Box Office - Decade at a Glance: September - December 2002

By Michael Lynderey

August 26, 2009

What's in his pocketses?

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While most of September's movies didn't add up to much of a pretty sight, the month did dish out a few big surprises. First, urban comedy Barbershop obviously struck a cord with an underserved demographic, and pulled in an amazing $75 million after a $20 million opening. That's a lot, but it pales in comparison to the next September surprise - Sweet Home Alabama, a fair if exceedingly unexceptional romantic comedy vehicle for Reese Witherspoon, opened with $35 million and totaled at $127 million. If Witherspoon's well-received role in Legally Blonde was the set-up, then Sweet Home Alabama was the punchline - and it was a very funny joke. Witherspoon had clearly arrived as a major female star, a less perky Meg Ryan for the 2000s, and Alabama remains her highest live-action grosser. Meanwhile, in the B-movie department, Jackie Chan and the fetching Jennifer Love Hewitt (now there's an odd couple) headlined action-comedy the Tuxedo, which admirably pulled in $50 million. On the other end of the pool, SwimFan's tale of a jilted teenage lover came off like a high school version of those early '90s "stranger from hell" movies (Single White Female, Consenting Adults, etc.). Jilted or not, the $28 million it gobbled up in early September was probably more than it had any right to earn. Other interesting titles floating around were the crime drama City by the Sea ($22 million), which featured a typically riveting DeNiro performance, and groupie reunion bash the Banger Sisters ($30 million), which remains Goldie Hawn's last film to date. While it wasn't a bad movie, it would really be too bad if it ended up being the cap-off to Hawn's terrific three-decade long career as comedienne.

Otherwise, the month was mostly home to a large chunk of unseen films. There was the comedy Stealing Harvard ($13 million), which stamped the definitive seal of banishment on Tom Green's Hollywood career. Next, the decidedly long and considerably boring historical epic the Four Feathers ($18 million) found Kate Hudson and Heath Ledger thoroughly out of luck. The league of losers was rounded out by Trapped ($7 million), still Courtney Love's last role, and Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever ($14 million), a Lucy Liu / Antonio Banderas action mash-up that can claim the novelty of possessing the most thoroughly ungainly title of the year.



October 2002 opened up with Red Dragon, a film widely expected to be a Halloween-time mini-blockbuster. It had the benefit of being the follow-up to the previous year's high gross-out thriller Hannibal, which ran off with an amazing $165 million (and some of Ray Liotta's brain matter, to boot). Evidently lacking a solid sequel idea, the producers went back to the beginning and remade Manhunter, the 1986 film in which Hannibal Lecter made his screen debut. Anthony Hopkins returned, and was paired up with Edward Norton, not to mention an excellent supporting cast. Director Brett Ratner delivered a film that reviews pegged as a solid enough thriller (and unlike Hannibal, not too disgusting). It was therefore a genuine surprise that Red Dragon underperformed - a $36 million opening is good, but the movie dropped off and finished up with $93 million, making it the first Anthony Hopkins-Hannibal Lecter film not to top $100 million. The most likely cause for this snub? Audiences waited a good ten years for Lecter's return the first time around, and after that pent-up anticipation was released, Red Dragon didn't have much of a mandate to be a really big movie.

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