This Week in Box Office History: The Sequel! (Focus: 1984)

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This Week in Box Office History

This week is intriguing, in that our current roster of films are all either reboots, remakes, spin-offs, or sequels, but our list of successful films from 1984 are all original properties that went on to spawn many follow up attempts.  What a difference 30 years makes, eh?

The Week That Was: Results (actual/predicted)

Oh, so THAT'S what makes this watchable...
Oh, so THAT’S what makes this watchable…

1.  Ninja Turtles (65 Million)/  Same (55 Million)

The rebooted foot-clan fighting turtles managed a stronger opening than anticipated…or hoped.  Consequently, a sequel has already been announced.  I guess you can really turn these suckers out if you don’t have to waste any time on writing a decent script or hiring any talent.

 

2.  Guardians of the Galaxy (42 Million)/ Same (40 Million)

The Guardians held strong, both overall, and compared to their Marvel compatriots.  The test will really be the third week, as August is about to get cluttered with movies, such as this week’s Expendables 3, that are all aimed at the same market.  A stronger than average showing amongst women should help Guardians.

If you squint real hard, you can see that this film has a cast.
If you squint real hard, you can see that this film has a cast.

3.  Into the Storm (17 Million)/  Step Up All In (15 Million)

The faceless force of nature thriller, Into the Storm, managed to oust competition for third place this week.  Despite little star power, it beat early projections, though its future is still up in the air.  Get it?  Oh never mind…

Step Up All In turned an ankle this weekend and fell down, well short of the studio’s expectations.  Guess we can look forward to Step Up:  Desperation to arrive directly on Netflix.

The Week That Will Be:  Predictions

3.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (25 Million)

This is a busy week, and a major test for the terrible terrapins:  if they fall out of the top three this week, they are going to most likely miss out on making back their 120 million budget, at least domestically.  It’s impossible to understand the draw Bay has in the Chinese market.  I feel that the TMNT will just barely edge out Let’s Be Cops, which is part of a lucrative genre (Ride Along and 22 Jump Street have made a mint this summer on the buddy cop comedy scene), but lacks the star power of a Kevin Hart or Jonah Hill.

2.  The Expendables 3 (3o Million)

Stallone’s latest outing is banking on face-recognition as being the same thing as interest on the part of audiences.  He has stiff competition this weekend for viewers eager for his brand (which, make the appropriate Viagra reference yourself.)  Perhaps his gamble on chucking most of his veteran team-mates to the curb mid-movie in favor of younger stars will pay out…though his young stable of talent is mostly famous for MMA wins and not for acting prowess.  Hard to say if this one will make the grade, but a lot of aging stars retirement accounts are on the line…

So, $20 a piece and you all go away?  Deal.
So, $20 a piece and you all go away? Deal.

1.  The Giver (35 Million)

The original YA novel about teens overcoming a society that enforces boredom and social status.  So, another thinly veiled dig at high school.  Hopefully the talents of Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep can steer this literary classic around the mopey rocks of teenage angst overload.

No, man, I'm like The Giver, man, that's what you call me!
No, man, I’m like The Giver, man, that’s what you call me!

Top Movies:  1984

Repeat after me, Eddie: retire after 1990.  Good.
Repeat after me, Eddie: retire after 1990. Good.

Top Grossing:  Beverly Hills Cop

Every time a buddy cop movie gets made (see above) the studio head has fever dreams of becoming the next Beverly Hills Cop.  The secret to Axel Foley’s success are threefold:  first, have Eddie Murphy as the lead bad-boy cop when he is at the top of his game.  Second flip the race-card upside down with a smart and edgy black detective who is constantly saving his white sidekick’s keister.  Third, give up, since you’re never going to make a police comedy that is as funny, irreverent, and smart as Beverly Hills Cop.

Academy Award Best Picture:  Amadeus

Complicated.
Complicated.

The classic story of the mostly ginned-up rivalry between musical wunderkind  Mozart and his most eminent rival, Salieri, Amadeus was a shocking success.  Starring an untested young actor as Mozart (Tom Hulce, previously of Animal House fame) and a masterful F. Murray Abraham as Salieri, Amadeus is a riveting story fraut with court intrigue, personal vendettas, and amazingly staged productions of Mozart’s most famous works.  The film follows Salieri, a talented but insecure composer as he relates a deathbed confession after attempting suicide:  Salieri believes he murdered Mozart, and is living under punishment from God for the act.  The story then heads back in time to Imperial Vienna as Mozart arrives, a young and celebrate composer.  He quickly draws Salieri’s ire for his amazing talent and vulgar, common manner.  Salieri embarks on a crusade to prevent Mozart from working, and this strain causes the young genius to become increasingly desperate…until Salieri provides him the ultimate task:  create a Requiem that will change the world (and which Salieri intends to steal out from under Mozart.)  The rest of the film f0llows the tragic arc of Mozart’s continuing dissolution.  Hulce is fresh and invigorating as Mozart, and Abraham gives the performance of a lifetime.  If you’ve missed this tale, or avoided it due to the subject matter, I heartily recommend it; this is no dull opera, but a mesmerizing tragedy of spite, arrogance, and genius.twboh mozart

Longest at #1:  Ghostbusters

They came.  They saw.  They kicked some box-office ass!  The original masterpiece that spawned a mostly forgettable sequel, a wonderful animated series, and undying rumors of a third film, Ghostbusters dominated for 7 straight weeks at the top spot back in 1984.  It is hard to imagine anyone who has not seen this gem, but if you haven’t, or just wish to honor the recent passing of star and writer, Harold Ramis, call the boys down at Ghostbusters…they’re ready to believe you.

Oh God, Ray, what did you do?!  Did you write a sequel?!  Ray?!
Oh God, Ray, what did you do?! Did you write a sequel?! Ray?!

Our Pick:  Dune

Laugh all you want, when I got home I tore the heads off of all your toys!
Laugh all you want, when I got home I tore the heads off of all your toys!

This week was a toss up.  Ghostbusters, Conan the Destroyer, The Last Starfighter, and The Karate Kid were all very strong contenders.  One of my all time favorite films, Gremlins (which I saw with my father as a child in a run down local theater that looked so eerily like the one in the film, that I ran screaming out of the building during the terrifying scene in which the gremlins claw through a movie screen, my dad sheepishly following in my blazing footsteps) is up for a nod this week.  How could I possibly pass these iconic films up?

This is your pilot speaking, you can start screaming any time now.
This is your pilot speaking, you can start screaming any time now.

Well, it’s all about opportunity this week.  Frank Herbert’s space opera, Dune, is so complex and ambitious, few have even dared to attempt it.  One director, subject of a wonderful documentary that released this year, nearly ruined himself and his movie studio attempting to create a book-faithful version of the story.  When legendarily eccentric auteur, David Lynch, took a stab at it, it nearly killed his career.  In fact, in one cut of the film, Lynch actually edits out his own name, due to anger at the studio over editing rights.  The film is ponderous, gargantuan, oddly paced, and failed both critically and commercially.  And it is amazing.  Not so bad it’s good, Dune is on a whole different level.  It is so mind numbingly different, so alien, you feel you’re not watching terrestrial cinema.

The Spice also gives you great hair.
The Spice also gives you great hair.

The story features the galactic squabble between two minor houses over control of the vital Spice, a product that makes all civilization possible:  space pilots must breath it to travel faster than light, human thinkers must ingest it in liquid form to rival computers (which are anathema and restricted), and the religious power of the Sisterhood must consume it in order to peer backwards and forwards through time.  The two houses are pawns in a larger scheme, where the Imperial House hopes to wipe them both out and use the war to grab all Spice production for itself.  Into the gentle house Atreides, young Duke Paul has been experiencing visions, something no male should be able to do.  The Sisterhood is terrified that he may become the Messiah who will end their control and dominate the cosmos for generations.  Every hand is against young Paul and his family, and his journey from Duke, to rebel, to God is terrifying and exhilarating.

OK, Jurgen wins two weeks in a row.  Can I go for three?
OK, Jurgen wins two weeks in a row. Can I go for three?

Filled with amazing talent (Kyle MacLachlin is Paul, Patrick Stewart is his loyal weapon master, Jurgen Prochnow is his father, Max Von Sydow his teacher, and Sting is his mortal rival), surreal visuals, interesting (if dated) special effects, and a mind-bending plot, Dune is one of those projects that continually frustrates:  it is impossible to capture perfectly on film, but every attempt is a pleasure to watch.

Information courtesy of Box Office Mojo.  Used with permission.

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