In this new weekly feature at Awards Circuit, we will look back at this week in movie history (Week 9 of the cinematic year) and look at films which have opened in the same time period in the years’ past, travel through facts and trivia from some of those films. and see if we can connect the past to the present. This is the first installment of Everything Comes Back Around.
With four films receiving wide release this weekend, this marks the fifth time since 1980 that studios have released four or more films into the multiplex in the final week of the winter movie season, before higher profile March releases begin to arrive. Analyzing that particular list of films is sobering, as only two of the 17 films in question have made any sort of a lasting impact on moviegoers.
In 1996, Jackie Chan emerged as a North American box office star when Rumble In The Bronx arrived 17 years ago this week. Counterprogramming to Rumble that year came in the form of Julia Roberts’ gothic suspense film Mary Reilly, the Meryl Streep/Liam Neeson drama Before and After, and the Ray Liotta-led Unforgettable, filmed in my neck of the woods, Seattle, Washington. Combined together Reilly, Before, and Unforgettable failed to match the rather tepid $32.4 million gross for Rumble, which nonetheless vaulted Jackie Chan to the A-list for a great many number of years.
Audiences rejected all four wide releases in 1998, and other than the waning cult status of Dark City, has anyone else watched or queued up Krippendorf’s Tribe, Caught Up, or Kissing A Fool recently?
2007 saw a multiplex bloodletting and audiences took a sniff at Jim Carrey’s ill-advised The Number 23, dedicated fans pushed raunchy comedy Reno 911!: Miami into the Top 5, but Amazing Grace, The Astronaut Farmer, and The Abandoned are not exactly receiving Blu-Ray Limited Edition Director’s Cut home video releases any time soon.
Perhaps four films arriving this year originates from the success found from Act Of Valor, which grossed more than $70 million in its theatrical run last year. Other films opening against Valor performed dismally as Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds, Wanderlust, and Amanda Seyfried’s empty-headed action film Gone couldn’t generate much attention.
Rare for this weekend, a massive big-budget film, not uncommon for the summer or spring movie seasons, tries to become a runaway smash and recoup its staggering $190 million budget. Jack The Giant Slayer, reuniting Bryan Singer and Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) looks to break out like Alice In Wonderland did in March 2010 and became a massive global phenomenon, but history says otherwise.
Back in the 1980s, when films like Pretty In Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful opened this same weekend in 1986 and 1987, respectively, we ended up with cult classics which, especially in the case of Pink, get passed on from one generation to the next. Can we share that optimism for 21 & Over, produced and directed by those responsible for The Hangover franchise?
Ashley Bell’s revisiting of possessed girl Nell Sweetzer in the ridiculously titled sequel The Last Exorcism Part II, looks to avoid the box office maladies which plagued horror films Don’t Answer The Phone (1980), Queen of the Damned (2002), Cursed (2005), The Number 23 (2007), and The Crazies (2010). Only one horror film released this week in the last 33 years has generated a decent sum, as A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors earned $44.8 in 1987. When adjusted for inflation those figures rise to a pretty impressive $92.2 million in 2013 dollars.
Completely invisible to most people’s radars is Phantom, a mysterious submarine movie with the curious casting of Ed Harris, David Duchovny, and William Fichtner. The first release for independent studio RCR Media, Phantom sets sail on more than 2,000 screens nationally and tells the oh-so timely story of a Soviet missile submarine under attack by rogue KGB officers. Soviets, submarines, mankind in peril…does this premise not sound familiar? That’s right it was March 2, 1990 that The Hunt For Red October grossed buckets and buckets of cash and became a staggering international success. Something tells me that this Phantom will underperform when compared to its predecessor.
Let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?
This week in history gives us connections to the recently concluded 85th Annual Academy Awards ceremony and nominees.
After winning an Oscar as a producer for Best Picture winner Argo, Ben Affleck is potentially reminded of the wrong steps his career took following his Oscar win for 1997’s Good Will Hunting. This weekend, Affleck was part of an impressive ensemble in 1999’s comedy 200 Cigarettes. Then exactly one year later, Affleck starred in Reindeer Games, which included Charlize Theron, Ashton Kutcher, and someone named Ron Jeremy among the names found in the closing credits.
Back 16 years ago this week, audiences got their first look at the work of Paul Thomas Anderson, whose latest film The Master landed three 2012 Oscar nominations and arrived on Blu-Ray this past Tuesday. While 1997’s Hard Eight only grossed $222k in its box office run, the cast included a young Philip Seymour Hoffman, who has since worked with Anderson on five films.
Controversially left out of the Academy Awards’ In Memoriam segment, this week in 2009 saw Andy Griffith’s last film role arrive in theaters. Play The Game may have grossed just $659k in its entire 39 week run, but Griffith received rave reviews before passing away at the age of 86 last year.
Has anyone ever taken Starter For 10? The 2007 British comedy featuring Catherine Tate (The Office), James McAvoy, Dominic Cooper, Rebecca Hall, Alice Eve, also gave us the feature film debut of Benedict Cumberbatch. Starter For 10 was a notable hit in the United Kingdom, ignored and badly handled stateside by the now defunct Picturehouse.
Can you name the recent Oscar winner associated with Broken Lizard’s Club Dread film, which bombed out in theaters this weekend back in 2004, but stands front and center as co-director, co-writer, and co-star of an eagerly anticipated summer release from Fox Searchlight? A name we will likely be talking about in a few months, Nat Faxon received an Academy Award for co-writing the screenplay of 2011’s The Descendents with Jim Rash and Alexander Payne. Faxon’s new film The Way, Way Back is earning some heavy buzz.
Another Benedict Cumberbatch appearance in The Other Boleyn Girl also gave us one of our first looks at heartthrob-of-the-moment Eddie Redmayne back in 2008.
And make sure you take a moment to reflect fondly this weekend, as it has now been 8 years since Tyler Perry’s feature film debut, Tyler Perry’s Diary Of A Mad Black Woman dropped into theaters. It only seems like yesterday, everyone was scrambling around trying to figure out who Tyler Perry was, why his name was in the title, and why he had the #1 film in America when this weekend wrapped up in 2005. Few are aware (or frankly care) that Perry did not direct Mad Black Woman (Darren Grant did), but Perry did adapt his own stage play into the screenplay. Every film since then featuring Tyler Perry has been directed by Perry (sans Alex Cross), and when 2013 comes to rest, this will account for 14 films in 8 years. Next up is the succinctly named Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions Of A Marriage Counselor.
And yes that title is about as subtle as the Lovesexy album cover by Prince.
So do we care about the slate of releases this weekend? Or will a few of these films go the way of previous classics, released this weekend in years’ past? Do we have any Monkeybone, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, 3000 Miles to Graceland, Street-Fighter: The Legend Of Chun-Li’s ready to unspool? Sadly, this weekend also brought us 1998’s An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn, but it’s best to leave that film right here and move on.
Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal rose to stardom as companions in Alfonso Cuaron’s extraordinary 2001 film Y Tu Mama Tambien. Back this week in 2004, Luna starred alongside Romola Garai (?) in the trashy Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights and Bernal just starred in the Oscar nominated No and Spirit Award nominated The Loneliest Planet. …Havana Nights also gave us the now trademark inert acting performance from January Jones, Patrick Swayze in a disquieting cameo, and fleeting pop/R&B singer/choreographer Mya, who also hit theaters exactly one year later in the aforementioned Cursed.
Lastly, Phillip Seymour Hoffman stars alongside Daniel Bruhl in the upcoming A Most Wanted Man, directed by Anton Corbijn, and Bruhl debuted in North American cinemas this weekend back in 2004 when Oscar nominated foreign language film Goodbye, Lenin! arrived to rave reviews. Additionally, Gavin Hood’s Best Foreign Language Oscar winner Tsotsi opened on this weekend back in 2006. Hood is the director of Ender’s Game, the highly anticipated film arriving in December with an all-star cast.
What will next week bring? New films will include Oz, The Great And Powerful and who knows what other gems we will uncover as he dig through movie and box office history as we are reminded that Everything Comes Back Around.