Box Office - Decade at a Glance: January - April 2006
By Michael Lynderey
November 16, 2009
A busy spring, a summer teaming with failure, and a fall season that turned out to be considerably more pretentious than usual. What does all that sound like? It sounds like we have indeed firmly entered the second half of the decade here, that's what.
2006 began uncertainly, as the winter season's hordes of Oscar dramas continued their assault on innocent filmgoers, while horrors of a different kind unleashed their own little ambush. First, and following the tradition established by the previous year's White Noise, Eli Roth's European torture adventure, Hostel, opened on the year's first weekend and generated uncommonly strong numbers - $19 million opening, $47 million total. The torture porn genre personified by Hostel was at its peak of popularity at this point - just a few months after Saw II cynically cut up the merrily ghoulish Halloween spirit - but as a trend, it didn't have the shelf life that the PG-13 ghost and remake pictures did (those two are still among us now, while the torture films have mostly been weeded out of the mainstream).
Moving on - the month's two biggest hits came with sequels. Underworld: Evolution was another entry into the tough chick-action horror parade also exemplified by Resident Evil, and pulled in the series' highest numbers, opening with $26 million and finishing with $62 million. The other follow-up, Big Momma's House 2, gave Martin Lawrence a surprisingly solid hit, with a $27 million first weekend and a $70 million finish. It was another example, after Are We There Yet?, Kangaroo Jack, and Snow Dogs, of a totally non-descript children's-aimed release pulling in staggeringly high numbers in January. Still, good for Lawrence.
The rest of the month offered a few choice films. Nanny McPhee was a nice little fantasy - the one with the warty Emma Thompson performance - and broke out to a $47 million total. Queen Latifah had a modest performer with Last Holiday, an effective comedy that finished with $38 million. And Glory Road, a '60s-set sports drama, finished with $42 million - not bad, but not up to typical Uplifting Sports Numbers. In the worse for wear department, there was absurd fratboy comedy Grandma's Boy ($6 million total), along with not one but two disappointing James Franco vehicles (Annapolis, at $17 million, and Tristan & Isolde, at $14 million). I'd say that Tristan put the final nail in the coffin of the historical drama subgenre, but that already pretty much happened in 2005, or maybe even in 2004. Elsewhere, auteur Uwe Boll, possibly this decade's answer to Steven Spielberg, delivered BloodRayne, his third wide release, and received the expected box office result - somewhere between $2 million and $3 million (they're still counting the numbers, I think).
February '06 got rolling with When a Stranger Calls, a somewhat dull combination of the horror remake and PG-13 thriller subgenres. No doubt that the original film fell apart after the terrific first 15 minutes, but that's no real excuse to remake it, is it? Anyway, this one played out as most such films do, opening with $21 million and totaling at a more-than-acceptable $47 million. Next, February 10th brought out a whole menagerie of releases, all of which did at least fairly well. There was animated children's book adaptation Curious George ($58 million total), Harrison Ford's return to thriller form, Firewall ($48 million, a frankly meh result), and Final Destination 3 ($54 million), the third entry in the only horror series that spanned the entire decade (exactly from 2000 to 2009), and the highest grossing one at the time. The prize for the weekend's most horrifying release, however, went to Steve Martin and his faux French accent in The Pink Panther, a particularly unwholesome franchise reboot that nevertheless pulled in a staggering $82 million (after a $20 million opening). How and why this occurred, I do not know. It's the kind of nasty business you really don't want to look into.