In the spring of the not-so-long-ago year of 2005, the weekend box-office winners offered a healthy variety of cinematic choices.
There was a U.N.-set thriller ("The Interpreter"), a "Star Wars" prequel, ("Revenge of the Sith"), an interracial comedy ("Guess Who") a comic-book-derived style piece ("Sin City") an epic adventure ("Sahara"), a slasher flick ("The Amityville Horror") and an adaptation of a beloved book ("The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"), to name just a few.
In the 12 weekends of that year's spring, there were 11 different weekend winners. (Only one movie, "Sith," was a repeat champion.) They were hardly all good films, let alone great ones. But most were pretty different from one another.
Cut to 2012, and the story is vastly different. The spring season that comes to an end this week yielded a lot less diversity in its weekend winners, not least because there were a lot fewer weekend winners to begin with. Just six, to be precise, with many of the weekends occupied by repeat champions ("The Avengers," "The Hunger Games," "Think Like A Man" and, after this weekend, "Madagascar 3").
That may seem like simply one more data point for box-office enthusiasts to noodle over. But the data also offer evidence of a growing trend: the uber-hit, that is, the movies that go beyond modest success to dominate the multiplex, often leaving other contenders far behind.
There have always been such films, of course. But their ranks are growing, while many of the other big bets are indeed lagging.
Or, to put it a different way, when it comes to box office, it's increasingly a world of the 1% and the 99%.
Take a look at the last few months. On the one hand, this has already been an achievement-filled year at the box office. In March, "The Hunger Games" had the biggest spring opening-weekend ever. In May, "The Avengers" turned in the biggest opening weekend, period, becoming the first movie ever to cross the $200- million threshold in its first three days. Expect sums almost if not in fact equally as strong when "The Dark Knight Rises" hits theaters next month.
Yet the number of big-bet disappointments is also rising. Tick off the recent ones: "Battleship." "Dark Shadows." "John Carter." "Rock of Ages." Films with big budgets and expectations -- career-defining ones, for some of the executives associated with them -- that can barely eke out $75 million or $80 million domestically. Heavily marketed new films that get whipped by movies that were released a week or two earlier.