‘Meet the Fockers’: Highest grossing comedy movie ever?
Starring Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Blythe Danner, and Teri Polo, Universal/DreamWorks’ Jay Roach-directed blockbuster Meet the Fockers is now officially the highest grossing comedy movie (live action) in history.
But is it really?
According to a Los Angeles Times report, the craphouse family – or rather, families – movie of the year (2004–2005) has scored $498 million worldwide, $221 million of which outside the U.S. and Canada. In this context, one should point out that as far as international box office figures are concerned, it surely doesn’t hurt that in the last couple of years the U.S. dollar has lost a lot of ground against most major currencies.
Something else worth pointing out: the Los Angeles Times apparently doesn’t consider Robert Zemeckis’ Academy Award-winning paean to idiocy and conformism, Forrest Gump, a comedy. Starring Best Actor winner Tom Hanks, Sally Field, and Robin Wright, the 1994 hit raked in $679 million (not adjusted for inflation) worldwide.
‘Meet the Fockers’ vs. ‘Home Alone’
Now, what about Home Alone?
Okay, so the Chris Columbus-directed 1990 Macaulay Culkin flick is as unfunny as Forrest Gump – but so is “highest grossing comedy” Meet the Fockers.
Anyhow, according to Boxofficemojo.com, Home Alone collected $476.7 million worldwide in the early 1990s.
Minor detail: inflation is a reality today, much like it was a reality back in the late 20th century. Once that fact of life is factored in (to make things more manageable, without taking into account currency fluctuations), Home Alone would have scored around $725 million in 2004–2005.
That would place the Columbus-Culkin sleeper blockbuster approximately $225 million ahead of the Meet the Parents sequel.
So, should the Big Prize for the highest grossing comedy (live action, worldwide) in history go to Meet the Fockers, or…?
Ignore the p.r. and do the math.
Inflation-adjusted ‘highest grossing comedy’ in domestic market
Also as found at Box Office Mojo, when it comes to live-action movies, the highest grossing comedy to date at the domestic box office is … Well, it all depends on what you find funny.
James Cameron’s Titanic, Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments, and William Friedkin’s The Exorcist are all, however unintentionally, much funnier than Meet the Fockers, Forrest Gump, or Home Alone. Adjusted for inflation, each of them earned more money than these three movies at the U.S. and Canada box office.
If we’re talking only about the highest grossing comedy that was marketed as a comedy, then the top three comedies domestically are:
- George Roy Hill’s Best Picture Oscar winner The Sting (1973), starring Paul Newman, Robert Redford, and Robert Shaw.
- Mike Nichols’ Best Director winner The Graduate (1967), starring Meet the Fockers’ Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, and Katharine Ross.
- In third place, Forrest Gump.
More box office news: International market beats U.S. & Canada
From the purported highest grossing comedy ever to domestic box office feats: Dan Glickman, head of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), announced at ShoWest 2005 in Las Vegas that U.S. and Canada ticket sales topped $9 billion in 2004 – the third year in a row.
Although there was a slight drop in movie admissions (the second consecutive yearly drop), these still surpassed the 1.5 billion mark for the third consecutive year. That’s a feat not achieved since 1959, the year’s William Wyler’s blockbuster Ben-Hur came out.
Keeping things in perspective: Let’s not forget that there are about 130 million more people living in the U.S. and Canada today than in the late 1950s. That’s an approximate 60 percent increase.
More ‘family films’
Also in the domestic market, PG-rated films, open to all ages, grossed $2.3 billion in 2004; R-rated films, aimed at adults, took $2.1 billion. That’s the first time in two decades that PG movies outperformed R-rated ones; as in previous years, many more R-rated movies were released last year.
John Fithian, head of the National Association of Theater Owners, has taken the opportunity to remark that Hollywood studios should make more “family films.”
And why not?
Children, after all, can’t go to the movies by themselves; that means at least one extra ticket sold to the accompanying adult. As a plus, kids are great consumers of food and beverages at movie theater concession stands.
And let’s not forget Meet the Fockers, a family film that has become the highest grossing comedy ever and ever.
Sofia Coppola to film ‘Marie Antoinette’ at Versailles
From the highest grossing comedy and “family movies” to the late 18th-century French monarchy: Academy Award winner Sofia Coppola (Best Original Screenplay for Lost in Translation, 2003) is about to begin filming scenes from Marie Antoinette inside the Palace of Versailles outside of Paris. Screenwriter-director Coppola has loosely based her biopic of the Austrian-born queen of France on Antonia Fraser’s book Marie Antoinette: The Journey.
Interview with a Vampire and Little Women actress Kirsten Dunst has been cast as the (English-speaking) Austrian-French queen. Jason Schwartzman* (Rushmore, I Heart Huckabees) plays her husband, King Louis XVI, while Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee Rip Torn (Cross Creek, 1983) plays his father, Louis XV, a role Alain Delon had previously turned down.
In Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s W.S. Van Dyke-directed 1938 Marie Antoinette, the Queen of MGM, Norma Shearer played the Queen of France. Robert Morley was cast as Louis XVI, while a bewigged Tyrone Power was borrowed from 20th Century Fox to bring to life the queen’s (fictional) lover.
* Jason Schwartzman is Sofia Coppola’s cousin. He’s the son of two-time Oscar nominee Talia Shire (as Best Supporting Actress for The Godfather: Part II, 1974; as Best Actress for Rocky, 1976), who’s the sister of multiple Oscar winner/nominee Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, The Godfather: Part II), who just happens to be Sofia’s father.
Peter Jackson vs. New Line Cinema: ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’ lawsuit
From Versailles to Middle-earth: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, the first film in Peter Jackson’s monumentally successful movie trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s three-part mid-1950s novel, has pitted the filmmaker against New Line Cinema.
According to a March 2005 Associated Press report, Jackson’s production company Wingnut Films has filed a lawsuit against New Line and its subsidiary Katja Motion Pictures. In the suit, Jackson alleges that New Line has – via “willful, wanton, malicious, oppressive, [and] fraudulent” means – cheated him out of profits from his 2001 worldwide blockbuster and Best Picture Academy Award nominee.
Among its numerous claims, the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring suit states that New Line pocketed “secret profits”; short-changed Wingnut Films by way of sweetheart deals with affiliates; and allowed its subsidiaries to overcharge for services rendered, thus hindering Wingnut’s profit participation.
A positive outcome for Peter Jackson could possibly result in a settlement for the other two movies in the Lord of the Rings trilogy: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). The latter won 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.
At the domestic box office, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring grossed nearly $315 million – in addition to $556 million internationally. That doesn’t include revenues from DVD, TV, VOD, and merchandise sales.
The fantasy-adventure tale features, among others:
Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee Ian McKellen.
Tribeca Film Festival lineup
Organizers have announced the lineup of the 2005 edition of New York City’s Tribeca Film Festival, which begins on April 19. Below are a few titles.
- Sally Potter’s romantic drama Yes, starring Joan Allen and Simon Abkarian.
- Michael Winterbottom’s controversial, sexually explicit 9 Songs, featuring Kieran O’Brien and Margo Stilley.
- Wong Kar-Wai’s moody 2046, starring 2005 Hong Kong Film Award winners Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Ziyi Zhang.
- Joseph Lovett’s documentary Gay Sex in the ’70s, a look at post-Stonewall, pre-AIDS gay New York.
- Jaume Collet-Serra’s House of Wax, a remake of the 1953 Vincent Price horror classic of the same name – itself a remake of the 1933 Lionel Atwill-Fay Wray horror classic Mystery of the Wax Museum.
- Paul Cronin’s documentary Mackendrick on Film, about director Alexander Mackendrick (The Man in the White Suit, The Ladykillers, Sweet Smell of Success).
- Veteran Costa-Gavras’ black comedy The Ax / Le couperet, featuring José Garcia, Karin Viard, Yolande Moreau, and Ulrich Tukur.
- Nahid Persson’s documentary Prostitution Behind the Veil, about three Iranian women who have become sex workers so as to support their drug addiction.
Russian & Soviet cinema in Strasbourg
From Tribeca to Strasbourg: Commemorating the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, in March/April 2005 Strasbourg is holding an eight-film retrospective of Russian and Soviet cinema. Pyotr Todorovsky’s Academy Award-nominated 1983 drama Wartime Romance will be kicking off the mini-festival at the 92-year-old Cinéma Odyssée.
Among the other classic films in the program are Mikhail Kalatozov’s 1958 Palme d’Or winner The Cranes Are Flying, starring Tatiana Samoilova, and Grigori Chukhraj’s moving 1959 drama Ballad of a Soldier.
Newer Russian films include Lidiya Bobrova’s Granny (2003) and Stanislav Govorukhin’s Bless the Woman (2003).
Bollywoodized Jane Austen in Israel
From Strasbourg to Eilat: Starring Aishwarya Rai and Martin Henderson, Gurinder Chadha’s Bride and Prejudice, the modernized, Bollywoodized version of Jane Austen’s most famous novel, will launch the third Eilat International Film Festival, being held between April 6–9 in the southern Israeli coastal town.
The festival will screen 45 films from about 20 countries, including:
- Fabio Carpi’s Memory Lane / Le intermittenze del cuore (Italy).
- Ruud van Hemert’s Love Trap / Feestje (The Netherlands).
- Jaime Aparicio’s The Magician / El mago (Mexico).
- Igarashi Sho’s Hazan (Japan).
A Best Israeli Film and a Best Foreign Film will be chosen from among the competing entries.
More cinema showcases: Beijing hosting major French film retrospective
From Eilat to Beijing: “The biggest French film festival of this century,” according to China Daily, is being held in Beijing.
“A Retrospective of French Movies: From Classic to Modern,” organized by Chinese and French film archives, is screening 41 movies encompassing more than a century of French filmmaking – from 1895 to 2003.
Among the selected films are:
- Auguste and Louis Lumière shorts.
- Jean Vigo’s Zero for Conduct / Zéro de conduite (1933).
- Claude Berri’s Tchao Pantin (1983) and Jean de Florette (1986).
- Agnès Varda’s Vagabond / Sans toit ni loi (1985) and The Gleaners & I / Les Glaneurs et la glaneuse (2000).
Buster Keaton & Rudolph Valentino in dystopian Istanbul
From Beijing to Istanbul: This year’s Istanbul International Film Festival, organized by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts, will take place April 2–17. The festival will screen 170 films from 62 countries.
Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) and Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985) are two of the films to be presented in the “Dark Side of the Future: Dystopia” sidebar.
Rome to rival Cannes & Venice + Berlin?
From Istanbul to Rome: Lastly, if – and that’s a big if – all goes as planned, Rome may end up rivaling Cannes, Berlin, and Venice as Europe’s most important international film event.
Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni has met with top names in the Italian film industry and is reportedly hoping to get 6 million euros to set up a film festival in the Italian capital.
Former FilmItalia President Giorgio Gosetti, currently in charge of the Venice sidebar “Venice Days,” and Locarno Film Festival director Irene Bignardi have been named as potential candidates for the role of festival director.
‘Faux documentary’ controversy following ‘Mighty Times: The Children’s March’ Oscar win
From international movie festivals to Oscar-winning documentary controversy: “The people that vote on our films are our peers, and these people have seen reenactments for 20 years plus,” says Bobby Houston in the New York Times. Houston is the director of the Civil Rights Movement-set Mighty Times: The Children’s March, this year’s now controversial winner of the Best Documentary Short Academy Award.
Producer Steve Kalafer, whose Oren Jacoby-directed Sister Rose’s Passion was shortlisted in that same category, has complained to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that Houston and Mighty Times: The Children’s March producer Robert Hudson misled the Academy’s documentary board by not divulging the fact that reenactments had been used in their film.
Houston and Hudson’s previous non-fiction short, Mighty Times: The Legacy of Rosa Parks (2002), dealt with the issue by opening with a disclaimer, while reenacted scenes were flagged via the on-screen use of film borders with sprocket holes.
As reported in the Times, in a March 18 letter to Academy Executive Director Bruce Davis, Kalafer labeled Houston and Hudson’s lack of disclosure “an intentional deception,” adding that “in comparing the two [Mighty Times] films, it is clear that they chose to realize the full potential of their ‘faux doc’ technique, raising it to a new level as a well-crafted, cunningly deceitful art form – but not documentary filmmaking.”
The Times adds that the Mighty Times: The Children’s March filmmakers used “vintage cameras and distressed film stock to shoot more than 700 extras, trained dogs and period automobiles and fire engines on various locations in Southern California.”
Image of Ben Stiller, Barbra Streisand, Blythe Danner, and Teri Polo in “highest grossing comedy” Meet the Fockers: Universal Pictures.
Marie Antoinette Kirsten Dunst black dress image: Columbia Pictures.
Simon Abkarian and Joan Allen Yes movie image: Sony Pictures Classics.
Image from Jean Vigo’s Zero for Conduct: Franfilmdis.
Mighty Times: The Children’s March poster: Southern Poverty Law Center / HBO.
“Highest Grossing Comedy Ever? + Lord of the Rings Lawsuit + Oscar-Winning Documentary or Docudrama?” last updated in July 2019.