This series highlights the best opening weekends since 1980.
This Weekend in History features Keanu Reeves kicking some ass, Egypt gone sci-fi, one of the most successful recent horror franchises, a bold visual hidden gem, an impressive recent concert film, and 5 Cult Classics.
Selected movies are from the Top 200 openings. Each flick is accompanied by a nerdy little blurb justifying its inclusion. Check out the companion piece over at A TALE OF TWO DANS if you’re hungry for more. Totally different movies shine in the 2D spotlight.
- note: box office figures are domestic and are not adjusted for inflation
JOHN WICK – 2014
OPENING WEEKEND: $14 million // BOX OFFICE TOTAL: $43 million
Keanu Reeves was “thinkin’ he’s back”, but he most definitely IS! A simple premise is brilliantly executed, giving action fans exactly what we want. This nutso old school action flick mixes John Woo gunplay with martial arts. The hotel for hitman was a nice twist too. Keanu is one of the best action heroes ever, with quite a few big time blockbusters. It’s a wonder why this one didn’t perform better, as it is much more exciting than a lot of his other movies. Check this when you’re in the mood for some totally awesome gun-fu.
STARGATE – 1994
OPENING: $17 million // TOTAL: $72 million
Before they blew up the box office (and the White House) with INDEPENDENCE DAY, this writer and director duo created this wormhole teleporting sci-fi cult classic that mixes Egyptology with alien technology. Kurt Russell and James Spader star as the heroes on this epic journey full of exciting adventure.
NERD ALERT: STARGATE was later adapted into several television series. The reboot is in early phases of development, preparing for a new trilogy.
SAW III – 2006
OPENING: $34 million // TOTAL: $80 million
These SAW movies made so much money every Halloween. There were a long string of low budget nasty gore-filled sequels. The most successful one was this one here. Nothing really separates the plots too much. Each movie has kidnapped victims in some sort of death trap to test their morals.
These horror flicks aren’t for the squeamish. The extreme violence even tests the boundaries of die-hard gore-hounds.
PLEASANTVILLE – 1998
OPENING: $9 million // TOTAL: $41 million
This magical little movie was a lot more popular on home video. It’s a nice feeling family movie set in the 50s. Slowly, colour begins to seep into this black and white world, as Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon blossom into adulthood and deal with coming of age. Fantastic performances all around, including Joan Allen and William H. Macy, make sure the themes land with impact. The bold visuals and daring direction is the real highlight here.
MICHAEL JACKSON: THIS IS IT – 2009
OPENING: $23 million // TOTAL: $72 million
The last concert film from Michael Jackson was filmed while he prepared for his goodbye tour. Ironically, he died before the grand opening. Regardless of how you feel about the man, the myth is amazing, and his music is phenomenal. This tour would have been massive – including the gigantic stages.
The Number 1 movie This Weekend in History is SCARY MOVIE 3 with $48 million in 2003. I’m not sure how it rakes in more than the SCREAM movies it spoofed, but it seems like going PG-13 worked for this comedic series. It would go on to make $110 million overall. This is a real WTF head-scratcher. For what they were, the first 2 SCARY MOVIES were way better. Although it was good to see Charlie Sheen return to the HOT SHOTS genre.
GHOST SHIP – 2002
OPENING: $12 million // TOTAL: $30 million
A surprisingly good horror film with really impressive visuals and over-the-top kills. The opening sequence is one of the best for the genre in the 2000s. The plot gets hokey, but the acting is good for a horror flick. Julianna Marguilles leads the way as our hero trying to solve what killed the entire passenger list of a cruise-ship.
VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN – 1995
OPENING: $7 million // TOTAL: $20 million
Wes Craven tried his best at horror comedy with Eddie Murphy starring as a smooth vampire. Instead of the traditional Gothic setting, this story takes to the Big Apple. The jokes fell flat, and the movie was ultimately disappointing, but there is a certain charm to watching Murphy ham it up, and Craven letting loose in a (relatively) new genre.
THIRTEEN GHOSTS – 2001
OPENING: $15 million // TOTAL: $42 million
‘Tis the season… This was another impressive horror from the early 2000s. With special glasses our heroes can see the ghost world. For some reason or another they are lured into a haunted mansion to test it out. There are several great jump scenes and some creative ghosts. The visuals are definitely atmospheric and the ghost are actually scary.
HIGH SCHOOL HIGH – 1996
OPENING: $6 million // TOTAL: $21 million
This is one of those forgotten spoof movies, starring former SNL-er John Lovitz. He’s one of those almost forgotten comedians too. HIGH made fun of all the inner-city teacher movies that popped up in the 80s and 90s – stuff like DANGEROUS MINDS, STAND AND DELIVER, and LEAN ON ME.
CLOUD ATLAS – 2012
OPENING: $10 million // TOTAL: $27 million
The Wachowskis have struggled to make a hit since the first MATRIX blew everyone’s minds. This story is probably their most ambitious. Tom Hanks and Halle Berry star in this tale that spans centuries across time. The philosophical elements are handled well, and a lot of the themes are pretty intriguing. Unfortunately, this story is too big for the big screen, and might have fared better on cable television, like an HBO mini-series.
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Check out the 2D companion piece for more.
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