Welcome to a special edition of the 2008 Reject Report Year in Review! This is our final look at 2008’s box office winners — and our final chance to roast some of the losers.
Above all else, 2008 will be remembered for one reason, and for one movie. It was undoubtedly the Year of the Dark Knight. Who would have thought it? It was fitting, too, that a movie with “Dark” in the title would win the box office title in a year as dark and miserable as 2008 was for people. It was a very dark year for Wall Street, for the automobile industry and for everyone else. Yet the movie box office held up, and a big reason was the Batman. The Dark Knight had the biggest opening ever and set one record after another during the summer of 2008. The momentum from that success just seemed to spur things on for the rest of the year at theaters, leading to a big November with three blockbusters (Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, Quantum of Solace and Twilight) and the strongest Christmas opening ever (Marley and Me). While the rest of the economy — and for that matter, the rest of the entertainment industry — is suffering, movie gate receipts are not. At least, not yet.
But who knew that this would be the year of Batman at the start of 2008? A lot of people thought the return of Indiana Jones would be the box office story of the year. It was not, thanks in part to a certain fridge that got nuked. There were also people out there who thought that The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian would be a contender, but it did not come anywhere close to winning the box office race for the year ($141,621,490).
As well, prominent celebrity deaths had a direct impact on box office fortunes. Who knew going into 2008 that Heath Ledger would pass on so suddenly, or that the posthumous buzz over his performance as the Joker would drive up the anticipation for The Dark Knight?
No doubt about it: the success of The Dark Knight is the box office story of the year. But there were a lot of big stories in 2008. We will begin by running down the final Top Ten list of winners at the box office this year, starting at Number 10:
10. Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!
This CGI flick was the first movie of 2008 to really make a big, lasting dent at the box office. It opened at $45,012,998 and finished with a domestic haul of $154,529,439 for what looks like a tenth-place finish for the year — although some movies still in theaters (such as Marley and Me ) could still possibly catch up.
Horton ends the year just ahead of the Sex and the City movie, which female audiences rushed to in droves to the tune of $152 million.
9. Quantum of Solace
Quantum outperformed Daniel Craig’s winning debut as James Bond in Casino Royale by a large margin. It opened to a domestic haul of $67 million and its overall domestic gross now stands at $164 million. The movie also set box office opening records abroad in the UK and elsewhere. Before Daniel Craig took over as Bond, there were people around who were questioning the future of the franchise. Not anymore. Rest assured that James Bond will be back … soon.
The vampire love story opened just one week after James Bond did, and to long line-ups. Its domestic opening haul was $69 million and its overall domestic gross of $167 million.
7. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
This was the most successful of a long line of what I call “nice clean movies” that dominated the fall schedule (including Beverly Hills Chihuahua and High School Musical 3). Its domestic haul was $174,862,381 and its $63 million opening weekend was way ahead of the original’s $47 million opening haul.
6. Kung Fu Panda
This turned out to be a big year at the box office for Paramount/DreamWorks, which not only hit it big again with the Madagascar animals but scored a hit with Jack Black voicing Kung Fu Panda. This flick’s domestic haul was $215 million after a $60 million opening.
This was the last of a long line of passion projects for PIXAR — and arguably its best. It opened to $63 million and its haul for the year stands at $223 million smackeroos. Not bad for a robot.
Hancock was the latest Independence Day blockbuster to star Will Smith — and as it turned out, it may well be the last in a string of eight consecutive $100-million domestic hits in a row for him if Seven Pounds doesn’t start doing better business in the next couple of weeks. Hancock made almost $228 million.
3. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
I think the bigger story here is the fact that this movie finished number three for the year, and not first place where people thought it would finish before the summer started. A lot of the Indiana Jones die-hard fans were disappointed by the movie, though, and that might have been enough to stop this movie from shattering the record books. In the end, the box office was still nothing to sneeze at: a $100 million opening for a domestic haul of $317 million dollars. A hit is a hit is a hit.
2. Iron Man
Iron Man was a breath of fresh air for superhero fans and the box office story of the year before The Dark Knight showed up. This action-packed feature, starring Robert Downey Jr. in the title role, won raves from critics and kicked off the summer movie season with a massive $98 million opening. It was first at the box office for two weeks in a row and its domestic gross stands at $318 million.
Now — drum roll, please.
1. The Dark Knight
The domestic haul for The Dark Knight stands at $530 million as of this writing and if you throw in the international markets, the overall haul stands at almost one billion dollars! It’s also not done making money: this flick is going to be re-released wide in theaters in January for one last shot at reaching Titanic’s $600 million record. Right now The Dark Knight stands as the number two box office hit of all time, ahead even of Star Wars. Here’s a look at the records that The Dark Knight set this year:
- Best opening weekend ever: $158 million
- Widest domestic release ever: 4366 theaters
- Best opening day/best Friday gross ever: $67 million
- Top 4-Day Opening Gross: $182,904,796
- Top 5-Day Opening Gross: $203,773,518
- Fastest Movie to reach $200 Million (five days)
- Fastest Movie to reach $300 Million (ten days)
- Fastest Movie to reach $400 Million (18 days)
- Four weeks at Number One at the box office
- Only the second movie in history to reach $500 Million (along with Titanic) and the fastest to do so (45 days)
I’m sure there were a few other records that fell. Needless to say, there was no recession evident at the box office this year — not in July, anyway.
There were so many winners, and quite a few honorable mentions that didn’t make the top ten. Mamma Mia! had the biggest opening for a musical ever at $27 million — until High School Musical 3: Senior Year showed up and made $42 million in its opening. The Incredible Hulk’s haul of $134 million helped make 2008 the Year of the Superhero. It was also a big year for Angelina Jolie, who not only supplied her voice to the winning Kung Fu Panda but also starred in the hit Wanted, a movie that grossed $134 million.
Unfortunately, 2008 also had its fair share of box-office losers. Some were expected (Harold and Kumar again, with their sequel losing at theaters to Baby Mama), and some unexpected (Semi-Pro, Will Ferrell’s effort that surprisingly played to plenty of empty houses). Not even Megan Fox could help How to Lose Friends and Alienate People get off the canvas ($2.7 million gross). Paris Hilton didn’t even try to make money with her pathetic The Hottie and the Nottie piece of junk. It made $27 grand — yes, you read it right — before going straight to DVD in disgrace.
This year also marked the first time in living memory that a movie under the Star Wars banner flopped at the box office. The animated Clone Wars only took in $35 million.
Enough about those flicks, though. Not much was expected of them at the box office, and they sure didn’t deliver. What was most memorable was the spectacular failures of two movies that, for me, have both richly earned the title of co-Disappointments of the Year.
The first big disappointment for me was Speed Racer, a big-budget reimagining of the famous Saturday morning cartoon. It should have been a big, freaking success. It cost something like $150 million to make, though, and that cash went right down the drain. Speed Racer turned into the biggest, costliest flop of the year with a domestic gross of $43 million dollars! Yes, you read it right — that’s ALL that Speed Racer got. In its opening weekend it was swamped by Iron Man (in its second week out) and made only $18.5 million! What can I say? Speed Racer was road kill.
The second big disappointment was The Love Guru, which didn’t cost as much money to make as Speed Racer did. And a good thing, too, because it made even less money ($32 million), was clobbered in its opening weekend (at $13 million, it finished a distant fourth to Get Smart), and was absolutely trashed by critics fed up with Mike Myers and the toilet humor of his recent movies. So many people thought this looked like an unfunny imitation of his successful Austin Powers movies, but without laughs or any redeeming qualities whatsoever (except maybe Jessica Alba). There were even critics calling on Myers to completely give up on show business after watching this latest effort! That’s how big a stink this movie made.
On that basis I have to give The Love Guru props along with Speed Racer for Box Office co-Disappointments of the Year. I must admit, I went back and forth on whether to give the “Disappointment of the Year” title to one movie or the other, but in the end I chickened out and decided to dishonor both of these memorable box office turkeys. And why not? Both stunk up the box office, bigtime.
So 2008 is in the books! Not quite a record-grossing year, but close enough to keep everyone in Hollywood happy — at least, the ones who still have jobs. The question now is what is in store for 2009? Who will win at the box office? Angels and Demons? Star Trek? Harry Potter (again)? Terminator: Salvation? Transformers 2? What about the Watchmen — will they even make it to theaters?
Who knows what is in store for 2009. Maybe the big recession will make an impact yet.
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