As the middle of August approaches and the reopening of major domestic theater chains is just around the corner, we’re continuing our retrospective back into the box office archives with a look at the 33rd weekend of the year and its past standouts.
Before the pandemic, this weekend was originally slated to see the release of Sony’s Escape Room 2 (now scheduled for December 30 later this year), Warner Bros. and James Wan’s Malignant (currently unset), Universal’s Nobody starring Bob Odenkirk (shuffled to February 19, 2021), and Disney’s The One and Only Ivan (now an August 21 straight-to-streaming release on Disney+).
Sleepers & Breakouts
The crown for this weekend currently belongs to Straight Outta Compton, the 2015 N.W.A biopic from director F. Gary Gray that shattered expectations and provided one of the final pieces of the second biggest summer box office season on record.
Compton bowed to $60.2 million on opening weekend, delivering what proved to be the second biggest debut of the year by an original film (trailing only Pixar’s Inside Out at $90.4 million, an all-time record for an original movie at that point).
The film ultimately earned $161.2 million domestically, drawing critical and commercial praise, ranked 19th — tops among non-animated original movies — for the year, and an overall $201.6 million global total off a $28 million budget. Writers Andrea Berloff and Jonathan Herman were nominated for an Oscar in the Best Original Screenplay category.
Six years earlier, District 9 capitalized on thirst for a thought-provoking genre film as summer wound down and adults discovered something for them. Neill Blomkamp’s first major feature enjoyed a buzzy marketing campaign throughout the summer with a trailer that captured moviegoers attention and leveraged Peter Jackson’s prominent producing credit.
Bowing to $37.4 million in its domestic debut, District 9 was an instant sleeper hit — making more than its $30 million production budget by the end of opening weekend and claiming one of the top debuts for an original film in 2009.
The film’s staying power was notable as well, earning strong reception from a variety of moviegoers, going on to finish with $115.7 million stateside and $210.9 million worldwide. District 9 was the recipient of four Academy Award nominations (Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Visual Effects, and Film Editing).
More recently, this weekend played host to one of the biggest rom-coms in recent memory: 2018’s Crazy Rich Asians. Adapted from Kevin Kwan’s 2013 novel, the film proved its genre could still be lucrative on the big screen after several years of misfires and quiet performers. More importantly, the film’s performance highlighted demand for more representation of Asian Americans on the big screen.
Crazy Rich Asians opted for a midweek debut to help drum up buzz going into opening weekend, ultimately raking in $26.5 million over the three-day frame and a $35.3 million five-day start.
Staying power followed from there as the film legged out to $174.5 million domestically, ranking 17th for the year, and $238.5 million globally (ranking 37th) off a modest $30 million production cost.
A sequel based on its novel counterpart, China Rich Girlfriend, is currently planned by Warner Bros.
After decades of trope-filled war movies finding big success in theaters, 2008’s Tropic Thunder sharply skewered the genre in respectable and memorable ways. Drawing strong buzz for months in advance, director and star Ben Stiller’s send-up collected a strong ensemble cast replete with now-iconic cameos (notably Tom Cruise’s Les Grossman) in a hard-R setting.
Tropic Thunder bowed on a Wednesday, just one week after Pineapple Express — making both of their successes all the more impressive. Stiller’s film drew a $25.8 three-day frame and $36.85 million overall five-day bow, going on to finish with $110.5 million domestically. The film’s global total, $195.7 million, was strong enough to help put the expensive-for-a-comedy ($90 million+ production costs) in the win column.
Notably, Robert Downey, Jr. received his second career Oscar nomination for instantly sending “the dude playing a dude disguised as another dude” into the all-time comedy annals.
Rise of the Apatow Alumni
We’ve previously referred to hit films like Knocked Up, This Is the End, Pineapple Express and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but this weekend in particular has been a sweet spot for writer/director/producer Judd Apatow and the many talents he’s helped bring to the forefront of comedy over the past two decades.
Apatow’s own directorial debut arrived fifteen years ago with Steve Carell’s star turn as The 40-Year-Old Virgin. The film began its run humbly enough with a $21.4 million opening weekend, but word of mouth instantly caught fire and helped the film capture the first place spot twice in a row at the weekend box office.
It remained in the top five for five weeks before legging out to a $109.45 million stateside, a sum that helped it rank 19th among 2005 releases. The film has remained one of the most popular of Apatow’s catalog thus far, arguably delivering one of the most quoted moments of 21st century comedy.
Just two years later, Seth Rogen — fresh off the breakout success of Knocked Up earlier in the same 2007 summer — co-wrote Superbad, starring Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse — not to forget Emma Stone in a breakout supporting role.
Appealing to a slightly younger crowd than Knocked Up, Rogen and writing partner Evan Goldberg’s valentine to their own youth actually out-opened the aforementioned film ($33.05 million versus $30.7 million) — thanks in no small part to the Apatow connection, whom also produced Superbad.
With a first place opening, where it remained for two weekends, and top-ten rankings through its first six weeks of play, Superbad legged out to $121.5 million domestically and became one of the biggest original comedies of the year. Produced for just $20 million, the film took in $170.8 million worldwide and has gone on to become one of many popular staples in the Apatow canon.
Jumping ahead into the next decade, Rogen and Goldberg returned as writers for 2016’s raunchy animated hit, Sausage Party. Par for the course, the film featured a cornucopia of star voices from the comedy genre — Rogen and other Apatow alumni included.
Long in development, and forcing parents to do a double take when buying their tickets for the new animated movie, Sausage Party was produced for a mere $19 million and instantly won its target audience with $34.3 million on opening weekend.
With $97.7 million domestic and $140.7 million global finishes, the genre-pushing, adults-only cartoon proved to be another money-maker for the prolific talents behind it.
Just one year ago, the torch was handed down yet again as Rogen and Goldberg produced Good Boys from writers Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, whom also made their directorial debut with the film.
Billed by many, and affectionately, as “Superbad for tweens”, the hard-R comedy with stars too young to buy a ticket themselves brought in $21.4 million in its domestic debut, claiming first place on opening weekend. The comedy would go on to spend five weeks in the top four, and eight in the top ten.
As another leggy, late summer success, Good Boys drew $83.1 million stateside and $111 million globally off just $20 million in production expenses. In North America, it was the second highest grossing original comedy of 2019 behind Rian Johnson’s Knives Out.
’80s Horror and Adrenaline Nostalgia
Pop culture at-large has become saturated with doses of 1980s nostalgia over the past decade, but it’s a trend with roots dating back to the early 2000s. That’s when, after years of giddy fantasies and fan fiction, lovers of Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street got their long-anticipated Freddy vs. Jason match-up on the big screen.
As two icons of 1980s thriller cinema, the promise of Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees was too much for even the casual horror fan to pass up. The New Line Cinema showdown bowed to $36.4 million on opening weekend back in 2003, which at the time ranked as the sixth best August opening in history — not to mention the second best in horror/thriller history, trailing only Hannibal‘s $58 million bow in 2001.
Representative of the genre at-large in the years since, Freddy vs. Jason was unsurprisingly front-loaded as it finished with $82.6 million domestically. Still, finishing with $116.6 million worldwide off a $30 million production budget, it’s one of many examples in the genre’s consistent history of profit-turners.
Not to be outdone for oft-hyped battles royale, 20th Century Fox jumped into the ring one year later with 2004’s Alien vs. Predator. The two franchises were prominent in the ’80s and into the early ’90s as sci-fi action tentpoles, some entries of which have gone on to become regarded as classics in genre cinema.
The results for AvP were eerily similar to those of FvJ one year prior. The former bowed to $38.3 million on opening weekend and finished with $80.3 million in North America. Although it cost a slightly heftier $60 million to produce, Alien vs. Predator won the global box office war with a $177.4 million finish.
Proving profitable in the long run, and never one to let a lucrative franchise go to waste, Fox went on to greenlight a sequel in the years after. 2007’s Alien vs. Predator: Requiem drew diminished returns stateside ($41.8 million), but a still-respectable $130.3 million globally.
Rounding out the throwback theme, this weekend was a lucky charm for Sylvester Stallone as his Expendables trilogy saw all three films open on this exact frame.
2010’s original film, produced for $80 million, provided the adrenaline-fueled camp loved by fans of similar movies in decades past as it pulled in $34.8 million on opening weekend on the back of a strong action star ensemble. After spending two weeks in first place, The Expendables ultimately banked $103.1 million domestically and $274.5 million globally, leading to a quick greenlight from Lionsgate for more mayhem.
Two years later, in 2012, Stallone and company returned with an bigger canvas, budget ($100 million), and cast of action icons new and old. The Expendables 2 found $28.6 million on opening weekend stateside, spending two weeks in first place and five in the top five. The first sequel fell a bit shy of its predecessor domestically with $85 million, but improved on the international front with a $315 million global gross.
Returning to the well one more time, The Expendables 3 offered up even *more* action, mayhem, and genre stars from different generations. Unfortunately, it showed signs of diminished returns with just a $15.9 million domestic debut, falling out of the top ten after three weekends. Global revenues clocked in at $214.7 million, propelled largely by overseas moviegoers as domestic patrons sent it to just $39.3 million domestic in the end.
Top 10 Three-Day Weekend Grosses for Weekend #33
- Straight Outta Compton ($60.2 million, 2015)
- Alien vs. Predator ($38.3 million, 2004)
- District 9 ($37.35 million, 2009)
- Freddy vs. Jason ($36.4 million, 2003)
- The Expendables ($34.8 million, 2010)
- Sausage Party ($34.3 million, 2016)
- Superbad ($33.05 million, 2007)
- The Expendables 2 ($28.6 million, 2012)
- Crazy Rich Asians ($26.5 million, 2018)
- Tropic Thunder ($25.8 million, 2008)
More Notable Three-Day Openings on Weekend #33
- Lee Daniels’ The Butler ($24.6 million, 2013)
- Mortal Kombat ($23.3 million, 1995)
- Eat Pray Love ($23.1 million, 2010)
- The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement ($23 million, 2004)
- Pete’s Dragon (2016) ($21.5 million, 2016)
- The 40-Year-Old Virgin ($21.4 million, 2005)
- Good Boys ($21.4 million, 2019)
- The Hitman’s Bodyguard ($21.4 million, 2017)
- The Time Traveler’s Wife ($18.6 million, 2009)
- Bowfinger ($18.1 million, 1999)
- Let’s Be Cops ($17.8 million, 2014)
- The Cell ($17.5 million, 2000)
- Red Eye ($16.2 million, 2005)
- The Expendables 3 ($15.9 million, 2014)
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars ($14.6 million, 2008)
- Blue Crush ($14.2 million, 2002)
- Open Range ($14.1 million, 2003)
- ParaNorman ($14.1 million, 2012)
- Snakes on a Plane ($13.85 million, 2006)
- Mile 22 ($13.7 million, 2018)
- Cop Land ($13.5 million, 1997)
- The Man from U.N.C.L.E. ($13.4 million, 2015)
- Kick-Ass 2 ($13.3 million, 2013)
- The Giver ($12.3 million, 2014)
- Rat Race ($11.7 million, 2001)
- Spy Kids 4-D ($11.6 million, 2011)
- Sparkle ($11.6 million, 2012)
- How Stella Got Her Groove Back ($11.3 million, 1998)
- Uptown Girls ($11.3 million, 2003)
- Mirrors ($11.2 million, 2008)
- The Original Kings of Comedy ($11.1 million, 2000)
- Smokey and the Bandit II ($10.9 million, 1980)
- The Odd Life of Timothy Green ($10.8 million, 2012)
- Scott Pilgrim vs. The World ($10.6 million, 2010)
- Alpha ($10.35 million, 2018)
- The Angry Birds Movie 2 ($10.35 million, 2019)
- The Avengers ($10.3 million, 1998)
- Single White Female ($10.2 million, 1992)
- Tin Cup ($10.1 million, 1996)
- Accepted ($10 million, 2006)
- Conan the Barbarian (2010) ($10 million, 2011)
- Event Horizon ($9.5 million, 1997)
- Friday the 13th Part III ($9.4 million, 1982)
- The Exorcist III ($9.3 million, 1990)
- Tightrope ($9.2 million, 1984)
- Uncle Buck ($8.8 million, 1989)
- Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday ($7.55 million, 1993)
- The Fly ($7 million, 1986)
- Young Guns ($7 million, 1988)
- Florence Foster Jenkins ($6.6 million, 2016)
- Easy Money ($5.8 million, 1983)
- Volunteers ($5.2 million, 1985)
- Return of the Living Dead ($4.4 million, 1985)
- Star Wars: A New Hope (1982 Re-Release) ($3.77 million, 1982)
- Fast Times at Ridgemont High ($2.55 million, 1982)
- The Full Monty ($177K at 6 locations, 1997)
- Monty Python’s The Life of Brian ($140K at 5 locations, 1979)
- Apocalypse Now ($119K at 3 locations, 1979)
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.