Box Office - Decade at a Glance: September - December 2008
By Michael Lynderey
December 17, 2009
The October 3rd weekend gave us one of those Disney films - the self-explanatorily titled Beverly Hills Chihuahua, with an all-star voice cast and one of the most ungainly trailers of the year, opened to $29 million and finished with a very solid $94 million indeed. Needless to say, this was another in the "furry animals on poster = lots of $$$" cannon, a simple and clear box office formula that just never seems to fail. Aside from that, the weekend was the busiest frame of the month, unleashing not only the mad dog picture but also a whole lot of single digit grossers: dour apocalyptic drama Blindness ($3 million total), Greg Kinnear pretty good in the little-seen Flash of Genius ($4 million), Simon Pegg funny in masterfully-titled but underperforming vehicle How to Lose Friends & Alienate People ($2 million), and conservative-leaning spoof An American Carol ($8 million), a film whose general lack of good jokes is something I suspect both sides of the political spectrum can come to a hearty agreement on. The one non-Chihuahua film to cross $10 million was Michael Cera's first solo vehicle, Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, a great-looking if clichéd teen movie that fared just about OK for itself, finishing with $31 million and apparently making sure that Cera's brand of neuroticism would live on for some time longer.
Business didn't much pick up on the 10th, either. Expected hit Body of Lies, a thriller teaming Leonardo DiCaprio with Russell Crowe under helmsman Ridley Scott's watchful eye, failed to generate much excitement for its War on Terror-themed premise, totaling at $39 million. Shaky-cam horror thriller Quarantine finished with $31 million, while low attendance was even more in store for interesting-looking fantasy City of Ember ($7 million total), with its extended Bill Murray cameo, and Dennis Quaid-starring '60s football movie The Express ($9 million), a film that perhaps signaled a downshift among those pesky sports dramas, what with that single digit total and all. Next, the 17th was another den of strikeouts - Max Payne, Mark Wahlberg's intriguingly near-black-and-white crime drama, finished with $40 million, while raunchy comedy Sex Drive dug up a mere $8 million. Elsewhere, Dakota Fanning teamed up with forces of nature Queen Latifah and Jennifer Hudson for intriguing if predictable '60s-set drama The Secret Lives of Bees ($37 million), and Oliver Stone biographed George W. Bush in W., casting Josh Brolin in the title role to the tune of a $25 million total. That last one was the subject of quite some pre-release intrigue, and it might have been the very unStone-like conventionality of the film that gave it only a meh result at the box office. Considering the subject matter, I don't think some good old-fashioned controversy and culture warring would have hurt the box office at all.
The 24th was the month's real question mark, pitting two horror sequels up against each other in a fight for status as the month's most terrifying release. The winner, I think - at least box office wise - was Disney's High School Musical 3: Senior Year, the first theatrically-released threequel I can think of to follow two movies that never played in theaters. Those first two films got gargantuan ratings on their television airdates, but the TV-to-screen translation lost some luster along the way - after a $42 million opening, this one totaled $90 million - making it the highest opening-film to finish under $100 million (don't worry, that record won't stand for long). All whispers of HSM III dominating the fall box office turned out to be nothing but idle threats. The other horror sequel was left behind in the dust - and yes, of course, it was yet another Saw entry - the fifth - and slipped to $56 million from Saw IV's $63 million. We were just one year away from that franchise's freefall here, folks.