Sunday, November 7, 2021

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Cinema '62: The Moneymakers

And now, the Top Ten Films of the box office.

I'm no box office analyst, I just find it fascinating what is or isn't a hit in any given year - and, if I can speculate, why. For instance, for the year 2020, lockdowns and temporary closures and limited-capacity openings made for a Box Office Top Ten dominated by the first three months of the year. Only The Croods: A New Age (#8, November), Tenet (#9, September), and Wonder Woman 1984 (December, #10) were released after March. Tenet and Onward (#7, March) were even seen as disappointments, guaranteed Top Ten placers no matter what, but surely in a normal year, they could have been higher...?

Anyway, I find that last point interesting in relation to 1962 because, hello, Mutiny on the Bounty? The fifth-highest grossing film of the year, but such an expensive project its total worldwide box office was but 70% of its budget. A loss for its studio, and God knows how much more they put into publicity and campaigning. You could say it paid off since it received seven Oscar nominations, but you could also say it didn't pay off enough since it won ZERO.

Of equal interest to me are the films that you can't imagine being Top Ten now. Lawrence of Arabia (#2), The Longest Day (#1), and The Music Man (#3) are films that I think would probably do just as well now, but can you imagine a romantic comedy like That Touch of Mink (#4) or a modest human drama with literary prestige like To Kill a Mockingbird (#6) cracking the Top Ten these days? Other Oscar nominees that broke the bank: Hatari! (#7), Gypsy (#8), and Bon Voyage! (#9).

Curiously, the ninth spot is shared - $5M even was grossed by both Disney's hapless family travelogue and the year's big non-prestige adaptation, the soapy ensemble drama The Interns. Anticipating the oeuvre of Arthur Hailey as well as, of course, shows like Grey's Anatomy, The Interns is about the professional and personal lives of a group of interns at a public hospital as they wait to hear about residencies over the course of a year. Its best moments embrace the actual medicine and tough decisions of hospital life - the guy who delivers his first baby, the terminal patient begging for euthanasia - but its main concerns are their love lives. One doctor realizes the value of serving overseas thanks to his crush on a beautiful immigrant, while another risks his career to get his model girlfriend abortion-inducing drugs. There are parties, parties, parties, organized by the fun-loving nurse played by Margate, Florida's own Kaye Stevens, who received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance. Often you wonder if they treat anyone they're not actively trying to sleep with, but hey - that's entertainment! It's fine, the money is reward enough for a film like this.

At #10 is another Disney film, In Search of the Castaways, not an Oscar nominee despite boasting impressive visual effects, fine sets, and great songs by the Sherman Brothers.

Tomorrow, another Top Ten - my personal Top Ten of 1962!

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