The movies that made the most cash at the UAE box office
In the same way that a film fan’s favourite movies can tell you a lot about their personality, the films that make the most money at the box office can reveal a lot about what makes a city tick. Judging by the money-makers that have made it big in the UAE, the emirates’ residents like action, and a lot of it, although there are a couple of surprises on the list. So grab a bucket of popcorn, take a seat and relax as we take a look at the UAE’s highest-grossing box-office hits.
1 Avatar (2009) UAE total box-office earnings: Dhs26.9 million James Cameron’s epic 3D sci-fi adventure took a leisurely five years from inception to completion. When it was finally released in 2009, it made waves around the world, so it’s no surprise that Dubai was eager to get in on the act. The story follows former marine Sully (played by Aussie actor Sam Worthington) on his quest to the otherworldly planet of Pandora, where he must find a rare mineral that will conserve the earth’s energy. To protect himself from Pandora’s toxic air, Sully must use an avatar, engineered by both human and native (and very blue) DNA. Like any good blockbuster, the story has a generous dose of action, adventure and romance that, coupled with groundbreaking visual effects, made this a cinema must-see.
2 Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) UAE total box-office earnings: Dhs14.8 million Okay, so it may not be Oscar-winning material, but this film’s cool effects and saucy cast drew cinemagoers by the bucketload. Oddly enough, this third instalment earned more than the original Transformers; the hype surrounding the sacking of Megan Fox for new stunner Rosie Huntington-Whiteley might have had something to do with its success. The movie follows leading man Shia LaBeouf as he helps the Autobots battle the evil Decepticons.
3 Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) UAE total box-office earnings: Dhs13.6 million Taking pointers from ’80s satire Revenge of the Nerds IV (ie that you should never stop at three), Pirates of the Caribbean 4 sent UAE cinemagoers into a frenzy as they swashbuckled their way to the nearest cinema to see Johnny Depp’s fourth appearance as quick-witted Captain Jack Sparrow. To be honest, if it hadn’t been for star turns from Depp (it’s common knowledge that whatever he touches turns to gold) and Spanish hottie Penélope Cruz, we’re not sure it would have been such a must-see.
4 2012 (2009) UAE total box-office earnings: Dhs13.5 million There’s nothing like a bit of scaremongering to drive people to the cinema, especially when it involves the demise of the world. The same (paranoid) director that brought us Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow caused a similar fuss with this epic adventure, whose plot revolves around the fact that the Mayan calendar ends in 2012, thus predicting the end of the world. Tugging at the heart strings of conspiracy theorists, entertainment junkies and sci-fi geeks alike, 2012 had film fans sprinting to the nearest box office to see iconic buildings crumbling, tidal waves approaching and the general hysteria that followed.
5 Fast Five (2011) UAE total box-office earnings: Dhs12.6 million Five of anything is a little excessive (if you ask us, the directors should have stopped at number two), but speed always sells – especially in car-loving Dubai – and action junkies couldn’t resist the pull of the fifth (and hopefully final) part of The Fast and the Furious saga. The plot is about as complex as you’d expect: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Jordana Brewster head to Rio where they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Muscle cars and muscular stars helped to boost this movie up the top five rankings, even though the critics weren’t so keen.
6 Kung Fu Panda (2008) UAE total box-office earnings: Dhs12.1 million It seems the UAE is a sucker for anything Jack Black, because Kung Fu Panda (an odd concept when you think about it) was another surprise hit at the UAE box office. This family-friendly animation contains an all-star cast of voices (Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie) and follows Po the panda on an unlikely path as he is chosen as the Dragon Warrior. As part of his new role he must take on old enemies, even though he knows nothing about martial arts and is a tad overweight.
7 Titanic (1998) UAE total box-office earnings: Dhs11 million It’s no surprise that this movie features on the list: it made record sales across the world and won seven Oscars, including Best Picture. James Cameron now has two world-record-breaking notches on his belt: Titanic was the first film to reach a worldwide gross of more than US$1 billion, and it held the record for 12 years until Cameron’s Avatar passed it in 2010. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, Titanic is a tale we all know and love, although there’s one scene we’re compelled to imitate every time we set foot on a boat. It’s due for 3D release in 2012, and we can’t help wondering if it might break its own record.
8 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011) UAE total box-office earnings: Dhs10.24 million It wasn’t just in the UAE that this movie proved a hit: on its release in July it claimed the record for the biggest takings for a movie opening weekend, grossing US$483.2 million (Dhs1.77 billion) worldwide. As the eighth and final movie in the Harry Potter franchise, the film’s success was almost guaranteed, with fans across the UAE and the world eager to see the boy wizard’s last stand played out on the big screen. Most die-hard Potter fanatics already knew how things would pan out (the book was released in 2007), yet we’d still rate the flick as one of the best in the series. Our only criticism is how director David Yates glosses over the deaths of some fairly major characters, yet it’s not enough to detract from the astounding success of the highest-grossing film series of all time.
9 Shrek Forever After (2010) UAE total box-office earnings: Dhs10.22 million Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas and Eddie Murphy in one movie: what’s not to love? When Shrek was released almost a decade ago, the lifelike animation and groundbreaking visual effects were an industry first. This fourth film continues in the same vein, with a storyline that interwines our favourite fairytales with plenty of wise-cracking jokes. It seems UAE audiences love a laugh.
10 The Dark Knight (2008) UAE total box-office earnings: Dhs9.3 million Universally loved by critics, this sequel to Batman Begins – the sixth in the franchise – is most famous as the final completed film of Heath Ledger’s short but brilliant career. His viciously good turn as The Joker even trumped Jack Nicholson’s portrayal in 1989: Ledger allegedly hid in isolation in a motel room for six weeks, dedicating himself to creating a Joker that was somewhere between Sid Vicious and A Clockwork Orange’s Alex. The publicity surrounding Ledger’s accidental death six months before the film’s release undoubtedly drew UAE audiences, as did the dark, epic nature of the film.