Box Office - Decade at a Glance: May - August 2009
By Michael Lynderey
December 31, 2009
Considering the strange phenomenon of several of July's pre-ordained blockbusters faltering badly, it was a little hard to know how things would turn out in August - always an uncertain box office month in itself, forever stuck in between summer glory and September rain. First in 8/09, though, old school summer blockbuster G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra capitalized on exactly that old-fashioned bash-and-trash action factor to nab a $54 million opening and $150 million total - spitting in the face of frontloading, as it were. Elsewhere, Meryl Streep channeled Julia Child while Amy Adams toiled away in the kitchen in big star team-up Julie & Julia, which took in a female-driven $94 million total. And rounding out the weekend, A Perfect Getaway was an initially slow thriller with a slam-bang ending but a not-too-exciting $15 million finish. Next, the 14th unleashed a near-unholy number of titles, but it was clear which two ended up way ahead of the pack. The big winner was another leggy surprise, Peter Jackson-produced sci-fi action thriller District 9, which earned its $37 million open and $115 million total through a lot of viral buzz and fan adulation of the material. Buzz of a different kind is probably what propelled book-based romance The Time Traveler's Wife to a decent total - $63 million - giving stars Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana a respectable (if somewhat confusing) hit. No-prizes go out to the weekend's rest - actually pretty funny Jeremy Piven comedy The Goods ($15 million total), Hayao Miyazaki's good-looking, fish-talking animation Ponyo ($15 million), and well-written if slightly dusty high school music film Bandslam ($5 million). The food chain went down pretty steeply in this frame.
Next, the 21st delivered a real rarity - a late August $100 million earner. Indeed, Quentin Tarantino's WWII fantasy Inglourious Basterds never really seemed like it would get to three digits, much less become Tarantino's highest grossing film - but somehow, it did, one-upping both Kill Bills and Pulp Fiction with a $38 million opening and leggy $120 million total, as brilliantly-accented Brad Pitt and co. succeeded in doing what Tom Cruise had tried in vain to do in Valkyrie, while supporting actor Christoph Waltz was busy stealing every scene he was in with relish. Hey, it's nice to see a good film make $100 million once in a while, especially in the summer. The weekend's other contestants didn't get anywhere, though - no luck for Tarantino colleague Robert Rodriguez' latest wacky family film, the occasionally entertaining Shorts ($20 million total), Alexis Bledel's likable if mild star vehicle Post Grad ($6 million), or the presumably aptly-named X Games 3D: The Movie ($1 million), which at least has a distinction as a rare 3D box office failure.
The summer ended with a gruesome-twosome double feature of unnecessary horror titles: a sequel to a sequel to a sequel (The Final Destination) and a remake of a sequel (Halloween II). The Destination film chopped off the scary-but-accurate "part 4" from its title, added a vague "the", and then took its off-putting, 3D-tinted collection of dismemberments to a strong $27 million opening and $66 million total - the highest in the franchise, wouldn't you know. Rob Zombie's Halloween II, on the other hand, finished with exactly half of that Destination total - $33m - below its predecessor's $58 million, and only a couple of million above the real Halloween II (1981)'s $25 million. Speaking of Halloween II - the real one, of course - while it ended up as a bit of an atmospheric bore, it did start off with an excellent first half hour that included a classically pulpy line of dialogue delivered by scenery-chewing character actor Donald Pleasence (namely, "You don't know what death is!", his reply to "I've been trick-to-treated to death tonight"). Why am I telling you this? I don't really know, but I sure don't want to talk about the Rob Zombie version. Let's just hope we don't get any more remakes of horror sequels. Even for a horror fan like me, that's pushing it.