Christian Bale stars as Batman in '?The Dark Knight Rises.'(Photo: Ron Phillips, Warner Bros. Pictures)
The nation's movie theaters experienced an unusually manic year in
2012. Hollywood turned out the third-biggest hit on record in The Avengers(it earned $623 million) and one of the biggest flops of all-time in the $20 million film for toddlers, The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure,
which popped at $1.1 million. Still, the industry earned a record $10.8
billion at the box office while attendance surged 5% over 2011. Here's a
look at some of the box-office standouts among the cineplex stalwarts.
* Superhero of the year: Batman, The Dark Knight Rises
Runners-up: Spider-Man,The Amazing Spider-Man; The Hulk,The Avengers
was a rebound year for superheroes, whose spandex took a beating in
2011. But no movie - or franchise, for that matter - has shown more grit
at the box office than the finale to Christopher Nolan's Batman
trilogy, with Christian Bale in the title role. The Dark Knight Rises faced near-impossible odds in trying to eclipse not only the memory of the late Heath Ledger from 2008'sThe Dark Knight, but also the cineplex shooting in Aurora, Colo. Despite those hurdles, Rises still did $448 million, the second highest-grossing movie of the year.
* Heroine of the year: Katniss Everdeen,The Hunger Games
Runners-up: Bella Swan,The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2; Snow White, Snow White and The Huntsman and Mirror Mirror
Women seldom get movies made for them, so they saved the day in the films in which they starred. The Twilight franchise ended with a bang with $282 million. And our lovely maiden Snow White proved a strong draw in Huntsman ($155 million) and Mirror ($65 million). Still, between Jennifer Lawrence's bow-and-arrow work in Games and the archery of Princess Merida from the animated Brave, the ladies made guns and thugs seem downright quaint.
* Cartoon hero of the year: Princess Merida, Brave
Runners-up: Ralph, Wreck-It-Ralph;The Lorax,The Lorax
wasn't the best year for animated fare, which normally dominates the
annual top-10 earners list. Only three animated movies cracked the list
this year, and all were in the bottom half. Still, Wreck-It-Ralph ($173 million) and The Lorax
($213) acquitted themselves well, particularly for new titles. Let's
give a hand, though, to Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald), who not only
broke Pixar's string of movies without a female anchor, but took top
animated grosses with $237 million, the seventh-biggest movie of the
* Spy of the year: James Bond, Skyfall
Runners-up: Bryan Mills,Taken 2; Aaron Cross,The Bourne Legacy
Taken 2 ($139 million), starring Liam Neeson, and The Bourne Legacy
($113 million), starring Jeremy Renner, earned enough covert cash to
warrant future installments. They are but neophytes, however, when it
comes to longevity, which has become defined by James Bond (portrayed
this time around by Daniel Craig). Skyfall, the 23rd entry of a
franchise in its 50th year, became the highest-grossing installment of
the series with $280 million and earned rave reviews.
* President of the year: Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Runners-up: Jimmy Carter, Argo; Barack Obama,2016: Obama's America
Politicians have a special place in Hollywood's heart, and real-life ones got the Air Force One treatment this year. Argo,
Ben Affleck's political drama about the Iran hostage crisis, featuring
audio from President Carter, did a surprising $107 million, giving it
awards momentum. And the anti-Obama documentary 2016 stunned analysts with $34 million. But no one can touch Honest Abe, whether he's slaying the undead in Vampire Hunter ($38 million, with Benjamin Walker in the title role) or stumping for passage of the 13th Amendment: Steven Spielberg's biopic Lincoln starring Daniel Day-Lewis has already done a whopping $120 million.
* Hunk of the year: Mike Lane (Channing Tatum),Magic Mike
Runners-up: Tatum's characters in 21 Jump Street and The Vow
Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Johnny Depp all had movies this year. But
let's face it: No one approached Tatum's heat, on-screen or off. People magazine's sexiest man of the year turned Mike ($114 million) into 2012's must-see film for women. Vow's $125 million and Street's $138 million just made him all the more sexy to studio execs.