Box Office - Decade at a Glance: May - August 2009
By Michael Lynderey
December 31, 2009
The Fourth of July slate looked a little out of place - rather than dishing out something that appeals to most demographics alltogether, studios broke up families by releasing a kids-aimed CGI adventure sequel (Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs) alongside a vaguely Oscary '30s period piece about John Dillinger (Public Enemies). That latter film did have a hint of action and more than a little star power (Johnny Depp, Christian Bale), taking its well-made and generally entertaining self to a fair if unexceptional $97 million total. Ice Age, on the other hand, did as all CGI summer extravaganzas must do, opening with $41 million and finishing at $196 million, thus outgrossing its predecessor by exactly one million (but a win is a win).
Not very exciting, was it? Well, if you like that sort of thing, you may enjoy hearing that July 10th featured yet another pre-ordained blockbuster go belly-up: Sacha Baron Cohen's Bruno was painted as a mockumentary follow-up to his surprise 2006 box office monstrosity, Borat. And while the reviews on this new one were still pretty good, Bruno came off like frontloading at its worst - $30 million opening, $60 million total, probably because the Bruno character was a little too smug for the mainstream audiences that embraced the more innocent Borat. Not much needs to be written about the weekend's other title, the Hayden Panettiere teen movie vehicle I Love You, Beth Cooper ($14 million total), so I will not write much about it.
Predictability reared its head yet one more time on July 15th, with the release of the fourth - no wait, the SIXTH - Harry Potter film; this was the one about the Half-Blood Prince, even though as far as I can remember, the movie never even explained what a Half-Blood Prince is. I know these Potter pictures have their fans, but they really have got to stop making them. $77 million opening, $301 million total - you know the drill by now. Changing pace a little, July 24th abandoned token blockbusters for some more uncertain titles - and for better or worse, they all paid off. Katherine Heigl was paired with Gerard Butler for another of her hit romantic comedy vehicles, the intermittently amusing The Ugly Truth, which opened at $27 million and totaled $88 million. Elsewhere, cute furry animals assembled en masse for G-Force, a film that played out like a particularly hamster-infested remake of Cats & Dogs, and performed about as well - $31 million opening, $119 million total (if you think we're not getting a sequel, you're dreaming). This one oddly featured occasional appearances by Transformers-style killer appliances, and did supply a character of the mole persuasion with one great line: "Son, if you ever get the chance to bring mankind to its knees - do it". Speaking of bringing mankind down to its knees - the weekend's third release, horror thriller Orphan ($41 million), was actually a pretty effective if just vaguely implausible version of that old saw about the evil child hammering away at their unsuspecting parents. I know people laugh when they hear the twist - but if you see the movie, it all makes sense. Really, it does.
July 31st dished out some disposable titles - horror thriller The Collector ($7 million total) and so-so Aliens in the Attic, with kids fighting off bug-eyed inhabitants of UFOs ($25 million). But the real story of the week was the fate of Judd Apatow's latest, comedian-themed dramedy Funny People. You see, after The 40 Year-Old Virgin ($109 million total) and Knocked Up ($148 million) had become unexpected summer hits, the stage was set for Apatow's third film to reign over late July. But it was not to be - despite the presence of one of the decade's most consistent stars, Adam Sandler, along with frequent Apatow cohort Seth Rogen, this one opened with $22 million and totaled at just $51 million. A lot of people seemed to have high expectations for this one, but the inside-baseball premise lacked the romantic comedy appeal of Apatow's previous hits, and the box office paid the price. Funny People also finished off Sandler's 2002-2008 streak of $100 million films, thus putting him even with Will Smith, who also ran $100 million titles from '02 to '08 but defaulted on '09 by sitting it out. Now - wait, wait, let me get this straight here - am I saying that Paul Blart: Mall Cop made more money than Funny People? (I promise that'll be the last time I use that line, though the temptation will remain for a long time).