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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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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.

July

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.




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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).


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