Box Office - Decade at a Glance: May - August 2005
By Michael Lynderey
October 27, 2009
The big surprise brewing under all this was March of the Penguins, a sweet little documentary that performed like one of those movies about a lot of cute furry animals (which it was). This one opened a year after Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 redefined what a documentary could play like at the box office; Penguins fulfilled that promise, delivering humongous per-screen averages in limited release before expanding wide and finishing with a remarkable $77 million. Nature docs occasionally did pretty well during that '70s documentary boom, but never like this film, which became the second highest grossing documentary of the 2000s.
With that hit-and-miss June now over, July 2005 - initially a suspicious month with no clear winner - came to be dominated by three summer blockbusters. The first, Fantastic Four, another much-anticipated fanboy project finally given cinematic life, opened on July 8th and rode on the popularity that comic book movies were by this point clearly enjoying. It opened with $56 million and finished at $154 million, giving star Jessica Alba her highest grossing film, and introducing Chris Evans (The Human Torch) as a potential leading man. Quality-wise, it was... well... I think I'll leave that one there.
July 15th is where all the real action was at, though. The initial winner was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Tim Burton's remake of the 1971 film; this one capitalized on Johnny Depp's popularity and the film's inherent kidappeal, opening with $56 million and eventually finishing at a strong $206 million (the original movie grossed... uh... $4 million). But it was the day's other release that eventually wound up on top - Wedding Crashers, a solidly R-rated raunchy comedy with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, opened to a surprisingly strong $33 million, before shocking even more by having legs far superior to those of the Burton film - when all was said and done, Crashers took in a remarkable $209 million. Vaughn had already been ascending to comedic stardom with Old School (2003) and Dodgeball (2004), but this is the one that made him a solid mega-star. Wilson's filmography is a bit more choppy; outside of the subsequent Marley & Me, this is his only $100 million grosser as leading man. Wedding Crashers also gave a definitive boost to co-star Rachel McAdams, and she'd hold her own just a month later with Red Eye.
The rest of July divides neatly between failed would-be blockbusters and surprise hits. Let's start with the failures, because I guess they're more fun. The most notorious is probably Michael Bay's action epic The Island, a film that stands alone like a sore thumb among his resume of high-powered $100 million+, $200 million+, $300 million+, and, most recently, $400 million+ grossers. Teaming Scarlett Johansson with Ewan McGregor, this cloning-themed opus cost about $125 million but finished with a staggeringly inappropriate $35 million (why it failed: it clearly was short of the mark by at least three explosions). Johansson and McGregor would both subsequently be banished back to their natural habitat of well-reviewed Oscar-bait, while Bay would strike back with a vengeance, following The Island up with Transformers 1 + 2, the two biggest films of his career (it's the best kind of revenge). July's bigger failure, if not by much, came with Stealth, a $130 million-budget action thriller with Jamie Foxx and Jessica Biel that totaled at a paltry $32 million. But this one was and still remains so distinctly uninteresting that there's not much else to say about it - not even a good joke to make at its expense. A milder failure came with Dark Water, Jennifer Connelly's ghost-themed PG-13 remake of an Asian film (sound familiar?), which mustered up only $25 million. This one was actually pretty good, but I guess most PG-13 horror viewers were taking their well-earned summer vacation (don't worry, they'd be back, big-time, in the fall).