Box Office - Decade at a Glance: September - December 2006

By Michael Lynderey

November 18, 2009

Borat's first ride on a Sybian went about as well as expected.

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While Martin Scorsese's The Departed easily dominated the month, most of October 2006 played out like a cruel joke on any film that dared enter its gates - especially horror sequels. First, let's dispense with the also-rans - movies like the Dane Cook/Jessica Simpson vehicle Employee of the Month ($28 million total), which gave Cook his first film starring role; the John Cena action mish-mash, The Marine ($18 million); the decidedly pro-horse Flicka ($20 million); and the ultimately unsuccessful, awkwardly thriller-ish Robin Williams political comedy Man of the Year ($37 million) - the one where he plays the first comedian President.

With those out of the way, we can focus on the real meat of the month. It's needless to say that crime drama The Departed, Scorsese's third team-up with Leonardo DiCaprio, was the true break-out of the Oscar race - it opened with $26 million, finished at $132 million, and eventually won not only Best Picture, but also Best Director, an award about 40 years in the making for Scorsese. Next, Christopher Nolan's vaguely supernatural drama, The Prestige, did well for itself and stars Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, opening with $14 million and totaling at $53 million.

In general, October 2006 maintained an uneasy balance between exploitation films and Oscary dramas (as many Octobers often do). The Oscar films, for their part, were plentiful but generally ignored. Outside of The Departed, they were led by the likes of Sofia Coppola's opulent historical epic Marie-Antoinette ($15 million total), with Kirsten Dunst in the title role, the South African-set Apartheid-era thriller Catch a Fire ($4 million), the ultimately somewhat pointless international menagerie Babel ($34 million), and Flags of our Fathers ($33 million), the first of Clint Eastwood's double-bill of films about Iwo Jima. Following through on his very Oscary Mystic River (2003) and Million Dollar Baby (2004), Eastwood set out to make two films about the Iwo Jima battle - one from the American point of view, and one from the Japanese. While the Japanese version, Letters from Iwo Jima, received more critical praise upon its limited release two months later, it was the American version that performed better at the box office, although presumably still under expectations.


Now for my favorite part - the horror movies. October 2006 played out as sort of an all-stars of the biggest names in 2000s horror. After all, we had not only the requisite Saw movie, but also sequels to two of the most influential horror films of the decade - The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), which inspired not only the torture porn genre, but also the unstoppable remake wave, and The Grudge (2004), the one that co-signed the PG-13 horror bill that The Ring proposed in 2002. And after enduring several years where these movies' unfortunate influence dominated the horror genre, come October 2006, it was payback time.

Our first victim, on October 6th, was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. If we forget about just how disgusting it was, this one was actually kind of fun, and R. Lee Ermey delivered his usually entertaining bit of scene-chewing villainy. But that didn't stop the box office from fighting back, this time - after an $18 million opening, this one dropped, dropped, dropped, ending up with a mild $39 million to the first film's $80 million. At the time, it looked like that was the end of the Chainsaw pictures, but recent rumblings suggest that may no longer be the case... (gee, don'tcha just hate recent rumblings sometimes?)

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