Our look back at weekends of yore continues with a focus on the 23rd frame of the year.
As part of the early June period on the calendar, there have been more summer hits releasing around this time than we can possibly cover in-depth, even when considering the expansion of summer and yearly calendars — plus strong Memorial Day and May holdovers — throughout the past decade have noticeably led to a bit of a drought in massive openings the past few years.
That said, here’s a rundown of some of the biggest highlights from this weekend in box office history.
Family Films Dominate
It’s no surprise that some of the biggest debuts of all time on this weekend have come from family-driven features taking advantage of schools going on summer break. At the top of the list, of course, stands Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which debuted to a then-June-record $93.7 million in 2004.
Animation has been a staple on this weekend, too, with the next three highest debuts for the frame currently owned by Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted ($60.3 million in 2012), Kung Fu Panda ($60.2 million in 2008), and Cars ($60.1 million in 2006).
Slightly further down the list are more family sequels like 2019’s The Secret Life of Pets 2 ($46.7 million) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows ($35.3 million in 2016).
Something for Teens and Adults, Too
Summer movie season can be for everyone, as evidenced by the number of older-leaning films to have made a big splash on this weekend in past years. The top debuts on that front belong to Prometheus ($51.1 million in 2012), 2 Fast 2 Furious ($50.5 million in 2003), Mr. and Mrs. Smith ($50.3 million in 2005), and The Fault In Our Stars ($48 million in 2014).
Not far behind the openings of those films were 2018’s Ocean’s 8 ($41.6 million), 2007’s Ocean’s Thirteen ($36.1 million), J.J. Abrams’ ode to Spielberg films, Super 8 ($35.5 million in 2011), and The Purge ($34.1 million in 2013).
One of the biggest box office success stories of the 21st century so far came from The Hangover when it debuted to $45 million on this weekend in 2009 before legging out to $277 million domestically by the end of its run, an instant comedy blockbuster that has yet to be matched since.
Other comedic-leaning films to have opened on this weekend include the dramedy The Truman Show ($31.5 million in 1998), Spy ($29.1 million in 2015), and Get Him to the Greek ($17.6 million in 2010).
Adrenaline-Fueled Popcorn Flicks
Summer history is replete with films that have won over audiences with sheer escapism, larger-than-life characters, and memorable action set pieces, but sometimes they’re geared more toward adult crowds than kids. Examples here include 2014’s Edge of Tomorrow ($28.8 million opening) before diving back into the 20th century with The Rock ($25.1 million in 1996), Con Air ($24.1 million in 1997), Patriot Games ($18.5 million in 1992), and Speed ($14.5 million in 1994).
Classics from the 1980s and Early 1990s
Their box office openings may not seem like much to look at compared to modern headliners buoyed by higher ticket prices, but a number of time-tested classics that ranked highly on year-end box office charts at the time of their openings also debuted on this exact weekend in history.
Two of the biggest were 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, bowing to $14.35 million and setting an all-time weekend record at that point. Two years later, the original Ghostbusters gottogether and charted a new course for sci-fi comedy with a $13.6 million debut in 1984. (The first Gremlins also debuted that same weekend with $12.5 million.)
Other notable classics on this frame include 1991’s City Slickers ($13 million), 1987’s The Untouchables ($10 million), 1985’s The Goonies ($9.1 million), Roger Moore’s penultimate film as James Bond in 1983’s Octopussy ($8.9 million), 1988’s Big ($8.2 million), and 1983’s Trading Places ($7.35 million).
Check out previous versions of this column and other historical box office recaps in our archives.