Box Office - Decade at a Glance: May - August 2004
By Michael Lynderey
October 13, 2009
July 23rd offered another clear-cut choice for moviegoers, and it looks like they chose well. The two genre films competing for action fans' attention were The Bourne Supremacy and Catwoman. The former followed-up a well-liked Matt Damon hit from the summer of 2002, while the latter was a Batman spin-off that sought to capitalize on the newly-resurged superhero genre. Bourne was praised through the roof, Catwoman was panned down to the gutter, and the box office winner between the two was declared pretty quickly: Catwoman opened with $16 million and finished with $40 million, while Bourne opened with $52 million and finished with...$176 million. Matt Damon now had another franchise on his hands.
Yet another genre tug-of-war was scheduled for July 30th, where thriller remake The Manchurian Candidate faced off against M. Night Shyamalan's latest, The Village. Can't say the best film won here, though, because Shyamalan's widely-hated opus opened with $50 million and finished at $114 million, while the Denzel Washington-Meryl Streep combo in Manchurian just pulled in the usual Denzel numbers - $20 million opening, $65 million total. Too bad, because Manchurian was one of the more interesting remakes to come down the pike lately, and its morbidly cynical dystopian humor seemed topical in the context of the then-ongoing 2004 election (as it still is now, for that matter). The last weekend of July was also home to some smaller films, ranging from the much-ridiculed (Thunderbids) to the over-adored (Garden State), to the surprisingly funny cult favorite Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, which introduced Kal Penn and John Co as comic actors to watch (though Penn has been stuck in far too many bad movies since). Garden State was writer-director-star Zach Braff's effective debut as movie star, and it took in a total of $30 million, fair for such an initially limited release. It also gave Natalie Portman her best role in a while (yes, that assessment does keep in mind a certain CGI-dominated trifecta of prequels).
2004's August was a change of pace from the 2001-2003 versions of the month, back when $100 million+ earner after $100 million+ earner rained down upon moviegoers. August 2004 was a much more quiet affair, but it did start off with another well-reviewed thriller: Michael Mann's Collateral, starring Tom Cruise in an effective and uncharacteristic performance as a hit man. As the cab driver who is caught in the hit man's evening plans, Jamie Foxx delivered one of his two Oscar-nominated 2004 roles, and launched himself from former TV star and budding comic actor to outright leading man. For such a dark and potentially offbeat film, Collateral did well - $24 million opening and a total of $100 million flat. The next August biggie was Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, Anne Hathaway's follow-up to her August 2001 breakout introduction. That one pulled in a hefty $108 million, and while the sequel didn't get particularly good reviews, it finished with a solid $95 million (let's not tempt fate and ask why they didn't make a third one). Later in the month, Jet Li had a surprise hit with his martial arts film Hero, propelled by its unique look and critical acclamation to a $53 million total, one of Li's best. A much more inexplicable box office performance came by way of Without a Paddle, a silly wilderness comedy with Matthew Lillard, Seth Green and Dax Shepard that somehow ended up with $58 million. Well, that's late summer for you.