Top 12 Film Industry Stories of 2009:
#10: Bullock Blind Sides Box Office

By David Mumpower

December 30, 2009

That's it. Pick up that quarter slowly, Nick Saban.

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Her mistake was in choosing to do a Miss Congeniality sequel, which was critically reviled. It speaks to Bullock's longstanding popularity that the film's worldwide gross of $101.4 million made it a theoretical winner relative to its $60 million budget, but history will remember this career choice unkindly. From there, she went full circle with The Lake House, a film that saw her fall in love with Keanu Reeves all over again. Her only other release in this time frame, Premonition, earned $81 million worldwide against a $20 million budget. Clearly, Bullock's popularity had been maintained but she needed to pick better projects. Sadly, the trend of poor career choices continued with All About Steve, a film Bullock produced and starred in back in 2007. The project simply didn't work on any level and so it sat on the shelf for a over a year. Amusingly, it wound up being the middle film in an otherwise stellar 2009. This is the part of the story that will be forgotten when we look back on it in later years, though.

Part of the nature of the industry is to put female actresses out to pasture after they reach a certain age. Older men can fall in love with as many 20-somethings as they want, but the opposite is rarely true in the existing studio system. At least that had been the case before we entered the age of the cougar. Perhaps this all started with Stifler's mom, the First MILF, but it took a decade for the idea to permeate through society.

What's clear is that by the time The Proposal rolled around, people were ready to embrace Sandra Bullock in a romantic comedy again and if that meant getting to see a lot of shirtless Ryan Reynolds, so much the better. Relatively unheralded prior to release, the romantic comedy about the cougar and her eight-pack abbed employee unexpectedly became the biggest hit of Bullock's career by over $40 million. The Proposal made an astonishing $164 million domestically with a grand total of $314.6 million worldwide. Bullock also earned a Golden Globe nomination for her performance in the film. Amazingly, this critical and financial blockbuster was not Bullock's most successful film of the year despite being easily her most successful project up until then.

Ignoring all pun-related word play, The Blind Side snuck up on consumers in November of 2009. It was released on the same day as New Moon, a film that earned over twice as much on its first day in release ($72.7 million) as The Blind Side made in its entire weekend ($34.1 million). What was unique about the situation is that the football film appealed to women as much as men, if not more so. The audience splits from opening weekend caught a lot of people off-guard. The female demographic for the weekend had been ceded to fans of broody vampires yet they showed up in droves to make the film a surprise opening weekend success story.


What happened next is even harder to explain. On Thanksgiving of 2009, The Blind Side earned $9.5 million while New Moon tallied $9.2 million. The difference between the two movies the prior weekend was $108.7 million in domestic revenue. On each film's seventh day in theaters, The Blind Side had already overtaken its much more storied competitor and become the number one film in the country. Sure, this lead didn't hold up over the holiday weekend, but the gap closed by $106 million in seven days. The Blind Side, a movie that had a $29 million budget and expected earnings in the $40-$50 million range, found itself crossing $100 million on its tenth day of release. Fast forward to today and that total has increased to the tune of $186.9 million, surpassing The Proposal by almost $20 million. At some point in the next week, it appears likely to become her first $200 million domestic performer.

In addition to being a box office juggernaut, The Blind Side also garnered Bullock a second Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress. At this point, she is either a strong possiblity to be nominated for an Academy Award for The Blind Side or a mortal lock to win the award, depending upon your perspective. She had two major releases this year, a comedy and a drama (plus All About Steve, which was a 2009 release in name only). She earned Golden Globe nominations for each one and they are both among the top 15 releases of the year to boot.

In 2009, 17 years after her first mainstream role, Sandra Bullock has achieved her most successful box office earner to date. Twice. An actress with $1.31 billion in combined domestic box office over a 17 year period entering 2009 somehow managed to accrue $382 million in a single calendar year. She is the female equivalent of Robert Downey Jr. circa 2008 in terms of career resurgence after 15+ years in the industry. And this was done at an age when most actresses can't even get work.

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