Box Office - Decade at a Glance: May - August 2006
By Michael Lynderey
November 17, 2009
June 30th was another case of upturned expectations, as female-appealing comedy The Devil Wears Prada broke out, while fanboy-anticipated superhero film Superman Returns disappointed. To its benefit, Prada had gushing reviews, high awareness, and the heavily-praised, Oscar-nominated performance of one Meryl Streep, and so it opened with $27 million and finished with a searing $124 million. This was the movie that really began Streep's reign as a box office star during the second half of the decade, and helped co-star Anne Hathaway, too. Brian Singer's Superman Returns, on the other hand, aimed to resurrect the franchise that died a little-seen death with 1987's Superman IV: the Quest for Peace. Part reboot, part sequel, Superman ended up disappointing on most levels - with a $270 million budget, it opened with $52 million and finished with exactly $200 million - not a bad case of legs, actually. While this number wasn't far from Batman Begins' $205 million just a year before it, the difference was in the reception: while Batman reignited fan passions everywhere, Superman received a generic shrug, with a distinct lack of enthusiasm about the whole thing - the film was (correctly, I'd say) perceived as overlong, dowdy, and all three leads - Brandon Routh (Clark Kent), Kate Bosworth (Lois Lane) and even Kevin Spacey (Lex Luthor) - were often branded as miscast. It's hard to peg down where this franchise is quite at today, but I've heard rumblings of yet another reboot. Indeed, this may be the series' ultimate fate - to be redone time and again, until they finally get it right.
The box office summary of July 2006 is almost absurd to look at, with one ridiculously over-grossing movie towering over a few very minor hits. As hinted before, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest was the big winner of summer '06. After the first film became a massive word-of-mouth hit in July 2003, finishing with $305 million and re-establishing Johnny Depp as an audience favorite, the stage was set for the sequel to go ga-ga at the box office: namely, a $135 million opening and that remarkably un-frontloaded $423 million total. Pirates broke the opening weekend record (held for four long years by Spider-Man) but once again, and even more so than its predecessor, nixed its occasionally very entertaining sense of adventure with a brutal overlength - not to mention overplotting, overacting, and overdirecting - something most audiences apparently did not mind.
Pirates easily won the summer, not to mention the entire year. In ruling the box office with such an iron hand, it seemed to almost drain away the competition, and indeed no other July movie would cross $100 million (this was the only July in the entire decade to feature only one $100 million-grossing release). There were some noble tries, though - You, Me, and Dupree, yet another spousal dysfunction comedy, took its star power (Kate Hudson, Owen Wilson, Matt Dillon) to a $21 million opening and eventual $75 million total; the delightful CGI concoction Monster House took in $73 million; the TV adaptation Miami Vice, July 28th's designated blockbuster, mustered up only $63 million, despite direction by Michael Mann and star turns from Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell; and finally, Little Miss Sunshine, a Sideways-type, vaguely-indie comedy, took its genuinely entertaining self to an eventual $59 million total (and an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor Alan Arkin).