Box Office - Decade at a Glance: September - December 2004

By Michael Lynderey

October 14, 2009

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Early September was a time-out again at the box office, with another selection of unspectacular Labor Day releases. Reese Witherspoon tried for Oscar glory in period piece Vanity Fair (her second time playing a Corseted Englishwoman of olde), Queen Latifah and Farrah Fawcett (in her last role) popped up in The Cookout, Paparazzi saw men of that profession ducking more than punches, and Josh Hartnett and Troy's Diane Kruger teamed up for an interesting if perpetually confusing little thriller in Wicker Park. Busy, sure, but the highest grosser of the four finished with a grand total of $16 million (I won't say which; you'll just have to guess).

The month's other three weeks maintained a "win some, lose some" mentality. September 10th had the interesting thriller Cellular - with a potentially career-resurging performance by Kim Basinger and a nice little turn by William H. Macy - but it finished with only $32 million. The same day also gave us sequel Resident Evil: Apocalypse, a chaotic little zombie affair that somewhat marginally improved on the first film's $39 million total, and more or less established the ceiling for how high films in this franchise would go (that would be $50 million).

September 17th was again plenty busy, but to no avail - the biggest film, '30s-style sci-fi fantasy Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, surrounded stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie and Jude Law with remarkable special effects and a decent budget, but audiences were evidently not amused ($37 million total). Elsewhere were generally unseen star vehicles for Bernie Mac (Mr. 3000; $21 million total) and Kirsten Dunst/Paul Bettany (Wimbledon; $16 million). There was also something called National Lampoon's Gold Diggers, which made exactly one million dollars.


The month did cap off with a decent hit - Julianne Moore's somewhat patchy The Forgotten perhaps began that tradition of random PG-13 thrillers breaking out to big bucks, opening with $21 million and totaling at a strong $66 million. Good for Julianne Moore. On the other side of the aisle - and not in a bout of particularly salient political satire - Katie Holmes did as Mandy Moore had done earlier the same year, and played the President's offspring in First Daughter. This one came in at $9 million to Moore's Chasing Liberty's $12 million. Not a huge difference there - but it's the little things that count.


After that typically nonchalant September, October 2004 exploded with a strong hit - Shark Tale, an undersea CGI concoction modeled after Shrek, took off with a $47 million opening and amazing-for-October $160 million total. Considering his presence as the lead voice, this can probably be counted as another one of the seemingly unending number of Will Smith blockbusters. He's simply incorrigible!

October was home to a few more respectable hits. Friday Night Lights, an entertaining and effective portrayal of small-town sports, buoyed by a characteristically strong Billy Bob Thornton performance, opened to $20 million and totaled at $61 million. Shall We Dance? was another fairly successful Jennifer Lopez vehicle (though Richard Gere wasn't chopped liver here, either), and finished with $57 million after some legs. Did this one help inspire the recent interest in (non-urban) dance? I wouldn't rule that out, actually. Elsewhere, John Travolta and Joaquin Phoenix firefought their way to a surprising $74 million in Ladder 49, Jimmy Fallon and Queen Latifah faltered somewhat with Taxi ($36 million total), and Jamie Foxx got his Oscar playing Ray Charles in Ray ($75 million).

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