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How the US box office was won

By Arthur J Pais
June 21, 2004 14:56 IST

Ben Stiller in Dodgeball: A True Underdog StoryFor a long time, the June 18-20 weekend will be remembered for how Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, a raw and crude comedy blocked the sentimental comedy The Terminal from becoming a runaway hit. And how Dodgeball's first-time director Rawson Marshall Thurber's triumphed over Steven Spielberg, maker of The Terminal.

If The Terminal goes for a steep fall in the coming days, it could earn just about $60 million in North America and prove to be yet another blow for its star Tom Hanks, whose previous film The Lady Killers did not even earn $40 million. Many Spielberg films, including AI, which did mediocre business in America, have proved to be very big hits abroad. So don't be in a rush to write off The Terminal

The week also brought fresh laurels to Shrek 2, the No 3 film on the top 10 list following
Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban. The film, voiced by a host of brilliant artistes, including Eddie Murphy and Antonio Banderas, became the highest grossing film of the year, surpassing Mel Gibson's The Passion Of The Christ.

A few days ago, Shrek 2, which is also produced by Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks Studio, had surged past Lion King to be the highest grossing animated film in North America. In about three weeks, the lively and witty film which has already grossed a mighty $378 million in five weeks, will become the first ever animated film to gross $400 million. 

The weekend produced the first turkey of the summer, Around The World In 80 Days, which would be lucky to run for one-fourth of the days in its title. While Around The World was dead on arrival, The Chronicles Of Riddick, which opened with decent numbers last weekend, sank so low that it too joins the summer turkey list.

The crass but seriously funny Dodgeball, led the box office with an estimated $30 million, while Spielberg's airport drama revolving around the plight of an immigrant (a terrific Tom Hanks), at JFK airport in New York, had a slow start, grossing $18.7 million.

Of course, The Terminal received more positive reviews than Dodgeball, though some critics like Village Voice's J Hoberman complained that The Terminal was too trite and melodramatic. But The New York Times gave the film a rave. Ditto for other mass circulated publications, including USA Today.

Dodgeball tells the story of a small local gym threatened with extinction by a new sports and fitness palace. How a group of social rejects try to save it by going after the ultimate dodgeball competition forms the crux. Many reviewers saw it as a relief from the high-gadget, soul-numbing, sci-fi adventures.

In Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Bob Townsend called it, "a blissfully uncouth comedy that shines like a red rubber ball."  In Boston Globe, Wesley Morris called the comedy "entertainingly nuts," and in Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert praised it for "enormous laughs."

Ben Stiller, who also co-produced the film, continues to be one of the most dependable actors ever since he became a phenomenon with There's Something About Mary, and followed it with Meet the Parents. In the past 12 months he has starred in two other hits: Along Came Polly and Starsky and Hutch. The one miss he had -- Envy directed Barry Levinson -- concerned an embarrassment to all the talents, including fellow star Jack Black.

A still from HidalgoWhile Dodgeball, which cost about $25 million, is on its way to be one of the bigger hits of the year, two $100 million plus movies hit dust. The Chronicles Of Riddick, which would be lucky to recoup half of its investment, is yet another downer for Universal Studios. The expensive Van Helsing is clearly a disappointment. The film, which cost $130-$140 million, is headed for a $280 million gross worldwide.

Even a bigger failure than Riddick is the tasteless remake of the Mike Todd hit, Around The World In 80 Days. The new film headlining Jackie Chan, who also co-produced it, opened on Wednesday and by the week's end, it had not taken even $10 million. It hasn't been a good year for Disney, whose Hidalgo turned out to be an also-ran film recently. The historical The Alamo, too, won't be forgotten for a long time since it lost the studio nearly $100 million.

The box office this week:



Weekend gross


of weeks


Dodgeball: ATrue Underdog Story

$30 million




The Terminal

$18.7 million




Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban

$17.4 million (less 50% from the previous weekend)




Shrek 2

$13.6 million (less 42% from the previous weekend)





$11 million (less 49% from the previous weekend)




The Stepford Wives

$9.2 million (less 57% from the previous weekend)




The Chronicles of Riddick

$8.3 million (less 66% from the previous weekend)




The Day After Tomorrow

$7.5 million (less 48% from the previous weekend)




Around the World in 80 Days






$1.7 (less 50% from the previous weekend)




Arthur J Pais