As the working week gradually turns into the weekend, millions of people decide what film to watch when they plan a visit to the movie theater. We spend the week dancing through trailers online and on television trying to decide which is the right film to spend those fifteen dollars on. Yet even with a plethora of films in theaters, sometimes we all seem to choose the same ones causing records to be broken and leaving piles of popcorn containers over and under seats. Opening weekends rack up more money than many of us will ever see in our lifetime. But what exactly does it take for a film to break record sales?
Theaters were taken by storm in 2009 when James Cameron released his CGI epic Avatar. The film stars Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana and Sigourney Weaver and introduces us to a new world, Pandora, occupied by the wise Na’vi. Worthington’s character Jake is sent to explore Pandora as an avatar where he gathers information about the Na’vi. He eventually comes to sympathise with them and falls in love with Saldana’s character, Neytiri. The love story turns to chaos with battles between the humans and the Na’vi. It spent around nine weeks as number one and is the most lucrative film of all time, grossing about $761 million. Written entirely by Cameron, the Canadian director also responsible for breaking records with the romantic drama Titanic (1997), Avatar captures viewers with its story and visually appealing special effects. As human beings, we have a need to have our curiosities satisfied. We fall in love with well-written narratives and just want to continue filling the void. Avatar went on to create what many believe to be the 3D craze, yet is one of the only films that used it well.
Aside from our need to follow narratives and our interest in out-of-this-world special effects, we continue to use our hard-earned money to go watch films because of the already developed history we have with the characters. Earlier this year Marvel released films based on our beloved comic book heroes: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and X-Men: Days of Future Past. The former addition to the Avengers franchise, released in early April, was the top selling film of the month. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 accomplished the same for the month of May, earning $91.6M. X-Men: Days of Future Past broke the record for international openings for the X-Men franchise. Superhero films use well-known actors who are both charismatic and appealing to the eye to keep us engaged with our favorite heroes.
We’re in love with the melodramatic. Our desire to watch the heroes save the day is what sees us going to movie theaters every weekend. When the good guys win, we feel like something was accomplished. Box office records are broken because narratives are enticing, special effects take us to other worlds, and characters show traits of what we’d like to be and see in more people.