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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Not all kids' movies were so lucky. In fact, July 2002 looks like an outright wasteland of failed children's films. The Powerpuff Girls (remember them?) movie did just as badly as Hey Arnold!, finishing with a meek $11 million and undergoing heavy criticism for its violence (at least the girls didn't scalp anybody). The Crocodile Hunter movie got better reviews than expected, and a $28 million total for its troubles. The Country Bears, on the other hand, came off like an amazingly bad idea, and was practically laughed off the screen (not before grossing $16 million, if it's any consolation to the bears among us). And while mouse adventure Stuart Little 2 stands above the pack with $65 million, that's far and away from the $140 million that the original film grossed in the winter of 1999. While the sequel was pretty good, this may have been a case of a kids' movie that would have done better during the holiday season. Stuart Little 2 was also Michael J. Fox's last film role of any sort, to date (he voiced the mouse).

Some genre efforts also entered the fray, mostly without much positive feedback. Fun spider-bashing sci-fi comedy Eight Legged Freaks could only muster up $17 million, but at least it didn't cost much to make. Not content to besmirch spiders, Reign of Fire was a big fight-the-dragons movie that fizzled out with $43 million, despite the presence of star Matthew McConaughey (if you were wondering why he's so adamant about appearing in romantic comedies, this decidedly unromantic movie's performance may offer a big hint). Finally, July brought along the release of the eighth and final film in the Halloween series, Halloween: Resurrection. Designed as a follow-up to 1998's hit Halloween: H20, Resurrection was plagued by re-shoots and delayed back from its original October 2001 date. Still, the $30 million this film pulled in isn't bad for this kind of a thing, and the film's release made 2002 the first year since 1989 to feature both a Halloween and a Friday the 13th film (all that was missing was Freddy Krueger). Michael Myers seemed alive and well in the last scene of the film, but I guess that's a plotline we'll never see resolved, considering all eight Halloween films appear to have been rebooted out of existence.


Times were considerably better for another Michael Myers, though. That big late July movie was none other than Austin Powers in Goldmember, which received worse reviews than its predecessors but beat them both at the box office, opening with an amazing $76 million and finishing with $213 million (the last Powers film took in $205 million). Mike Myers has yet to see this kind of live-action success again, and I'm actually curious as to how a fourth Austin Powers film would do at the box office this late in the game. Not curious enough to actually want one to be made, though.


The late summer blockbuster streak continued right into August, with M. Night Shyamalan's latest, Signs. Despite a decidedly mixed reception for his Unbreakable in 2000, Signs' combination of excellent marketing, a genuine sense of mystery, star power (Mel Gibson), and Shyamalan's still-potent name led to a terrific $60 million opening and $227 million total gross. It's pretty ironic that Mel Gibson's highest grossing film was also his last as leading man, at least until 2010 or so. Signs also gave noted roles to Joaquin Phoenix and then-six year old Abigail Breslin, and kept Shyamalan's name in good standing enough to proceed with his unfortunate next film, the Village. The second week of August continued the hit streak: Vin Diesel's solo star vehicle xXx, marketed as a lean and mean version of James Bond, opened with $44 million and finished with $141 million, a box office run almost identical to Diesel's breakout role, the Fast and the Furious. Indeed, if that film was the set-up, this was the punchline, and it solidified Diesel as a successor to the big action stars of the 1980s and 1990s (if only for a while).

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