Box Office - Decade At a Glance: January - April 2001
By Michael Lynderey
July 27, 2009
More than any other recent year, I'd credit 2001 for redefining what we accept as normal box office behavior - consider that 2001 gave us eight of the then-17 highest opening weekends of all time. The year is also notable for launching some of the biggest franchises of the 2000s (Harry Potter; Shrek; Lord of the Rings), and some of its biggest stars.
January - February
2001 began with a bang, as a little teen movie that could pulled in some hefty numbers. Save the Last Dance might not have looked like much on paper, but did it ever deliver - a $23 million opening weekend and an amazing $91 million tally. That number may not seem like much in May or July, but it cemented the film as one of the highest grossing January releases ever. Aside from containing a near-unforgettable piece of dialogue (a solemn-faced "No, I would never bust a cap in your ass", delivered by Julia Stiles), Save the Last Dance gave definitive life to a popular 2000s subgenre - the urban dance movie - and introduced Stiles as a name actress (her co-star, Sean Patrick Thomas, wasn't so lucky). MTV Films later cannily used this second week-of-January teen movie release strategy to open Orange County (2002) and Coach Carter (2005) to respectable numbers.
The rest of the month was a decidedly mixed bag, with a long, and long-forgotten, Ryan Phillippe thriller (AntiTrust, featuring Tim Robbins as a thinly-disguised, mal-intentioned version of Bill Gates), a widely-panned star vehicle for Eddie Griffin (Double Take), and a cheerleader comedy, Sugar & Spice. Reading off that last film's cast list does bring back some memories: Mena Suvari, Rachel Blanchard, Sean Young. Were these people abducted by aliens circa 2003, never to be returned? Anyway, a much more interesting release was The Pledge, directed by Sean Penn and starring Jack Nicholson, and featuring one of the oddest serial killer movie endings ever. The fact that Nicholson delivered a great performance is a given, but the Pledge serves as one of several demonstrations that Penn should make film directing a day job.
The last weekend of the month saw the release of the Wedding Planner, Jennifer Lopez's first go at a traditional romantic comedy role; it might surprise people today that the same was true of her co-star, Matthew McConaughey. Previously known for a few choice character roles and a handful of dramatic leads, McConaughey's post-Wedding Planner resume became littered with hordes of films of the romantic-comedic-very bad persuasion. Anyway, the film pulled in a decent $60 million, and it's no surprise - the pre-Valentine's Day landscape was infested with badly reviewed, little-seen star vehicles, including those of Freddie Prinze Jr. (Head over Heels) and Jason Biggs (Saving Silverman). Granted, a film called Valentine was also in release - but that was a cheesy slasher film; in retrospect, it seems to have been marking time between the 1981 and 2009 versions of My Bloody Valentine. Another highly panned romantic film was the seasonally innutritious Sweet November - but that came out on February 16th. Two days too late.