One-hundred-plus years of filmmaking provides a long, rich, and deep history to look back on. Retro reviews and analysis of old films are practically necessary full-time specialties. Month after month, films release, vying to make as much money and grab as much attention as possible. Some rise, some fall, but regardless of financial success, the lasting effect of a film in popular culture is unpredictable.
So, where does that leave past box office champs? Let’s take a look back ten, twenty, and thirty years ago at the biggest movies released in April.
1990 • Ernest Goes To Jail • 25 million
March 1990 was full of hits, but April of that year was a bizarre cocktail of mostly forgotten films. Ernest Goes To Jail is the fourth film (of nine!) in the Ernest series that sends the titular character to a state penitentiary. The Ernest films were quite a thing back in the late 80s and early 90s. The role of Ernest P. Worrell was played by Jim Varney, and the entire franchise (a TV series included) spawned from a series of commercials in the early 80s.
Following Ernest is The First Power starring Lou Diamond Philips. The neo-noir horror film isn’t great but features an interesting concept that’s maybe due for a re-imagining. In third is a film featuring Joaquin Phoenix and Keannu Reeves called I Love You To Death. The Guardian, directed by William Friedkin (The Exorcist), made its way into fourth after a troubled production. Right behind it was a science fiction comedy called Spaced Invaders about a group of incompetent Martians trying to take over Earth.
2000 • U-571 • 77 million
April 1990 wasn’t pretty, and ten years later, things aren’t much more interesting in the month. The winner in 2000 was submarine thriller U-571 starring Matthew McConaughey and featuring rocker Jon Bon Jovi and Bill Paxton. Things weren’t alright, alright, alright, though as the film received backlash from the British government for distorting history too far.
Another military drama, Rules of Engagement, trailed U-571 by 16 million, taking in 61 million at the domestic box office. The film starred Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson and was directed by William Friedkin. Horror film Frequency, a science fiction thriller starring Dennis Quaid came in third. Comedy-drama 28 Days with Sandra Bullock took fourth followed closely by Edward Norton’s directorial debut, the romantic-comedy Keeping the Faith.
2010 • Clash Of The Titans • 163 million
The 2000s have certainly seen a monumental shift in the film industry. The burgeoning overseas market has ramped up the numbers, but also the way return on investment is considered. Clash of the Titans took in nearly 500 million worldwide despite mostly negative reviews against a 125 million dollar production budget and many million more spent on advertising. The film earned two Golden Raspberry nominations too.
The champ from just ten years prior would fall into a distant third in 2010. The second-place winner, Date Night starring Steve Carell and Tina Fey, made nearly 100 million domestically. The Nightmare on Elm Street remake came in third closely followed by Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too? In last place is probably the best-known film of the bunch, Kick-Ass, which spawned a sequel.
Well, this is a tough one to write. Due to COVID-19, theaters across the world are shut down for safety. However, had things not gone globally haywire, this April would’ve seen Daniel Craig’s last go-around as James Bond in No Time To Die go head-to-head against Marvel’s (sort of?) The New Mutants. As of now, No Time To Die is pushed back to November, and that’s a best-case scenario kinda thing. The New Mutants has been in release limbo for a long time now, and so this is just more of the same for the ill-fated film.
My prediction …
No predictions. Things are weird. The most important thing right now is that everyone stays safe and healthy. Watch movies at home for now.
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