Box Office - Decade at a Glance: May - August 2003

By Michael Lynderey

September 23, 2009

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2003's May was one of the strongest of the decade. The first weekend featured the now standard example of a fanboy-appealing blockbuster getting the summer off to a strong start, matched with counter programming that pulls its weight, too. The opening of this particular May brought out X2: X-Men United, a prototype of a best-case scenario sequel: X2 was better reviewed than its predecessor, and the goodwill the first X-Men generated got this one a bigger opening ($85 million to the first film's $54 million) and total ($215 million to part 1's $157 million). $85 million was also the fourth biggest opening at the time, but who's counting anymore? The film's success was good news not only for the franchise in particular but for comic book films in general - they were there to stay, and their best days were still ahead of them.

As usual, the counter programming entry was one with female appeal - specifically teenage girls. After a supporting role in Agent Cody Banks, starlet Hilary Duff transitioned fully from television to film with The Lizzie McGuire Movie, released during the show's last days. While neither Duff nor McGuire were ever as popular in their heyday as Mses. Cyrus or Montana are today, the film still did well - a $17 million opening and $42 million total. With Amanda Bynes also scoring a decent hit in April, 2003 quickly began assembling a small army of TV starlets-turned teen movie queens.


May 9th gave us a week off, unless you were a parent dragged screaming and crying by their children to Eddie Murphy's latest family comedy - Daddy Day Care, a very respectable hit at a $27 million opening and $104 million total. Murphy didn't really need any more encouragement to keep dabbling in children's films, but he got it, anyway. That one week pause was of course just the quiet before the storm - Thursday, May 15th saw the release of one of the most anticipated films of the first half of the 2000s: The Matrix Reloaded. The first Matrix came out of nowhere in 1999 to become a massive financial hit and, even better, a beloved fanboy favorite, almost a Star Wars for the late 1990s. As such, The Matrix Reloaded had an epic level of anticipation and, while it didn't win the summer, had a terrific box office reception - $134 million four-day opening and $281 million total. The alarming part was what came next - the third film in the franchise was scheduled for winter, but general audience reaction to the vaguely confusing Reloaded was somewhat on the negative side, and the Matrix Revolutions would end up paying the price for Reloaded's indiscretions. Meanwhile, playing across the aisle was Down With Love, a 1960s-set satire of old Doris Day films. Yes, this was a romantic comedy with Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor, and yes, it was pretty funny, but how do you really market something as niche as this? (It finished with $20 million).

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