Box Office - Decade at a Glance: September - December 2004
By Michael Lynderey
October 14, 2009
Meet the Fockers opened on Wednesday, December 22nd, taking in a deceptively good but not great $12 million. But that was just the beginning, because this one grossed, and grossed, and grossed some more, eventually totaling at an absolutely inconceivable $279 million! It helped that the movie followed up 2000's big word-of-mouth success, Meet the Parents, which finished with $166 million, and the holiday-time release date gave the Fockers a massive audience base just ready to go out and see a family-themed film during the Twelve Days of Christmas. Another plus was the familiar faces in the cast - Dustin Hoffman, Robert DeNiro, Ben Stiller, and the 1970s' biggest female movie star, Barbra Streisand, making her first film appearance in eight years. For Stiller, this capped off an inexplicably massive year in which he starred or co-starred in three other films that passed $80 million (plus, there was that Anchorman cameo).
While no other movies reached that Fockerized zone of box office success, the month did give us four more $100 million+ titles. The first two peaked early: Ocean's Twelve followed up its predecessor with a handy reunion of the entire cast, and a release on the three-year anniversary of the first film; mixed reception killed this after a decent opening, and so the sequel ended up with $125 million to the first film's $183 million. On the other hand, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events was a kids-aimed adaptation of a popular book series, highlighted by another manic Jim Carrey performance in weird make-up. But for whatever reason, it didn't get past $118 million. As for the other two $100 million titles - they were awards contenders made good. Martin Scorsese's The Aviator, with Leonardo DiCaprio Oscar-nominated as Howard Hughes, eventually finished at $102 million. Meanwhile, Clint Eastwood, evidently disappointed after losing the Best Director and Picture Oscars in 2003, returned with Million Dollar Baby and won 'em both this time. Here was a movie few knew anything about just a month before its release, but it grossed $100 million, and also won Oscars for stars Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman. Eastwood, who had spent the late '90s and early '00s dabbling in occasionally very effective thrillers, was now fully reinvented as director of Oscar-bait dramas.
With all that out of the way, the rest of the month didn't leave as strong an impression. There was Blade: Trinity (the third one), which finished with $52 million, notably below the first two. This one probably ended the series, and it's Wesley Snipes' last role to date in a wide theatrical release. Fat Albert, yet another kids' cartoon adapted into live-action, did better than it probably ought to have and climbed to $48 million on holiday legs. Adam Sandler went the dramedy route with James L. Brooks' Spanglish, but that one disappointed with only a $42 million total - it looks like most of its box office went to the Fockers. On the plus side, Spanglish reinvented then-78 year old Cloris Leachman as an entertaining character actress. We're really getting into the flops here, though, and it shows - movies like Dennis Quaid's summarily ignored remake Flight of the Phoenix ($21 million total) and Joel Schumacher's version of The Phantom of the Opera musical, which cost over $60 million and finished with $48 million. Phantom was greenlit following the success of Moulin Rouge! and Chicago, but broke that chain of successful musicals. And finally, completely non-descript horror film Darkness took its PG-13 rating and typical ghost-oriented premise to a frankly better than expected $22 million total. Not very significant, to be sure, but you can sort of see a pattern growing here - horror movies making more money than you'd think they would.
Rounding out the month was another batch of awards contenders, most of which opened in initial limited release and then expanded in January. There was the ensemble drama Closer ($33 million), Chinese martial arts adventure House of Flying Daggers ($11 million), Wes Anderson's predictably bizarre pastiche The Life Aquatic ($24 million), and Don Cheadle's well-reviewed work in Hotel Rwanda ($23 million). Paul Weitz's In Good Company, a frankly mainstream family comedy that didn't get to wide release until January 14th, ended up with $45 million. They may have missed the boat on that one - here was a well-made and entertaining film, with good turns by Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, and Scarlett Johansson, but it missed out on the lucrative late December period.
They must have been really scared of those Fockers.