Our look back into the box office archives marches on this week as we continue to celebrate the moviegoing experience in these trying and challenging times by fondly recalling some of the great box office performances and film releases of yesteryear.
If you missed the inaugural edition of this temporary column, you can find that here.
A Quiet Place
April 6 – 8, 2018
Two years ago, John Krasinski’s directorial debut landed with an ironic bang as A Quiet Place excelled in its box office debut with a $50.2 million opening weekend. At the time, that was the highest ever for an original horror film (surpassed only by Jordan Peele’s Us last year, which $71.1 million).
A Quiet Place also ranked as the eighth highest April debut ever at the time, and it still stands as the month’s highest opening in history for an original film.
The hit was marketed strongly for months in advance, but it ultimately out-performed almost every expectation. Front-loading wasn’t an issue, either, as it is for most films in the genre. Following its freshman weekend, the picture legged out to a strong $188 million domestically as part of an overall $341 million global run.
The highly anticipated sequel, A Quiet Place Part II, had been tracking strongly earlier this year before it became a casualty of the current COVID-19 crisis. The follow-up missed its planned release date in March, but Paramount has committed the film to a future theatrical release when theaters re-open. We expect it’ll still be high on moviegoers’ lists when the time is right.
April 3 – 5, 2015
Without any doubt, the previous six films in the Fast and the Furious franchise established this as a multi-cultural blockbuster event following the creative and commercial revival provided by Fast & Furious (which opened on the same weekend in 2009), Fast Five in 2011, and Fast & Furious 6 in 2013.
The untimely and tragic death of star Paul Walker in late 2013, though, elevated interest to new heights for the final film in which he’d appear as his most recognizable character.
Furious 7 raced into the record books with its debut of $147.2 million on Easter weekend five years ago. That was the highest April opening of all-time until Avengers: Infinity War ($257.7 million) and Avengers: Endgame ($357.1 million) came along, as well as the best Easter launch in history — now second only to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ($166 million).
Furious 7 remains the financial peak of the series to this day, having earned $353 million stateside and a stellar $1.5 billion globally. The former figure represented a 68 percent increase from Fast Five‘s $209.8 million run, while cementing the franchise’s rebirth as a worldwide juggernaut by more than doubling Five’s $626 million global haul.
China represented a major driver of the increase with $391 million alone coming from the Middle Kingdom, the highest ever for a Hollywood import at the time and now third behind Endgame and The Fate of the Furious.
The sequel truly fired on all cylinders for audiences, albeit, partly fueled by the worst of circumstances.
The ninth film in the franchise is now scheduled to release April 2, 2021.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
April 4 – 6, 2014
The first film in Steve Rogers’ trilogy within the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe was a successful introduction to the character in a pre-Avengers world back in 2011, earning $176.7 million domestically and $371 million globally. Following the massive run of 2012’s The Avengers, though, the Captain’s popularity only elevated with this sequel.
The Winter Soldier was the third MCU film to open after the first Avengers, following Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World in 2013, and it remains one of the most highly praised in the MCU canon. This sequel scored 90 percent with Rotten Tomatoes critics and 92 percent with its audience score, bowing to $95 million in April 2014 — a 46 percent increase from The First Avenger‘s $65.1 million start.
Ultimately, Winter Soldier nearly doubled that origin story’s global earnings at $714 million versus $371 million — including $259.8 million domestically for Soldier.
At the time of its release, Winter Soldier‘s debut stood as the best April opening ever in North America (it ranks sixth as of 2020).
April 2 – 4, 1999
Action films were changed forever on this weekend back in 1999 when the Wachowskis unleashed The Matrix upon the world. Keanu Reeves’ Neo and the film’s “bullet time” visual effects became instant icons of cinema, the latter of which proliferated into every film, video game, and television show that could find an excuse to mimic the film’s most famous scene.
The Matrix wasn’t an obvious box office smash, nor should it have been as an original R-rated film opening in the springtime. There was no pre-existing fan base, the Wachowskis were unknown filmmakers at the time, and this was an era before “event” films of any kind were slated outside summer and holiday corridors.
Still, the film’s $27.8 million Easter opening weekend was a solid start for the ambitious film. That figure would translate to more than $50 million with today’s ticket prices, but it pales in comparison to the film’s staying power.
Dropping just 19 percent in its second frame, The Matrix ultimately declined less than 37 percent every weekend until July 14 – 16, 1999 — its 14th week of release. All in, the film finished with $171.5 million domestically (equating to well over $300 million with 2020 prices) and $464 million worldwide.
Naturally, the reverberating impact of the film spawned a franchise. Combined with huge earnings from The Matrix Reloaded in early 2003, followed by the trilogy-capper The Matrix Revolutions later that year, the three films grossed $1.63 billion globally.
A fourth film is in the works, currently planned for a 2021 release.
Suggestions for films or milestones to cover in future weekends? Let us know!