This Week In Box Office History: Turtle Power or Open Manhole? (Focus: 1983)

This Week in Box Office History

Missed last weeks predictions, so this week we have just pure results.  We also have a Michael Bay project on the horizon, so feel free to run for the hills.  In Movie History, we have a fun spread of genres, from the prototypical blockbuster, Star Wars, to an atypical comedy about gender roles, Tootsie.  Let’s get down to numbers first.

The Week That Was:  Results

This Week in Box Office History
Got your sequel material right here.

1.   Guardians of the Galaxy (94 million)

Chris Pratt and company cleaned house and earned their place in the Marvel pantheon this weekend.  Guardians grossed just shy of Cap Am 2, and actually beat Thor 2.  With very little name recognition or installed fan base, Marvel has shown it can pretty much summon hit movies via force of will at this point.  Now can I please get me a Doctor Strange/Adam Warlock cross up movie.  Please?



This Week in Box Office History
Unfortunately, this soul train missed its connection.

2.  Lucy (18 million)

Luc Besson’s latest fell on hard times this week, but still managed at least a nominal second place.  Word of mouth on this film after it’s initial outing was mixed, so the studio can probably at least count their blessings that they managed a stronger hold than The Rock’s Hercules.

3.  Get On Up (14 million)

Musical biopics are hit and miss, and apparently James Brown didn’t quite have the visibility that Johnny Cash or Ray Charles mustered to create successful outings.

The Week That Will Be:  Predictions

3.  Step Up – All In (15 million)

For third place I have to choose between a dopey teen dance flick and a natural disaster movie that appears to have come out of nowhere.  While I think BOTH films will be a disaster for their respective studios, I think there may be a bit more forgiveness with audiences for the latest Step Up iteration.

2.  Guardians of the Galaxy (40 million)

Guardians is generating great press, has a fun premise, and will still leverage the Marvel brand’s attractive powers.  Although it is in a much busier period than Winter Soldier, I think it will still managed to hold decently.  In my heart of hearts, I hope that Guardians provides the excuse for many viewers to skip the mutated monstrosity of TMNT.

This Week in Box Office History
It takes a real weird mindset to look at the TMNT and think nostrils and beady eyes are what were missing.

1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (55 million)

This film looks like a stinker straight from the sewers.  The character models are hideous, the humor consists of slapping as many 90’s cultural references into a conversation as will fit, and the plot is about as generic a Michael Bay product as you can imagine (up to and including a freaking robotic Shredder.)  I really hope this flick bombs, but audiences just don’t seem to have had their fill of studios strip mining 90’s cartoons just yet (I have a feeling the live action Gem movie will nail that coffin shut).  If this production belly flops, it could gross as low as Battleship in the 20 million range, but I think it will perform more in line with the GI Joe franchise in the 45-55 million ballpark.  Either way, we have nobody to blame but ourselves Michael Bay.

Top Movies:  1983

This Week in Box Office History
Still one of the coolest customers in the galaxy.

Top Grossing Movie:  Return of the Jedi

The final installment of the Star Wars trilogy made a big splash back in 1983.  Despite hints of the cartoonish debacle the series was destined to become, Return of the Jedi stuck to the winning formula that A New Hope established:  a three pronged plot that followed the rebellion on the ground and in the stars, and a climactic battle between good and evil with glowing swords that sounded like balloon animals being mashed together.  They even managed to blow up another Death Star, which turned out to be less a fearsome battle station and more a gigantic space-version of the Ford Pinto, complete with extreme combustibility.  Awfully sporting of the empire to enlarge that tiny exhaust shaft from the first film to allow whole dang ships to fly down it…


This Week in Box Office History
Jack Nicholson, seen here photo-bombing his own movie.

Academy Award Best Picture:  Terms of Endearment

A challenging and rewarding film focussed on the love/hate relationship between a mother and daughter, Terms of Endearment certainly did endear itself with the Academy.  Stars Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger were excellent, and Jack Nicholson and Jeff Daniels turned in memorable supporting roles as the flawed love interests who ultimately help to unite mother and daughter after years of separation.  The film explores issues of passion versus constancy, independence versus family, and resilience through adversity.  Often touching and somber, there is still quite a bit of unexpected happiness to be found here as MacLaine and Winger come to terms with life and each other.

Longest Time at #1:  Tootsie

This Week in Box Office History
That’s confidence.

Dustin Hoffman plays a perfectionist actor so enervating that no production is willing to work with him.  When an acting student acquaintance (Teri Garr) brings opening auditions for a soap opera to his attention, Hoffman decides to try out for the show as well…in drag.  With his new persona, Hoffman lands a role, but manages to nearly ruin his friendships and love life in the process.  His alter-ego takes audiences by storm, and as his (actually her) fame grows, Hoffman finds himself re-evaluating much of his life.

Tootsie is satirical and tongue in cheek, but never frivolous.  Layered into the mad-cap comedy are many razor-sharp critiques of gender, show business, and personal identity that elevate Tootsie above so many other gender-bender comedies.

Our Pick:  The Twilight Zone- The Movie

This Week in Box Office History
Keep it classy, Bond.

Once again, many wonderful movies make choosing a personal favorite nearly impossible.  Return of the Jedi certainly left a lasting impression on my taste in movies (and toys, and light up sticks with which to swat passer-bys), and many great comedies also vie for the top spot this year:  National Lampoon’s Vacation (Chevy may be Chevy, but this movie is a classic), the perennial yule-tide favorite A Christmas Story, and Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy‘s brilliant social/racial satire, Trading Places.  1983 also had plenty of action, including Pacino as a coked up drug kingpin in Scarface, and two Bonds (both Connery’s Never Say Never Again, and Roger Moore’s over-the-top Octopussy.)  They’re all great, but my nod this week goes to Rod Serling‘s legacy: The Twilight Zone, the Movie.

A rare conjunction of super directors ( Steven Spielberg, John Landis, and others all contribute), The Twilight Zone is actually four vignettes welded together, capturing some of the best loved stories from the original television series, as well as a prologue and epilogue of largely new material done in the classic style of the iconic show.  Big stars abound, though you may not recognize them at first:  in The Twilight Zone, the story takes center stage, and the actors do tremendous work losing themselves in the roles.

This Week in Box Office History
To be honest, it’s hard to steal a scene from a giant murder-rabbit.
This Week in Box Office History
Just make sure this movie isn’t your in-flight film.

If you’ve never experienced the unfettered imagination of the original series (or of the many collections of stories that Serling curated) you owe it to yourself to watch the big budget renditions of some of the most iconic Sci Fi and Horror pieces ever created.  If you find yourself lost in the Zone, there is half a decade’s worth of intriguing material in the show’s the original run.  There are few places as strange and memorable as...The Twilight Zone.


Information courtesy of Box Office Mojo.  Used with permission.

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