Hollywood stars often get paid millions to appear in a feature film, so studios want a healthy return on their investment. But do these actors and actresses draw audiences themselves or do a combination of factors create box office gold?
Every year since 1932, Quigley Publishing has surveyed theater owners and film buyers to get their take on which Hollywood names draw the most people to the theaters. Although no single star can be considered completely responsible for a film's box office success, theater owners, with their finger on the pulse of the entertainment market, have long been considered a reliable barometer.
So, who are the top money-making stars of 2009? You might be surprised who tops the list!
By Paul Toscano
Posted 31 Dec 2009
Finding himself at #10 on this year's list for his performance in "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3," Denzel Washington has been identified by theater owners around the country for his ability to draw crowds to the big screen, and make big profits for the box offices. Washington's only 2009 performance grossed $65.45 million in US box offices, with a worldwide gross of over $150 million.
Voted by theater owners as "The Star of Tomorrow" in 2007, LaBeouf has been on in the top 10 in the two years since. Again hitting the screens as Sam Witwicky in the second installment of the Transformers series, LaBouf has been identified as the 9th biggest money making star of 2009. His only major role in 2009, "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" grossed $402.1 million in US box offices, and $834.9 million worldwide. With a third Transformers film in the works, LaBeouf's money-making momentum shows no signs of slowing.
In his fifth appearance in the ranking, Brad Pitt is on this year's list for his appearance in Quentin Tarantino's critically acclaimed "Inglorious Basterds" as Lieutenant Aldo Raine. The film, which was Pitt's only 2009 performance, grossed approximately $120.5 million domestically and $311.7 million worldwide.
Streep has had a long and successful career which seems to show no signs of slowing. She finds herself at #7 on this year's list, for her performances in "Julie & Julia," "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" and "It's Complicated." For each, she was nominated for or has won an award. This was her third appearance in the Quigley poll.
Tom Hanks has appeared on the Quigley list fifteen times, including five at the top spot. In 2009 he only appeared in "Angels & Demons," Hanks' potential to draw audiences has been proven over the years, and his performance in 2009 helped bring $133.38 million to US box offices. Looking ahead, Hanks is working on "Toy Story 3," as the voice of the series' main character, Woody.
Although Downey Jr. has experienced a large amount of success throughout his career, his role in 2008's "Iron Man" threw him into the spotlight with his first leading role in a blockbuster film. Since, he has appeared in "The Incredible Hulk" (2008), "Tropic Thunder" (2008), "The Soloist" (2009) and "Sherlock Holmes" (2009). His momentum continues into 2009 and places him fifth on Quigley's list.
Downey Jr.'s films totaled approximately $115.54 in US box offices for 2009. Although he's down from the #2 spot in 2008's rankings, the sequel to "Iron Man" is expected in 2010 and certainly has the potential to bring him higher.
The seventh time he has been listed in the Quigley poll, Clooney is near the top this year, following his roles in "Up in the Air," "The Men Who Stare at Goats," and "Fantastic Mr. Fox," the three of which grossed a total of $78.86 million in US box offices.
Damon finds himelf on this year's list for his roles in "The Informant!" which grossed $33 million in domestic box offices and "Invictus," which has taken in an estimated $24.74 million in December 2009 alone. The performances produced a number of award nominations, including a Golden Globe nomination for best actor in a musical or comedy for "The Informant!" and another for the best supporting actor for "Invictus."
The second biggest money-making star, according to theater owners nationwide, is Johnny Depp, who claimed the top spot in 2006 and 2007. This year saw the lead man take the role of John Dillinger in "Public Enemies," which grossed $97.1 million in domestic box offices, and over $206 million worldwide. He also had a smaller role in "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus," and was the narrator of "When You're Strange." With "Alice in Wonderland" set for 2010, Depp's portrayal of the iconic Mad Hatter, along with his strong 2009 performances, may see him at the top next year.
Only the eighth woman in 78 years to top Quigley's poll, Bullock appeared in three films in 2009: "Blind Side," "The Proposal" and "All About Steve." Domestically, the three films combined for approximately $387.7 million in US box offices. Her first major films were Demolition Man (1993) and Speed (1994) the following year. Although her acting career now spans over two decades, Bullock was the biggest individual draw for crowds in 2009.