Box Office - Decade at a Glance: January - April 2003
By Michael Lynderey
September 21, 2009
March 2003 was a month littered with some major disappointments, and one scary-big runaway hit. The hit was Bringing Down the House, a family-friendly, audience-pleasing comic collaboration between Steve Martin and Queen Latifah. The film opened with $31 million and finished with an incredible $132 million. Never underestimate the power of a silly comedy that combines star power with a plot that potentially appeals to a wide cross-section of demographics (it's simpler than it sounds, really).
It was a pretty bleak situation for the rest of the month, though - not one movie passed $50 million. Frankie Muniz did have another decent hit with the vaguely Spy Kids-influenced Agent Cody Banks, which matched his 2002 film Big Fat Liar in grossing $47 million. Next, Bruce Willis had an okay time with his action thriller Tears of the Sun ($43 million total), which might have looked better had the movie not cost $70 million. A whole batch of thrillers were unleashed on audiences, to no discernible positive reaction: the Tommy Lee Jones-Benicio Del Toro mash-up The Hunted took in only $34 million, the Stephen King adaptation Dreamcatcher shamed its $65 million+ budget with a $33 million total, and the confusing John Travolta-Samuel L. Jackson military interrogation-adventure Basic was left behind with only $26 million to show for itself. The somewhat disastrous disaster movie/sci-fi thriller The Core couldn't generate much energy either ($31 million), and so stars Hilary Swank and Aaron Eckhart were again denied A-list status. Speaking of stars - the Presidentially-inclined Chris Rock comedy Head of State did okay with $38 million, better than Gwyneth Paltrow's flight attendant-fest View from the Top ($15 million).
Not to be outdone, Disney released yet another animation spin-off, Piglet's Big Movie, but this one only finished with half of Jungle Book 2's total - $23 million. Underground, well-reviewed British soccer flick Bend It Like Beckham was quietly gaining some steam, and eventually totaled a fairly respectable $32 million; it introduced co-star Keira Knightley to American audiences, although the film's actual star, Parminder Nagra, hasn't been seen much since on U.S. film screens. Meanwhile, the rat-infested horror remake Willard, with its meek $6 million gross, probably doesn't seem very notable - but technically speaking, it was the first of the never-ending wave of remakes of '70s and '80s horror films, and one of the few such films that didn't outgross the original (yup, Willard '71 took in $19 million).
April 2003 was easily won by the third $100 million+ comedy of the season, Anger Management, Adam Sandler's hit team-up with Jack Nicholson. Nicholson was just coming off an exceedingly well-received role in About Schmidt, while Sandler brought back his trademark assembly of crude comedy, after a change of pace with Punch-Drunk Love. Anger Management opened with a very Sandler-esque $42 million and finished with $134 million, giving Sandler's belt another solid notch. #2 for the month went to Holes, a well-reviewed, and very quirky, kids' book adaptation that was Shia LaBeouf's first film starring role. At a solid $67 million after a $16 million opening, this was another Disney success (and better than most of their live action films). Other decent performers included the clever little thrillers Identity ($52 million) and Phone Booth ($46 million), the former being one of three John Cusack-Amanda Peet cinematic team-ups (odd coincidence) and the latter a good starring role for Colin Farrell. Kids' TV starlet Amanda Bynes had her first film leading role with What a Girl Wants ($36 million), and officially began cementing 2003 as the year that launched the decade's wave of teen queens (Lohan and Duff will soon follow). Also doing okay was the ridiculous white rapper comedy Malibu's Most Wanted, which inexplicably carried itself all the way to $34 million, giving Jamie Kennedy a modest hit.