry Stories of 2009:
#8: Ice Age Transforms

By David Mumpower

December 31, 2009

Both of these guys are worth a *lot* of money.

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What's particularly surprising about Revenge of the Fallen is what happened next. Despite an abrasive critical reception (only 17% of those same top critics at Rotten Tomatoes liked the sequel), the film demonstrated exemplary legs. Almost $300 million worth of revenue was attained after opening weekend. Given that the original only made $319.2 million, this is a tremendous demonstration of legs. What's odd about it is that almost everyone who has watched the movie was nonplussed by it. The title's IMDb rating is currently 6.1, which leaves it looking up at the afore-mentioned Terminator: Salvation's 6.9. Films with 6.1 user ratings are considered word-of-mouth disappointments and sometimes even disasters. A strange sort of mass hypnosis swept over North America, however, and it made consumers flock to theaters to see a movie they didn't really enjoy. The end result was that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen became the ninth most successful domestic performer of all-time with $402.1 million. As hard as this is to believe/accept, only nine films have earned $400 million domestically and it is one of them. The hypnotic effect wasn't a singularly North American phenomenon, either. It earned slightly more overseas, $430.0 million, than it made domestically, giving it a worldwide result of $832.1 million, the 20th largest total ever.

Released only a week later, no one anticipated Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs outperforming its more storied competitor. Domestically, it didn't. The third Ice Age flick accrued $196.6 million, ever so slightly edging its direct predecessor's $195.3 million to become the most successful film in the franchise. Of course, if we adjust for inflation, Dawn of the Dinosaurs is a few million behind The Meltdown, which means it shouldn't make for that good a story. That's where the international receipts come into play.




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Overseas, Dawn of the Dinosaurs became the little engine that could. In fact, it is not hyperbolic to state that it has behaved like the international equivalent of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. It just keeps hanging around with basically the same numbers each week. Sure, the first two Ice Age films had been successful abroad, earning $383.3 million and $652.0 million, respectively. Somehow, Dawn of the Dinosaurs still blew them away in this regard. As of the date of publication of this column, it has earned $690.8 million overseas, a total that on its own would represent the 35th largest global take of all time. It is also a full $40 million more than either previous Ice Age film had earned in terms of global revenue. That $690.8 million is the third (!) largest overseas performance in box office history. Only freakin' Titanic and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King can claim a stronger international run than Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.

Once we throw in the domestic take, Ice Age 3 not only outperforms Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen by $50 million but it also becomes the 14th most successful overall performer in box office history. And it's not done yet. There is something about the incompetent squirrel and his woeful inability to maintain ownership of nuts that has a universal appeal that makes it just as entertaining in Asia as it is in North America. While Avatar is going to surpass it and probably sooner rather than later, on the last day of 2009, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs stands as the second biggest revenue earner of the year's releases. Only Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince can claim a larger overall global take. This series of events has been understated since it happened with little fanfare, but this is one of the most surprising box office results in our industry's history.


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