Hindsight: June 1990
By Daron Aldridge
Coming off the Memorial Day holiday with the final adventure of Marty McFly taking in a respectable $23.7 million ($40.3 million adjusted to 1990 dollars), the box office was primed to have a few breakouts. June 1990 put its cards on the table from a deck loaded with stars and franchise names.
In 1990, Arnold Schwarzenegger had come off the biggest hit of his career with the $111.9 million gross of 1988's Twins. You read that right. At this point, Schwarzenegger - Mr. Action Star - had his best box office from a comedy with Danny DeVito...and 1987's Predator is his distant number two film with $59 million. Arnold's stellar 1990 began on June 1st with Total Recall. Apparently, the studios thought that Arnold had enough muscle because Total Recall was the sole movie to open this weekend.
It appears that Arnold deliberately picked a film that was the action/sci-fi combo that had served him well in Predator and his most iconic role in Terminator. This was a wise choice and the audience flocked to Arnold's adventure to Mars (or did he really go?). Over the first weekend in June, Total Recall earned a robust $25.3 million ($43 million adjusted) from over 2,000 screens to become the best debut ever for an R-rated film at the time. Obviously, this was enough to gain the top spot and was a great first half of his 1990 tandem of Total Recall and Kindergarten Cop (released in December).
Sadly, this was the first weekend of June after all, which followed the four-day Memorial Day weekend, so a freefall for returning films was expected and those expectations were fulfilled. Up to this point in 1990, week-to-week declines landed in the 30% range on average but this weekend had six of the nine non-debuting films in the top ten clocking more than 50% drops.
With the unfortunate combination of the holiday and being a sequel, Back to the Future Part III sank a sizable 56% to $10.3 million ($17.5 million adjusted). Spielberg protégé and Back to the Future director Robert Zemeckis must have let the budget-conscious lessons of the master sink in, because this film only carried a reported $40 million budget. After ten days, it had $38.1 million in the bank, so it was financially doing "okay".
The third spot goes to the Mel Gibson-Goldie Hawn action flick Bird on a Wire. It earned another $6.4 million ($10.9 million adjusted), which was off more than half of its previous weekend's take. Former number one repeat champ Pretty Woman had to settle for fourth place with $4.8 million ($8.2 million adjusted) with the second smallest decline in the top ten (just under 42%). Rounding out the top five is Cadillac Man, which swindled another $2.9 million ($4.9 million adjusted) out of audiences.
Before becoming the box office pariah of the late 2000s, Eddie Murphy was in-demand, reliable and most importantly, funny and raunchy. Summer 1990 brought a sequel to his 1982 feature film debut, 48 Hrs. In only eight years, Murphy had starred in nine films with only one bona fide flop, 1984's total misfire Best Defense. Even more impressive is that these other films included the gargantuan Beverly Hills Cop ($234.8 million in 1984), its sequel and his widely acclaimed stand-up film Raw that earned more than $50 million and probably only cost $300 to make. He was virtually unstoppable and Paramount was given the second weekend of June all to itself to start Another 48 Hrs.