This is my final post for Swamp Thing, which is the traditional time for me to talk about how the movie earned the highest opening-weekend returns in history, and was the #1 box office draw for months and months. At least, that’s how it worked for Superman and Superman II. There’s a bit of a different situation with Swamp Thing.
In fact, I’m not certain how much Swamp Thing made. I typically use Box Office Mojo as my source, and Swamp Thing doesn’t appear on their 1982 domestic box office listing. Their data only goes back to 1977, and for the first six or seven years, they don’t have information on every movie. Part of the problem is that Swamp Thing wasn’t in wide release: it opened in different parts of the country any time between February and August. The other part of the problem is that nobody cares except me.
I found a site called Ultimate Movie Rankings that says Swamp Thing made $6.4 million domestic, and where they got that number I haven’t a notion. But let’s go with that.
Continue reading Swamp Thing 3.45: Six Million Dollars
Okay, we’ve spent eleven weeks talking about this double-headed hydra of a sequel, and here’s the bottom line:
On its first weekend in June 1981, Superman II earned the highest opening-weekend box office in history: $14 million, which was twice the opening gross for the first movie. It actually knocked Raiders of the Lost Ark out of the #1 spot, which had launched just a week before with a relatively small opening haul of $8 million.
This state of affairs didn’t last, of course. Superman II held on to the #1 spot for three weeks, but then Raiders came back even stronger, taking #1 back and holding onto it for nine more weeks. Raiders continued to perform well all the way through March 1982, ultimately earning $212 million. The Katharine Hepburn/Henry Fonda family drama On Golden Pond came in second for the year with $119 million, and Superman II came in third, with $108 million.
Superman II‘s take was a bit below the first movie, which made $134 million in 1978/79, but it performed very well. The comparable films in its weight class didn’t do nearly as well (besides Raiders, obviously): the year’s James Bond installment For Your Eyes Only made $55 million, Greek myth fantasy adventure Clash of the Titans got $41 million, and the pulp fiction inspired Tarzan the Ape Man earned $36 million.
But as successful as the Superman movies were, they were always overshadowed by the breakout hits that were even bigger: Jaws, Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Return of the Jedi. The Superman movies could have been the iconic blockbusters of the late 70s/early 80s, if only George Lucas and Steven Spielberg had never been born.
Continue reading Superman II 2.55: One Hundred and Eight Million Dollars
Okay, let’s get into the money, because that’s the only thing that matters.
Superman: The Movie made 7 million dollars in its opening weekend in December 1978, and it was the #1 box office draw for 11 weeks, all the way into early March ’79. The total domestic box office was $134 million, making it the highest-grossing film of 1979.
To give you a sense of scale, there were only seven movies in the 1970s that grossed more than $100 million, and Superman was in the top five: Star Wars ($307m), Jaws ($260m), Grease ($160m), Animal House ($141m) and Superman ($134m), followed by Close Encounters of the Third Kind ($116m) and Kramer vs. Kramer ($106m).
So, yeah, it was a big hit, and a big deal. So, the question is: why didn’t they make any other superhero movies for basically a decade?
Continue reading Superman 1.100: One Hundred and Thirty-Four Million Dollars