By "movie star" I simply mean someone whose name can open a movie big or can give a sizable return on investment just by being attached. Many actors are famous, but not many can bring a big box office with name recognition alone. With the exception of Tom Cruise and Adam Sandler, there are very few of these left.
So who can put more rears in the theater seats based on name recognition?
In my original estimation, based on box office numbers, I put down:
Robert Downey Jr.:
I later dropped Daniel Craig and added as a possibility Jeremy Renner, Channing Tatum, Mark Wallberg, Milla Kunis, and Chris Hemsworth.
I am still confident in dropping Craig, even though Skyfall was a giant hit. But outside of Bond, Craig is not much of a draw.
So how did 2012 fare?
1. Channing Tatum
He starred in 3 movies this year, all of which grossed over $100 million. And much of that was influenced by his participation in those movies.
2. Liam Neeson
Taken 2 was panned by many critics and audience members, but the idea of Neeson kicking butt again on the big screen raked in $138 million. Even The Grey doubled its $50 million budget in ticket sales.
1. Amy Adams
She made 3 movies in 2012, and none of them made over $36 million. Granted that all of these films were independent movies, she did not mix it up enough with popular fare. Three strikes and you're out. If Man of Steel is a hit, it will not be because of her.
2. Steve Carrell
Two bombs this year. He has another chance to turn it around with The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, but I don't know if he can.
1. The Avengers Cast
Downy Jr., Renner, and Hemsworth have their numbers artificial inflated by the Marvel tentpole film. Hemsworth had two other movies that came out in 2012: a hit (Snow White and the Huntsman) and a miss (Red Dawn). Renner had one: a $138 million disappointment (The Bourne Legacy). Downey Jr. had none. We'll see what 2013 brings.
2. Vince Vaughn.
The Watch was a bomb, but not his vehicle (and it was also really bad). We'll have to see if his next starring movie works with audiences.
3. Emma Stone, Mila Kunis, and Jennifer Lawrence
There isn't a enough data in 2012 to see if they have a box office following.
4. Joseph Gordon-Leavitt.
The Dark Knight Rises gave him another recognition boost, but Premium Rush (a silly film) tanked but Looper made double its budget.
5. Anna Kendrick
Her only starring vehicle made $66 million, which may not seem like much, but it more than tripled its $17 million budget. Much of that was due, I think, to Kendrick's star presence. But I can't be sure until she opens a bigger movie.
6. Hugh Jackman
Les Miserables opened big on Christmas, but it is still too early to tell.
7. Mark Wallberg
Ted was big, but Contraband was not.
So in conclusion, the only two people on this list that I can say with confidence can open a movie just with name recognition, thus qualifying as a "movie star" are Channing Tatum and Liam Neeson.
So we'll keep an eye on the rest of them for 2013.