Box Office - Decade at a Glance: September - December 2001
By Michael Lynderey
July 29, 2009
December threw out the usual holiday foreplay and just went ahead and gave us a big hit movie: Ocean's Eleven, which featured three of the 2000s' biggest stars (Clooney, Pitt and Damon) and the 1990s' most prominent leading lady (Julia Roberts). Steven Soderbergh was on a box office roll here, and the movie coasted on good reviews, holiday legs, and indeed its old-school movie star charm all the way to $183 million (from a $38 million opening). December 14th saw a mixed bag of releases: while Tom Cruise proved his star power by bringing the odd Vanilla Sky over to $100 million flat, the spoof genre took another blow, as Not Another Teen Movie could only muster up a week $38 million finish.
The third week of December was where the action was. The Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring brought yet another long-time fan-anticipated project into fruition at last. And it was everything anyone who wanted it on screen could dream of: very well reviewed critically, a Best Picture nominee at the Oscars, visually dazzling, and a big holiday grosser. However, the first round of the Potter Vs. LOTR match-up had Potter coming in with a three-point win: LOTR finished with $314 million, just a little under Potter's $317 million. Rounds two and three, on the other hand, definitely went to the hobbits. The other big story of the day was A Beautiful Mind, a film perfectly tailored for Oscar nominations by director Ron Howard and star Russell Crowe. It was perhaps the prototypical awards season behemoth, going as it did from a limited opening release to its incredible $170 million total (well, winning Best Picture didn't hurt either). Other Christmas-era films included Meg Ryan's return to form with Kate & Leopold, which grossed $47 million and gave Hugh Jackman yet another starring role (X-Men was really paying off), Tim Allen's distinctly unsuccessful comedy Joe Somebody ($22 million), and the Nickelodeon CGI release Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, which got family audiences to subsidize $80 million worth of tickets.
Will Smith's starring role in Ali amazingly opened to $10 million on Christmas Day and then dropped down, down, down, finishing with only $58 million. One noteworthy disappointment came courtesy of Jim Carrey, who just the year prior delivered a mega-hit with the Grinch. That didn't happen again in 2001, as Carrey's drama The Majestic could only scoop up $27 million. Audiences evidently didn't want to see Carrey's serious side. But can you really blame them? Carrey's contract with Beelzebub (I've read it) explicitly extrapolated that any efforts at serious acting, however successful artistically, would always fail at the box office. So what does Carrey really expect? A deal is a deal.
The last weeks of the year were littered with awards contenders, most of them opening in limited release before seeking greener pastures. All of the ones that got to a wide release did fairly well - the too-quirky-to-function Royal Tenenbaums took in a hefty $52 million, Gosford Park with its country villa-soiree premise climbed to $41 million, Sean Penn scored another Oscar nomination, and a $40 million gross, for I Am Sam, and Halle Berry's Monster's Ball, which netted her a Best Actress at the Oscars, overcame its deep 'n dark subject matter to get to $31 million.
The big post-script of the year was Black Hawk Down, which opened in only a few theaters on December 28th. On its expansion to a decent-sized wide release on January 18th, the film opened with $28 million and finished with $108 million, performing almost like a summer blockbuster. While it didn't get most of the hoped-for Oscar nominations, I'd say that box office sum is a very nice consolation prize indeed.