Box Office - Decade at a Glance: May - August 2008
By Michael Lynderey
December 16, 2009
Next, Thursday, May 22nd delivered one of the most anticipated films of the year, as fourquel Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull opened with a $25 million first day and $100 million weekend, and finished with a respectable $317 million (the highest total in the series, but not so if one dabbles in adjusting old numbers). After a decade of headlining lesser-seen thrillers (Firewall, Hollywood Homicide), this was a return to $100 million+ form for big '90s star Harrison Ford - his first three-digit-earner since 2000's What Lies Beneath. The film was also a prime piece of box office meat for co-stars Cate Blanchett, in a rare non-awards contender role as a whip-wielding Russian villainess, and Shia LaBeouf, in another notch in his chain of summer blockbusters. Nostalgia for the legendary Jones trilogy is what brought this one to the $300 million point, even if a large chunk of the franchise's fans found the Crystal Skull too jokey and confusing (but hey, I liked it, if that counts).
As the month wound down, the 30th was initially seen as a box office off week - but that pipe dream wasn't to be. Sex and the City opened to a startling $26 million first day and $57 million weekend, and totaled at a not-so-frontloaded $152 million. Fans of the television series rushed out to see this nearly two and a half hour-long film version, and its performance woke box office analysts up to the reality that female-driven fanboy films can pull in numbers just as absurd as those of their male-driven counterparts (and we'd see this pointedly repeated again later in the year, with Mamma Mia! and Twilight). A sequel is, needless to say, on its way. Not to be outdone, the same weekend also dished out terror tale The Strangers, which carried some suspenseful trailers to a $20 million opening and strong $52 million total. This R-rated thriller was a departure from the era's flood of PG-13 ghost horror, torture porn, and remakes, but after an effectively promising start, the film did fall apart with a mean-spirited and needless ending. Still, The Strangers was a step in the right direction for the horror genre, even if it's one of few taken since.
As is generally expected, June slowed down some from the over-the-top box office shenanigans of May, and gave some much-needed breathing room before the plunderers of July were to arrive. That didn't mean June 2008 couldn't sneak in a $200 million movie or two, though. First, on June 6th, Kung Fu Panda, another DreamWorks CGI monstrosity, opened to a stunning $60 million and finished with a startling $215 million. CGI fare outside of Pixar and Shrek didn't usually climb quite so high, and so I called this one a monstrosity precisely because it did so - boasted by gushy reviews and an apparently-catchy premise, the film gave star Jack Black a welcome hit, if only in CGI. The weekend's other entry was a three-digit earner, too, of course - Adam Sandler's You Don't Mess With the Zohan cast him as an uber-efficient Israeli soldier turned New York hairstylist, to the tune of a very Sandler-esque $38 million opening and flat one-zero-zero finish. Aside from netting a lower Sandler total gross than usual, this one was notable as one of a seemingly endless parade of 2008 movies to... just ... barely... get... to... $100 million, after weeks of "will it or won't it"-type wobbling amid the $90 millions (you'll see what I mean as we get through the summer).