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2009 Box Office: Blockbusters Galore But ‘Quality Movies’?

G.I. Joe The Rise of Cobra Channing Tatum 2009 box officeG.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra with Channing Tatum: 2009 box office blockbuster.
  • In the domestic market, the 2009 box office provides clear evidence that audiences are eager for “good movies” – as long as you approach the issue from a “glass half full” perspective. Top hits include Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra alongside generally well-received titles like Up and District 9.

2009 box office: Year’s biggest domestic blockbusters to date have been a mix of well-received and widely panned titles

In case you want to check out which titles have topped the weekend box office chart(s) so far this year, below is a quick and oft-updated look at the opening-weekend (and in a few cases final) figures of a number of major domestic releases from early January to mid-October.

Bear in mind that the 2009 box office – which has been chock-full with blockbusters – provides incontrovertible evidence that if “good movies” are made, moviegoers will flock to them.

Well, as long as you ignore the fact that among the year’s biggest commercial successes to date are critically lambasted stuff like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (the year’s biggest domestic hit), Fast & Furious, and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.

Anyhow, here they are, numerous hits and several misses.

Update: 2009’s Top Ten domestic blockbusters and Hollywood’s biggest worldwide hits of the year.

Late-year releases: The Twilight Saga: New Moon breaks opening-day record, The Blind Side is year’s sleeper blockbuster, Invictus is an all-around commercial dud, and Avatar shatters several box office records.

October: Where the Wild Things Are is the big (flop) story

2009 box office – Oct. 16–18: Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are was the no. 1 movie with $32.7 million, according to studio figures found at boxofficemojo.com.

That would have been a respectable debut had Where the Wild Things Are cost $50 or $60 million. However, this big-screen adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s fantasy novel had a $100 million budget, not including marketing and distribution expenses. In other words, Where the Wild Things Are is on its way to becoming one of the year’s most notable commercial duds.

In the cast of this Warner Bros. release: Max Records, Pepita Emmerichs, Mark Ruffalo, and Catherine Keener, in addition to the voices of Catherine O’Hara, Paul Dano, Chris Cooper, and James Gandolfini.

2009 box office – Oct. 9–11: Universal’s comedy Couples Retreat was the no. 1 movie with $34.3 million. In the cast: Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Kristin Davis, Kristen Bell, and Jason Bateman. Peter Billingsley made his feature directorial debut.

2009 box office – Oct. 2–4: Ruben Fleischer’s horror comedy Zombieland was the no. 1 movie with $24.7 million. In the cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin.

September: Commercial underperformer Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

2009 box office – Sept. 18–20 / Sept. 25–27: Playing in both 3D and standard format, Sony Pictures Animation’s Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was the no. 1 movie for two consecutive weekends, collecting $30.3 million on its first three days out.

In the voice cast: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, Andy Samberg, Will Forte, Benjamin Bratt, and veteran Oscar nominee James Caan (The Godfather, 1972). Phil Lord and Chris Miller directed.

Update: Budgeted at $100 million (not including marketing and distribution expenses), Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs ultimately brought in $129.9 million in the U.S. and Canada. The international market did help some with another $118.1 million. (But after the exhibitors’ cut/local taxes, that’s hardly enough for the computer-animated feature to break even.)

2009 box office – Sept. 11–13: Actor-director Tyler Perry’s moralizing comedy-drama I Can Do Bad All By Myself was the no. 1 movie with $23.4 million, thus becoming the second Perry release to top the domestic weekend box office chart this year, following Madea Goes to Jail back in late February. Also in the cast: Taraji P. Henson, Adam Rodriguez, Brian White, Gladys Knight, and Mary J. Bilge.

2009 box office – Aug. 28–30 / Sept. 4–6: Playing in both 3D and standard format, New Line Cinema’s David R. Ellis-directed horror thriller The Final Destination was the no. 1 movie for two consecutive weekends, raking in $27.4 million on its first three days out. Total to date: $47.5 million. Budget: $40 million. In the cast: Bobby Campo, Shantel VanSanten, Nick Zano, and Haley Webb.

Inglourious Basterds Brad PittInglourious Basterds with Brad Pitt.

August: Quentin Tarantino vs. Hasbro toy

2009 box office – Aug. 21–23: Quentin Tarantino’s R-rated alternate-reality World War II drama Inglourious Basterds was the no. 1 movie with $38 million from 3,165 theaters – the biggest opening ever for a Tarantino film. In the international cast of this $70 million production: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Michael Fassbender, Daniel Brühl, Eli Roth, Diane Kruger, Til Schweiger, Mélanie Laurent, and veteran Rod Taylor (The Time Machine, The Birds).

2009 box office – Aug. 14–16: Budgeted at $30 million, Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 was the no. 1 movie with $37.4 million. This well-received sci-fi/political actioner with financing from South Africa, the United States, and New Zealand can officially be labeled the year’s sleeper hit. In the cast: Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, and David James. Peter Jackson is one of its producers.

2009 box office – Aug. 7–10: Reviled by critics, Paramount’s $175 million actioner G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was the no. 1 movie with $54.7 million from 4,007 sites. Directed by Stephen Sommers and based on a recently rediscovered play by Euripides – kidding … its original “material” is actually a Hasbro action figure – G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra features Channing Tatum, Dennis Quaid, Sienna Miller, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Jonathan Pryce. (There was also a 1980s animated series, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.)

2009 box office – July 31–Aug. 2: Judd Apatow’s R-rated comedy Funny People was the no. 1 movie with $22.7 million. That’s a pretty mediocre debut for an Adam Sandler flick. Also in the cast: Seth Rogen and Leslie Mann.

Update: Eventually nominated for eight Academy Awards – earning Christoph Waltz Best Supporting Actor honors – Inglourious Basterds ultimately grossed $120.5 million domestically and $200.9 million internationally, for a worldwide total of $321.5 million.

Eventually nominated for six Razzies – earning Sienna Miller Worst Supporting Actress dishonors – G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra ultimately grossed $150.2 million domestically and $152.3 million internationally, for a worldwide total of $302.5 million.

July: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince to become 2009’s biggest blockbuster?

2009 box office – July 24–26: Walt Disney Pictures’ live-action/animated 3D flick G-Force was the no. 1 movie with $31.7 million. Produced by high-conceptmeister Jerry-Bruckheimer (Top Gun, Crimson Tide, National Treasure, etc.) and directed by Hoyt Yeatman, G-Force features a squad of specially trained guinea pigs, a mole, and a fly that sound like, among others, Sam Rockwell, Penélope Cruz, and Nicolas Cage.

2009 box office – July 17–19: David Yates’ Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was the no. 1 movie with $77.8 million from 4,325 locations. Since its Wednesday debut, the sixth installment in the Harry Potter franchise has collected $158 million. In the extensive cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, and the usual parade of more mature British/Irish talent, including Michael Gambon, David Thewlis, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, and Helena Bonham Carter.

2009 box office – July 10–12: Starring Sacha Baron Cohen as a flamboyantly gay Austrian fashionista, Larry Charles’ comedy Brüno was the no. 1 movie with $30.6 million.

2009 box office – July 3–5: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen remained in the no. 1 spot over the July 4 holiday weekend, raking in $42.3 million. New entry Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs was no. 2 with $41.7 million. Cume to date: $66.7 million.

Update: With $302.3 million, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince turned out to be more successful in the domestic market than all but one of its predecessors: The first installment in the franchise, Chris Columbus’ Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which took in $318.9 million.

On the downside, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was not the 2009 box office’s biggest blockbuster in the domestic market. That honor belongs to Michael Bay’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which ultimately brought in $402.1 million.

Transformers Revenge of the Fallen Megan Fox Shia LaBeoufTransformers: Revenge of the Fallen with Megan Fox and Shia LaBeouf: Critically excoriated 2009 box office mega-hit.

June: Critical bomb Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen sparks box office fireworks

2009 box office – June 26–28: “If you build, they will come” is a well-known line from a popular 1989 movie about corn cobs and ghostly ball players.

With just a little tweaking – “If you build giant bots, mind-numbing action, cardboard characters, and imbecilized dialogue” – that Field of Dreams line would be a perfect description of the current leader at the domestic box office: Michael Bay’s critically lambasted free-for-all Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

Since its Wednesday debut five days ago, the $200 million-budget sequel to the 2007 hit Transformers has scored $200.1 million from 4,234 locations, $109 million of which on the June 26–28 weekend proper. Its $62 million first-day gross is supposed to be the highest ever on a Wednesday.

That once again proves that moviegoers want top-notch quality fare, no matter what know-nothing film critics have to say. In the cast: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro, and Isabel Lucas.

More June box office news: The Proposal & The Hangover

2009 box office – June 19–21: Featuring elements from Peter Weir’s crowd-pleasing Green Card, Anne Fletcher’s romantic comedy The Proposal was the no. 1 movie with $33.6 million. In the cast: Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson, Malin Akerman, and veteran Betty White.

2009 box office – June 5–7 / June 12–14: Todd Phillips’ raunchy comedy The Hangover was the no. 1 movie for two consecutive weekends, collecting $45 million on its first three days out. In the cast: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha, and Heather Graham.

May: Sequel vs. reboot

2009 box office – May 29–31: Directed by Pete Docter and featuring the voice of Edward Asner, Pixar’s well-regarded Up was the no. 1 movie with $68 million from 3,766 venues.

2009 box office – May 22–24: Starring Ben Stiller, Shawn Levy’s Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian was the no. 1 movie with $54.2 million. Also in the cast: Amy Adams, Owen Wilson, Hank Azaria, Christopher Guest, and Robin Williams.

2009 box office – May 15–17: Based on Dan Brown’s bestselling sequel to The Da Vinci Code, Ron Howard’s Angels & Demons was the no. 1 movie with $46.2 million. In the cast: Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer, Stellan Skarsgård, Pierfrancesco Favino, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, and Armin Mueller-Stahl. Note: Also directed by Ron Howard, and starring Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou, The Da Vinci Code debuted with a far stronger $77.1 million in 2006.

2009 box office – May 8–10: J.J. AbramsStar Trek reboot was the no. 1 movie with $75.2 million. In the cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Eric Bana, Bruce Greenwood, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, and Simon Pegg. Cume (including Thursday’s evening screenings): $79.2 million.

2009 box office – May 1–3: Online leak or no, 20th Century Fox’s Gavin Hood-directed X-Men Origins: Wolverine was the no. 1 movie with a remarkable $85 million. In the cast: Hugh Jackman as the title character, alongside Liev Schreiber, Ryan Reynolds, Taylor Kitsch, and Danny Huston.

April: Fast & Furious provides further evidence that if you make ‘good movies’…

2009 box office – April 24–26: Steve Shill’s Fatal Attraction-inspired thriller Obsessed was the no. 1 movie with $28.6 million. In the cast: Beyoncé Knowles, Idris Elba, Ali Larter, and Christine Lahti.

2009 box office – April 17–19: The Zac Efron star vehicle 17 Again was the no. 1 movie with $23.7 million. Directed by Burr Steers, the teen-oriented comedy also features Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon, and Michelle Trachtenberg.

2009 box office – April 10–12: Peter Chelsom’s Hannah Montana: The Movie was the no. 1 release with $32.3 million. In the cast: Miley Cyrus, Billy Ray Cyrus, Lucas Till, Michael Musso, Moises Arias, Vanessa Williams, and Margo Martindale.

2009 box office – April 3–5: There’s nothing like a “good movie” to make potential audience members get their asses to their nearest movie house. Or so they say. Anyhow, Justin Lin’s widely panned Fast & Furious was the no. 1 movie in the U.S. and Canada, bringing in $71 million. In the cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, and Gal Gadot.

Update: One of the year’s biggest blockbusters, Fast & Furious ultimately grossed $155.1 million domestically and $205.3 million internationally, for a worldwide total of $360.4 million. Budget: $85 million.

Watchmen movie Malin AkermanWatchmen movie with Malin Akerman.

March: Monsters & Aliens + Watchmen have strong debuts

2009 box office – March 27–29: Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon’s computer-animated feature Monsters & Aliens topped the box office chart with $59.3 million according to final studio figures found at boxofficemojo.com. In the voice cast: Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie, and Will Arnett.

2009 box office – March 20–22: Alex Proyas’ mystery thriller Knowing was the no. 1 movie with $24.6 million. In the cast: Nicolas Cage, Chandler Canterbury, and Rose Byrne.

2009 box office – March 13–15: Andy Fickman’s kiddie flick Race to Witch Mountain was the no. 1 movie with $24.4 million. In the cast: Dwayne Johnson, AnnaSophia Robb, Alexander Ludwig, Carla Gugino, Ciarán Hinds, Tom Everett Scott, and 1975 Escape to Witch Mountain stars Ike Eisenmann and Kim Richards.

2009 box office – March 6–8: Boasting the widest release ever for an R-rated movie, Zack Snyder’s Watchmen topped the domestic box office with $55.2 million (including $4.5 million from Friday midnight screenings). This big-screen adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ graphic novel features Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Carla Gugino, and Patrick Wilson.

February: Tyler Perry in drag vs. Jason on murder spree

2009 box office – Feb. 20–22 / Feb. 27–March 1: Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail was the no. 1 movie for two consecutive weekends, collecting $41 million on its first three days out, thus easily surpassing the $30 million opening-weekend gross of Madea’s Family Reunion in 2006. In the cast: Perry, Derek Luke, Sofia Vergara, and Viola Davis.

2009 box office – Feb. 13–15: Halloween came early this year, as Marcus Nispel’s Friday the 13th rehash was the no. 1 movie with $40.6 million. In the cast: Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker, Travis Van Winkle, and Ben Feldman.

2009 box office – Feb. 6–8: Right in time for Valentine’s Day, Ken Kwapis’ He’s Just Not That Into You was the no. 1 movie with $27.8 million. In the all-star cast: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Connelly, Kevin Connolly, Bradley Cooper, Ginnifer Goodwin, Scarlett Johansson, Justin Long, and veteran Kris Kristofferson (A Star Is Born, Convoy).

2009 box office – Jan. 30–Feb. 1: Pierre Morel’s thriller Taken was the no. 1 movie with $24.7 million. In the cast: Liam Neeson and Maggie Grace.

January: Kevin James vs. Clint Eastwood

2009 box office – Jan. 16–18 / Jan. 23–25: Paul Blart: Mall Cop was the no. 1 movie for two consecutive weekends, collecting $31.8 million on its first three days out. In the cast: Kevin James, Keir O’Donnell, Bobby Cannavale, and veteran Oscar nominee Shirley Knight (The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, 1960; Sweet Bird of Youth, 1962).

2009 box office – Jan. 9–11: After expanding to 2,808 locations, actor-director Clint Eastwood’s $33 million budget Gran Torino was the no. 1 movie with $29.5 million. Cume after five weekends: $40.5 million. Also in the cast: Bee Vang, Christopher Carley, and Scott Eastwood.

2009 box office – Jan. 2–4: A Christmas 2008 release, David Frankel’s comedy-drama Marley & Me was the no. 1 movie for the second weekend in a row, scoring $24.3 million and thus once again beating Adam Sandler’s Bedtime Stories, Brad Pitt’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and Tom Cruise’s Valkyrie. Cume to date: $106.7 million. In the Marley & Me cast: Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston.


“2009 Box Office” endnotes

Unless otherwise noted, “2009 Box Office: Blockbusters Galore But ‘Quality Movies’?” box office information via Box Office Mojo. Budget info – which should usually be taken with a grain of salt – via BOM and/or other sources.

Comments about Where the Wild Things Are, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Inglourious Basterds, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, and other titles being hits/profitable or flops/money-losers at the box office (see paragraph below) are based on the available data about their production budget, additional marketing and distribution expenses (as a general rule of thumb, around 50 percent of the production cost), and worldwide gross (as a general rule of thumb when it comes to the Hollywood studios, around 50–55 percent of the domestic gross and 40 percent of the international gross goes to the distributing/producing companies).

Bear in mind that data regarding rebates, international pre-sales, and other credits and/or contractual details that help to alleviate/split production costs and apportion revenues are oftentimes unavailable, and that reported international grosses can be incomplete (i.e., not every territory is accounted for). Also bear in mind that ancillary revenues (domestic/global television rights, home video sales, streaming, merchandising, etc.) can represent anywhere between 40–70 percent of a movie’s total take; however, these revenues and their apportionment are only infrequently made public.

Channing Tatum G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra movie image: Paramount Pictures.

Brad Pitt Inglourious Basterds image: The Weinstein Company | Universal Pictures.

Megan Fox and Shia LaBeouf Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen image: Jaimie Trueblood | DreamWorks Pictures | Hasbro | Paramount Pictures.

Malin Akerman Watchmen movie image: Warner Bros. | Paramount Pictures.

“2009 Box Office: Blockbusters Galore But ‘Quality Movies’?” last updated in July 2022.

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