Box Office - Decade at a Glance: January - April 2003
By Michael Lynderey
September 21, 2009
With many of the decade's cinematic trends already introduced, 2003 just had a little housekeeping to do: the rise of the Teen Queen, Farrell & Ferrell, and the reshaping and re-animation of the horror genre. Oh, and some cheesy comedies made a lot of money.
While heaps of 2002's Oscar-bait were currying for attention, January 2003 itself took on a much more low-brow turn, with a batch of films that seemed inferior even when compared with what Januaries '01 and '02 had to offer. First, the Ashton Kutcher-Brittany Murphy team-up Just Married, with its European caricatures and generally predictable hijinks, was rewarded with a $17 million opening and $56 million total. Murphy was just coming off a noticeable supporting part in 8 Mile, and this one got her some momentum, but it was really Kutcher that the film cemented as a mid-level star; in fact, while most people may not be aware of this, his movies have actually been doing pretty well ever since (The Butterfly Effect, Guess Who, The Guardian and What Happens in Vegas all finished over $50 million). Kutcher may never have gotten to the A-list, but churning out a modest hit every year or two isn't too shabby at all.
Another mid-tier star was introduced later in the month, as Colin Farrell headlined CIA thriller The Recruit, opposite Al Pacino. Farrell's performance in the little-seen Tigerland (2000) got him noticed and cast in several big Hollywood movies - first, in Hart's War and Minority Report in 2002, and then in no fewer than four films released in 2003. All four (The Recruit, Daredevil, Phone Booth and S.W.A.T.) finished with over $45 million, and two crossed $100 million, so Farrell's name was definitively chiseled into popular culture. This peak wasn't to last, however - to date, just one other Farrell film has passed $40 million (Miami Vice, with $63 million in 2006).
Next, the rule that dictates that every movie will succeed that features a cute, furry animal prominently in its marketing was proven true yet again. Following in the footsteps of the previous year's inexplicably successful Snow Dogs, some veritable geniuses over at Warner Bros. took a cheesy Australian-set comedy called Down Under, retitled it Kangaroo Jack, and went to great pains to make it seem like the film was about a mischievous talking kangaroo. They even stamped the beast's ugly mug on the film's poster. In reality, this "character" was only conversational in a brief dream sequence, and otherwise was just your plain old kangaroo off the street, in the few scenes he/she/it appeared in. But that didn't matter. A $16 million opening / $66 million total was still the score for this one. You can't beat a talking animal picture. Don't even try.
The rest of the month spawned a particularly undelectable mix of bad comedies and cheesy horror films. For comedy, there was another Martin Lawrence vehicle, National Security, which finished with a better-than-expected $36 million, and the Jason Lee-Julia Stiles team-up A Guy Thing ($15 million; not good for Lee or Stiles). If you wanted horror, you got Darkness Falls, the first post-Ring movie to turn its PG-13 rating and useless ghost villain into a decent sum ($32 million). Elsewhere, the solidly R-rated Final Destination 2 established that series as one of the most prominent horror franchises of the decade, taking in a very respectable $46 million (too bad the movie wasn't any good).