There’s a good chance that if you have any intention of seeing Breaking Dawn — Part 1, you have already done so by the time you read this, because it’s been in theaters for like 16 hours already. You might also be considering Happy Feet Two, in which penguins fight global warming with choreography. Or perhaps you are a grown-up and would like to see a grown-up dramatic comedy, in which case The Descendants may suit you, and will also fulfill the FDA’s recommended weekly requirement of George Clooney intake.
What we’re saying is, you have plenty of options on this, the last weekend before Thanksgiving and thus the last weekend before the onset of year-end madness and binge eating. Let’s pause for a moment and reflect on what befell us 365 days ago, when the cinematic landscape was at a similarly crucial juncture.
The weekend of Nov. 19-21, 2010
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and the guy who played Ron.
It’s not fair to pit Harry Potter against Twilight, which is why we enjoy doing it so much. This thing they’re doing, where they needlessly split the last book of the series into two films? They totally stole that idea from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Part 1 of the saga’s conclusion opened to a predictably spectacular $ 125 million, the franchise’s best up to that point (Part 2 would later top it). That was the sixth biggest opening weekend of all time, and the second best for November, behind — wait for it — Twilight: New Moon.
Deathly Hallows Part 1 went on to make $ 295 million in the United States, plus another $ 660 million overseas, for a total of $ 955 million. That’s almost a billion dollars, people. For this one movie alone. This one half of a movie alone. All eight Harry Potter movies together eventually made $ 7,705,100,000 worldwide. The banks should have asked J.K. Rowling for a bailout, amirite??
The Next Three Days
Starring Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks.
Nobody wanted to open a movie opposite Deathly Hallows Part 1. You might as well open a broccoli store next to a store that gives out free candy. Nonetheless, Lionsgate took a chance on The Next Three Days, an action thriller about ordinary dude Russell Crowe trying to bust his wife out of prison. Reviews were only so-so — 51% positive at Rotten Tomatoes — but the box office was about as good as could have been expected, i.e., not very good at all. The movie debuted to $ 6.5 million, on its way to $ 21.1 million in the U.S. and $ 46 million overseas. So it broke even — which, again, is about all you can hope for when you go head-to-head with the boy wizard and his dark satanic powers.
Russell Crowe will next appear in The Man with the Iron Fists, directed by rapper RZA, written by RZA and horror fratboy Eli Roth, and set in feudal China. I don’t see how any of that can possibly be true, but it’s right there on IMDb. Crowe will also appear as Superman’s alien father and Inspector Javert, continuing his tradition of playing men who are dour, sullen, and not much fun to be around.
Hey, look what else opened a year ago!
Guzaarish opened on 108 screens. What is Guzaarish? I’m glad you asked! It’s a Bollywood film, one of an increasing number of such Indian productions that play under the radar in the United States and usually make good money. This one had a healthy $ 488,121 opening weekend, with a per-screen average that meant each theater was at least as full as all the films in the top 10. It eventually made just over $ 1 million in the U.S. Yeah, Harry Potter makes that in five minutes, but still. Pretty impressive when you consider there’s a very good chance that neither you nor anyone you know ever even heard of it.
And what about FIVE years ago??
Nov. 17, 2006, brought us — oh, what’s this? — Happy Feet! That is an astonishing coincidence, because its sequel comes out this weekend! We also got our first dose of Daniel Craig as James Bond in Casino Royale, in which he was the victim of genital torture, as well as the Dax Shepard/Will Arnett comedy Let’s Go to Prison, which felt like it.
(All box office figures are from Box Office Mojo.)