Box Office - Decade at a Glance: May - August 2002

By Michael Lynderey

August 25, 2009

He's king of the world...or the girder, anyway.

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These three films had something in common: they were smart, well-written, and targeted at adults. Their success, even in the usually dumbed-down days of the May blockbuster season, is to be commended. But May had more to offer. There was Stallion: Spirit of the Cimarron, an expensive ($80 million), traditionally animated (this is the part when the warning light goes off) film about horses of one sort or the other. I must sound like a broken record when I say that the film's mediocre total gross, $73 million, was yet another blow to traditional animation, a subgenre that the film's studio, DreamWorks, would dabble in only one more time (with Sinbad in 2003; after that, they finally learned their lesson). Meanwhile, on the other end of the May theater, Undercover Brother was a fun little comedy that took in a not-bad $38 million. That number was just a million away from the gross of Jennifer Lopez's latest film, the spousal abuse thriller Enough. Lopez's few previous titles had strong box office takes, so this was a bit of a misstep, and the various revulsions expressed by critics did not help, either.


The first weekend of June 2002 surprised, as uber-"chick flick" Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood triumphed over testosterone-filled, Bruckheimer-producer action thriller Bad Company. Neither film got very good reviews, but the Ya-Ya picture assembled an all-star cast (led by Sandra Bullock and Ashley Judd) and it paid off with a $16 million opening, $69 million total, and countless late night TV jokes about the movie's title. Bad Company, on the other hand, saw Chris Rock transition from his hit comedy Down to Earth into a more action-oriented role. Despite the presence of star character actor Anthony Hopkins, the film ended up one of Jerry Bruckheimer's few failures - $11 million opening and $30 million total, all on a budget of $70 million. Rock's status as leading man was now in doubt.


The next few weeks brought along more traditional $100 million grossers. There was The Bourne Identity, which legged its way up to $121 million after a $27 million opening, and gave star Matt Damon a definitive franchise to carry forward into the decade. Scooby-Doo reinvigorated the TV cartoon-to-film subgenre with a surprise $54 million opening and $153 million total, despite reviews that are best described as ungenerous. While I had assumed that Kevin Smith's brief parody of Scooby-Doo in the previous summer's Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back was enough to satisfy fan appetites, it looks like that wasn't the case. Anyway, the film did give Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze, Jr. one more hit for the road, but Prinze's leading man lease had clearly expired with 2001's Summer Catch. Gellar would tough it out for a few more years, though. And whatever happened to co-star Matthew Lillard?

June 21st featured two more $100 million entries: Lilo & Stitch and Minority Report, both considered disappointments on their opening weekends. The former film was another persistent traditional animation film by Disney; at $145 million, it was their highest grossing non-CGI animation since Tarzan in 1999. Minority Report, on the hand, represented the seemingly lucrative combination of director Steven Spielberg with star Tom Cruise. Spielberg's A.I. had floundered the summer before, and his 2002 sci-fi film was also considered an underperformer, despite receiving some of the highest critical acclamation of the year. At a $35 million opening and $132 million total, Minority Report wasn't the best outing for either Cruise or Spielberg, and the film's dark subject matter could have been a reason. Proponents of the theory that Cruise's box office has been affected by his post-2005 off-screen behavior, whatever that may be, should take note of this fact: save for Mission: Impossible II, not one of his 1997-2004 starring roles outgrossed Minority Report's fairly unexciting total.

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