Welcome to this weekly series looking back at the best opening weekends since 1980.
This Weekend in History includes 3 great indie thrillers with Oscar nominated actors, a successful horror remake, a nutso Jason Statham action flick, and 5 Cult Classics.
If it made the Top 200 in the final weekend of August, it just might get highlighted here, whether it’s a b-movie cult classic or an Oscar winning drama. Since it’s August, don’t hold your breath on that last one. The end of summer is typically a wasteland for quality releases.
There’s a companion piece over at A TALE OF TWO DANS. Check it out if you’re hungry for more or find that your favourite flick isn’t on this list. Each selection is accompanied by a quick nerdy blurb. Let me know if you agree or disagree, or if you just discovered an intriguing hidden gem.
Dig in and enjoy!
- note: box office figures are domestic and not adjusted for inflation
- occasionally there will be 5 weekends in a month (like this), overlapping with previous or next month
THE DEBT – August 31, 2011
OPENING WEEKEND: $10 million // BOX OFFICE TOTAL: $31 million
This surprise thriller was really captivating. It stars Jessica Chastain and Helen Mirren, as the same character in different timelines. The story hops from the past to the present, following secret spies trying to track down a Nazi war criminal. There are compelling performances from the entire cast, which also includes Sam Worthington and Tom Wilkinson. This intense drama / thriller hybrid is worth tracking down.
Do not let THE DEBT slip/through the cracks.
THE AMERICAN – September 1, 2010
OPENING: $13 million // TOTAL: $36 million
George Clooney stars in this beautifully photographed and internal spy drama. Clooney plays a retired agent trying to leave this dangerous life behind him. He’s seduced back in. Violante Placido is a revelation as Clooney’s co-star. The contemplative quiet moments are a real highlight because of the guidance of rising director, Anton Corbijn (CONTROL, LIFE). While the slow deliberate pacing and introspective nature might not please all fans of film, it’s really worth watching for the true cinephiles out there.
This is another adult thriller you don’t want to slip/through the cracks.
LAWLESS – August 29, 2012
OPENING: $10 million // TOTAL: $37 million
Set during Prohibition, this bleak atmospheric drama follows brothers in the moon shine business. Impressive performances are the real highlight here. The amazing ensemble includes Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, Guy Pearce, Mia Wasikowska, and (a trust me, he’s good here) Shia LeBeouff. This film is for fans of character studies. Be warned, the realistic violence is brutal at times. Hardy fans should really enjoy his character here.
HALLOWEEN – August 31, 2007
OPENING: $27 million // TOTAL: $58 million
Madman / musician / cinematic auteur, Rob Zombie, attacks John Carpenter’s legendary influential 70s slasher HALLOWEEN. Fans showed up for this one, making it the Number 1 movie for This Weekend in History. For fans of dark, ultra violent, and disturbing material, Zombie’s earlier work is quite impressive. His effectively shocking horror movies HOUSE OF A 1000 CORPSES and THE DEVIL’S REJECTS are the cream of the horror crop. However, by revisiting the iconic character of Michael Myers and developing a backstory, Zombie effectively removes a lot of the mystery and frightful qualities of this Boogeyman. That said, once this film finished with the origin story it delivers on the genre goods.
The SEQUEL was released 2 years later on This Weekend in History and made $16 million in its opening weekend, finishing with $33 million. This is a good indication of the fan disappointment over Zombie’s first entry into the beloved franchise. While not as good, both of these remakes are still better than a lot of the earlier sequels from the 80s and 90s.
CRANK – September 1, 2006
OPENING: $10 million // TOTAL: $28 million
Jason Statham stars in this bonkers action flick. While its premise and action sequences are totally over the top, it’s still totally fun. Statham overcomes one insane scenario after the other. You definitely have to turn off your brain here. The cartoonish direction is fueled by frenetic energy. This is one of those movies you watch with a few friends and yell at the screen. The first CRANK is a real Midnight Screening crowd-pleaser, proving successful enough to warrant a HIGH VOLTAGE sequel.
MACHETE – September 3, 2010
OPENING: $11 million // TOTAL: $27 million
Robert Rodriguez (DESPERADO, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN) is one of my favourite action directors. His stylish action scenes are over-the-top and playful. This flick really embraces its exploitation Grindhouse roots, feeling like it leaped right out of the 70s. Nostalgic charm and R-rated action totally delivers on what it promises. Danny Trejo as the lead is a delight to watch, whether it’s spewing out cheesy one-liners or blowing away bad guys.
SHARK NIGHT 3D – September 2, 2011
OPENING: $8 million // TOTAL: $19 million
Horror is even cheesier in 3D. This shlocky bloodbath is a predicatable entry into the genre. Hot young teens must survive several different species of sharks. Of course, they don’t all survive. One by one, they feed the sharks. The plot is totally inconceivable, but the proceedings are great to make fun of. Sometimes you want to crack jokes while you watch a dumb movie. When you’re in that mood, put on SHARK NIGHT 3D. The title says it all.
BALLS OF FURY – August 29, 2007
OPENING: $11 million // TOTAL: $33 million
This cult classic is a silly comedy with a scene-stealing Chrisopher Walken playing another eccentric character. The movie kind of reminds me of DODGEBALL. If you lower your expectations you should have some fun here. Dan Fogler is the unlikely star, providing some good jokes. This dumb ping pong-ing comedy is good for a few laughs.
AS ABOVE / SO BELOW – August 29, 2014
OPENING: $9 million // TOTAL: $21 million
Set in the catacombs under Paris, this horror movie gets points for creativity. As you can see, August doesn’t have a lot of great movies to pick from. This horror movie could be destined for cult classic status because of its blend with history. It all depends on how intrigued you are by the mystery of a creepy underworld full of skulls and bones. This real life destination would probably be scary even without the supernatural elements. At least this horror doesn’t involve your typical paranormal activity.
THE WICKER MAN – September 1, 2006
OPENING: $10 million // TOTAL: $24 million
The original is a bonafide cult classic, while this Nicolas Cage remake may be enjoyed for all the wrong reasons. This is another one of those b-movies that you watch to make fun of. Grab a few buddies and witness the insane acting choices made by the always unpredictable Nic Cage. Sometimes a movie is so bad it’s good. Depending on your taste, this might be one of those.
What do you think?
Leave a comment below.
Missing your fav flick? Check out the 2D companion piece. Maybe it’s on that list?