The Year That Was

June-July 2004

June 1

'CURB'-SIDE ASSISTANCE News reports surface that a man jailed on a murder rap for nearly six months was freed in January after his lawyer confirmed an alibi: His client was spotted in unaired Curb Your Enthusiasm footage in which star Larry David goes to Dodger Stadium. However, rumors that Scott Peterson is innocent after being seen shooting a three-episode arc on Reba turn out to be unfounded.

June 11

BROD APPEALED The Stepford Wives remake (featuring Nicole Kidman and Matthew Broderick) opens, and audiences want a divorce: The comedy, made for a reported $90 million, grosses only $59 million domestically. Curiously, in December, Kidman drops out of the new Producers movie...also starring Broderick. So don't bother asking if she wants to do Ladyhawke 2.

June 13

WOE BUSINESS The shame of a million jailbait crushes is lifted as Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen turn 18. But instead of blowing out candles, Mary-Kate finds herself at Utah's Cirque Lodge facility, where she's entrenched herself to treat an eating disorder. Which leaves Ashley with the unenviable task of answering for New York Minute herself.

June 25

BUSH WHACKER After winning Cannes' Palme d'Or in May, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 debuts to a $23.9 million weekend, a documentary record. It's unclear whether its success is due to its message or to the fact that it doesn't have Stepford in the title.

June 30

Sequel Opportunity Finally, a few movie heroes we actually want to see again

On its opening day, Spider-Man 2 snares a record-setting $40.5 million in its web, on the way to a $373.4 million domestic total that lands it at an impressive No. 8 on the all-time-blockbuster list. But here's the truly amazing part: It's actually a good movie, a superhuman feat for a sequel. And Spidey's not the only follow-up worth following this summer.

Compared with 2003's hot zone — when X2: X-Men United was the only hero among such villains as the headachy Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, stalled 2 Fast 2 Furious, and buggy Matrix Reloaded — many of 2004's sequels are refreshingly smart, and, as a result, financially refreshing. The giddily meta Shrek 2 ($436.7 million) and exhilarating Bourne Supremacy ($176.1 million) both surpass their predecessors' grosses, while the third-time's-the-charm Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban ($249.4 million) lands a broom's sweep shy of its forerunner. (But that's still enough to qualify it as the No. 32 all-time blockbuster.)

Is this actually a summer where reviews matter? There seems to be a reassuring cause-and-effect leading crappy movies to fail. The busily empty Chronicles of Riddick makes back only $57.7 million of its $100 million budget, while The Exorcist: The Beginning can barely get any heads to turn toward the screen, let alone all the way around. Yes, the superficial, critically panned Princess Diaries 2 earns nearly $100 million, but that's not a fair comparison: Not even Doc Ock's metal arms could keep a horde of little girls away from a movie with princess in the title.

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