the birth of the summer blockbuster

Welcome, fellow nerds. This Weekend in History has one of the most profitable cult classics of all-time, a female ass-kicker, a real stinker, an amazing courtroom drama, and a big blockbuster starring one of the best action heroes ever.

This selection of movies is chosen from the Top 200 opening weekends during the 4th week of July since 1980.  The purpose of this weekly column is to put today’s gigantic sounding worldwide numbers into some proper context.

For example, these movies today don’t have as many tickets purchased as something like JAWS did back in the 70s. While, $100 – $200 million total doesn’t sound so impressive today, a few decades ago it would feel more like JURASSIC WORLD.

Last weekend got two new entries. ANT-MAN continues Marvel’s long streak of Number Ones with $57 million, earning it slot #22. A surprise addition is the new Judd Apatow / Amy Shumer comedy TRAINWRECKED with $31 million, placing it at #65.

Enjoy this Weekend in History. If you’re curious for more, check out the companion article over at A Tale Of Two Dans. There are completely different movies highlighted.

* note: box office numbers are not adjusted for inflation *

AIR FORCE ONE – July 25, 1997

Opening Weekend: $37 million   //   Box Office Total: $173 million

By the time this movie opened, Harrison Ford had already portrayed some of the best action heroes on the silver screen, Han Solo and Indiana Jones amongst them. This time he played the President… versus terrorists… on a plane. This intense action flick will keep you glued to the seat for sure. Gary Oldman co-stars as the delicious villain. Remember what I said about inflation? Check out these totals here, nearly 20 years ago.

LUCY – July 25, 2014

Opening: $44 million   //   Total: $127 million

This wild and crazy Luc Besson action flick starring Scarlet Johannson kicked ass opening weekend, proving that super heroines can earn as much as super heroes. Sure, the concept here may go over-the-top, but the action was so energetic and fun this sci-fi/action hybrid it makes this worth the watch.

PLANET OF THE APES (remake) – July 27, 2001

Opening: $69 million   //   Total: $180 million

This stinker starred Mark Wahlberg. Somehow Tim Burton couldn’t save this terrible remake. While the look of the sets and costumes and make-up are all top-notch, the story was just bottom-notch. Let’s not even get into the most heinous twist ending. The original 60s film is much better, as is the current DAWN OF THE APES series. This version here almost hurts. At least, it’s worth laughing at. What did you guys and gals think? Am I totally off here or what?

A TIME TO KILL – July 26, 1996

Opening: $15 million   //   Total: $109 million

John Grisham lawyer novels were all the rage in the 90s. And this was one of the best adaptions. This was the movie that got Matthew McCounaghey recognition. His performance is emotionally charged, and still one of his best. Sandra Bullock and Samuel L. Jackson also co-star in this drama about racism in the Southern United States. This film is still poignant and powerful today. The closing arguments of this trial will make you weep.


Opening: $29 million   //   Total: $141 million

Wow. This movie was made with so little, but made so much. This low-budget horror movie created the found footage genre. I still remember seeing this in the theatre at an advance screening before there was any hype. I had no idea how scared I was going to be. I pulled my knees into my chest, and punched the seat in front of me. I knew it was just a movie, but a lot of people believed what they saw was real. Hype built fast.

The movie went viral before “viral” was a thing. The summer of 99 all any film nerd talked about was, “Have you seen BLAIR WITCH?” Well, the question still applies. If not, horror fans… remedy that.

The largest earner for This Weekend in Box Office History is almost too close to call (check Two Dans for the alternate selection). The AUSTIN POWERS sequel GOLDMEMBER made $73 million during its opening weekend in 2002, and finished with $213 million overall. This hilarious franchise spoofs James BOND. Mike Myers from SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE and WAYNE’S WORLD enjoyed his greatest success with this horny secret agent from the “groovy” 60s.

Stay Tuned for another month of Box Office History coming soon.

1989 Honourable Mention – $71 million total

What do you think?

1994 Honourable Mention: THE MASK $120 million total

Leave a comment below.

Missing your favourite movie? Maybe it’s on the TWO DANS companion article?

2003 Honourable Mention: TOMB RAIDER sequel totals $66 million

TWEET/TWEET @slipthroughnerd

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