With March behind us, the first quarter of 2015 officially rang up a hearty $2.47 billion at the domestic box office -- slightly improving 3 percent over 2014. This also marks the third best yearly start on record, landing behind 2010 ($2.64 billion) and 2012 ($2.59 billion).
Driving much of 2015's early success were unexpected smash hits -- most obviously American Sniper, which has earned $344 million since its wide release in January. Officially considered a 2014 film due to its limited opening on Christmas Day, Sniper stands as that year's highest grossing movie (the first non-franchise film to do "win a year" since 1998's Saving Private Ryan).
February delivered its share of surprises, too. The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water has claimed over $160 million to-date, while Kingsman: The Secret Service stands at $120 million through yesterday -- impressive hauls for films that weren't generally expected to top $100 million or much more. Of course, the reigning champion of 2015 (for now) remains Fifty Shades of Grey with just over $165 million in the bank. The adaptation lived up to its pre-release box office hype by generating a February record $85.2 million opening weekend.
Other notable hits include Cinderella, The Divergent Series: Insurgent, Taken 3, and last weekend's expectation-shattering debut from Home.
As is usual this time of year, several 2014 holdovers also performed well during the post-holiday/awards season. The Imitation Game and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies ranked among the first quarter's top ten calendar grosses.
Unfortunately, March itself couldn't keep up the pace as it generated a relatively lackluster $703.1 million -- down nearly 13 percent from last year and marking the weakest March market since 2011's $682.1 million. Over the last ten years, last month ranks in the middle of the pack.
This year has proven a few things: family flicks are hot during the "slower" months of the year (as already evidenced by last year's LEGO Movie, among other), and the hits seem to hit bigger while the misses miss a little harder. Key releases that just couldn't land their marks over the past three months were Mortdecai ($7.7 million), Blackhat ($7.9 million), and Unfinished Business ($10.2 million)... just to name a few.
Things should begin turning around again quickly, though. Furious 7 is aiming to claim the best April opening of all-time (set by last year's Captain America: The Winter Soldier) with its imminent debut over Good Friday/Easter weekend. And of course, one of the most anticipated sequels in a very long time drops exactly one month from today when Avengers: Age of Ultron begins its inevitable box office dominance.
The year has only just begun.
Movie / Release Date / 2015 Gross
1. American Sniper / December 25 (limited) / $344.2 million
1. Fifty Shades of Grey / February 13 / $165.1 million
3. The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water / February 6 / $160.4 million
4. Cinderella / March 13 / $153.3 million
5. Kingsman: The Secret Service / February 13 / $120 million
6. The Divergent Series: Insurgent / March 20 / $89.7 million
7. Taken 3 / January 9 / $89 million
8. Paddington / January 16 / $74.8 million
9. The Imitation Game / November 28 / $70.6 million
10. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies / December 17 / $65.6 million
11. The Wedding Ringer / January 16 / $64.4 million
12. Into the Woods / December 25 / $63.8 million
13. Home / March 27 / $60.3 million
14. Unbroken / December 25 / $53.1 million
15. Focus / February 27 / $52 million