Steve’s Box Office Report: August 2008
Top 10 Films for the Month of August:
- Tropic Thunder – $110,515,313
- The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor – $102,491,776
- Pineapple Express – $87,341,380
- The House Bunny – $48,237,389
- The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 – $44,089,964
- Death Race – $36,316,032
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars – $35,161,554
- Mirrors – $30,691,439
- Traitor – $23,530,831
- Vicky Cristina Barcelona – $23,216,709
- Babylon A.D. – $22,532,572
- Swing Vote – $16,289,867
- Disaster Movie – $14,190,901
- Fly Me to the Moon – $13,816,982
- The Longshots – $11,537,046
- The Rocker – $6,409,528
- Hamlet 2 – $4,886,216
- College – $4,694,636
August Winners: Pineapple Express, the House Bunny, and Star Wars: The Clone Wars
So as we come to the end of the summer of 2008, it was going to be interesting to see if the films released in August could perform well and bring an end to what has been a pretty hot summer with some huge performances. Unfortunately in what would become a trend over the next couple of years, the month of August would end up being slightly tepid and the box office would end up cooling off after being hot over the last few months. While the month as a whole may have been a bit disappointing in terms of how the summer was, we did have a few films that did well enough to end up being the winners of the month. The first film from this month that makes it into this category is the action comedy Pineapple Express, a film about a process server and his pot dealer witnessing a murder and trying to flee from the murderers and a corrupt cop. It was pretty clear that this film was looked at to mimic the same unexpected success that Superbad had one year ago, but ultimately it did not even come close to matching that film’s performance. However, it did do just enough to make it into this category despite the mixed reviews from critics and it would end up being one of the few successes from this month. The second film released this month that makes it into this category is another comedy film the House Bunny, a film about a former Playboy Playmate who becomes the house mother of an unpopular sorority that is in danger of being shut down. While the film received fairly negative reviews from critics, it would debut at #1 in its opening day though it quickly fell behind and it would end up finishing with close to $50 million which was just enough to slide it into this category. The third and final film from this month to make it into this category is the animated film Star Wars: The Clone Wars, taking place between Episodes II and III as the Jedi assist the Republic against the Separatists while Anakin Skywalker is given a Padawan. This was an interesting case in that the film was here in essence to promote the new TV show as opposed to continuing the canon, and the negative reviews would skew its money and this would ultimately be the last Star Wars film in theaters until December 2015 when it would come back with a vengeance. The fact that this is one of the few months where all the winners ended up finishing under $100 million is the true testament as to how the month performed especially after how well the previous August did, and it would be interesting to see if this affects how the rest of the year ends up going.
August Losers: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, and Babylon A.D.
It was going to be interesting to see how many films would end up in this category given how tepid the month ended up being, and considering that there was a glut of films released it seemed like there would be no shortage of them. But to the credit of most of these films, they did just enough to make it out of this category as most of the films’ budget was small enough that they were able to come within the limit to stay away from this category. However, there were two films that made it into this category and they are two that didn’t surprise you given how little they made in the box office. The first film from this month that makes it into this category is the action film the Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon, the third movie in the Mummy trilogy where Rick O’Connell attempts to save his son and stop an evil spirit in China. The film would be trashed by critics and while it seemed like coming out at the beginning of the month would be to its advantage, it would be crushed under the weight of the Dark Knight still dominating and it would fall behind Tropic Thunder when that came out. This would also lead to a fourth film being scrapped and the franchise would be put on the shelf until 2017 when Universal attempted a reboot as part of their Dark Universe which we’ll get to way down the line. The other film from this month that makes it into this category is the sci-fi film Babylon A.D., based on the novel Babylon Babies about a mercenary who tries to save a woman from being sacrificed by a cult. The film would end up being critically panned by critics and despite coming out over the Labor Day weekend, it would end up crashing to the ground which did nothing to help star Vin Diesel who was trying to break out from the Fast and the Furious franchise. These two films were pretty much the epitome of how the month ended up turning out especially after how well August 2007 did, and as mentioned it would be interesting to see how the rest of the year would turn out now.
The Surprise/Story of August 2008: Tropic Thunder leads bloated August and ends the summer of 2008 on a low note
So the last time we talked about a month that had a lot of films come out though none of them had enough substance to carry things, it was back in February when there were 16 films released that month on a wide scale. Now we come here to August where we have an astounding 18 films that were released on a wide scale and that’s coming off of July which still had some big films that were out along with a few lingering June releases. With all things considered, the summer has been pretty hot so you figured that there would be at least one film released this month that would break out and maybe even a few would do exceptionally well to end the summer on a high note. Now while this month did have two films top $100 million which is better than February which had none, there was no film from this month that made that major impact that some were hoping as Tropic Thunder ended up finishing on top with a mere $110 million. This is a major disappointment given that August 2007 had a film finish with over $200 million on top, though that was the third in the Bourne series while Tropic Thunder was an original release with some big star power nonetheless. It also didn’t help August’s case that the first half of the month was still dominated by the Dark Knight and combined with Tropic Thunder controlling the second half, it led to a pretty tepid August and the summer of 2008 ends up closing on a pretty low note which was a bit disappointing though 2008 is still on a slight high after a dismal start to the year.
Overachiever of August 2008: Pineapple Express
So in the time that I’ve done these recaps, there have been a few times where a month has had no losers and there were a few times where I nearly didn’t have an underachiever of the month. But in this case, I was debating if any film from this month actually deserved to be the overachiever of the month. That is just an indication of how tepid the month was in that I was hoping for a film to break out of the pack and earn its place in this category, but instead I just had to go with the best of the worst and that happens to be Pineapple Express. As mentioned earlier, this film was looked at to follow in the footsteps of Superbad which was released last August and went on to have a solid run and finish with just over $120 million. However despite having a solid opening weekend only to debut in second despite the Dark Knight being in its fourth week, it wouldn’t quite have the legs that Superbad had and it would finish with just under $90 million. It does have to be considered a slight disappointment given what was expected of it, but it was just successful enough to be declared the overachiever of the month though again it is one of the weaker overachievers we’ve had.
Underachiever of August 2008: Tropic Thunder
Since I started doing these recaps with May of 2006, it has been very rare if ever happened that the film that finished at the top of the month ended up being the underachiever of the month. It seems very bizarre to have the top film of the month end up in this category, but in a month where the top film should’ve dominated and didn’t has to be considered the prime candidate for this category. As a result, the underachiever for the month of August 2008 ends up being the action comedy Tropic Thunder, a film about a group of actors who are stranded in the jungle and must use their abilities to survive. Now on the surface, it seems like this film shouldn’t be considered for this as it debuted at number one in the box office and stayed there for three straight weeks. In addition, the film was well received by critics despite some controversy surrounding some of its characters and it would finish with just over $110 million. But at the end of the day, I think there was a feeling that the film should’ve done so much better for the praise it was getting and to debut with only $25 million was a bit of a letdown given the star power in this film. As a result of that, while it probably won’t be in the top 3 at the end of the year given some of the other underachievers from this year, the film ultimately deserved to be named the underachiever of the month.
August 2008 Awards Watch: Tropic Thunder, Pineapple Express, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and Disaster Movie
So as we come to the end of the summer, it is now the time when we start getting some of the big award contenders to come out and make their first impressions on the general public. While most of the bigger contenders would come out over the next few months, August is typically where the first few big ones come out to stake their claim and make some money. The first film from this month that makes it into this category is Tropic Thunder as it would be nominated for one Academy Award (Best Supporting Actor) which it wouldn’t win, and it would also be nominated for one Golden Globe Award (Best Supporting Actor with two nominees) though it wouldn’t win that either. It again furthers the point of how unfortunate that it was named the underachiever of the month given that it did manage to nab some nominations of the big two. The second film from this month that makes it into this category is Pineapple Express as it would be nominated for one Golden Globe Award (Best Actor – Comedy or Musical) though it wouldn’t win, but it is also a testament that this was thought highly of enough to earn a Golden Globe nomination. The third film from this month that makes it into this category is Star Wars: The Clone Wars which was nominated for one Golden Raspberry Award (Worst Prequel, Rip-off, Remake, or Sequel) though it wouldn’t win, and it would be one of the last times a Star Wars film would be nominated for the Golden Raspberry. The fourth film from this month that makes it into this category is the romance drama Vicky Cristina Barcelona, a film about two women who fall in love with an artist that still has feelings for his wife. The film was well received by critics who considered it one of the top films of the year, and it would win one Academy Award (Best Supporting Actress) along with winning one Golden Globe Award (Best Picture – Comedy or Musical) while being nominated for three more (Best Actress – Comedy or Musical, Best Actor – Comedy or Musical, and Best Supporting Actress). The fifth and final film from this month that makes it into this category is the spoof film Disaster Movie, a film where a group of friends try to survive a series of natural disasters. Unlike some of the other films in this category, this film was widely panned by critics who considered it one of the worst films of the year, and it would be nominated for 5 Golden Raspberry Awards (Worst Picture, Worst Supporting Actress with two nominees, Worst Prequel, Rip-off, Remake, or Sequel, Worst Director, and Worst Screenplay) though surprisingly it wouldn’t win any of them. It seems like there is a nice mix of films that cover all three awards and it would be interesting to see if that mix continues going forward.
Overall Thoughts of August 2008:
So overall, it is pretty clear to see that the month of August for 2008 was a pretty weak month and while it’s definitely not of the worst month of the year, it is a pretty disappointing end to a pretty hot summer. We saw a lot of big films come out during this summer and it helped the year get hot after a very cold start to the year, but you certainly expect the summer to end on a high note and it clearly did not do that with this month. As I just mentioned, this certainly wasn’t a terrible month by any stretch as we did have two films make over $100 million and a solid 3rd place performance, but after that the films fall off a bit which isn’t too surprising given the glut of films that came out this month. If the month had either one or two more films do really well it would’ve propelled the month up a bit, but sadly nothing did and the month ends up landing where it did. 2008 has been a very unique year in that it started off very slow and picked up significantly throughout the summer, and it will be interesting going forward into the fall if things can pick back up or continue to slide. As for the month of August 2008, it is a pretty below average month that sadly brings the hot summer of 2008 to a grinding halt.
Final Grade: C-