Box Office - Decade at a Glance: May - August 2001

By Michael Lynderey

July 28, 2009

They're skeptical about traveling with a ginger.

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The 2001 edition of the Fourth of July weekend is easily one of the lowest-profile in recent history. The biggest release was Scary Movie 2, and I suppose the movie was intended to repeat the first film's $157 million-worthy success just the year before. Instead, reviews panned it as a quickly-put-together sequel, and what we had on our hands was an underperformer, at $71 million (not to mention the first, though far from final, step in the conspiracy to darken the good name of spoof films). The talking-animal spy film, Cats & Dogs, did better, with a decent $93 million haul. A sequel was announced almost immediately but, amazingly, is only being made now; is anyone even going to remember the first film when Cats & Dogs 2 hits screens in July 2010?

Moving past the okay Jet Li vehicle Kiss of the Dragon, July 13th brought along another case of overturned expectations. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was intended to be a revolutionary new development in computer generated animation - a film that looked almost like realistic live action. Commentary and analysis were heaped on the film pre-release; questions like - is the animation too life-like? Are CGI actors going to replace the live-action kind? Does anyone really want to see a Final Fantasy movie? The answers were no, no, and no, because this $130 million-budgeted film mustered up a meek $32 million gross, finally giving us the definitive flop of the summer. It was about time.

At the other end of the multiplex, a little comedy called Legally Blonde came out of nowhere to win the weekend with $20 million, and then had legs, legs, legs, finishing with a terrific $96 million. The Wedding Planner and Bridget Jones turned Lopez and Zellweger into romantic comedy stars for the new century, and Legally Blonde did the same for Reese Witherspoon, marking her as the natural successor to the ousted Meg Ryan. Meanwhile, the $71 million-grossing three-character piece The Score gave Edward Norton and Robert De Niro a decent hit, and featured the very last screen performance by Marlon Brando.


The third weekend of July brought along yet another B-movie hit, as Jurassic Park III opened with $50 million and finished with $181 million. No complaints there, and I'll also give them a nod for not following that one up with yet another sequel. Meanwhile, Hollywood-insider comedy America's Sweethearts did well at $93 million. But for a Julia Roberts film, it was a little underwhelming. July 27th capped off the month with another action/adventure hit - Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes; not one of his best films (and certainly one of his most conventional), but with a $68 million opening and $180 million total, it was a very efficient star vehicle for Mark Wahlberg, and a respectful summer hit.


August 3rd gave birth to another surprise hit - Disney wish-fulfillment fantasy The Princess Diaries, which amazingly grossed $108 million and introduced us to Anne Hathaway (and the world only had to endure one sequel, so I'd say the good outnumbers the bad here). The biggest story of the day was Rush Hour 2, which opened to $67 million and finished with $226 million. I never understood what the appeal was with the Rush Hour films, but one thing was clear: this was going to be the biggest August in the while. That didn't change the next week, when gross-out-with-a-heart sequel American Pie 2 opened with $45 million (compare that to the first film's $18 million opening) and finished with $145 million. That's what a thriving franchise looks like. Meanwhile, the Farrelly Brothers had a flop with half animation/half comedy Osmosis Jones (budget: $75 million; gross: $13 million) and Nicole Kidman scored yet another solid vehicle with The Others, a creepy ghost film that opened with $14 million and ended up with $96 million.

The rest of the month didn't feature any real breakout hits, but cameo-filled comedy Rat Race did pull in $56 million, and '80s-style horror film Jeepers Creepers took in a modest $36 million. Kevin Smith put out the very funny Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, but with the typically Smithian lack of box office fanfare ($30 million). Also around were John Carpenter's last theatrically released film to date (Ghosts of Mars, so that's why), Freddie Prinze Jr.'s 278th (yes, really), and last, underperforming star vehicle (Summer Catch), and the good little drama O (Josh Hartnett/Julia Stiles). I think Woody Allen and Jake Gyllenhaal may have had some movies out back then, too, but Allen's probably already forgotten about his, while Gyllenhaal only wishes he could.

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