Box Office Flashback: March – Pretty Women, Tough Women, Surreal Women

Thirty years ago it was a sex worker reinventing herself. Ten years later, an actress reinvented herself. And ten years ago, a woman finds herself in wonderland.

One-hundred-plus years of film-making 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 March.

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1990 • Pretty Woman • 135 million

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If a list were ever made of the top months of March for movie releases, then March 1990 would have to be up there. The box office featured a trio of powerhouse films in the annals of pop culture history. At the top of this money-pile is Pretty Woman starring Julia Roberts. The film firmly established Roberts as a bankable box office superstar.

March of 1990 featured the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The film was a box office hit taking in 170 million and spawning two not-so-great sequels. In a close third is The Hunt For Red October. Sean Connery at his peak playing a Russian Naval Captain facing off against then rising superstar Alec Baldwin. It was the birth of Jack Ryan on film who’s still with us today played by John Krasinski for Amazon. In fourth, Joe Versus the Volcano, an action-comedy starring Tom Hanks which, if you’ve seen it, you love it. It’s hard not to. Lastly, hip-hop duo Kid and Play starred in House Party. March 1990 is one to remember at the box office.

2000 • Erin Brokovich • 125 million

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Ten years after Pretty Woman made her a household name and won the box office, Julia Roberts said to her past self … hold my beer. In March of 2000, Roberts retook the March crown with her Oscar-winning performance in Erin Brockovich. While it technically made less money, the film cemented Roberts as an undisputed Hollywood legend.

The box office in March of 2000 was not as power-packed like in 1990. Making fifty percent less than Erin Brokovich was Mission to Mars, a beautifully shot Brian DePalma film that’s otherwise a hot mess of good actors and a bad story. The Shakespeare-inspired action flick Romeo Must Die starred Jet Li and took third this month. Number four for the month, Final Destination, is probably the biggest pop culture winner here having spawned many sequels. The animated Road to El Dorado closes out the top five, though the film ultimately was a box office dud.

2010 • Alice in Wonderland • 334 million

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The box office of March 2010 saw ticket sales soaring due to the release of two films. The champion was Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. Not only did it make the most money of any movie released in March of that year, but the film went on to land in the top three grossing films of the year. It spawned a sequel too, but that’s where it ends. For now.

Arguably, the real winner from this month was the release of How to Train Your Dragon, which came in second. The film earned 217 million but gave birth to a franchise that’s seen two sequels, video games, and an animated series. The rest of March 2010 is mostly a forgettable one. The Bounty Hunter starring Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler happened. Diary of a Wimpy Kid fell three million short of third place. And, The Last Song, a film I didn’t know existed until I wrote this article, came in fifth with 62 million. My apologies to stars Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth.

March 2020

March is a curious one. January and February are mostly slow months for films. March is when the pan starts to sizzle. On March 6th is Onward (TRAILER), the latest from Pixar with a voice cast including Spider-Man Tom Holland and Star-Lord Chris Pratt. On March 13th, the cinematic world will meet Valiant Comics character Bloodshot (TRAILER) played by Vin Diesel. Towards the end of the month is A Quiet Place: Part II, which has been mostly quiet as far as buzz. A week later is the release of Disney’s next live-action remake of an animated classic, Mulan.

My prediction …

Before I get on with predictions, a special mention to The Invisible Man starring Elizabeth Moss, which released in late February but is doing some damage at the box office. March of 2020 belongs to Mulan. Onward is sure to make make it rain for Pixar though not to any level like previous super-blockbusters like Toy Story or The Incredibles. A Quiet Place: Part II will do well, and Bloodshot might surprise too. But Mulan is poised to be a big, box office hit for Disney, and it doesn’t seem likely that anything else will come close.

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Ruben Diaz
Ruben Diaz
Writer, film-fanatic, geek, gamer, info junkie & consummate Devil's advocate who has been fascinated by Earth since 1976. Classically trained in the ways of the future.