Steve’s Box Office Report: December 2008

Steve’s Box Office Report: December 2008

Top 10 Films for the Month of December: 

  1. Marley and Me – $143,153,751
  2. Slumdog Millionaire – $141,319,928
  3. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – $127,509,326
  4. Bedtime Stories – $110,101,975
  5. Yes Man – $97,690,976
  6. Valkyrie – $83,077,833
  7. The Day the Earth Stood Still – $79,366,978
  8. Seven Pounds – $69,951,824
  9. The Tale of Despereaux – $50,877,145
  10. Doubt – $33,446,470

Honorable Mentions:  

  1. The Spirit – $19,806,188
  2. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas – $9,046,156
  3. Cadillac Records – $8,195,551
  4. Punisher: War Zone – $8,050,977
  5. Delgo – $694,782

December Winners: Marley and Me, Slumdog Millionaire, Bedtime Stories, and Yes Man

After what has been a pretty up and down year for the box office, we are at the pivotal month of December and the ever profitable holiday season. Unlike last year where December was forced to pick up the slack after November underwhelmed, December 2008 was in a much better position after November 2008 did very well and built up some momentum. With the numerous films that were released this month and the different genres represented, it would be interesting to see how the wealth was spread around and what films would end up succeeding. The first film from this month that makes it into this category is the family film Marley and Me, based on the memoir of the same name of a family who learn valuable lessons while living with their naughty dog. Coming out on Christmas Day which landed on a Thursday this year, the film would end up having a good start despite coming out against fellow family film Bedtime Stories and finished at the top of the box office backed by solid reviews from critics. It would go on to have a successful run with over $143 million and was one of the bigger success stories of 2008 even if it did pale in comparison to the big films from last December. The second film from this month that makes it into this category is the drama film Slumdog Millionaire, based on the novel of the same name of a young man who recounts events from his life that help him win at the Indian version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”. After garnering a solid foothold on the limited circuit in November, the film was released over Christmas weekend and was highly acclaimed by critics who considered it one of the best films of the year. It would continue to play well into the new year and the awards season which we’ll cover more later in the recap, and it would finish with over $140 million which makes it a huge success which will also be further discussed later on. The third film from this month that makes it into this category is the fantasy comedy Bedtime Stories, a film about a hotel handyman who finds that the stories he tells his niece and nephew somehow come to life. Despite the negative reviews from critics and coming out on the same weekend as Marley and Me, there was enough interest in the film partially due to Adam Sandler still having some bankability and it would end up finishing with $110 million while topping out at #4 for the month. The fourth and last film from this month that makes it into this category is the comedy Yes Man, a film about a man with a negative outlook on life who promises to say “yes” to anyone opportunity that comes to him. The film would receive mixed reviews from critics who believed that it was just a rehash of another Jim Carrey film Liar Liar, but Carrey was also still pretty bankable and the film debuted at #1 in its opening weekend though it would fall quickly behind the Christmas releases and finished with just under $100 million. While it is clear that December 2008 was not nearly as successful as December 2007, there were still enough here to finish the year of 2008 on a high note and build some momentum going into 2009.

December Losers: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the Spirit, Punisher: War Zone, and Delgo

Now unlike last year where there were multiple winners and only one loser of the month, this year is exactly balanced as we have four losers of the month to go with the four winners. There were a lot of different types of films that came out this month and while a few would end up doing pretty well, there were some films that ended up doing poorly and fall into this category to close out the year. The first film from this month that makes it into this category is the romantic drama film the Curious Case of Benjamin Button, based on the short story of the same name about a man who ages in reverse and tries to live a normal life. The film was quite ambitious and would end up receiving positive reviews from critics, and while it would play well over the weeks and finished with over $120 million it was still a bit of a letdown and did not finish as strong as I’m sure many had hoped it would. The next film from this month that makes it into this category is the neo-noir superhero film the Spirit, based on the comic of the same name about a cop who comes back from the dead to fight crime as the hero called the Spirit. The film would end up being panned by critics and many considered it one of the worst films of the year, and despite coming out on Christmas day it would be quickly forgotten about amongst the other films and disappeared quietly into the night like its titular character. The third film from this month that makes it into this category is another comic film and that is Punisher: War Zone, a reboot of the 2004 film that sees Frank Castle become the Punisher and fight the mob boss Jigsaw. Originally set to be a sequel to Punisher before becoming a reboot, it would receive poor reviews much like its predecessor and would end up becoming the lowest grossing Marvel film to date. The fourth and final film from this month that makes it into this category is the animated film Delgo, a film about a teenager who must protect his world during a conflict between two different races. The film would also be critically panned and would have the distinction of having the worst opening for a film debuting in over 2,000 theaters, and it would ultimately last a whopping 7 days in theaters and ended up being one of the biggest bombs of the year. This is a pretty interesting group of films to be included as you have one film that did fairly well in terms of making money while the other three were bombs, and it just goes to show that you can still make a lot of money yet still be considered a loser depending on the budget your film has.

The Surprise/Story of December 2008: Marley brings “dog days” to award contenders to close year out on a solid note

So going into the final month of 2008, the box office had some good momentum coming off what was a pretty successful November and this month was in a better position than December was a year ago. Though this December ended up being a bit behind what last December ended up doing, this month still had some pretty solid showings with the top films doing well though the bottom films were downright putrid. The variety of films that were released month was a mish-mosh of different genres designed to draw every type of person, and it was during this month that the major award contenders come out as I have mentioned before. Films like Slumdog Millionaire and the Curious Case of Benjamin Button finished with over $100 million which was solid for those types of films, but at the end of the month the film that stood tall over everyone was Marley and Me. Having to compete against other family films like Bedtime Stories and the Tale of Despereaux along with holdovers from November, Marley and Me resonated with families especially during the holidays and was able to top the month with just over $140 million. However, a lot of credit also has to go to Slumdog Millionaire which became an unexpected hit and came a few million away from stealing the top spot away from Marley and Me, and again while this month wasn’t on par with the previous year it was still pretty successful and ended 2008 on a good note.

Overachiever of December 2008: Slumdog Millionaire

As we were heading into the end of the year and into the thick of the award season, this was the time where a lot of the films would try and gain a foothold amongst the box office. December saw a couple of award contenders come out on the limited circuit before going wide in January, but there was one film that was released in November limited before going wide this month and that was Slumdog Millionaire. Going into its release, I’m sure that there was some question as to how well the film would end up doing especially considering the controversy that had surrounded the film. However, the film would gain critical acclaim with many considering it one of the best films of the year, and it would be flooded with award nominations which we will get to later in the recap. As a result, the mainstream audience found themselves intrigued by the film and it would go on to finish with just over $140 million which was a major success for the small film. The fact that it almost overtook Marley and Me for the top of the month is a testament to the success and popularity of the film, and as a result there is no question that this film is more than worthy of being the overachiever of December 2008.

Underachiever of December 2008: The Day the Earth Stood Still

For the second year in a row, trying to choose a film to be the underachiever of the month was a pretty daunting task because it seemed like no film from this month really underachieved completely. There were a couple of films from this month that you could consider like Valkyrie, Seven Pounds, and the Tale of Despereaux because these films seemed to be ones that should’ve done better, but they still did at least decent business that they managed to stay out of this category. So ultimately, the film that I ended up going with as the underachiever though again it is probably a weak choice and that is the Day the Earth Stood Still, a remake of the 1951 film of the same name of an alien who lands on Earth to warn of a catastrophe that will befall Earth if humanity doesn’t change their ways. The film was seemingly poised to follow the same success that I Am Legend did the previous year, however the film received negative reviews from critics with some feeling the film focused more on special effects as opposed to the human aspect of the original film. So even though it did debut at number one in the box office in its opening weekend, the film would drop off fairly quickly even with the holiday season and would finish outside of the top 5 for the month. As a result of this and given the initial hype that had surrounded the film before its release, there is now no doubt that the film deserves the crown as underachiever of the month though again it is probably one of the weaker underachievers compared to the other ones from this year.

December 2008 Awards Watch: Slumdog Millionaire, the Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the Day the Earth Stood Still, Doubt, and Cadillac Records

So as I had mentioned before the last two years, we are now hitting the point in the year where the major award contenders start to come out and try to gain some momentum going into the new year. While most of the films that come out in December are on the limited circuit and don’t go wide until January, we do see a few films come out wide in December that are considered for one of the big three awards. The first film from this month that makes it into this category is Slumdog Millionaire which as mentioned was listed as one of the top films of the year, and it would win an astounding 8 Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Sound Mixing, Best Cinematography, and Best Film Editing) which was the most of any film from this year. It would also be nominated for 2 more (Best Original Song and Best Sound Editing) for a grand total of 10 nominations which was a great winning percentage for the film. It would also win all four of its Golden Globe nominations (Best Picture – Drama, Best Director, Best Original Score, and Best Screenplay) which would solidify its standing as one of the best films of the year. The next film from this month that makes it into this category is the Curious Case of Benjamin Button which would win three Academy Awards (Best Art Direction, Best Makeup, and Best Visual Effects) while being nominated for ten more (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Original Score, and Best Sound Mixing). The fact that it garnered the most Academy Award nominations is a testament to the film even though it wasn’t nearly as successful as Slumdog Millionaire in terms of winning percentage. The film would also be nominated for five Golden Globe Awards (Best Picture – Drama, Best Actor – Drama, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Original Score) though it wouldn’t win any of them, but it again is a testament to how well the film was able to do. The next film from this month that makes it into this category is the Day the Earth Stood Still which was nominated for one Golden Raspberry Award (Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off, or Sequel) though it wouldn’t win it, and it is just a microcosm of the dismal performance that the film went through. The next film from this month that makes it into this category is the drama film Doubt, based on the play of the same name about two nuns who look into if the priest is having relations with the school’s only black student. The film would receive positive reviews from critics considering its subject matter and received four Academy Award nominations (Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay) though it wouldn’t win any of them. The film would also be nominated for four Golden Globe Awards (Best Actress – Drama, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Screenplay) though it wouldn’t win any as well, and it just goes to show what happens when one or two films dominates the majority of the awards. The fifth and final film from this month that makes it into this category is the biographical drama Cadillac Records, a film based on the life of record company executive Leonard Chess. The film would receive mixed reviews from critics though some did have it as one of the best films of the year, and it would receive a Golden Globe nomination (Best Original Song) which it wouldn’t win. So even though there were only five films from this month that made it into this category, the successes of Slumdog Millionaire and the Curious Case of Benjamin Button help prop up how well this month ended up doing.

Overall Thoughts of December 2008:

So overall, the month of December 2008 ended up being a pretty solid month with some good results even though it wasn’t quite as good as the previous year was. We have seen quite an interesting year in 2008 with a lot of highs and certainly a lot of lows, and it is always a positive thing to see the year end on a high note which this month does to a certain extent. We did have four films from this month make over $100 million which matches last year, but again last year was far more successful as three films made well over $200 million and nothing this year came remotely close. Now in comparison to some of the other months from this year, this month was clearly at the top half of the year though it couldn’t quite meet the levels of the summer months and November. 2008 has been quite a year in terms of the box office as we had a tremendous amount of successes while there have been quite a number of failures as well, and as we head into the final year of the decade we will see if they can keep this momentum and start 2009 on a good note. As for the final month of 2008, it is a pretty solid year that manages to end the year of 2008 on a slight high note.

Final Grade: B

Author: Steve Riddle

I have been a wrestling fan since 1993 and that is probably my biggest love, with movies being a close second due in part to being employed at a movie theater for over 9 years.