Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Box Office Flashback November 15, 2019

Sorry for the extra-long delay of this week's Flashback.  You can blame the many, many, many, many pre-Thanksgiving releases, some classics, others classic turkeys.

One Year Ago--November 16, 2018:  These days, in which  sequels begat franchises, and franchises begat cinematic universes, it's silly to end a seven-book, eight-film series simply because the story has reached its natural conclusion.  That seemed to be the conclusion that author J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. reached a few years ago once the final Harry Potter film was released.  So now we have a 5-movie prequel series set 70 years before the original series.  The first entry, 2016's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, underperformed and got mixed reviews, but it had its defenders.  Not so much with Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, after which it becomes apparent that everyone involved committed to a five-film series before making sure there were five films worth of material.  The film didn't seem to know what to do with its nominal star, Eddie Redmayne, and spent a bit too much time with its "wizard Hitler", played by Johnny Depp.  It did, however, return to Hogwarts and introduced Jude Law as The Young Dumbledore, who will apparently have a much bigger role in Part 3Grindelwald would open to $62.2 million, easily the worst opening of all the Wizarding World movies, and finished with an embarrassing $159.6 million.  The Grinch and Bohemian Rhapsody remained strong enough to beat out the openings of the other two wide releases.  Opening in 4th, Instant Family is one of those movies that rarely make their way into wide release anymore--namely a relatively modestly budgeted family comedy-drama with a noticeable lack of special effects.  Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne play a married couple who agree to become foster parents to three siblings, ranging in age from 6 to 15.  The film would open to a so-so $14.5 million, but, being a type of film rarely seen in theaters anymore, it ended up having legs that are rarely seen in theaters anymore, overcoming that modest start to earn a very nice $67.4 million.  A similar fate was not awaiting Widows, a crime drama that starred Viola Davis as the wife of a head of a group of thieves who are all killed during a heist.  The various widows, including Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki, decide to take matters in their own hands and commit their own robbery.  Critics were enthusiastic about the film, and it was hyped as a potential Oscar player.  Audiences were considerably less enthused, however, as the film opened to $12.4 million.  While it did get decent legs, Widows still finished with a disappointing $42.4 million and failed to get any Oscar nominations.  Father down the chart, South Korean boyband BTS had enough fans turn out for the limited showings of its concert film Burn the Stage: The Movie that it was able to crash the Top 10, earning $2.4 million.  There would be a handful of further screening dates throughout November and into December, allowing the film to dance off with $4.2 million total.  Two years after Faye Dunaway accidentally gave Moonlight's Best Picture Oscar to La La Land, millions of viewers were hoping history was repeating itself with Julia Roberts announced that 2018's Best Picture was Green Book.  Alas, there was no mistake, as the 60s set comedy-drama became the most contentious Best Picture winner since Crash.  The comedy-drama, directed by Peter Farrelly, of Dumb and Dumber fame, directing solo without his brother Bobby for the first time in his career, starred Viggo Mortensen as a bouncer who, in 1962, is hired to be the driver and bodyguard of African-American pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) for his concert tour through the segregated American South, where Mortensen slowly learns that Racism Is Bad.  Critics liked the film, though not Best Picture winner liked the film, and it did become a solid success, ultimately grossing $85.1 million.  It did pick up 5 Oscar nominees, including one for Mortensen for Best Actor.  Ali won his second Supporting Actor Oscar in three years, and the film's screenplay also won.  However, in a year that had The Favorite, Roma, and A Star is Born in the Best Picture lineup, not to mention two much more progressive films about race relations in Black Panther and BlacKkKlansman, no one could really believe the Best Picture Oscar would go to Green Book...until it did.  Speaking of Oscar nominations, Willem Dafoe got nominated for the second straight year for playing Vincent van Gogh in At Eternity's Gate, which grossed $2.3 million in limited release.

Five Years Ago--November 14, 2014:  After Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls in 1995, Jim Carrey chose not to star in any more sequels to his films.  That was fine when every film of his was a guaranteed blockbuster.  But, by the mid-teens, with his last $100 million grossing live-action film nearly a decade behind him and his two 2013 wide releases (The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and Kick-Ass 2) combining for just over $50 million, desperate times call for desperate measures.  Anticipating the "over a decade later" sequels that would seemingly start arriving nearly every weekend in 2016, Dumb and Dumber To (technically, the second follow-up to 1994's Dumb and Dumber, but the less said about 2003's Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd, the better) re-teamed Carrey with not only Jeff Daniels but also with Peter and Bobby Farrelly, who returned to direct.  Reviews weren't great, but audiences were at least a little excited to see (the real) Harry and Lloyd together again, and it opened to a decent $36.1 million.  However, Dumber ran out of steam quickly, and ended up grossing $86.2 million.  Big Hero 6 and Interstellar came in second and third, ahead of the weekend's other wide opening, Beyond the Lights.  The melodrama starred up-and-coming actress Gugu Mgatha-Raw as a young superstar singer who is saved from a suicide attempt by cop Nate Parker.  They fall in love, but their romance is threatened by their dueling career ambitions, neither of which is compatible with their relationship.  Critics were surprisingly kind to the film, and it landed an Oscar nomination for its song "Grateful", but amid the bigger Thanksgiving releases, it wasn't able to break out.  Lights opened to $6.2 million, and was turned off at $14.6 million.  Farther down the chart, Birdman made the Top 10 for the first time, coming in at #10.  Opening in limited release with $1.2 million was Rosewater.  The drama, written and directed by Jon Stewart, starred Gael Garcia Bernal as Iranian journalist Mazier Bahari, who spent four months in an Iranian prison being brutally interrogated, in part because of his appearance on The Daily Show.  Clearly, this was a personal project for Stewart, and while the film didn't make much of a critical or commercial impact (it would ultimately gross just $3.1 million), it would have an effect on television, as John Oliver likely landed Last Week Tonight based on the strength of his guest hosting The Daily Show while Stewart was filming this the summer of 2013, and making the film probably contributed to Stewart's decision to step down as host 9 months after the film opened.  On the opposite end of the political system from Stewart is Kirk Cameron, the 80s sitcom star turned extremely enthusiastic Evangelistic Christian.  He is among small but extremely vocal group who somehow feel that the year's biggest, brightest, loudest, most inescapable holiday is somehow not getting the respect it deserves.  During the quasi-documentary Saving Christmas, he lectures his "brother-in-law" (played by the film's director, Darren Doane) and the audience just why he should be filled with the Christmas spirit (spoiler alert: Jesus!).  Critics were gobsmacked by the film, which won four of the six Razzies it was nominated for, including Worst Picture and Worst Actor for Cameron.  Even worse, not even the Evangelical audience turned out, as the film opened to $1 million and finished its run with $2.8 million.  Opening in very limited release, the drama Foxcatcher told the tragic story of the Schultz brothers, Olympic gold medal winning wrestlers who become entwined with the extremely eccentric John Du Pont (Steve Carell) and the wresting team he bankrolled.  Channing Tatum played the younger, much more awkward brother and Mark Ruffalo played his more personable sibling.  The film was well received, and even though it missed Best Picture, it did receive 5 Oscar nominations, including Actor for Carell, Supporting Actor for Ruffalo, and for Bennett Miller's direction.  Foxcatcher did well in art houses, but didn't really cross over to the mainstream, as even with Carell and Tatum, it topped out at $12.1 million.

Ten Years Ago--November 13, 2009:  I don't know how many people took seriously the theory that the Mayans predicted that the world would end a few days before Christmas, 2012.  The world went on and I had to go buy presents for my family after all.  One person who was definitely intrigued by the idea of complete world destruction was directer Roland Emmerich, who never met a landmark he didn't want to obliterate.  So three years before the world was supposed to meet its end, Emmerich went ahead and destroyed it in 2009 in 2012.  The film gleefully launched an orgy of destruction that managed to top Emmerich's previous orgies of destruction.  California slid into the Pacific Ocean, Las Vegas feel into a chasm, thanks to the Yellowstone supervolcano erupting, and Hawaii ended up covered in molten lava.  There is a plot, sort of, as failed sci-fi writer-turned-limo driver John Cusack tries to get his photogenic ex-wife and photogenic kids to the secret giant arks on top of Mt. Everest, while the rest of humanity perishes around them.  Being a Roland Emmerich film, critics were mostly dismissive, but audiences showed up in large numbers, as 2012 opened to $65.2 million.  Like a lot of disaster orgy films, it wouldn't have long legs, but would still gross $166.1 million.  A Christmas Carol would finish a distant second, but still well ahead of the third place film, Precious, which jumped after an expansion, and had by far the best per-screen of the weekend.  Opening outside the Top 10 was the British comedy Pirate Radio (which went by the much better title The Boat That Rocked in the UK), about an illegal offshore rock station in the 1960s, a time when the BBC had a legal monopoly over British radio and mostly eschewed modern music.  Despite being written and directed by Richard Curtis and starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman, critics panned the film and audiences mostly ignored it, as it opened to $2.9 million and went off the air at $8 million.  Opening in limited release was Wes Anderson's stop-motion adaption of Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox.  George Clooney voices the titular Mr. Fox, whose battle with three local farmers puts all of the animals in the forest at risk.  Critics loved the film, which was nominated for Animated Feature, as well as for its score, and it did very well in limited release, but audiences ignored it once it went wide over Thanksgiving, and finished with a total of $21 million.  Also opening in limited release was the drama The Messenger, starring Ben Foster as an Army sergeant who is assigned to a team sent to notify families of their loved ones death in combat, alongside Woody Harrelson (who was also in 2012).  The film received good notices, and got two Oscar nominations, for its Original Screenplay and for Harrelson's supporting performance.  It didn't break out of art houses, though, topping out at $1.1 million.

Fifteen Years Ago--November 12, 2004:  The Incredibles had another incredible weekend, more than doubling the gross of any of the four new wide releases, which finished the weekend 2-5.  That included the one movie of the newcomers that would become a breakout hit itself, The Polar Express.  The first of Robert Zemeckis's motion-capture animated films, this adaption of the Caldecott Medal-winning book by Chris Van Allsburg starred Tom Hanks in nearly every major role.  The story concerns a kid (Hanks did the motion-capture, though Daryl Sabara provided the voice) who having serious doubts about the existence of Santa when, on Christmas Eve, he is invited aboard the titular train to the North Pole.  Critics were mixed about the film, liking the voice acting and the visuals, but thinking the human characters were fake-looking with dead eyes.  It took some time for audiences to climb on board, as well.  The film opened on Wednesday of the week and had collected $30.6 million by the end of its first five days, but was a strong performer all the way through the holidays, staying in the Top 10 until after New Year's, and ultimately delivering $162.8 million.  The film has proceeded to come back every year for a holiday season IMAX run that usually adds nearly a million dollars to its overall gross each time.  Back in 2005, the film missed out on an Animated Feature nomination at the Oscars, but did get nominated for the two Sound Oscars as well as for its song, "Believe".  The action comedy After the Sunset, directed by Brett Ratner, came in third.  Pierce Brosnan plays a retired expert jewel thief who plans to come out of retirement for one last score, with Selma Hayek as his girlfriend and partner in crime, and Woody Harrelson as the FBI agent on his trail.  Critics thought it was silly and predictable, and audiences chose not to turn out, as the film opened to $11.5 million and saw the sun set on it at $28.3 million.  Another horror movie that might have been better off opening in October rather than November, Seed of Chucky was the final theatrical entry in the original Child's Play series, and one that took the campy comic tone of the last entry to the extreme.  Jennifer Tilly, who had voiced  Tiffany, the bride of Chucky in Bride of Chucky, returns in a dual role as both Tiffany and herself, whose newest movie is invaded by the murderous doll couple and their innocent son.  Critics were generally dismissive, and audiences were pretty tired of the then-16-year-old franchise, as it opened to $8.8 million and couldn't even double that gross, getting recalled at $17.1 million.  In more limited release, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason blew up the neat and tidy ending of Bridget Jones's Diary and sent Bridget (Renee Zellweger) once again vacillating between Hugh Grant and Colin Firth.  Critics complained that they saw this in the first film, and while the film did OK business domestically, it wasn't anywhere near the hit the first one was, as Edge of Reason opened to $8.7 million and finished its run at $40.2 million (it did prove to be a huge hit overseas, though).  Opening in limited release was Kinsey, the Bill Condon-directed biopic of the groundbreaking sex researcher (Liam Neeson).  At one point expected to be a major Oscar contender, it ended up getting just one nomination, for Laura Linney as Kinsey's wife and assistant.  Despite good reviews, the film never broke out of the art houses, climaxing with $10.3 million.

Twenty Years Ago--November 12, 1999:  Two decades before Pokemon was such a worldwide phenomenon that a live-action Pokemon movie was able to get Ryan Reynolds, Bill Nighy, and Ken Watanebe to star in it, the then burgeoning franchise first flexed its box-office muscles with Pokemon: The First Movie.  Coming a year after the unexpected success of The Rugrats Movie, the success of Pokemon showed that there was a healthy audience out there for movies based on kids cartoons, which is why seemingly half the animated shows on Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network got feature film versions in the next few years.  Japanese critics, where the film was released in the summer of 1998, liked the film, but American critics were more critical of the film.  It didn't matter, at least for that first weekend, as the film, which opened on Wednesday, grossed $31 million from Friday-Sunday and $50.8 million since it opened.  However, the success was short-lived, as the film fell off very quickly, and was trapped in its ball at $85.7 million.  Still, that's more than enough for Pokemon: The First Movie to be the highest-grossing anime title in North America, even after 20 years.  The Bone Collector slid to second, followed by more newcomers.  By far the most controversial film of the weekend, and maybe of the fall (give or take a Fight Club), Kevin Smith's Dogma drew numerous protests for its for its decidedly irreverent look at Catholicism.  Matt Damon and Ben Affleck led an all-star cast as two fallen angels who think they've found a loophole to get back into Heaven, unaware that this loophole would destroy the entire universe.  Linda Fiorentino, Alan Rickman, Chris Rock, and (of course) Jason Mewes and Smith as Jay and Silent Bob are the half human, half heavenly team that has to stop them. Critics were rather mixed, and audiences weren't sure what to think, but the film became Smith's biggest hit to date, opening to $8.7 million and meeting God with a profitable $30.7 million.  Fairing less well was the other religious-themed film of the weekend, The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc.  It was probably not a wise idea to give Luc Besson, or for that matter, any other director, $85 million for a religious epic starring Milla Jovovich in 1999.  Even if critics had liked the film, which for the most part, they didn't, it would have been a hard sell, especially since it was late to the table, as it followed by several months a highly rated mini-series biopic of Joan.  Moviegoers decided to simply remember the mini-series and skip the movie, which opened to $6.4 million and met God as well with $14.3 million.  Opening in fifth was Anywhere But Here, which starred Susan Sarandon and Natalie Portman as a mother/daughter duo who relocate to Beverly Hills.  It received mixed reviews and didn't make much of an impact at the box office, opening to $5.6 million and ending up right here at $18.7 million.  Opening in 11th (after a Wednesday opening), the teen drama Light It Up, about a group of urban high school kids (including Usher Raymond, Rosario Dawson, and Sara Gilbert) who hold a police officer (Forest Whitaker) hostage in their school.  Not attracting much of an audience, the poorly reviewed film opened to $2.4 million over the weekend and went dark with only $6 million.

Twenty-Five Years Ago--November 18, 1994:  At least at the movies, the torch was officially passed from Captain Kirk (William Shatner) to Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) in Star Trek: Generations, the long-awaited on-screen pairing of the two iconic captains of the Starship Enterprise, which also marked the official end of the series of films based on the original series and the beginning of the series based on The Next Generation.  It would also mark the final time Shatner played Kirk onscreen (though he has voiced Kirk for several video games, as well as for an episode of Family Guy).  The plot was some mumbo-jumbo about Kirk having vanished into a life-preserving energy ribbon, and having to team up with Picard to stop a madman (Malcolm McDowell) from destroying an entire solar system to get into the energy ribbon himself.  Critics were underwhelmed, but audiences were more than happy to boldly go into theaters showing the film, as it debuted at #1 with $23.1 million and would beam up with $75.7 million.  In second, Interview With the Vampire lost more than half its opening weekend audience (a relatively rare occurrence in 1994), and nearly fell below The Santa Clause, which came in third.  Arriving back in theaters in fourth was The Lion King, which Disney had pulled from theaters at the end of the summer for a Thanksgiving re-release, apparently not realizing that Clause would be November's breakout hit.  In fifth was The Professional, Luc Besson's action film starring French actor Jean Reno as Leon: the professional hit man and Natalie Portman (in her film debut) as his neighbor who he takes in after the rest of her family is wiped out by a corrupt DEA agent (Gary Oldman) and reluctantly begins to train her in his job.  The film has become a well-regarded cult classic, but critics at the time were more lukewarm.  With Thanksgiving competition and a largely unknown cast, The Professional was a box office disappointment, as it opened to $5.3 million and cleaned up at $19.5 million.  After Stargate and Pulp Fiction came the first of two family flops.  With the original a perennial classic, there wasn't any obvious reason to remake Miracle on 34th Street, but John Hughes did so anyway, writing and producing a new version which starred Richard Attenborough as Kris Kringle, who may or may not be the real Santa Claus, and Mara Wilson as the precocious daughter of a Mac--er, Cole's--exec (Elizabeth Perkins) who does not believe in Santa (the real Macy's declined to be a part of the remake).  Audiences decided they'd rather have Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor be their jolly old St. Nick instead of the guy who cloned all the dinosaurs, as Miracle had a decidedly non-miraculous opening with just $2.7 million and would run into roadblocks at $17.3 million.  The War came in 9th, and opening in 10th was The Swan Princess, an independent animated film directed by Disney veteran Richard Rich, who had previously co-directed such classics as, um, The Fox and The Hound and, oh dear, The Black Cauldron.  Based on the ballet Swan Lake, this more or less ripped off The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.  Audiences weren't buying it, at least in theaters, as it opened to only $2.5 million and proved to be a true ugly duckling with a final gross of $9.8 million.  Like many animated films, however, it found a new life on home video, where there have been six straight-to-video/DVD sequels, one as recently as 2017.  While future Best Actress winner Natalie Portman was making her film debut in multiplexes nationwide, future Best Actress winner Kate Winslet was making her debut in two theaters in Heavenly Creatures, a drama based on a true story directed by New Zealand director Peter Jackson, moving from gross-out horror and comedy to something considerably more mainstream--and more critically acclaimed.  Winslet and Melanie Lynskey play schoolgirls who become fast friends and end up making up an elaborate fantasy world.  With separation looming, the two plot to commit a murder.  Critics gushed over the film, and it would Jackson his first Oscar nomination (shared with Fran Walsh), for the film's Original Screenplay.  Creatures would also do well on the art-house circuit, grossing $3.1 million.

Thirty Years Ago--November 17, 1989:  The holiday movie season finally arrived, bringing an end to Look Who's Talking's 5-week reign as the #1 movie in America.  And it took no less than Eddie Murphy to do it, with his directorial debut (and, at least as of 2019, directorial finale) Harlem Nights.  The surprisingly violent, surprisingly non-comedic comedy-drama starred Murphy and Richard Pryor as co-owners of a successful 1930's nightclub that is threatened by a white mobster who wants a cut.  Critics, who were understandably expecting a straight comedy given the two leads, were greatly disappointed with the film.  Murphy was popular enough that the film did well, with an $16.1 million opening and $60.9 million final total, but that was a significant dropoff from Coming to America the previous summer.  The film did get an Oscar nomination for its costumes.  Talking came in #2, ahead of two movies that are today considered classics.  Opening at #3 was The Little Mermaid, which launched the Disney Renaissance and represented a stunning turnaound for the studio just 4 1/2 years after the disaster of The Black Cauldron.  The story, about a young mermaid named Ariel who dreams of being part of our world, trading her voice to the evil sea witch Ursula for a pair of legs and lungs so she can woo the human Prince Eric, whom she saved from a shipwreck.  The movie's songs, written by the team of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, who had previously written the beloved musical of Little Shop of Horrors, include at least four stone-cold classics, though only "Kiss the Girl" and "Under the Sea" got Oscar nominations (sorry, "Part of Your World" and "Poor Unfortunate Souls").  "Sea" would win, as would the film's score.  Mermaid opened to $6 million, outpacing Oliver & Company's opening a year earlier, and would go on to have a very long box office tail, eventually swimming to $84.4 million, becoming the highest-grossing animated film up to that time.  Opening in 4th was the all-star adaption of the all-female play Steel Magnolias.  The rather episodic story examined several life-chaning moments for a group of women living in small-town Louisiana, led  by Sally Field and relative newcomer Julia Roberts as a mother and her equally strong-willed daughter. Co-starring was  Dolly Parton as the local hairdresser whose shop much of the action takes place, Daryl Hannah as her naive new assistant, Olympia Dukakis as the local millionaire, and Shirley MacLaine as the town curmudgeon.  Critics were mixed on the film, even as they praised the acting.  Audiences turned out in droves, however, as the film stayed in the Top 10 all the way until March.  It made $5.4 million in semi-wide release that first weekend, and grew out at $83.8 million, and Roberts would get her first Oscar nomination, for Supporting Actress.  It seems odd these days that a family movie, let alone an animated movie, would directly take on a new Disney movie.  In 1989, however, two other family movies, one of them animated, would open against The Little Mermaid.  A year earlier, the Don Bluth-directed, Spielberg/Lucas produced The Land Before Time had opened better than Oliver & Company on their mutual opening weekend.  This year, Spielberg and Lucas had nothing to do with All Dogs Go to Heaven, which proved to be not as big of a hit as Land Before Time or Bluth's 1986 hit An American Tail, but would prove strong on video and would successfully launch its own franchise.  Burt Reynolds voiced Charlie, a German Shepard con artist who gets murdered by his associate (yes, this is a G-rated family film), who is able to escape Heaven (where all dogs...well, you can read the title) to return to Earth, where he befriends a lonely little girl who can understand animals while he tries to reform his ways.  Critics were fairly mixed on the film, and audiences preferred mermaids to dogs, as All Dogs opened at $4.7 million and went to Heaven with $27.1 million.  After Dad in 6th came the live action family film Prancer.  A little girl becomes convinced that the stray reindeer hanging around her family's farm is one of Santa's reindeer.  The film co-starred Sam Elliott as the girl's father, Clois Leachman as a neighbor, and a young Johnny Galecki as a local kid.  Galecki would have a much bigger part in a much more successful Christmas movie in two weeks.  As for Prancer, it would open to $2.9 million and flew  back to the North Pole with $18.6 million.

Thirty-Five Years Ago--November 16, 1984:  Pre-Thanksgiving audiences were quite eager to see Chuck Norris rescue American prisoners in Vietnam in Missing in Action, an action movie that accomplished the impressive feat of ripping off a movie that was still six months away from release.  Word is that Cannon Films rushed the film in production around the time that the script for Rambo: First Blood, Part II started circulating.  It proved to be a lucrative decision, as the low-budgeted Action opened to $6.1 million and would recover $22.8 million over its run, and would not only lead to two sequels, but also an entire, Cannon-produced, Norris-starring action movies.  Oh God! You Devil came in second in its second weekend, while Night of the Comet opened in third.  A post-apocalypse sci-fi horror comedy, Comet is about two sisters who are among the very few survivors of a close encounter with a comet that either reduced the rest of humanity to dust or turned them into zombies.  Critics were surprisingly kind to the film, which became a minor hit before becoming a fondly remembered cult classic.  It would open to $3.6 million and headed back out to the far reaches of the solar system at $14.4 million.  After The Terminator at #4, came the long-delayed Kristy McNichol vehicle Just the Way You Are.  McNichol played a musician who is forced to wear a leg brace due to a childhood illness, who decides, while in Europe, to pretend her limp is caused by a broken leg so people wouldn't pity her.  McNichol's illness forced the production to shut down for an entire year, and it appears they needn't to have bothered to get started back up again.  Just the Way You Are opened to $2.3 million and ended its run with $7.9 million.

No comments:

Post a Comment