Box Office - Decade at a Glance: September - December 2006
By Michael Lynderey
November 18, 2009
November 17th was where all the action was - the week that ended up lording over the rest of the month. First, penguin-themed Happy Feet broke out to a strong $41 million opening and reached a staggering $197 million total. While Happy Feet was more or less just marking time between CGI hits, the weekend's other movie, James Bond's Casino Royale, was a significant chapter in the emerging Great Reboot of Hollywood. While the James Bond movies were already known for changing lead actors, Casino Royale was different primarily because it was perceived as different - the series' knack for comedy being replaced with a much more intense, serious affair, the film playing out like an origin story (a sure sign of a reboot) rather than simply a continuation, and the more cerebral Pierce Brosnan being replaced with the muscular and cheerless-seeming Daniel Craig. Critics and audiences alike were ecstatic at these developments, and the film opened with $40 million before finishing at $167 million. Brosnan's Die Another Day had grossed $160 million only four years before, so I'm a little puzzled at exactly what replacing actors and styles accomplished, at least box office wise. Still, if it makes people happy...
Like most Novembers, the latter half of the month offered scant treats, giving us only Darren Aronofsky's off-puttingly weird The Fountain ($10 million), Emilio Estevez's ensemble drama Bobby ($11 million), and comedies that ranged from vaguely to totally unsuccessful (Jack Black's Tenacious D: in the Pick of Destiny, with an $8 million total, Dax Shepard's Let's go to Prison, with $4 million, and the really bad Deck the Halls, at $35 million - a film that made me nostalgically long for the days of Elf, The Polar Express, and Bad Santa). The month was finished off with a decent hit, Denzel Washington's slightly nutty time travel action film Deja Vu, which performed like yet another typically Denzelesque thriller - $20 million opening, $64 million total. Now that's consistency.
While we didn't forget the (box office) past, December '06 sentenced us to repeat it, anyway. Just as in December 2004, 2006's last month came with no pre-packaged special effects blockbuster, and so, in the search for holiday entertainment, mass audiences were forced to turn to a Ben Stiller comedy of questionable quality. After all, Stiller's Meet the Fockers opened on Wednesday, December 22, 2004 and eventually grossed $279 million, a total that makes my jaw drop every time I see it; and in 2006, this all happened again - Stiller's Night at the Museum opened on December 22, 2006 (a Friday this time), pulling in an initially moderate $30 million weekend before embarking on a long and highly lucrative trek way up to $250 million. In retrospect, it was pretty easy to see how this happened - Night was a totally inoffensive PG family movie that could potentially attract a wide demographic; it headlined a major star and engineered cameos by some name actors, and it had an element of the magical and otherworldly, something that naturally fits with the season, and a factor that probably also helped the Lord of the Rings films triumph so thoroughly around the same frame.