Box Office - Decade at a Glance: January - April 2004
By Michael Lynderey
October 12, 2009
Silly comedies had their day in the sun early in the month, including the Cedric the Entertainer vehicle Johnson Family Vacation ($31 million) and Julia Stiles' first real lead role after Save the Last Dance, The Prince & Me ($28 million). Disney put out a minor animated film, the western Home on the Range, which pulled in a fair $50 million. By this point, though, Disney had clearly accepted what I still can not - that the era of mega-hit traditional animation was over. Elsewhere, some middle-of-the-month performers included Ella Enchanted ($22 million), an occasionally well-reviewed fantasy with Anne Hathaway stuck in her teen movie phase; The Girl Next Door, the somewhat-interesting high school tale that gave prominent roles to Elisha Cuthbert and Emile Hirsch; and The Alamo, Disney's very expensive recreation of Texas history, which finished with $22 million on a budget of around $100 million. Good movie, excellent Billy Bob Thornton performance, but when you're playing with a two and a half hour running time, you'd better have brought all the CGI trolls and ogres you can afford. Clearly, this was The Alamo's critical mistake. Not to be outdone on the mistake front - Connie and Carla was released almost two years after My Big Fat Greek Wedding exploded into the stratosphere and made Nia Vardalos a movie star. Teaming up Vardalos and Toni Collette (did you know they're both actually named "Antonia"?), this particular comic vision took in only $8 million, or, $233 million less than Wedding did in 2002. Also prowling around the mean streets this time of year was the wholly unnecessary sequel The Whole Ten Yards. But please, let's not talk about that.
Next, April 23rd was the weekend when star vehicles flourished. First, Denzel Washington's Man on Fire, another one of his thrillers, followed the standard Denzel Box Office Formula: $22 million opening, $77 million total. Then, after some supporting parts, Jennifer Garner was launched into star status with 13 Going on 30, a body-switch movie that opened with $21 million and finished with a respectable $57 million. So far, this remains Garner's biggest film as solo star.
April '04 ended in a big way, with the arrival of Mean Girls. Buoyed into teen queen status with August '03's Freaky Friday, Lindsay Lohan floundered a little with February's Confessions of a Drama Queen, but Mean Girls was the one that made her big. Real big. Playing like a much superior remake of that Drama Queen film, Mean Girls was a sharply-written high school satire that also introduced Amanda Seyfried and Rachel McAdams as actresses to watch, and gave screenwriter Tina Fey a decent supporting role. With its $24 million opening and $86 million total, it was the kind of right-before-summer hit studios look for. With that out of the way, the rest of the week didn't much rise to the occasion. There was Godsend, another entry into the "Oops! My child is trying to kill me" subgenre, and not one of the better ones; Laws of Attraction, a Pierce Brosnan-Julianne Moore comedic team-up that didn't do anyone any favors; and Envy, which disproved anyone who believed that the cinematic combo of Ben Stiller and Jack Black would produce not only successful comedy but also sturdy box office. People who held that belief were very, very wrong.