Box Office - Decade at a Glance: January - April 2009

By Michael Lynderey

December 29, 2009

What did you say about Love Actually?

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April's first weekend appeared to forget its place in the world, and gave car-race fourquel Fast and Furious a staggering $70 million opening and $155 million total. The first film had grossed $144 million in 2001, the second $127 million in 2003, and the third faltered with $62 million in 2006. Rounding out the series, and the decade, this one brought back all of the first film's leads - Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster - and the box office responded in kind, even if this particular entry wasn't all that great. Is this the last film in the series? Boy, do I doubt it. The weekend's other newbie was entertaining dramedy Adventureland, with Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart at the lead and direction by Superbad's Greg Mottola; but the total was a very unSuperbad-like $16 million. And after Watchmen and The Haunting in Connecticut, this was the season's third movie to be set in the 1980s - something we'll no doubt see more of in the 2010s, as the previously-popular 1960s and '70s recede further into the past.

April 10th dished out another mini-blockbuster, as Hannah Montana: The Movie was to Miley Cyrus what The Lizzie McGuire Movie was to Hilary Duff, except on a bigger scale. Duff's Disney TV show adaptation netted a fairly strong $42 million back in May 2003 and launched her film career, but Cyrus' TV-to-film transition went above and beyond that, opening with a $17 million first day, $32 million weekend, and scoring a searing $79 million total. When the Montana picture opened, a chilling thought hit me: of the audience giving Cyrus her massive big-screen coronation, how many even knew who Hilary Duff or Lizzie McGuire were?


All cinematic existentialism aside, said weekend was otherwise a box office dead zone. Long-awaited (by some - no, not me!) video game adaptation Dragonball: Evolution totaled just $9 million, and Seth Rogen's latest, pitch-black mall cop comedy Observe and Report, finished with a mere $23 million. Clearly, not all mall cop films are created equal. The next weekend, the 17th, gave yet another Disney star a big-screen bonus, as Zac Efron transitioned from High School Musical 3 into high school body switch comedy 17 Again, a strong performer at a $23 million opening and $64 million total - not so far from what the Cyrus picture ended up with. Unlike Efron's previous endeavor in Hairspray, 17 Again was a pure test of box office star power, and it seems like Efron retained more of it than one would think, even three years after the first High School Musical premiered on television. The following week dished out yet another $20 million+ performer, as absurd catfight thriller Obsessed took its lucrative PG-13 rating to a $28 million opening and baffling $68 million total, giving Beyoncé Knowles a decent hit, if not much else.

The rest of the month was a bit more down to earth. Channing Tatum duked it out with someone or other in Fighting ($23 million total), nature did whatever it is that it does in Disney documentary Earth ($32 million), Robert Downey, Jr. and Jamie Foxx visited the Oscar off-season in The Soloist ($31 million), and a cast of grim-faced good actors was saddled up for effective political thriller State of Play ($36 million). And while everyone probably has their favorite among this month's titles, mine may be a bit unusual: It's Crank: High Voltage, Jason Statham's follow-up to his entertainingly loopy '06 film, and one that one-upped its predecessor in every way. Aside from the token barrage of ultra-violence, High Voltage was funnier, wittier, more entertaining, and in its last half, outright creatively spectacular. But there was no Blart-like box office miracle in store for this one: Crank 2 totaled at $13 million, about half of the first film's $27 million.

That tells me that some of the Hannah Montana audience were clearly seeing the wrong film.

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