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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Next, October 9th launched the real big earner of the month, a quintessentially mainstream big studio comedy package, and one very carefully assembled from a high concept premise, a star or two at the helm (Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman), and a few entertaining supporting actors. Critics didn't much have a good time at this one, but Couples Retreat became the fall's third $100 million title, finishing with $108 million after a strong $34 million opening. The 16th continued the semi-blockbuster trend, unleashing two sturdy performers: action thriller Law Abiding Citizen ($21 million opening, $72 million total) and neurotic children's book adaptation Where the Wild Things Are ($32 million opening, $75 million total). The former film pit Jamie Foxx against Gerard Butler in a somewhat implausible, if occasionally entertaining, battle of wits, and somehow broke out to bigger than usual thriller numbers - and some legs, too. The latter movie, on the other hand, transformed the 1963 Sendak book into a metaphor-heavy portrait of uncertain childhood, and one immensely beloved by a certain segment of the population - though the movie dropped big after a strong opening. Also prowling about in this frame was yet another PG-13 horror thriller remake, The Stepfather, which played like the TV movie version of the R-rated 1987 original - and delivered box office ($29 million total) that perhaps hinted that the PG-13 horror subgenre was, too, beginning its inevitable descent. Hey, it's the end of the decade, so it's only appropriate.

The 23rd was the real dead zone weekend at the movies, with the highest grossing title finishing at a grand total of $27 million. That would be Saw VI, another gruesome sequel, and one that surprisingly tackled the health care debate, of all things. That $27 million was far removed from the $56 million taken in by the 2008 edition of Saw, and indeed it was looking like the series would, too, end along with the decade. While there is another entry scheduled for 2010, I don't think I'm being too presumptuous in assuming it will be the last we will see of good ol' John Saw (for surely, no one would think of, uh, rebooting, the Saw franchise? Right, guys? Right?) Anyway, the rest of the weekend's lot were entertaining CGI manga Astro Boy ($19 million), generally disliked Earhart bio Amelia ($14 million), and children's book series adaptation Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant ($13 million), a film that certainly had an interesting title and look, among not too many other pluses.


October 2009 ended on a quiet, heartfelt note, as late singer Michael Jackson's life and work was celebrated one last time with documentary This Is It. Despite early skepticism, this was a fairly good-natured doc and a treat to his fans, opening with $34 million in five days and ending at $71 million. Those were nice numbers, not too big, not too small - and while that may make them somewhat unJacksonlike - at least the movie had the grace not to Blart all over the box office.


The November '09 start-off featured a smorgasbord of titles, shadowed by the now standard November-opening CGI blockbuster. That's not to say that the film itself, Robert Zemeckis's A Christmas Carol, was average - coming in somewhere between his brilliant Polar Express and the entertaining Beowulf, this was a good old time in Victorian London, full of spooky holiday atmosphere and elevated by Jim Carrey's excellent voice performance as the miserly Scrooge. As far as CGI grosses go, though, this wasn't tops - a $30 million opening and a $137 million total gleaned after some long, hard legs.

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