The biopic. It’s a historical (and oftentimes dramatic) film that typically flies well under the radar of general moviegoers. But is it time for this genre to break out of its stereotype and provide bigger returns for studios?
Biopics are making their move from art house to mainstream. 2013 will see more films from the genre and more nationwide releases. From 2010 to 2012, only 10 biopics were released on more than 500 screens, and only seven of those films saw nationwide expansion. The average box office opening was $12.7 million—the highest by far came from The Social Network ($22.4 million).
This year alone, 10 biographical films are slated for openings with a 500+ screen count, and four others (Diana, Mandela: Long Walk of Freedom, 12 Years a Slave and Grace of Monaco) have screen counts yet to be announced. Documenting everything from F1 racing to civil rights and literature to royalty, nine of these pictures will release or expand nationwide. The average box office opening from the five already in theaters is $13.2 million, and that’s without upcoming sure-to-be hits The Wolf of Wall Street, Saving Mr. Banks and Captain Phillips.
42 launched the 2013 biopics with an unknown lead actor (Chadwick Boseman) and legend Harrison Ford by raking in $27.5 million opening weekend—no ordinary feat for the genre. Fruitvale Station, Jobs and Lee Daniels’ The Butler followed suit by creating a storm of conversation amongst critics and social media users alike. The Butler led the box office for three weeks and has grossed $107.5 million since it opened last month.
*More than 78% of the total mentions for all films in the chart above were positive.
With big-name stars like Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio and Nicole Kidman set to dazzle as historical characters later this year, it seems the genre has finally found a place beyond just Hollywood. The Wolf of Wall Street and Saving Mr. Banks are already two of the holiday season’s most socially buzzed about films.
In the next few weeks, true stories Rush, Captain Phillips and The Fifth Estate will only add to the momentum.
With this year’s biopics in more theaters, making more money, catering to a more mainstream audience and just generally being more numerous, it’s time for moviegoers to transport back in time and get their nonfiction on.