Over the hundred-plus years of cinematic history, there has been enough movie magic to create a worldwide love affair with film. Surprisingly, however, since the laterna magica first began projecting moving images, there have been remarkably few movies about magic.
The year 2006 was an exception, with the near-simultaneous release of two excellent films about 19th century professional prestidigitators — The Illusionist and The Prestige. For someone who loves magic and sleight of hand, this was a banner year worth sharing. While The Prestige made more money at the domestic box-office, approximately $53 million vs. $40 million, The Illusionist cost considerably less to make — $16.5 million vs. $39 million. Based on their return on investment, and the fact that The Illusionist was also the first to appear on the nation’s screens in 2006, we’ll give The Illusionist the designation of “Defending Champion,” and The Prestige our “Challenger” position. Now that our rivals are in their respective corners, let’s get out the wands and let the magic begin. […]