THE BE$T XMA$ FLICK, EVER?
On 11/2/14, Jennifer Daniel (Arts & Leisure section, NYT, p1) put together a list of the “One I Used to Know”, referring to 30 all time Holiday/Xma$ movies (classics±) starting with 1935’s Scrooge and ending with 2013’s The Best Man Holiday. (See Appendix Table for a list of these 30 flicks) We surely have no way of knowing whether any of this year’s crop will break into Ms Daniel’s 30 all timers list. While it is unlikely that Interstellar, The Hunger Games, Horrible Bosses 2 or American Sniper will qualify, perhaps, Mr. Pip, Big Hero 6, Kirk Cameron’s Saving Xmas or Penguins of Madagascar may make the cut. This however, is not the biz of this Scope. Our task rather is to look at the 30 presented holiday movies by Ms. Daniel, connect each to its Domestic Box Office $$, upgrade that box office revenue to 2014 $$, attach each movie’s Rotten Tomatoes score (audience eval) AND then analyze these data. Our box office analysis will ONLY use Adjusted Domestic Box Office of 2014 $$ (ADBO). In other words their original box office histories are exactly that HISTORIES!
THE RUNAWAY WINNER in the ADBO category is that 1955 Disney darling “The Lady and The Tramp”. Its ADBO is a robu$t $831.33M (See Appendix Table) which is an amazing 60% more than the ADBO for #2, Home Alone. It boxed $520.43 M followed by the Grinch at $359.44 M, Gremlins at $339.45 M and White Xmas at $265.46 M. The Top 5 is a magnificent display of movie diversity for the holiday season. To start, there is that 1955 Disney animation with NO Xmas connection whatsoever (except for the fact that it is one of the best “feel-good” flicks, ever.) Home Alone had the 6th worst RTTN TMTS rating of those 30 Xmas classics yet, child superstar Macaulay Culkin made it a great box office $ucce$$. From Home Alone also came 4 sequels & 3 video games (NOT a bad franchise at all). The Grinch was next. By anybody’s eval it was an odd & quirky Dr. Suess based flick combined with the great star power of producer Ron Howard, actor Jim Carrey and no less than an Oscar for “make-up.” WOW! Then, there was that X-mas blockbuster featuring Gremlins, those “malevolent mischievous monsters” with Steven Spielberg the executive director. This Xma$ classic even drew complaints b/c of its violent sequences. Rounding out the ADBO TOP 5 was that magical Xmas musical, White Xmas with Irving Berlin’s music sung by Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye & Rosemary Clooney. It would be hard to imagine a more diverse group of movies all considered Xmas classics #.
With our box office awards completed, a strong case can be made that a great number of movies in the Appendix Table are truly Xmas classics, especially the TOP 8,9 or 10. At the BOTTOM of that table however, we also find 5 movies that certainly MUST be considered Xmas classics though NONE of them even revenued as much as $50M ABDO. They are: A Muppet Xmas Carol (1992, $46.3M); A Xmas Story (1983, $40.0M); It’s a Wonderful Life (1946, $37.8M); Miracle on 34th Str (1947, a FOX TV movie); and Home 4 The Holidays (1995, $27.4M). The point being that “classics” whatever the purpose and genre of their classifications DO NOT necessarily equate to box office $$. To that point is the fact that arguably the #1 all-timer (and oldest) Xmas classic, Scrooge, made its big screen debut in 1935 to a “poor box” office. B/C of its date and probably its “poor box office” there are NO box office metrics. (Please see our section devoted to the Scrooge for greater detail).
THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE EDGY
So, how well did audiences like these H-day 30? Using RTTN TOMATO’s ratings we easily found the Best (T-1) and Worst (T-2) flicks from our Appendix Table. T-1 & T-2 need no further embellishment. (T-3 lists the 5 most Xmas-ish movies by our view). W/O apologies we state that it is tough to beat such Xma$ staples as Bing Crosby’s White Xmas, A Christmas Story, A Miracle on 34th St and It’s a Wonderful Life. We finish with that star studded comedy blockbuster Elf (2003), with Will Ferrell, James Caan, Bob Newhart & Zooey Deschanel which is about as Xma$-ish as it gets. These movies spread Xma$ cheer throughout the movie and the year. (T-3 is ordered by release yr.)
T-4 identifies the 5 Edgy–est or perhaps least likely flicks to be called holiday classics. These films do not provide cheer, joy or inspiration. The Apartment is a story about a man who leaves his key to his boss so that he can have an affair with his mistress. A dark comedy, Trading Places is an award winning flick corresponding to Mark Twain’s The Prince & the Pauper. Lethal Weapon features 2 cops partnering to fight crime due to a loss in both families. (Nothing like death and action to put one in the Xma$ spirit.) In Die Hard (the title says enough, itself), a NYC cop, John McClane (Bruce Willis) takes on terrorists who are holding his wife hostage. “The Hebrew Hammer”, features Santa as evil and is defeated by representatives from all the other holiday faiths. These 5 are the most almost anti-Xma$ flicks of our listed 30.Their themes (adultery, poverty, terrorism, crime, and an evil Santa) are all very popular holiday “schticks” or maybe NOT SO MUCH, hence Edgy Xmas Flicks. (T-4’s movies are ordered by their release year)
The Scrooge Box Office Story
The original big screen Xmas story, Scrooge, has had a wild big screen and TV ride (with versions in 1935, 1938, 1951, 1978, 1984, 1992, 1999, 2003, 2009, 2012 & 2013 produced). The Chas Dickens classic (“A Xmas Carol”) was 1st adapted to the big screen in the 1935 British movie, “Scrooge”. Though, often seen at Xmas time, very, very, very little is known about its box office. In the 1935-36 Harrison’s Reports Box Office Performance, Scrooge was called a “Poor Performer”. Box Office $$ in general for 1935 are very sparse through we were able to find $$ for “Mutiny on the Bounty” ($4.46M ADBO $77.49M), “Anna Karenina” ($.86M/adjusted $15.03M) and “Top Hat” ($1.78M/adjusted $30.96M). Top Hat and Anna Karenina were reported as “good performers”. We therefore, are assured that Scrooge earned less than $860,000 (ADBO of $15.03 M). Oddly enough however, the copyright to this instant Xmas classic was never renewed by its original British studio (Julius Hagen Productions), resulting in it becoming public domain property! Next time the film was remade in 1951’s (“A Christmas Carol).” Again, Box Office $$ were not available. Scrooge has been repackaged ENDLESS times. It wasn’t until 1992 (Jim Henson’s “The Muppet Christmas Carol”) that we find revenue ($27 M /ADBO of $45.8 M). In 2009 the digitally animated “A Christmas Carol” boxed $138M/ ADBO $153 M. We cannot begin to predict the actual gross of Scrooge b/c it has been emulated many many times from 1st run flicks to TV show adaptations, to straight to DVD versions. Scrooge, as a legendary tale and its remakes are haunted by its questionable past, curious present status and an uncertain future as in Xma$ GHOSTS, past, present & future.