Our look back into the box office archives hits July’s climax and August’s beginning as the focus moves to the 31st weekend of the year.
Pre-pandemic, this particular weekend was originally slated to see the opening of Lionsgate’s Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar and Sony / Columbia’s Morbius, the next chapter in “Sony’s Universe of Marvel Characters”. The former of the two is now poised to release on July 16, 2021, while the latter is planned for March 19, 2021.
On with the countdown…
Marvel’s “Riskiest” Film Breaks August Records
Speaking of Marvel, the biggest debut ever on this weekend belongs to Disney and the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Guardians of the Galaxy.
For those that still doubted the Marvel brand’s ability to attract casual moviegoers in a post-Avengers world, even without well-known characters, August 2014 would silence such claims. Following one of the most memorable marketing campaigns of the franchise (shout out to Blue Swede), Marvel introduced its next ensemble team of heroes — but this time, without any solo films or general familiarity outside fans to help build awareness. Guardians of the Galaxy delivered a fresh voice to the comic book canvas via writer/director James Gunn, backed by a cast of rising and established stars like Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, and Vin Diesel (among more).
The film’s $94.3 million debut remains one of the most impressive feats of the franchise given that the Guardians were unknown characters to anyone who wasn’t an avid comic reader. That figure marked the best August opening in history at the time (only since surpassed by Suicide Squad‘s $133.7 million in 2016).
The film was such a word-of-mouth success that, despite yielding first place to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) for two weekends, Guardians returned to first place at the box office in its fourth frame and held onto that spot through its sixth. The pic ultimately spent ten weekends in the top ten.
With a leggy run to $333.2 million domestically and $773 million worldwide, the Guardians risk more than paid off and further established the MCU’s name itself as a major selling point for moviegoers from all walks of life. The film beat virtually every financial expectation, ranking a close third place domestically for the year (trailing American Sniper‘s $350.1 million and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1‘s $337.1 million), while also registering third globally behind Transformers: Age of Extinction and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.
The Bourne Weekend
Following a highly successful sleeper hit in 2002, and a popular sequel in 2004, Matt Damon returned to cap off the adaptations of author Robert Ludlum’s trilogy with The Bourne Ultimatum in 2007.
The anticipated and strongly reviewed sequel was an even bigger hit out of the gate than its predecessor, earning $69.3 million on opening weekend and setting a then-August record. That represented a 32 increase from The Bourne Supremacy‘s $52.5 million debut three years earlier and set the tone for a run that included eight weekends in the top ten.
By the end of Ultimatum‘s run, it became the highest grosser of the franchise with $227.5 million domestically (ranking 7th for the year) and $444.1 million globally (ranking 11th).
All of those figures remain high marks for the Bourne series, which would go on to see a spin-off starring Jeremy Renner (The Bourne Legacy) in 2012 before Damon and director Paul Greengrass returned for 2016’s Jason Bourne.
That follow-up didn’t draw quite the same critical or audience praise as the initial trilogy, but its $59.2 million opening was still quite respectable as an adult-driven thriller following years of demand for another chapter with Damon in the lead.
Jason Bourne ultimately finished with $162.4 million domestically, ranking 15th for the year, and $415.5 million worldwide (ranking 20th).
Chan and Tucker Return
Following the breakout success of 1998’s sleeper buddy cop comedy, Jackie Chan and Michael Tucker reunited for Rush Hour 2 in 2001. The sequel registered an excellent $67.4 million opening weekend, at the time representing both the biggest August debut and biggest comedy debut ever.
The film proved to be another leggy hit with audiences, too, as it stayed in the top two for five consecutive weekends and the top ten for ten. In the end, Rush Hour 2 was easily the top-grossing, non-animated comedy of its year with $226.2 million domestically. That was enough to rank fifth for 2001 as a whole behind the first Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings films, Shrek, and Monsters, Inc.
Globally, Rush Hour 2 capped off with $347.3 million in the bank, ranking 11th for the year.
Shyamalan’s Top Starts
Following his career breakout with 1999’s The Sixth Sense and 2000’s fan-favorite Unbreakable, M. Night Shyamalan was an incredibly hot commodity in Hollywood — and with moviegoers — entering the early part of the 21st century.
That hot streak and another teaming with an A-list star (Mel Gibson) in a summer-friendly, Spielbergian, sci-fi family drama helped result in giant demand for the filmmaker’s next original project, 2002’s Signs. Combined with the buzzy, mysterious marketing campaign leading up to its release, audiences were sold upfront as the film bowed to $60.1 million on opening weekend — the high mark of Shyamalan’s career thus far, and what remains one of the best debuts ever for an original film.
Signs delivered on its promises as a crowd-pleaser as the film spent the dog days of summer dominating the box office, including four weekend finishes in first place and nine weekends in the top ten.
By the end of its run, Shyamalan’s third major directorial effort scored $228 million domestically and $408.3 million worldwide. It ranked sixth on the former front and seventh on the latter among all 2002 releases, while representing the top earning original film of the year globally (coming in just behind My Big Fat Greek Wedding‘s $241.4 million for the same feat on the domestic side).
Having gone three for three to start his career, including two blockbusters, Shyamalan continued that hot streak just two years later with the anticipated arrival of The Village. Boasting another mysterious marketing campaign in tow that promised the kind of thrills moviegoers had come to expect from his work, the film drew a strong debut with $50.8 million on opening weekend.
Unfortunately, the fireworks were slowed from there as word of mouth became quite divisive early on — largely due to the film’s twist ending that didn’t quite satisfy from a commercial standpoint in the way the auteur filmmaker had achieved with previous original screenplays. The film was out the top 20 after Labor Day weekend, its sixth of release.
Ultimately, The Village finished with $114.2 million domestically (ranking 20th for the 2004) and $256.7 million globally (ranking 17th). The film’s reception marked an unfortunate turning point in the filmmaker’s career that started a trend of box office under-performers and critical misses throughout the remainder of the ’00s, but to his fans’ delight, he’s gone on to recover in significant ways over the years since with a mix of critical and/or financial hits like Split, Glass, and The Visit.
Late Summer Actioners
This time of year has regularly proven conducive to adult-driven tentpoles as audiences, exposed to countless family-friendly movies over the course of any given summer, become hungry for more serious and/or high-octane material.
Last year itself saw the release of Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, the first spin-off from the Fast & Furious franchise that thrust Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham into lead roles. Despite that franchise’s evolution to include some family appeal, particularly from diverse backgrounds, this chapter still counted as breath of fresh air for summer movie fans as it presented a modern take on the buddy cop sub-genre which had become absent in recent years.
Bowing to $60 million, the film proved the franchise could thrive when taking a different avenue from the parent films led by Vin Diesel. Ultimately spending six weekends in the top five stateside, and eight in the top ten, Hobbs & Shaw finished with $174 million domestically as the 13th highest grossing film of 2019. Globally, returns were even more impressive (as is typical of the franchise as a whole) with $759.1 million, making it the 11th highest grosser of the year.
Four years prior, Tom Cruise was in command of the box office again thanks to the resurgence of the Mission: Impossible franchise. 2011’s Ghost Protocol had restored the blockbuster box office expectations of both star and brand, extending the series’ goodwill into anticipation for the fifth entry, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.
Following a marketing campaign that highlighted Cruise’s famous Airbus stunt, Rogue delivered a $55.5 million opening weekend in tow with strong reviews and word of mouth. Staying power was again strong for the sequel as it spent two weekends in first place and seven frames in the top five.
Rogue Nation legged out all the way to $195 million in North America, ranking 11th for 2015, and $682.7 million for 8th place worldwide that year. The film furthered the franchise’s goodwill even more, setting the stage for 2018’s Fallout.
In the last of our looks back at the modern Planet of the Apes films, this weekend was home to the 2011 reboot that kicked off the widely acclaimed trilogy which came to a conclusion in 2017.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes arrived ten years after the Tim Burton reboot, allowing enough time for casual audiences to warm up to the idea of another iteration of the franchise while also enabling fan anticipation to brew. James Franco took the lead in what promised to be a worthy origin story, but it was Andy Serkis’s motion-capture performance as Caesar that stole the show and won moviegoers’ hearts.
Debuting to $54.8 million on opening weekend, Rise was a strong early performer that developed staying power not always common for sci-fi franchises. The film won its first two weekends at the box office and remained in the top five for five frames.
Finishing with $176.7 million domestically and $481.8 million worldwide, Rise finished 11th and 14th for the year on those respective fronts.
The Ferrell Factor
You’d be hard-pressed to find an actor who had more impact on big screen comedy than Will Ferrell in the early ’00s. Following his popular supporting role in 2003’s Old School and his now-iconic breakout as a leading man in Elf later that year, Ferrell was instantly one of the most successful veterans to make the transition from Saturday Night Live to the big screen.
That rising star power continued with 2004’s Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, before reaching one of the actor’s most successful films of his career thus far: 2006’s Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby.
Marketed as Ferrell’s next big comedy from the same director as Anchorman itself (Adam McKay), the film was already an evident candidate for quotable moments with well-received trailers ahead of release. The film opened with an excellent $47 million weekend, among the highest ever for an original comedy, winning its first two frames domestically and remaining in the top ten for six weekends.
Coupled with the lovable on-screen relationship between Ferrell’s and John C. Reilly’s characters, the film was a hit with more than just NASCAR fans as it rang up $148.2 million domestically. Ranking 12th for the year — second among non-animated comedies after Night at the Museum ($250.9 million) — Talladega Nights remains one of the most popular films of Ferrell’s oeuvre thus far.
Due to its NASCAR-centric story, the film didn’t receive a major international push as it tallied just $15.2 million overseas for a global total of $163.4 million (30th for the year).
Top 10 Three-Day Weekend Grosses for Weekend #31
- Guardians of the Galaxy ($94.3 million, 2014)
- The Bourne Ultimatum ($69.3 million, 2007)
- Rush Hour 2 ($67.4 million, 2001)
- Signs ($60.1 million, 2002)
- Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw ($60 million, 2019)
- Jason Bourne ($59.2 million, 2016)
- Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation ($55.5 million, 2015)
- Rise of the Planet of the Apes ($54.8 million, 2011)
- The Village ($50.8 million, 2004)
- Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby ($47 million, 2006)
More Notable Three-Day Openings on Weekend #31
- The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor ($40.6 million, 2008)
- Runaway Bride ($35.1 million, 1999)
- American Wedding ($33.4 million, 2003)
- The Dukes of Hazzard ($30.7 million, 2005)
- 2 Guns ($27.1 million, 2013)
- Hollow Man ($26.4 million, 2000)
- Total Recall (2012) ($25.6 million, 2012)
- Christopher Robin ($24.6 million, 2018)
- Bad Moms ($23.8 million, 2016)
- The Princess Diaries ($22.9 million, 2001)
- Funny People ($22.7 million, 2009)
- Clear and Present Danger ($20.4 million, 1994)
- The Manchurian Candidate (2004) ($20 million, 2004)
- Spawn ($19.7 million, 1997)
- The Dark Tower ($19.2 million, 2017)
- Deep Blue Sea ($19.1 million, 1999)
- Space Cowboys ($18.1 million, 2000)
- The Smurfs 2 ($17.6 million, 2013)
- Coyote Ugly ($17.3 million, 2000)
- Rising Sun ($15.2 million, 1993)
- Vacation (2015) ($14.7 million, 2015)
- Get On Up ($13.6 million, 2014)
- Death Becomes Her ($12.1 million, 1992)
- The Spy Who Dumped Me ($12.1 million, 2018)
- Cocktail ($11.8 million, 1988)
- The Living Daylights ($11.1 million, 1987)
- Something to Talk About ($11.1 million, 1995)
- The Parent Trap (1998) ($11.1 million, 1998)
- Hot Shots! ($10.9 million, 1991)
- Parenthood ($10.5 million, 1989)
- Babe ($8.7 million, 1995)
- Matilda ($8.2 million, 1996)
- Young Guns II ($8 million, 1990)
- Doc Hollywood ($7.3 million, 1991)
- Robin Hood: Men in Tights ($6.8 million, 1993)
- Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives ($6.75 million, 1986)
- Fright Night ($6.1 million, 1985)
- The Lost Boys ($5.2 million, 1987)
- Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle ($5.2 million, 2004)
- Howard the Duck ($5.1 million, 1986)
- Weird Science ($4.9 million, 1985)
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer ($4.5 million, 1992)
- Risky Business ($4.3 million, 1983)
- Gigli ($3.8 million, 2003)
- An Officer and a Gentleman ($3.3 million, 1982)
Suggestions for films or milestones to cover in future weekends? Let us know!
You can check out previous versions of this column in our archives.