Box Office - Decade at a Glance: January - April 2009
By Michael Lynderey
December 29, 2009
One of the most pivotal moments of 2000s fanboy anticipation arrived on March 6, 2009. Watchmen, a beloved 1980s graphic novel, had finally been adapted to the screen - and by no less than Zack Snyder, purveyor of very entertaining if unnecessary remake Dawn of the Dead (2004) and, more crucially, the fanboy-beloved visual feast 300 (2007). In short, Snyder was a man whose box office and fanboy credentials had thus far been impeccable. So, considering the early year movie rush, Watchmen had everything going for it, right? Right?
Well, the $55 million opening was pretty strong, but that was about the end of the road for Watchmen, because the final gross had come in at a distinctly front-loaded $107 million. As for the movie itself, it was certainly fascinating - if a bit choppily plotted - presenting a 1980s America altered by the presence of superheroes, something quite well illustrated by the film's brilliant opening montage. Critics were about evenly split on this one, and after the fans rushed out opening weekend, demand for this somewhat insular material sank pretty quickly. So - wait, wait, let me get this straight here - am I saying that Paul Blart: Mall Cop made more money than Watchmen?
Next, March 13th played out like a standard spring weekend. The Rock, now firmly entrenched in children's pictures, delivered another one with fairly routine Disney remake Race to Witch Mountain ($67 million total). We were also assaulted by the third horror remake in as many a month, though this one came in on the lower box office end - The Last House on the Left turned the original film's brutal emotional maelstrom into a plausible attempt at thriller, but totaled at a mere $32 million. And finally, the weekend dished out yet another sex comedy, Miss March ($4 million total), a film that is rapidly disappearing into the annals of history even as I write this. The March 20th slate perked up the box office a tad: Nicolas Cage's love it-or-hate it apocalyptic sci-fi thriller Knowing totaled at a strong $79 million after a $24 million open, Julia Roberts and Clive Owen teamed up for the confusing, $40 million-grossing Duplicity (it all made sense at the end of the movie, but that was a loooong wait), and the very Apatowish comedic ticket of Rudd-Segel '09 - I Love You, Man - opened with $17 million and finished at $71 million. No, this wasn't really an Apatow film, but it sure felt like one, and the box office responded in kind; it also gave Paul Rudd and Jason Segel a very respectable earner, on the level of the former's Role Models ($67 million total) and the latter's Forgetting Sarah Marshall ($63 million). While Seth Rogen has faltered, these two members of the Apatow gang still seem to be on a roll.
Rounding out the month, March 27th dished out a rather appropriately monstrous hit, as 3D CGI action picture Monsters vs. Aliens opened with $59 million and finished at a strong $198 million, almost becoming the first film since The Dark Knight to cross $200 million. The weekend's other titles were an apparently forgettable John Cena action thriller, 12 Rounds ($12 million total), and yet another PG-13 ghost movie, The Haunting in Connecticut - which played out on the top level of how those films do - $23 million open, $55 million total. That whole PG-13 sub-genre appears to be going strong still, and indeed horror as a whole rebounded in numbers in 2009 - 27 wide releases, by my count. A crowded slate indeed.