To the delight of studios and fans alike, 2015 was the year that audiences decided to go back to the movies. Films like Jurassic World and Star Wars: The Force Awakens became full-blown cinematic events, attracting massive crowds and shattering box-office records. This week, industry analysts confidently declared that domestic box office would surpass $11 billion by the end of the year, an all-time high. While tentpole films made waves, it was also a good year for low-budget cult movies and limited-release Oscar contenders, as well as demographics that have often been underrepresented in Hollywood (like films starring African-American characters and/or female protagonists). Click through for a sampling of 2015’s biggest box-office winners. (Stay tuned for tomorrow for a roundup of the biggest losers.)
Elizabeth Banks is still reeling from the wild success of Pitch Perfect 2, her first major studio directorial effort in which she also stars as Gail, the over-sharing a capella commentator with big hair. The musically inclined comedy sequel, whose ensemble includes Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, and Hailee Steinfeld, scored a huge $70 million opening, unexpectedly surpassing its weekend rival Mad Max: Fury Road. To date, Pitch Perfect 2 has made nearly $300 million worldwide, roughly 10 times its $29 million production budget.
Once again, it seemed like Marvel had locked down the summer season championship — until Jurassic World stomped in, setting a new global box-office record and establishing Indominus Rex as the new killer queen. Within 10 days of opening, Jurassic World cleared $400 million domestically, setting a new box-office record and unseating Avengers: Age of Ultron as the No. 1 movie of the summer.
The top of that list is occupied by director Sam Taylor-Johnson, whose Fifty Shades of Grey opened at $85.2 million this February. Both of these record-breaking movies also have female screenwriters: Pitch Perfect 2 was penned by Kay Cannon, and Fifty Shades of Grey by Kelly Marcel. This is a big deal, as so few tentpole movies are directed or written by women in the first place.
After years in front of the camera, Elizabeth Banks, is finally the boss. The 40-year-old Hunger Games star is making her directorial debut with next summer’s highly-anticipated sequel to Pitch Perfect.