Box Office - Decade at a Glance: September - December 2007
By Michael Lynderey
December 3, 2009
November ended quietly, with breezy Hayden Christensen-Jessica Alba thriller Awake ($14 million total); this one co-starred Terrence Howard, who had appeared in no less than five films that fall, and was pretty much the best thing about all of them. As for Awake itself: slow start, good twist, contrived ending. Let's move on.
Here is a golden month for meh movies surpassing all expectations: after May '07's feast of $300 million+ titles, December '07 churned out its own little B-level repeat, with no fewer than three $200 million+ releases breaking out even before traditional holiday legs set in.
The top three are ranked here in order of box office and, coincidentally, quality. The biggest, Will Smith's post-apocalyptic I Am Legend, didn't look or feel anything like a December movie - not with its abandoned (but not wintery) citiscapes and crisply burnt zombies. But Smith's star power combined with audience interest to get the ball rolling on this one, giving it a stunning $77 million opening (the biggest December weekend tally to date) and a strong $256 million total. The month's #2 went to National Treasure: Book of Secrets, an unapologetically absurd action-adventure that one-upped the first film's $173 million with a $219 million total, and engineered another hit in star Nicolas Cage's rooster. And bronze went to Alvin and the Chipmunks ($44 million opening, $217 million total - that's two hundred and seventeen million dollars!), perhaps the most inexplicable performer of the three - but was it, really? After all, it was based on a familiar property, it headlined not one or two but three cute, furry animals, and it was completely inoffensive as far as children's entertainment went. Like it or not, that formula equals a winner - even if the final score here seems more than just a little outrageous.
Speaking of kids' movies, it's quite funny to look at the numbers on the Chipmunks picture and then glance over at the box office for a film released just a week before the Alvin-Legend duo: The Golden Compass, a title that was regarded as the potential winner of the holiday season. And why not? After all, book-based fantasies like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Narnia towered over the winters of the early years of the decade, and this one seemed like a clear contender to reclaim the title. But boy, was it ever not to be - Golden Compass opened with $25 million and totaled at $70 million, all on a $180 million budget. This was real bad, but there is some reason to this madness: the film was hurt by allegations that it preached anti-religion, the reviews were mixed, and the series was perhaps not as popular stateside as it was in its native U.K. The film ended on a cliffhanger, and as time passes on it's looking more and more like that's one plotline never to be resolved.
The same weekend - the 7th - saw the release of the other big story of the month: teen pregnancy dramedy Juno rode a strong wave of critical acclamation that got only louder throughout the fall, and the film finished with $143 million by the time awards season was over. This was a classic case of a Sideways-style Oscar-bait hit - a limited release that grows along with word-of-mouth, receives all the expected Academy Award nominations (winning some) and finishes with a hefty total. Juno broke-out its obscure pop culture-referencing star, Ellen Page, and cemented the screen persona that co-star Michael Cera had introduced in August's Superbad. It was also the subject of some inevitable backlash, but that goes with the territory.