Box Office - Decade at a Glance: September - December 2008
By Michael Lynderey
December 17, 2009
The box office sweepstakes of September '08 had a clear and obvious winner: Eagle Eye, a somewhat absurd computer-gone-mad thriller that star Shia LaBeouf nevertheless carried over to $101 million, thematically following up his first big film, Disturbia, and proving some drawing power beyond his already-established franchise hits (Transformers and Indiana Jones). #2 for the month went to another showcase of stars at work, as George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand and the distinctly villainous John Malkovich teamed up for the goofily amusing Burn After Reading, which gave helmers the Coen Brothers another decent hit ($60 million total) fairly soon after No Country For Old Men became their highest grossing title.
That's about it for the good news, though. Everything else in September '08 went below the $50 million mark - usually way, way below. Richard Gere and Diane Lane teamed for Nights in Rodanthe ($41 million), a vaguely effective romantic drama with a really bad ending, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino reunited for the amazingly wrongheaded crime thriller Righteous Kill ($40 million), Samuel L. Jackson was scary terrific as a sourpussed policeman in intriguing thriller Lakeview Terrace ($39 million), and Tyler Perry's box office took another slight dip with The Family That Preys ($37 million), a '50s-style melodrama not based on any of his plays (for a change). Christian-aimed film Fireproof rode some grassroots marketing to a strong $33 million, somehow managing to beat about half the month's titles.
Those were the B-leagues on this scale, and every month must also have its Cs - and Ds - in this case, Ricky Gervais' actually rather funny U.S. starring debut, Ghost Town ($13 million total), Meg Ryan loitering with Annette Bening and Jada Pinkett in melodrama The Women ($26 million), Frankenstein-based CGI excursion Igor ($19 million), Dane Cook teaming with Kate Hudson, of all people, with Jason Biggs oddly thrown in the mix, in My Best Friend's Girl ($19 million), a crude comedy that nevertheless delivered a very occasional moment of hilarity. Not looking very good for wear was Nicolas Cage's thriller Bangkok Dangerous ($15 million), which gave the month one of the slowest September starts of the decade.
Oscar films were a bit on the down-low this year, but we still got Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris fighting off some Western-inclined baddies in Appaloosa ($20 million total), Keira Knightley donning a corset more frequently than Freddy Krueger wields his blades in The Duchess ($13 million), and Spike Lee tackling an African-American army unit during WWII in the eventually non-Oscary Miracle at St. Anna ($7 million) - which was yet another two-and-a-half hour epic that paid the box office price for every overlong minute.
A surprisingly muted box office season struck October 2008, part of a mild fall slump that lasted until exactly Christmas Day. The month's two biggest titles were both children's films from Disney, and indeed one of the two was at one point expected to rule over not only the month, but perhaps the entire fall season. That was not to be.