Lazier, or more discerning?

This weekend, Disney’s The Pacifier passed the $100 million mark in domestic box-office receipts. Why do I make note of this? Because I have not yet seen the film. And it has been several years since I last let a movie get this popular without seeing it for myself. So … just on a whim, I decided to check the lists for each year going back to 1994, when I first began to see movies for free as a student newspaper editor, to see what the most popular movies I did not see happened to be. Here is what I found:

2004 (25th) $95.2m The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (G)
2003 (35th) $82.6m Freddy Vs. Jason (R)
2002 (27th) $93.4m Two Weeks Notice (PG-13)
2001 (60th) $40.3m Heartbreakers (PG-13)
2000 (58th) $43.8m Pokemon: The Movie 2000 (G)
1999 (25th) $85.7m Pokemon: The First Movie (G)
1998 (22th) $87.2m Everest (IMAX)
1997 (13th) $105.3m George of the Jungle (PG)
1996 (6th) $136.2m 101 Dalmatians (G)
1995 (5th) $108.4m Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (PG-13)
1994 (4th) $144.8m The Santa Clause (PG)

I also have never seen The First Wives Club (1996, 11th, $105.5m) or Dumb and Dumber (1994, 6th, $127.2m) or Maverick (1994, 12th, $101.6m), and I didn’t see Casper (1995, 8th, $100.3m) or The Flintstones (1994, 5th, $130.5m) until video.

An interesting pattern emerges here, I think. I allowed a number of blockbusters to slip through my fingers while I was a student newspaper editor (’94-’97), partly because I was so happy to discover all sorts of other, artier films; and partly because I was so busy; and partly because a lot of the films in question just looked so dumb (note the early Jim Carrey films and the live-action cartoons). Then, once school came to an end and I floundered about looking for work, I took advantage of my free time to check out more of the bigger films and to pitch articles on them (’97-’99). Then, around the time I moved downtown, I had apparently proved myself as a freelancer enough to get a pass to one of the major Canadian theatre chains, and suddenly I could see any movie for free at any time — and so I made a point of seeing anything remotely big, whether at press screenings or after the films had opened (’99-’01). But then the theatre chain changed its policy (mere freelancers don’t qualify for the passes any more, apparently) and I began to allow more big films to slip through my fingers (’02-now), to the point where the top-grossing films I have not yet seen from the past two years are, once again, live-action Disney films (The Princess Diaries 2, The Pacifier).

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