Steve’s Box Office Report: May 2008
Top 10 Films for the Month of May:
- Iron Man – $318,412,101
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – $317,101,119
- Sex and the City – $152,647,258
- The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian – $141,621,490
- What Happens in Vegas – $80,277,646
- The Strangers – $52,597,610
- Made of Honor – $46,012,734
- Speed Racer – $43,945,766
- Redbelt – $2,345,941
- The Fall – $2,266,905
May Winners: Iron Man, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Sex and the City, What Happens in Vegas, and The Strangers
So we are now into the fifth month of 2008 and the official start of the summer season, and needless to say the last two months have dragged the box office down significantly and there was a lot of pressure on these films to deliver and save the year. While a few of the films to be released this month had some question as to whether they could do well, at the end of the day the majority of them ended up delivering huge numbers and pretty much turned the year around by the end of the month. Now there were a few hiccups during the month and it wasn’t completely perfect, but it was head and shoulders better than anything we’ve seen this year so far. The first film released this month that makes it into this category is the action comic film Iron Man, the first of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that sees Tony Stark become Iron Man after an attack that forces him to build a powerful exoskeleton to save his life. The film would go on to be critically acclaimed with Robert Downey Jr.’s performance being singled out as the start of his comeback, and it would have a great run throughout the month and finished at the top of the month which we will delve into more in a little bit. The second film released this month that makes it into this category is the action adventure film Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the fourth film in the Indiana Jones franchise where Indy attempts to find the mysterious crystal skull while evading the Soviets. There was a lot of buzz behind this film given the long span between the third one and this one, and it did pay off as it nearly surpassed Iron Man to be the top film of the month despite the polarized reviews though it would be interesting to see if this film ended up killing the franchise going forward. The next film from this month that makes it into this category is the romantic comedy Sex and the City, a sequel to the popular TV series that follows four friends and their lives as single women. The film would end up receiving mixed reviews from critics who considered it nothing more than an extended TV show, but it would make a good amount of money going into the summer as it served as solid counter-programming mainly throughout the month of June. The fourth film released this month that makes it into this category is the romantic comedy What Happens in Vegas, a film about two people who get married in Vegas by mistake and work through it after winning a big jackpot. The film would end up receiving pretty poor reviews from critics who viewed as standard fare that didn’t distinguish itself from other romantic comedies, but it would end up making a decent amount of money and did make it into the top five for the month. The fifth and final film released this month that makes it into this category is the horror film the Strangers, a film about a young couple who become terrorized by a trio of masked strangers at their family vacation home. Coming out at the end of the month, it ended up being overshadowed by bigger films coming out around the next few weeks and coupled with the mediocre reviews from critics, it would end up being a minor success with over $50 million made. It is pretty clear to see that even with just the first two films in this category, the month was already more successful than any month this year and it is fortunate that most of the films released this month made the most of their expectations and helped push the month up.
May Losers: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and Speed Racer
Now as I did mention in the previous category, not all of the films that came out this month were perfect and there were two specific films released that belong in this category as losers of the month. While there were a few films released this month that didn’t do a lot of business, these two in particular were pretty dismal in terms of business which for one of them was quite surprising and the other one was not as surprising to many. The first film from this month is the second entry in the Chronicles of Narnia series which is Prince Caspian, a film which sees the Pevensie children return to Narnia to help the new prince take the throne from his evil uncle. Coming off the success of the first Narnia film, there was a lot of hype for this one to continue that success especially coming out the weekend before Memorial Day and the film would receive positive reviews from critics. However despite opening at number one in its opening weekend, it was still an underwhelming opening for the film and it ended up falling pretty fast over the coming weeks as it would not come close to matching its predecessor which we will delve more into later in the recap. The other film released this month that makes it into this category is the sports action film Speed Racer, based on the TV series of the same name which sees Speed follow in his brother’s footsteps as a racer and come into conflict between his family and a rival company. The film would receive bad reviews from critics for its storyline and characters while critics were also mixed on the special effects, though amazingly enough the film’s reputation would improve over the years with some even calling it one of the most underrated films of the 2000s. However back in 2008, it ended up being on the very low end of film adaptations of TV shows and couldn’t even finish ahead of What Happens in Vegas in their opening weekend, and it would finish near the bottom of the top 10 for the month and was one of the biggest bombs of the years. It is pretty interesting to see that there were only two films from this month that were considered losers of the month, but they were such losers that it keeps the month from being a completely perfect month.
The Surprise/Story of May 2008: The Marvel Cinematic Universe blasts off as Iron Man wins May 2008
Before May 2008, Marvel has had a mixed bag of success when it came to adapting their popular comics into films, and up until this point their biggest success came with Spider-Man and X-Men while other standalone films (Punisher, Elektra, Ghost Rider, Daredevil) did not do as well as they had hoped. So when they decided to create their own universe featuring the legendary Avengers characters, they knew they had to get it right to the point that they created their own studio to make these films. It was pretty interesting that they decided to start off the universe with Iron Man and that this would beginning of what was to be known as Phase One, and there was a lot of expectation going in as to if Iron Man would succeed or kill the universe off in one blow. Ultimately for Marvel and the MCU, Iron Man would be a rousing success partly due to Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of the titular character which would lead to his comeback, and of course the film dropped the first of many teasers for the future when (Spoiler Alert) Nick Fury appeared at the end and mentioned something called the “Avenger Initiative”. I don’t think even those in Marvel could’ve expected just how big the MCU would end up becoming, but it will be fun to track how the MCU continues to grow especially since June 2008 will see the often forgotten film of the franchise debut. In the end, there was no doubt that Iron Man was one of the big successes of the year and it was no surprise that the film finished at the top of the month.
Overachiever of May 2008: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
So when it came time to choosing the overachiever of the month, I was pretty torn between the film that I would end up choosing or Iron Man because I know there was a lot of question as to how Iron Man would end up doing. At the end of the day, Iron Man did do great business and launched a tremendous franchise, but it would end up receiving great reviews from critics and thus the final results ended up being pretty expected. On the flip side, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull had more mixed reviews from critics plus it had been a long 19 years between this one and the Last Crusade, so there was a lot of wondering if this film could do well. Coming out on Memorial Day weekend, the film would receive a polarized response from fans with some calling it faithful while others being disappointed with many coining the term “Nuking the Fridge” to voice their displeasure. However, the film would end up being very successful as it had the second highest opening on Memorial Day weekend behind last year’s Pirates 3, and it would end up being the highest grossing film in the series. As I mentioned though, the polarized reception from fans and even some internal strife may have effectively killed this franchise and we may never get a fifth one, but this film was at least a profitable finale to the franchise and deserving of its title of overachiever for the month of May 2008.
Underachiever of May 2008: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
So like choosing the overachiever of the month, I was a bit torn in choosing the underachiever of the month as it seemed that Speed Racer should be a lock, but going into its opening weekend there was not a lot of expectations for Speed Racer and it bombed as anticipated. On the other side of the coin, there was some decent buzz for Prince Caspian after the success of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe back in December of 2005 and it was expected of Prince Caspian to build on that momentum. However, it had been a fair bit of time between the two films which was against Prince Caspian’s favor as most book series that are adapted into films usually come out within one year of each other to keep the interest. So not only was the 2 and a half year gap between films a determent, the fact that it came out two weeks after Iron Man which was exceeding expectations and that it was a week before Kingdom of the Crystal Skull also worked against its favor. So when it came out, it did manage to open at number one though it was not able to match the first one and by the end of its run, it would finish with far less money than what the first one made. While it would make the majority of its money overseas, it was a pretty big disappointment on the domestic side and as a result it earns its place as the underachiever of the month of May 2008.
May 2008 Awards Watch: Iron Man, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, What Happens in Vegas, and Speed Racer
So after the last three of months of having a total of four films nominated for one of the big awards combined between them, the month of May ups the ante by doubling that number and falling one short of the five that were nominated back in January. The last three months had films that were mainly nominated for the Golden Raspberry Awards, so it would be interesting in this month if any film can get into the Academy Award or Golden Globe Award category and try to balance things out. The first film from this month that makes it into this category is Iron Man as it would be nominated for two Academy Awards (Best Sound Editing and Best Visual Effects) though it wouldn’t win either, but it again was a good sign for Marvel to get the nod here and start building the momentum. The next film from this month that makes it into this category is Kingdom of the Crystal Skull which would win one Golden Raspberry Award (Worst Remake, Prequel, Sequel, or Rip-Off) and it was just a microcosm of the polarized reviews the film received. The third film released this month that makes it into this category is What Happens in Vegas which would be nominated for two Golden Raspberry Awards (Worst Actress and Worst On-Screen Couple) though it wouldn’t win either won, and again the Golden Raspberry nominees continues to grow with every month. The fourth and final film from this month that makes it into this category is Speed Racer and sure enough, it was nominated for one Golden Raspberry Award (Worst Remake, Prequel, Sequel, or Rip-Off) which it didn’t win as Kingdom of the Crystal Skull took it instead.
Overall Thoughts of May 2008:
So overall, the month of May 2008 was a pretty successful month and miles ahead of any month so far in 2008 which shouldn’t be a surprise given how the other four months have fared. Unlike last year in 2007 which was dominated by three films and nothing else made a dent in the box office, this year feels a bit more balanced as there were a few films that made a good chunk of money. Going into this month, there was only one film that had made over $100 million and now we almost triple it as we had four films make over that with two going over $300 million and setting the bar for the rest of the year. 2008 has been a pretty interesting year as it started off decently, but quickly tapered off over the last three months and we were to the point that this month had to save things while also getting the summer season off to a strong start. As we head into June, things finally feel back on track and it will be interesting to see how the rest of the summer plays out and if it end up topping 2007. As for the month of May in 2008, it is to this point the best month of the year thus far and has set the bar for how the rest of 2008 should end up going.
Final Grade: A-