Box Office - Decade at a Glance: May - August 2004
By Michael Lynderey
October 13, 2009
Outside of the four token blockbusters, May '04 didn't really try. There was New York Minute, the Olsen Twins' attempt at Duff/Lohan/Bynes-like stardom, but that didn't work out ($14 million total). Jamie Foxx auditioned for comedy lead in Breakin' All the Rules ($11 million); he had a big year ahead of him, but it didn't start quite yet. Next, Kate Hudson followed up her mega-success in 2003's How to Lose A Guy In 10 Days with Raising Helen, but this was another generally disappointing romantic comedy, finishing with an unexceptional $37 million. And finally, May 28, 2004 saw the release of what will surely remain one of the decade's most absurdly memorable movie titles: Soul Plane.
Nothing more need be said about that.
Having by this point altered their plan to release a new Harry Potter film every November, Warner Bros. moved the third entry in the series into a plump summer slot, and the results were somewhat mixed. Yes, the $93 million opening weekend sure was nice (the series' biggest at that point), but unburdened of its holiday legs, Potter III finished with only $249 million (under the second film's $261 million and the first's $317 million). The summer formula would work out a little better for Potter the next time around.
With HP dominating the box office, the bulk of June was left without any clear blockbusters, but a few films did break out. The June 11th slate was a mixed bag: The Chronicles of Riddick aimed to be another in a series of $100 million+ grossing Vin Diesel summer action blockbusters, following The Fast and the Furious in 2001 and xXx in 2002 (Diesel sat out summer '03). As a sequel to 2000's Pitch Black, the film was supposed to carry some ingrained audience recognition, and the trailers certainly painted it as the kind of high-action affair that deserved a $100 million gross. But it was not to be - with increasingly negative word-of-mouth, Riddick opened to only $24 million and finished off at $57 million - not that far off from Pitch Black's $39 million total, and not worthy of a summer blockbuster. This was Diesel's first serious misstep.
Next on the same weekend's slate, The Stepford Wives was marketed as a comedic remake of the 1975 wife-swap thriller, and the casting of Nicole Kidman gave it some star power. But the whole bad review issue came into play again - and boy, were critics ever merciless on this one - so the $90 million-budgeted film opened at $21 million and totaled an underwhelming $59 million. I've badmouthed movie quality so far, but frankly, it didn't much affect the week's other release - despite equally unenthusiastic reviews, the live-action adaptation of Garfield had no problem turning its $21 million opening into a respectable $75 million total. Maybe it was Bill Murray's deliciously ironic voice work in the title role. Equally ironic but considerably more irritating are accurate descriptions of the weekend's last film, Napoleon Dynamite, which turned its unbridled, low-budget, oddly-colored Sundance mojo into a strong $44 million total (it probably ought to be noted that this one didn't get into wide release until September).