This Week in Box Office History: Summer Slump

This Week in Box Office History takes a look at the last 30 years of top grossing movies.  Sifting through the celluloid, we nail down audiences preferences and spot the trends in movie watching history.  This week we’ve got a mess on our hands, with trends being extremely weak.  Let’s put on our thinking caps and see if we can’t figure out what the heck was going on this week.

The Trends:  August 16th – 22nd

The type of movies people were interested in this week in history are all over the board, and while it would be fun to try to make arguments stick based on one or two instances clumped together (we’ve got movies about both maids and a butler taking the top spot recently:  The Butler (2013) and The Help (2011), and two about fictional cross-overs:  Alien Vs. Predator (2004) and Freddy Vs. Jason (2003)) I think it makes more sense to figure out the absence of trends for the week.  So lets get to work.

Freddy_vs._Jason_movie“OK, have to come up with a logical explanation for this…”

Weaker than usual offerings?

One working hypothesis for the argle bargle on display this week could be that Hollywood has punched itself out, and audiences are left to pick over the flotsam of less than amazing films.  In recent outings, we have both Expendables movies taking the hot spot, Snakes on a Plane, both of the aforementioned cross over horror debacles, Tropic Thunder, and American Pie 2.  Older cheese ball films include Young Guns, Hot Shots! and Stakeout.  These movies all suffer from brain drain, mashing together premises and big name stars in the hopes of overcoming thin scripts or waning interests in their respective genres/franchises.  Most were critical duds.  Perhaps what were seeing this week is audiences making the best of a bad situation and rewarding movies with the most name recognition, regardless of genre?

SOAP_poster“This is what audiences going ‘meh’ looks like.”

Stronger than usual offerings?

On the flip side, perhaps the statistical noise is being generated by actual great movies being dropped into a pond of mediocrity.  Perhaps studios have realized they should save their unconventional winners till later in the summer in order to avoid being swamped in men in tights flinging planets at each other.  The two domestic help dramas noted above are impressing critics, and some really non-standard fare took top spot this week:  District 9 (2009) was a refreshing social critique masquerading as an alien flick, The Cell (2000) and The Sixth Sense (1999) were unconventional thrillers that fared well, Cop Land (1997) breathed life back into Stallone’s career based on substance over sub-machine guns, and The Fly (1986) made audiences scared of B-Movie monsters and Jeff Goldblum.  It would be hard to keep any of these movies off of a best-off list in their respective times or genres.   Perhaps Hollywood knows what it’s doing?


“Clearly Hollywood has a plan here.”

Carry-overs muddy the water?

Left off either explanations above is the large presence of mega-hits:  movies that have been taking the #1 spot at the Box for weeks by now.  The Fugitive, Unforgiven, Saving Private Ryan, and Back to the Future have all been hoovering up the greenbacks for weeks, even months.  Perhaps newer and less conventional movies just haven’t been able to dent the titanic appeal of these mega-hits.  If so, what movie will come along and topple such juggernauts?  Time will tell.Saving_Private_Ryan_poster

“You other movies can take a powder for a month, we got this.”

Notable Movies

This week almost any of the above titles could have been nominated.  Heck, the amount of movies featuring Forrest Whitaker is in itself notable (still no Ghost Dog yet, damn that’s a fine movie.)  My two picks this week go to Mortal Kombat (1995) and Friday the 13th part III (1982).  The first because it was one of the only video game movies made in the 90’s to actually be worth seeing.  Sure Mortal Kombat was big news at the arcades, but with the likes of Double Dragons and The Super Mario Bros. sucking the oxygen out of theaters, it had to take some guts (and blood, and skull bits) to make this movie without any star power better than Christopher Lambert.  And Friday the 13th gets the nod because it knocks E.T. off the list for the second time in 1982.  So a movie about a whorehouse, and teenagers getting viciously murdered are what it takes.  This is a very strange world we live in, people.


“Freddy vs. Jason vs. E.T. anyone?  Anyone?”


Information courtesy of Box Office Mojo.  Used with permission.

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