5 Things We Learned About Moviegoing This Year

What Hollywood Learned in 2014
Illustration by Richard Perez for Variety

When the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31, Hollywood will be happy to put 2014 in the rearview mirror. It was what could charitably be described as a “bridge year” between the record-shattering 2013 and the blockbuster-filled 2015, which arrives with the promises of new Avengers and “Star Wars” films. As it stands, the B.O. will fall below last year’s numbers by between 3% to 6%. But there are still lessons for the future to be gleaned from what popped and what fizzled.

1. Great Hollywood Brands? Disney Has All Four 

The Lucasfilm, Marvel, Pixar and Walt Disney Animation names can open movies. “Guardians of the Galaxy” scored with a third-tier comicbook title, while “Big Hero 6” continued Disney Animation’s renaissance. The absence of a Pixar film last year was deeply felt. And a trailer for the new “Star Wars” picked up 46 million YouTube hits.

2. Wake Up! Women Go to the Movies

Angelina Jolie, Shailene Woodley and Jennifer Lawrence outgrossed many male stars, but the glass ceiling remains stubbornly in place. Films like “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Maleficent” were global smashes, and women are a larger share of the moviegoing public. Yet women still receive relatively few juicy leading roles. The result is that, at least this year, awards voters are having a hard time coming up with five worthy best actress candidates. Aside from Rosamund Pike in “Gone Girl,” “Julianne Moore in “Still Alice” and Reese Witherspoon in “Wild,” just look at the paucity of performances now being discussed and compared that to a best actor field that overflows with contenders.

3. China Isn’t Rising, It’s Arrived.

The People’s Republic flexed impressive B.O. muscle last year, pushing pics such as “Transformers: Age of Extinction” and “Interstellar” into blockbuster territory. It’s easy to see why competition for the 34 slots available to foreign films is fiercer than ever. “Transformers’ ” China success — $300 mil, the nation’s highest ever — eclipsed its U.S. performance.

4. The Lack of Mid-Budget Movies Is Hurting Business

“Gone Girl” was the $50 million movie that could, but there were few films released by the studios in that budget range. A lack of pictures like “We’re the Millers,” “Captain Phillips” and “American Hustle,” which last year were sizable hits by appealing to older crowds, hurt overall B.O. Studios are primarily producing comicbook movies, but adults go to the cineplex, too.

5. Movies Are a 12-Month Business

August is traditionally a dead zone for movies, but “Guardians of the Galaxy” hit it big in its late-summer debut. “The Lego Movie” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” were among the top five highest-grossing domestic releases despite debuting in historically slow months of February and April. There’s a reason 2016’s “Batman v Superman” is bowing in spring.