This Weekend in Box Office History: Simpsons, Austin Powers, Mission: Impossible, Tarantino, Star Trek, Bourne, Saving Private Ryan, & More

Photo Credits: 20th Century Fox, New Line Cinema, Paramount, Universal, Sony / Columbia, DreamWorks

As our journey into the archives continues, we’re looking back at some of the biggest box office performers to release on the 30th weekend of the year.

Originally, we should have been discussing the prospects of Tenet‘s second weekend alongside the release of Disney’s Jungle Cruise, starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt. The ongoing pandemic has prevented that, unfortunately, with Tenet recently being delayed for a third time and awaiting a new release date. The Disney pic, meanwhile, was an early victim of release shuffling back in April when the studio pushed its release a full year to July 30, 2021.

Comedy Breakouts

As we look at this weekend’s performers in recent years, it’s intriguing to note that the top three openings belong to films released during the 2000s — a rare statistic in 2020 for any given weekend throughout the year, particularly in the middle of summer.

Also notable is the fact that the top two come from the world of comedy, a genre that hasn’t been as prominent atop the box office charts in the last few years as it had been accustomed to for a long time.

Kicking things off, the trophy for the 30th weekend of the year currently belongs to The Simpsons Movie, which debuted to a stellar $74 million back in 2007. The big screen transition for the long-running television series (already up tor 18 years by the time of the film’s release) had been rumored for years as fans clamored for a cinematic adventure with the beloved family.

Opening weekend results showed as much, posting the sixth highest debut of the year, the third best animated opening ever outside the first two Shrek sequels, the best-ever start for a film based on a television series, the opening record for a non-CG animated film (surpassing 1994’s The Lion King), and the best debut ever by a comedy.

Despite its front-loaded nature, The Simpsons Movie was a resounding hit that played a part in extended the franchise’s life for another 13-and-counting years — with fans still anticipating a big screen sequel someday. Made for a moderate $75 million, the first film finished its run with $183.1 million domestically (ranking 12th for 2007) and $536.4 million worldwide (ranking 8th).

The film which Simpsons usurped as the top comedy opener was released five years beforehand, and it represented another hallmark of early 21st century performers: Austin Powers in Goldmember.

Following massively successful and pop culture-defining entries in 1997 and 1999, star/writer Mike Myers and director Jay Roach returned to round out their trilogy with the highly anticipated follow-up in July 2002. Goldmember set an all-time record for comedy debuts at the time with $73.1 million on opening weekend, improving upon its predecessor (The Spy Who Shagged Me‘s $57.4 million) by 27 percent.

Goldmember was another strongly received entry in the franchise which took spoofs to another level of box office success, ultimately earning $213.3 million in North America and $297 million worldwide off a $63 million budget — comparable to the finish of its direct predecessor.

Goldmember itself scored the fourth best debut of 2002 (trailing only Spider-Man, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones), while ranking 7th among final grosses domestically and 13th worldwide.

In all, the Austin Powers trilogy finished with $473.2 million stateside and $676.7 million globally.

Those films weren’t the first, or last, among comedies to make their marks at this point on the calendar. Other notable debuts include the likes The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps ($42.5 million in 2000), Step Brothers ($30.9 million in 2008), The Mask ($23.1 million in 1994), Turner & Hooch ($12.2 million in 1989), National Lampoon’s Vacation ($8.3 million in 1983), and Caddyshack ($3.1 million in 1980) — the latter of which celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2020.

Action and Sci-Fi Tentpoles

It wouldn’t be summer without a slew of action and science fiction offerings, two genres which are well-represented on this weekend.

The top opener among them remains Tim Burton’s 2001 remake of Planet of the Apes. The director took on the classic genre property after years of speculation and anticipation over a modern retelling of 1968’s influential, Charlton Heston-led film.

Casting Mark Wahlberg, a star on the rise at the time, certainly helped broaden appeal to general moviegoers as the Apes redo bowed to $68.5 million. It was the second highest debut of any film in 2001, trailing only the all-time record-setting Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone ($90.3 million) in November, while topping The Mummy Returns‘ $68.1 million start earlier that summer to become the third highest opener of all-time. Apes also set a then-record for July releases, exceeding X-Men‘s $54.5 million debut one year earlier.

Unfortunately, the film flamed out in the long run as word of mouth wasn’t kind to the reboot (before reboots were popular, no less). Burton’s Apes finished with $180 million domestically (ranking 10th for the year) and $362.2 million globally (ranking 9th).

Despite representing a financial success for Fox, having produced it for $100 million, the response was tepid enough for the studio to shelve the property another decade before a far more successful trilogy relaunch in 2011.

Among traditional action films, Mission: Impossible – Fallout claimed this weekend’s top start just two years ago when it opened to $61.2 million. That figure built upon its predecessor, Rogue Nation‘s $55.5 million, while also topping Mission: Impossible II‘s three-day weekend of $57.9 million in 2000 to technically become Tom Cruise’s career best opening weekend.

The Mission franchise has developed a reputation for consistency after six installments. Aside from one earnings blip on the radar (Mission: Impossible III, having to make amends for the second film’s mixed reception and Cruise’s off-screen life events), each installment has opened well, garnered strong reviews, and pushed the series forward — thanks in large part to Cruise’s own creative input and the specific visions of multiple writers and directors he’s helped to select.

Fallout was no exception to that rule, earning the best reviews of the franchise yet under the helm of Christopher McQuarrie (returning from Rogue Nation) and proving to be another leggy chapter in the series. The film finished with $220.1 million domestically and $791.1 million globally, setting franchise highs and ranking 8th for the year on both counts.

As a cinematic series, Mission: Impossible has generated more than $1.15 billion domestically and nearly $3.6 billion worldwide — underlining it and Tom Cruise’s own popularity with global audiences.

Production is currently underway on the seventh and eighth installments, delayed slightly by the COVID-19 pandemic and now slated to release on November 19, 2021 and November 4, 2022, respectively.

On the eve of the 50th anniversary of one of science fiction’s most iconic and prolific franchises, Paramount continued its big screen reboot with 2016’s Star Trek Beyond after two successful entries in 2009 and 2013.

Beyond saw the Fast & Furious franchise helmer Justin Lin take over the reigns from J.J. Abrams as the latter was neck-deep in production on Star Wars: The Force Awakens during the middle part of the decade. Still, Lin kept the modern series “on brand” with the established action set pieces and ensemble-driven story that helped Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness appeal to casual moviegoers (despite drawing some ire from purist Trek fans).

Garnering positive reviews and word of mouth once again, the third film in Paramount’s rebooted saga (now referred to as “The Kelvin Timeline”) was a very successful performer by Trek standards — ranking third among the modern films, but still out-grossing the ten films before it. Unfortunately, a $185 million production budget clouded its fate as a theatrical performer.

Beyond debuted to $59.3 million, down slightly from the blockbuster showings of Abrams’ initial reboot and Into Darkness‘s own healthy results, finishing with $158.9 million stateside and $343.5 million globally — ranking 16th and 26th in 2016, respectively.

Speculation about a fourth entry in the Kelvin series has persisted in the years since, but Paramount hasn’t confirmed anything whilst they have simultaneously moved ahead with expanding the Trek franchise on the small screen again via several new television series, as well as unrelated big screen films from Noah Hawley and Quentin Tarantino that may or may not happen.

Through three films, the modern Treks have earned $645.4 million domestically and $1.2 billion worldwide.

Continuing the franchise theme, The Wolverine shows up next on the countdown with its $53.1 million debut in 2013.

Hugh Jackman’s second solo effort as the leading X-Man didn’t quite live up to the $85.1 million debut of 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but that was largely due to the latter film’s own lukewarm reception by fans — not to mention the overall franchise’s diminishing returns spurred by ever-increasing confusion as to where in the timeline and universe each sequel landed.

Regardless, director James Mangold did his part to help give the character a stronger second solo act as the film generated $132.6 million domestically and $414.8 million worldwide, ranking 22nd and 15th for 2013, respectively.

The Wolverine followed in the footsteps of 2011’s X-Men: First Class, while preceding 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, as films that helped reinstate some franchise goodwill among both fans and casual viewers. Demand was ultimately strong enough to inspire Jackman’s finale as the character in 2017’s Logan, which posted some of the best results of any X-Men-related film to date.

Rounding out the list of top action openers, this weekend also played host to a widely anticipated sequel sixteen years ago: The Bourne Supremacy.

Following an incredibly leggy performance by 2001’s The Bourne Identity, which earned $121.7 million after a modest $27.1 million opening weekend and shot Matt Damon into the action star stratsophere, moviegoers were itching for the follow-up adaptation of author Robert Ludlum’s novels and the Jason Bourne character.

As director Paul Greengrass took over from Doug Liman, Supremacy was one of summer 2004’s top counter-programmers with a $52.5 million debut. The first sequel kept the burgeoning franchise’s momentum going with another well-received chapter that topped out at $176.2 million domestically and $290.6 million worldwide, ranking 8th and 14th for 2004, respectively.

Supremacy and Identity‘s crowd-pleasing natures would eventually lead to 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum becoming the most successful box office performer of the franchise, followed by a 2012 spin-off (The Bourne Legacy) and Damon’s return with 2016’s Jason Bourne.

Beyond those franchise films, this weekend has also delivered a number of other actioners debuting to strong results, not the least of which include 2014’s Lucy ($43.9 million), 1997’s Air Force One ($37.1 million), and 2010’s Salt ($36 million).

2020 also marks the 25th anniversary of Waterworld‘s $21.2 million opening, which was infamously regarded as one of the biggest flops in Hollywood history (having cost a massive $175 million at the time and yielding $264 million in global box office receipts). However, depending on one’s view of Hollywood accounting, history has lent further perspective on the film’s financial fate.

Prestige Releases

Summer may be synonymous with popcorn fare, but in 1998, Steven Spielberg used the late season’s corridor to release one of his — and cinema’s — most widely acclaimed films of all time: Saving Private Ryan.

The director had already enjoyed plenty of event-level summer success by that point in his career, but his portrayal of World War II’s D-Day and a first career team-up with star Tom Hanks — also in the prime of his 1990s cinematic hot streak — drew palpable interest from moviegoers of all backgrounds. In particular, anticipation for the venerable director’s approach to an all-out war film was sky high among veterans of multiple generations following the resounding acclaim of 1993’s Best Picture Oscar-winner, Schindler’s List.

Saving Private Ryan counter-programmed the usual summer blockbusters in a major way, drawing a $30.6 million debut weekend — an impressive figure in those days for an R-rated film, particularly one opening in July. It was the 8th highest debut of 1998, second among R-rated pics behind Lethal Weapon 4‘s $34.1 million.

Par for the Spielberg course, the film drew rave reviews and has aged to become universally regarded as one of the greatest war films in cinematic history. Ryan enjoyed a remarkable box office run that saw it win four consecutive weekends domestically, remaining in the top three for seven weeks and the top ten for twelve weeks (excluding returns to fifth place twice and seventh place once with a February 1999 re-release as part of award season).

Speaking of Oscars, Saving Private Ryan was nominated ten times — winning five, including four in technical categories and another Best Director trophy for Spielberg to go alongside his Schindler‘s victory. It’s loss to Shakespeare in Love for Best Picture is still regarded as one of the Oscar’s most shocking upsets, though.

At the box office, Ryan legged out to an incredible $216.5 million domestically and $481.8 million worldwide by the end of its run. It was the top-earning domestic release of 1998, while finishing in second place behind Armageddon‘s $553.7 million on the global chart for that year.

Among R-rated films, Ryan became the highest grosser in domestic history at the time — surpassing Terminator 2: Judgment Day’s $204.8 million domestically — and second highest globally, behind that same film’s $517 million.

Spielberg’s film remained the highest grossing war genre picture in history for 16 years until it was unseated by 2014’s American Sniper, which earned $350 million domestically and $547.4 million globally.

In more recent history, another household name delivered one of his career’s most well-received works on this weekend just one year ago. The ninth film from Quentin Tarantino proved to be another major success for the filmmaker as Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood delivered the top opening of his career so far with $41.1 million.

Again drawing the adoration of critics and fans, Hollywood was the second summer counter-programmer released by Tarantino — arriving ten years after his previous hit, Inglourious Basterds. Again casting Leonardo DiCaprio (following a supporting role in Django Unchained) and Brad Pitt (Basterds), plus rising star Margot Robbie, the star power of actors and director combined helped make the film an instant must-see.

Staying power was notable again with a final domestic result of $142.5 million, ranking 20th for the year and 6th among R-rated films. Globally, Hollywood topped out at $374.3 million with a 24th place ranking. Both figures represent the second highest results of Tarantino’s career, trailing only Django‘s $162.8 million stateside and $449.8 million worldwide grosses.

The film was nominated for ten Oscars, winning twice for Production Design and Brad Pitt’s supporting actor trophy.

This weekend also saw the release of Seabiscuit in 2003, which registered a $20.9 million first weekend before legging out to $120.3 million domestically. The film was a crowd-pleaser and seven-time Oscar nominee, including nods for Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay, but the lack of significant international revenue at the time (earning just $28.1 million overseas) meant the film’s bottom line at the box office was somewhat middling.

Produced for $87 million, Seabiscuit earned $148.3 million worldwide. Despite never ranking higher than fourth place on the domestic weekend charts, it remained in the top ten for eight weekends during the height of its run.

Rounding out some of the top prestige titles to open on this weekend is the adaptation of John Grisham’s A Time to Kill, which debuted to $14.8 million back in 1996. A stellar ensemble led by Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, and many others, alongside the film’s (still unfortunately relevant) subject matter, drew moviegoer interest from diverse backgrounds.

A Time to Kill was ultimately another prime example of successful summer counter-programming. The drama spent nine weeks in the top ten, including two first place finishes. Its $108.8 million domestic finish ranked 10th for the year, while its $152.3 million globally registered 19th place.

Top 10 Three-Day Weekend Grosses for Weekend #30

  1. The Simpsons Movie ($74 million, 2007)
  2. Austin Powers in Goldmember ($73.1 million, 2002)
  3. Planet of the Apes (2001) ($68.5 million, 2001)
  4. Mission: Impossible – Fallout ($61.2 million, 2018)
  5. Star Trek Beyond ($59.3 million, 2016)
  6. The Wolverine ($53.1 million, 2013)
  7. The Bourne Supremacy ($52.5 million, 2004)
  8. Lucy ($43.9 million, 2014)
  9. The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps ($42.5 million, 2000)
  10. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood ($41.1 million, 2019)

More Notable Three-Day Openings on Weekend #30

  • Air Force One ($37.1 million, 1997)
  • Cowboys & Aliens ($36.4 million, 2011)
  • Salt ($36 million, 2010)
  • The Smurfs ($35.6 million, 2011)
  • The Haunting ($33.4 million, 1999)
  • Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over ($32.5 million, 2003)
  • G-Force ($31.7 million, 2009)
  • Step Brothers ($30.9 million, 2008)
  • Saving Private Ryan ($30.6 million, 1998)
  • Hercules ($29.8 million, 2014)
  • The Ugly Truth ($27.6 million, 2009)
  • Miami Vice ($25.7 million, 2006)
  • The Emoji Movie ($24.5 million, 2017)
  • Pixels ($24 million, 2015)
  • The Mask ($23.1 million, 1994)
  • Inspector Gadget ($21.9 million, 1999)
  • Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life ($21.8 million, 2003)
  • Lights Out ($21.7 million, 2016)
  • Ice Age: Collision Course ($21.4 million, 2016)
  • Waterworld ($21.2 million, 1996)
  • Seabiscuit ($20.9 million, 2003)
  • Crazy, Stupid, Love. ($19.1 million, 2011)
  • Atomic Blonde ($18.3 million, 2017)
  • Catwoman ($16.7 million, 2004)
  • Southpaw ($16.7 million, 2015)
  • A Time to Kill ($14.8 million, 1996)
  • Sky High ($14.6 million, 2005)
  • John Tucker Must Die ($14.3 million, 2006)
  • Stealth ($13.3 million, 2005)
  • Orphan ($12.9 million, 2009)
  • National Lampoon’s European Vacation ($12.3 million, 1985)
  • Turner & Hooch ($12.2 million, 1989)
  • The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas ($11.9 million, 1982)
  • Presumed Innocent ($11.7 million, 1990)
  • Poetic Justice ($11.7 million, 1993)
  • Problem Child ($10 million, 1990)
  • The X-Files: I Want to Believe ($10 million, 2008)
  • National Lampoon’s Vacation ($8.3 million, 1983)
  • The Amityville Horror ($7.84 million, 1979)
  • Purple Rain ($7.8 million, 1984)
  • Coneheads ($7.1 million, 1993)
  • Good Burger ($7.1 million, 1997)
  • Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan ($6.3 million, 1989)
  • Superman IV: The Quest for Peace ($5.68 million, 1987)
  • La Bamba ($5.65 million, 1987)
  • Caddyshack ($3.1 million, 1980)
  • Detroit ($350K at 20 locations, 2017)
  • Train to Busan ($285K at 27 locations, 2016)
  • National Lampoon’s Animal House ($276K at 12 locations, 1978)

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.

Photo Credits: 20th Century Fox, New Line Cinema, Paramount, Universal, Sony / Columbia, DreamWorks
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