The first weekend of August has quite a few noteworthy selection to shine a spotlight on. Opening this weekend in history was one of the best Word Of Mouth hits of all time, one of the best Westerns ever, one of the best recent action franchises, a slow burn action movie legend, a flashback to girl power, 2 action hero careers on the dive, and 5 memorable cult classics.
Let’s just say this Weekend in History is jam-packed with nerdy goodness.
This article highlights the best opening weekends since 1980, compiled from a list of the Top 200 for the first weekend in August. Each pick will be accompanied by a tiny blurb on why they make the list.
Make sure to check out the companion article over at A TALE OF TWO DANS for the bigger picture, with entirely different selections.
August is normally the dumping ground for disappointing movies that Hollywood gave up on. Looking through the records I noticed that most records were broke during the first weekend, before kids had to get ready for Back to School time. Since most of the blockbusters premiere earlier in the summer a lot of cult classic and R-rated features debut in August. This list is full of some dark horse candidates that really pleased their genre specific audience.
UPDATE: There is a brand new entry from this weekend. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION opened with $56 million. This impressive haul surpassed studio expectations significantly, earning the #6 position of all the opening weekends in August since 1980. Check out my M:I5 review if you’re curious to hear what I thought.
Let’s dig in.. Stay tuned until the end for the Number One movie of August, one of the biggest surprise movies in the whole Galaxy.
* note: box office totals are not adjusted for inflation *
BOURNE ULTIMATUM – August 3, 2007
OPENING WEEKEND: $69 million // BOX OFFICE TOTAL: $227 million
Matt Damon starred in this BOURNE IDENTITY sequel. The original launched Damon into action hero status. His secret agent character could kill you with a pen. He didn’t need exploding cufflinks or anything. This more grounded Bond excited the audience.
Unfortunately, the decided to continue the franchise without him. The reboot BOURNE LEGACY made $38 million in its opening weekend, finishing with $113 million overall (domestically) — raking it about half as much as ULTIMATUM which lands at August’s #2 spot overall. This disappointing turn proved that no matter how good Jeremy Renner was in his role, the audience still wanted Damon. Rumours are he will return to the franchise soon enough.
THE SIXTH SENSE – August 6, 1999
OPENING: $27 million // TOTAL: $294 million
This surprise blockbuster came out of nowhere. The twist ending made this film one of the biggest Word Of Mouth successes in recent cinema. The summer of 99 everyone was talking about the little boy who could see dead people. The movie scared the crap out the audience, proved Bruce Willis could act, and shocked the world with one of the best orchestrated twist endings of all time. If you haven’t seen this ghost story, go find it. Do not let it slip/through the cracks.
SIGNS – August 2, 2002
OPENING: $60 million // TOTAL: $228 million
M. Night Shymalan brought us the sensational SIXTH SENSE. Then he brought us one of the better serious superhero films, UNBREAKABLE. His next picture was this alien invasion / family drama starring Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix. Once again this rising star director used subtelty to great affect. This was the last great Shymalan movie. Don’t let his more recent releases stop you from going back and watching SIGNS. It’s well worth it.
THE FUGITIVE – August 6, 1993
OPENING: $24 million // TOTAL: $184 million
Check out those numbers. This was over two decades ago. A movie making $200 million was super impressive back then. Now-a-days this would be more like $350 million or something — a huge box office hit. Word of mouth helped spread the word that this action thriller was better than most movies in 93. These characters were so great that Tommy Lee Jones, as the antagonist, earned a rare Oscar nomination in the action genre.
Companion release: CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER opened with $20 million on August 5th, and finished with $122 million before inflation in the summer of 1994. This helped cement Harrison Ford’s box office draw. He didn’t need to make another STAR WARS or INDIANA JONES at this point. He could explore completely new territory, like his recurring character here: JACK RYAN.
UNFORGIVEN – August 7, 1992
OPENING: $15 million // TOTAL: $101 million
One of the best Westerns ever made. Clint Eastwood stars alongside screen legends Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman in this bleak tale of redemption. Supposedly, Eastwood sat on this script for years, waiting until he was the right age to portray the role. The wait was worth it. Eastwood directed this thrilling drama to several Oscar nominations.
PRINCESS DIARIES – August 3, 2001
OPENING: $23 million // TOTAL: $108 million
This flashback Girl Power pick is probably best known for introducing the movie-going audience to Anne Hathaway. She plays an ugly duckling even though She’s All That. This charming film struck a chord with families by preaching a good message and providing some laughs. Julie Andrews plays off her MARY POPPINS image to great effect, sharing the screen with young ingenue Hathaway.
DOUBLE IMPACT – August 9, 1991
OPENING: $8 million // TOTAL: $30 million
This goofy concept action flick symbolized the beginning of the fall of action hero Jean Claude Van Damme. Up until this point, JCVD appeared in several high octane martial arts action flicks. He was touted as the next best action hero. These were the days when Schwarzengger, Stallone, and Bruce Willis were beginning to decline themselves. The idea of two times the Van Damme sounded good on paper (to someone, somewhere), but the execution was rather poor.
XXX – August 9, 2002
OPENING: $45 million // TOTAL: $142 million
A decade later, another action hero was trying to prove his box office draw. Vin Diesel was coming off of hits like FAST AND FURIOUS and the cult smash PITCH BLACK, when he starred in this extreme version of Bond. He played a special agent / extreme sports enthusiast. And yes, “Extreme” was a thing then. I enjoyed myself a lot with this silly POINT BREAK meets 007 popcorn muncher.
Unfortunately, it was Diesel’s last big solo effort. His following films would each disappoint. While he’s been great in the FURIOUS franchise, his other features have been disappointing. Let’s just say, I’m not crossing my fingers for LAST WITCH HUNTER.
CULT CLASSICS: TAKE 5
PINEAPPLE EXPRESS – August 6, 2008
OPENING: $23 million // TOTAL: $87 million
This R-Rated stoner comedy is one of the best James Franco and Seth Rogen collaborations. Part comedy. Part action. All fun.
SPAWN – August 1, 1997
OPENING: $20 million // TOTAL: $55 million
Before the whole comic books movie explosion thing happened, this R-Rated superhero hit the silver screen. This resurrected super long flowing caped vigilante is a tortured soul. The bleak universe of Todd McFarlane’s SPAWN is not for everyone. Thankfully, John Leguizamo delivers some dark laughs along the way, with an amazing performance as the villain, hidden behind layers of make-up.
COYOTE UGLY – August 4, 2000
OPENING: $17 million // TOTAL: $61 million
This little “chick flick” made a big splash at the box office. COYOTE is your traditional small town girl moves to the big city to pursue her dreams story. She just happens to make money at a bar where the waitresses dance on the counter and pour water all over themselves. At least, that’s what I remember. 😉 Jokes aside, the character work was surprisingly good in what looked like a super cheesy movie from the trailers.
PARENTHOOD – August 2, 1989
OPENING: $11 million // TOTAL: $100 million
This 80s cult classic made tons of money for that decade. Word of Mouth spread to ensure its success. Recently, it was even made into a TV show. Steve Martin starred in the original, as he deals with the trials and tribulations of having a large family. The film was so successful because of the stellar ensemble cast (including Dianne Wiest, Keanu Reeves, and Rick Moranis), and their amazing chemistry, as well as blending life with laughs.
THE DESCENT – August 4, 2006
OPENING: $9 million // TOTAL: $26 million
One of the best recent horror movies came out of nowhere, nearly a decade ago. A female led cast of adventurers journey through a cave system filled with mutant monsters. What sounds B-Movie bad is extremely B-Movie good. The visuals are top notch. The atmosphere is suffocatingly effective. If you’re claustrophobic this is the horror movie for you. The conventional concept with unconventional characters also has a few surprises in store.
The Number One opening weekend since 1980 belongs to GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. It exploded onto the scene with $94 million, and finished with $333 million in total (domestically). Who knew hanging out with a bunch of a-holes would be so damned fun. This Marvel blockbuster was filled with incredible spectacle and hilarious laughs. It was like STAR WARS if everyone was Han Solo. GALAXY would end up being one of the top grossing films of 2014.
Stay tuned for the next Weekend in Box Office History including some great comedy and surprise hits.
What do you think?
Do you like having more selections here? Or would you like it quick and breezy?
Leave a comment below.
Check out the 2D companion article.