This Weekend in BOX OFFICE History – July: Part 1

SLIP/THROUGH presents a weekly column called THIS WEEKEND IN BOX OFFICE HISTORY, featuring the best openings of weekends past.

Each week, several movies will shine in the spotlight. These selections reach as far back as 1980. Each selection will have a brief nerdy bit to certify its inclusion.

July is a great month to start things off. Everyone knows about Summer Blockbusters. Most of us have a memory or two of a holiday weekend spent at the cinema.

My duty as a film nerd isn’t just to point out the gigantic mega-hits like INDEPENDENCE DAY or TRANSFORMERS, but also mention some cult classics that somehow managed to crack into the mainstream.

* box office numbers are not adjusted – so older films might not seem as impressive without inflation *

* these films are selected from the Top 200 listed at Box Office Mojo.*

The premiere edition of This Weekend will focus on some big whoppers and a silent assassin no one saw coming.

First, let’s nerd it up with two of my favourite films of all time…


Opening Weekend: $32 million   //   Domestic Box Office Total: $205 million

The original TERMINATOR was a cult classic that spread around via poorly dubbed VHS bootlegs — the 80s version of YouTube. By the time the sequel came out fans were dying for more. The film totally delivered. It had time travel and killer robots. Laughs and excitement. Ground breaking visual effects. And a top-of-his game, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

BACK TO THE FUTURE – June 30, 1985 (first weekend July)

Opening Weekend: $11 million   //   Box Office Total: $211 million

Michael J. Fox is one of the best action heroes of all time. And no one talks about it. It’s probably because this movie is just so fun. You don’t think of Marty McFly like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but he saves the day all the same. This fish out of water story connected with audiences everywhere. Who hasn’t wondered what their parents were like at their age? Especially, when you’re a teenager. This film answered that question, while making us laugh, and taking us on an incredible adventure through time.

SPIDER-MAN 2 – June 30, 2004 (first weekend)

Opening: $88 million   //   Total: $374 million

Sam Raimi’s sequel, starring Tobey Maguire, is one of the best superhero movies ever made. This is largely down to the screenplay, and its characters. Raimi is a visual mad scientist. This EVIL DEAD helmer was a perfect selection for creating energetic action and a believable Web Slinger. Spidey has never been better. These movies paved the way for Marvel Studios and our current landscape at the cineplex.

FORREST GUMP – July 6, 1994

Opening: $24 million   //   Total: $330 million

Check out those box office figures. This is without inflation. This doesn’t include wordwide box office tabs or price bumps from 3D and Imax screenings. GUMP made its money the old fashioned way… by putting butts in the seats through word of mouth. Criticized over the years for being too mushy, this film was a summer movie that really made you feel good. Plain and simple. You learned about life, while you laughed and cried along the way.

SPECIES – July 7, 1995

Opening: $17 million   //   Total: $60 million

Here’s my cult classic assassin pick. This b-movie genre flick came out of nowhere and caught the attention of monster movie geeks everywhere. What we have here is a sexy alien disguised as a human, looking for a mate. The simple concept delivers on excitement and intensity. You’ll be seduced, and you’ll be scared. SPECIES is basically a chase flick, hunting down an alien before she repopulates the Earth with an army of deadly monsters.

The record holder for This Weekend in Box Office HIstory is PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST.

This lackluster sequel opened on July 7, 2006 with $136 million. It made $423 million in total. Ticket prices and special effects budgets were on the rise, and this was the beginning of a franchise dominated box office.

Once Disney made money on a movie based on a ride, the cinematic apocalypse was on the rise too. No more daring and original projects like BACK TO THE FUTURE. And no more catering to other demographics besides the teenage male, like FORREST GUMP did back in the 90s.

Stay tuned for the biggest movies to open in the second week of July, since 1980. There’s a couple good surprises there too. 

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Would you like to see other articles like this, commenting on cinematic history?

Is this list missing one of your favourites?

Maybe it’s on the companion piece over at the TALEOFTWODANS.COM site (I cofounded with a fellow movie nerd named Dan).

Follow Slip/Through on TWITTER @slipthroughnerd

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