Box Office - Decade at a Glance: September - December 2009

By Michael Lynderey

January 5, 2010

I'm sorry I said that Dr. Manhattan's blue junk is bigger.

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The fall started off as a fairly slow time at the movies, dishing out a motley collection led by workplace shenanigans (Extract, $10 million total), weird burlap-sack sci-fi (9, $31 million), dull thrillerism (Whiteout, $10 million), Tyler Perry doing what he does best (that would be cross-dressing for our entertainment - I Can Do Bad All By Myself, $51 million), and over-the-top action (Gamer, $20 million). Slasher film Sorority Row was a welcome change of pace from the recent multitude of horror blow-outs, finishing with just $11 million. And Sandra Bullock took a break from mega-hits for All About Steve ($33 million), a film that would have probably joined her other two 2009 titles in making $150 million+, had it not been awful.

The box office went back to the blockbuster route on the 18th, releasing yet another one of the decade's 82 CGI-animated hits (I kind of made that number up, but it sounds right). Indeed, the audience of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs seems to have ignored the box office off-season, giving the picture a $30 million opening and a strong $124 million finish. No such luck for the week's also-rans, though - Megan Fox's transmutation into horror villainess, Jennifer's Body ($16 million total), Jennifer Aniston and Aaron Eckhart's dabbling in romance in the aptly-named Love Happens ($22 million), and Matt Damon's ode to Oscar-nominated weight gain, The Informant! ($33 million).


Business didn't really pick up the next week, either, with the arrival of another sci-fi disappointment, Bruce Willis' Surrogates ($38 million total), along with '80s reimagining Fame ($22 million) and the incredibly odd space horror film Pandorum ($10 million). Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story began its limited release and eventually totaled at $14 million, a decade-low score for the man who redefined what a documentary could accomplish at the box office. The real buried story of the weekend was shaky-cam horror tale Paranormal Activity, a film that became the definitive poster boy (or girl?) for underground Internet buzz turning into an incredible box office performance. The movie started slow and then rode several strong weekends to finish with a startling $107 million - a number that reeks somewhat of Blartism. Let's just hope this one doesn't inspire a decade's-worth of shaky cam-flavored rip-offs. We've had enough wrong-headed horror subgenres in the 2000s, thank you very much.


October 2nd featured three unusual comedies duking it out for supremacy, with one becoming an unexpected box office success story. That would be Zombieland, an unabashedly quirky if highly entertaining zombie tale that took its well-reviewed self to a $24 million opening and fairly leggy $75 million total. While the cast wasn't much of a draw (Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin), the good reviews and word-of-mouth bolstered this one up to a higher than expected opening. The same couldn't be said of the other two quirky pictures; they were pretty good, but they didn't have the same luck at the box office - Drew Barrymore's directional debut, Whip It, cast Ellen Page as a roller derby warrior and totaled at $13 million, while Ricky Gervais returned with another entertaining venture, The Invention of Lying, which finished at $18 million, despite some choice cameos and more than a few good laughs.

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