2013: A pretty decent year for families at the movies

By Jeff Peterson

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Dec. 26 2013 3:10 p.m. MST

Gru and his minions in "Despicable Me 2."


For the movie industry, 2013 was a year of huge ups and downs.

On one hand, some entertainment writers are calling it one of the greatest years for film lovers in recent memory. Bruce Handy of Vanity Fair, in fact, goes so far as to argue that 2013 could be on par with Hollywood’s first golden age, the era that produced classics like “Gone with the Wind,” “The Wizard of Oz” and “Citizen Kane.”

At the same time, though, it’s tough to forget some of the year’s bigger misses, including pretty much the entire overcrowded summer movie season that seemed bent on making Steven Spielberg’s predictions about an industry-wide implosion come true.

For every calculated success like “Iron Man 3” or example of genuine innovation like “Gravity” this year, there has been a “Lone Ranger” or “R.I.P.D.” to even things out and remind people why they have Netflix accounts.

In the end, the only clear winners seem to have been horror movie fans, for whom 2013 turned out to be a banner year.

But surprisingly enough, it was also a pretty decent one for family audiences.

Here’s a look back at why:


If any studio can stake a claim to 2013, it’s Disney. Despite the seemingly cataclysmic performance of “The Lone Ranger,” which earned just $89 million in the U.S. on a reported $215 million budget, the House of Mouse actually managed to set a new record for cumulative box office, according to deadline.com, beating its previous high of $3.791 billion from 2010.

Even more impressive is that it accomplished that back in the second week of November before some of its biggest releases of the year had even hit theaters.

While a sizable chunk of Disney’s box office came from one film, “Iron Man 3," which also ended up as the year’s top grosser, the rest mostly came from a number of smaller, family-oriented hits that showed off a welcome amount of variety.

Sam Raimi’s “Oz the Great and Powerful” tapped into classic Hollywood in its update of the L. Frank Baum stories. Meanwhile, Pixar’s “Monsters University” proved that not all prequels are bad.

But the high point for traditional Disney fans came last month with “Frozen,” a 3-D animated fairy tale inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Ice Queen” that has been called by some the best animated musical since “Beauty and the Beast.”

Ultimately, as easy as it is to take a cynical view of the Walt Disney Co. and the unstoppable marketing and merchandising engines that power it, the fact is no other studio has the means to swallow a $200 million dud and not skip a beat.

In terms of film output, what that translates to is movies that repeatedly swing for the fences, and only on rare occasion does that turn out to be two-and-a-half hours of Johnny Depp with a crow on his head.

Non-Disney animation

As studios like DreamWorks and Fox have gotten into the animation business over the last decade or so, it’s become one of the most competitive and rewarding categories in film.

This year was no exception. Although “Monsters University” and “Frozen” have both performed well with box office takes of $743 million and $344 million, respectively, they were both trounced by Universal’s “Despicable Me 2” ($918 million worldwide).

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