It's the first weekend after Labor Day, which means the summer blockbuster season is officially over and it is safe for Steven Soderbergh to come out. His latest, Contagion, opens today, and will soon have all of America more afraid to touch one another than all of America should have already been. We also have Warrior, about the ancient sport of men beating the crap out of each other, and Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star, from Nick Swardson, Adam Sandler, and the devil.
Those are all fine options (probably), but in the hoopla over each week's new releases it's easy to forget what the hoopla was over a year ago. Let's look back 365 days to the movies that had us blathering then, and reflect on how far we've come and how much we've grown as people (probably).
The weekend of Sept. 10-12, 2010
Resident Evil: Afterlife
Starring Milla Jovovich, in the sense that anything can really be said to "star" Milla Jovovich.
Every few years, whether we need it or not, we get a new Resident Evil movie. This was the fourth in the series, and it marked the return of the franchise's original director, Paul W.S. Anderson, best known for not being Paul Thomas Anderson. It wasn't screened for critics before it opened, and the ones who weighed in after the fact didn't like it: 24% at Rotten Tomatoes. (Professional comedian Armond White loved it, of course: "Superior to Inception and Avatar on every level!" Seriously, he said that.)
The film's $26.6 million opening gross was the best debut of the series, though it was boosted by the fact that it was in 3D and was the only new wide release. The second-place film of the weekend, Takers -- which had opened two weeks earlier -- made $5.6 million. Basically, nobody went to the movies that weekend. What was everyone doing? Sitting at home and wishing it were still summer, probably.
Resident Evil: Afterlife ultimately made $60.1 million at the box office, the best of the series (but again, 3D). That in itself is shocking to me, because $60 million isn't exactly blockbuster money, and its predecessors all made less than that. Ah, but they tend to do well overseas. Afterlife performed spectacularly in the foreign markets, bringing in a whopping $236 million, or four times what it made in America. It made $55 million in Japan alone! It was that country's seventh highest-grossing movie of the year! Then again, Japan's top movie of 2010 was Alice in Wonderland, so obviously there are some serious issues over there.
Anderson and Jovovich will be back for part 5, Resident Evil: Retribution, scheduled for a release one year from now. That first weekend after Labor Day is the sweet spot for post-apocalyptic video-game-based zombie horror.
Hey, look what else opened a year ago!
I'm Still Here, the daft Joaquin Phoenix shmocumentary, opened on 19 screens and made a pretty healthy $5,087 per screen. A few days later, after dodging the issue for months, director Casey Affleck finally confirmed that it was all an act. The next weekend, when the film expanded to 120 screens, it made $944 per screen. The lesson? Don't reveal that your dumb hoax is a dumb hoax until AFTER you've fleeced everyone. It only got worse from there. All told, Phoenix and Affleck's weird meta-experiment in Letterman annoyance grossed just $408,983. Phoenix will return to regular acting in next year's The Master, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, best known for not being Paul W.S. Anderson.
And what about FIVE years ago??
The weekend of Sept. 8-10, 2006, brought us three films: The Covenant, about teenage boy witches, introduced Taylor Kitsch and Chace Crawford to the world; Hollywoodland starred Ben Affleck as the guy who played Superman in the 1950s; and The Protector was a Thai import starring Tony Jaa as an awesome fighter whose elephants get stolen. You do not want to steal anything belonging to Tony Jaa, especially elephants! I don't know how many times I have to tell you!
(All box office figures are from Box Office Mojo.)