Which films make the most money?

September's figures are out.

The past month saw a number of new releases on the worldwide cinema scene. "Insidious 2", from "Saw" director and creator James Wan was the top release of the month, grossing over US$82m worldwide and US$70 m in North America alone. Foreign box office receipts for the film should increase substantially going forward as it is yet to be released in a number of major locations. These figures are already impressive considering the film was made off a budget of only US$5 million.

It has been a strong year for Wan. His last release "The Conjuring" topped box office charts in July and has grossed over US$297 million to date worldwide off a budget of only US$20 million.

The second biggest release in September was "Prisoners" starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. Since its 20 September release the film has grossed US$46m worldwide including US$40m in North America alone.

Vin Diesel much awaited "Pitch Black" and "Chronicles of Riddick" sequel, "Riddick" opened on the 6th September and has grossed US$85m to date worldwide. This is a relatively healthy considering it was made off a budget of only US$3m. We expect the film to end off at around US$130m total worldwide gross.

Other major September releases included "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2", "The Family" and "Rush". "Rush" tells the true story of the Formula1 rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda and has received strong reviews on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes.  Since its 20 September release it has grossed just over US$25m worldwide.

For October, international audiences can look forward to the release of:

  • "Gravity", a space drama starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.
  • "Captain Phillips", from "Green Zone" director, Paul Greengrass and starring Tom Hanks. The film is based on the true story of merchant mariner Richard Phillips, who was taken hostage by Somali Pirates during the Maersk Alabama hijacking in 2009.
  • "Machete Kills", the sequel to the cult hit "Machete". Directed by "Desperado" director Robert Rodriguez, the film stars Hollywood hard man Danny Trejo in the lead role alongside a strong supporting cast featuring Michelle Rodriguez, Charlie Sheen, Jessica Alba and a debut performance from Lady Gaga.
George Clooney. Photograph: Getty Images

Andrew Amoils is a writer for WealthInsight

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Is there such a thing as responsible betting?

Punters are encouraged to bet responsibly. What a laugh that is. It’s like encouraging drunks to get drunk responsibly, to crash our cars responsibly, murder each other responsibly.

I try not to watch the commercials between matches, or the studio discussions, or anything really, before or after, except for the match itself. And yet there is one person I never manage to escape properly – Ray Winstone. His cracked face, his mesmerising voice, his endlessly repeated spiel follow me across the room as I escape for the lav, the kitchen, the drinks cupboard.

I’m not sure which betting company he is shouting about, there are just so many of them, offering incredible odds and supposedly free bets. In the past six years, since the laws changed, TV betting adverts have increased by 600 per cent, all offering amazingly simple ways to lose money with just one tap on a smartphone.

The one I hate is the ad for BetVictor. The man who has been fronting it, appearing at windows or on roofs, who I assume is Victor, is just so slimy and horrible.

Betting firms are the ultimate football parasites, second in wealth only to kit manufacturers. They have perfected the capitalist’s art of using OPM (Other People’s Money). They’re not directly involved in football – say, in training or managing – yet they make millions off the back of its popularity. Many of the firms are based offshore in Gibraltar.

Football betting is not new. In the Fifties, my job every week at five o’clock was to sit beside my father’s bed, where he lay paralysed with MS, and write down the football results as they were read out on Sports Report. I had not to breathe, make silly remarks or guess the score. By the inflection in the announcer’s voice you could tell if it was an away win.

Earlier in the week I had filled in his Treble Chance on the Littlewoods pools. The “treble” part was because you had three chances: three points if the game you picked was a score draw, two for a goalless draw and one point for a home or away win. You chose eight games and had to reach 24 points, or as near as possible, then you were in the money.

“Not a damn sausage,” my father would say every week, once I’d marked and handed him back his predictions. He never did win a sausage.

Football pools began in the 1920s, the main ones being Littlewoods and Vernons, both based in Liverpool. They gave employment to thousands of bright young women who checked the results and sang in company choirs in their spare time. Each firm spent millions on advertising. In 1935, Littlewoods flew an aeroplane over London with a banner saying: Littlewoods Above All!

Postwar, they blossomed again, taking in £50m a year. The nation stopped at five on a Saturday to hear the scores, whether they were interested in football or not, hoping to get rich. BBC Sports Report began in 1948 with John Webster reading the results. James Alexander Gordon took over in 1974 – a voice soon familiar throughout the land.

These past few decades, football pools have been left behind, old-fashioned, low-tech, replaced by online betting using smartphones. The betting industry has totally rebooted itself. You can bet while the match is still on, trying to predict who will get the next goal, the next corner, the next throw-in. I made the last one up, but in theory you can bet instantly, on anything, at any time.

The soft sell is interesting. With the old football pools, we knew it was a remote flutter, hoping to make some money. Today the ads imply that betting on football somehow enhances the experience, adds to the enjoyment, involves you in the game itself, hence they show lads all together, drinking and laughing and putting on bets.

At the same time, punters are encouraged to do it responsibly. What a laugh that is. It’s like encouraging drunks to get drunk responsibly, to crash our cars responsibly, murder each other responsibly. Responsibly and respect are now two of the most meaningless words in the football language. People have been gambling, in some form, since the beginning, watching two raindrops drip down inside the cave, lying around in Roman bathhouses playing games. All they’ve done is to change the technology. You have to respect that.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 05 February 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's war