Box Office - Decade at a Glance: May - August 2008

By Michael Lynderey

December 16, 2009

Whatever you do, don't call him crazy.

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Wouldn't you know it, though, but the 18th wasn't done yet. Sure, minor CGI fare Space Chimps took in only $30 million, but the week also gave us a starling example of counter-programming - Mamma Mia!, a perhaps unsurprisingly cheesy musical based on the Broadway show, opened with $27 million before finishing with an inexplicably leggy $143 million. Positioned on the same weekend as the previous year's Hairspray, this one played out like an even bigger version of it. Buoyed by star power (Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth) and the beloved (in some circles) music of ABBA, this was a cheerful if bubble-brained affair, and broke out young starlet Amanda Seyfried into wider notice. But it may be Streep who's the real story here - after decades of excellent performances in films of occasionally questionable box office value, she had by decade's end finally become a genuine box office star - delivering Devil Wears Prada to $124 million in 2006, and headlining high grossers Julie and Julia and It's Complicated in 2009 (Okay, I'm just speculating on that last one at this point, but c'mon).

The new films of July 25th were perhaps obscured by all these overwhelming goings-on, but Will Ferrell's latest feast of unbridled vulgarity, Step Brothers, did open to $30 million and slowly crawl its way up to exactly $100 million. After the spring's Semi-Pro gave Ferrell one of his biggest disappointments, this was a necessary hit. And while the movie was no doubt crude and only half-heartedly funny, it did give excellent character actors John C. Reilly and Richard Jenkins high-profile roles, and was one of five 2008 films that featured Judd Apatow's name lurking somewhere in the credits (his most prolific year, t'was). In fact, perhaps the lack of Apatow involvement was exactly what doomed the weekend's other new entry, sequel The X-Files: I Want to Believe. Designed as a stand-alone story, and one without particular heft, this had only the series' fanbase to draw from, opening to $10 million and finishing with $20 million (ten years after the first X-Files film delivered an $83 million total at the height of the show's popularity). For all I know, though, the movie actually grossed $300 million, and the low box office score known to the public is just some form of mind-bending alien conspiracy. I wouldn't put it past them to mess with the box office (that would also explain Paul Blart).



With the summer's resources being quickly eaten up by The Dark Knight, August had room for only moderate hits. But still, belated Asian-set follow-up The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor proved an entertaining enough adventure, opening to $40 million and finishing with $102 million - yes, once again, as with Zohan, Step Brothers and Journey 3D - it just barely crawled its way to one-zero-zero (and gave Brendan Fraser his second $100 million picture in just three weeks, to boot). The first two Mummies (1999 and 2001) delivered totals much higher than this, and so I suppose Mummy 3 has to be taken as a disappointment - but considering some of the reviews from the no fun zone (Rotten Tomatoes), I think it did just fine.

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