Box Office - Decade at a Glance: May - August 2005

By Michael Lynderey

October 27, 2009

And stay out of the third movie!

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May

Ever heard of a May where the first movie to gross $100 million wasn't released until more than halfway into the month? Sure, that was pretty commonplace up until 1998 or so, but whoever would imagine such a thing could happen again, in today's box office world? Alas, such an event is not just a bedtime story told to frighten film executives into submission. It actually happened in 2005, and if we don't watch out, it may happen again some day. When we least expect it.

May 2005 began with what ended up as the lowest-grossing first week of May title of the entire decade. I'm obviously talking about Crash, that little star-powered drama that could, the Best Picture Oscar winner that opened with $9 million and finished with $54 million after a lot of word-of-mouth legs and awards buzz. That $54 million easily ranks it below Van Helsing (2004)'s $120 million, thus earning the above-mentioned first-week-of-May record. But how did this accomplishment come to be? Who or what decided that Crash should be the big summer opener?




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Kingdom of Heaven did, basically. That was the costly ($130 million or so) historical epic from Ridley Scott, who practically reinvigorated the genre when he delivered Gladiator to mega-success on the same weekend five years before. And so it was most appropriate that the man who swung open the door for those often very expensive films would also be the one who definitively shut it. 2004 was already adrift with epics that disappointed to varying degrees (Troy, King Arthur, and Alexander) and so the time and place was just right for Kingdom of Heaven to do what it did - open with $19 million and finish with $47 million, that is, thus ranking it below Crash's total. Set during the Crusades, Kingdom of Heaven's appeal rested solely on the shoulders of star Orlando Bloom; logically speaking, the casting made sense, considering that at this point Bloom had had starring roles in fantasy epics like Pirates of the Caribbean and the Lord of the Rings, as well as more relatively down to earth stuff like Troy. Bloom was the clear star here, and the movie's performance seemed to indicate that he was not as big a draw as previously assumed. The stereotypical two and a half hour running time didn't help, nor did the mixed reviews, nor the fact that, unlike five of the other ten 2000s May openers, this wasn't based on anything even vaguely connected to Marvel Comics. Kingdom's failure began talks of a box office slump, a subplot that was often not-so-vaguely bubbling around throughout the next year or so. But I think this particular movie frankly only had itself to blame.

Also on the May 6th weekend, the folks at Dark Castle Entertainment sent out their latest, a remake of 1953's House of Wax that replaced original star Vincent Price with Paris Hilton (though they weren't evidently playing the same character). As implied above, this one didn't do much business either, totaling at a mild-for-the-genre $32 million. Hard to say why it was that, among a sea of 2005 horror hits, it was this one that disappointed, but there it is. Week two of May followed with two modest performers - the Will Ferrell soccer comedy Kicking & Screaming, which totaled at a low-for-Ferrell $52 million (it was probably too much of a kids' movie for most people) and the Jane Fonda-Jennifer Lopez cagematch Monster-in-Law, which took in $82 million. Great title on that one, and the combination of Lopez in a romantic comedy role with Fonda, making her first screen appearance in 15 years, is what drove up the box office - counter programming without anything in particular to counter. How odd that Monster-in-Law was Lopez' last big starring role until at least 2010. Also around that weekend was the neat little Jet Li action movie Unleashed ($24 million total), but Li never really struck out as a big action star in the U.S., and this film was no exception.


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