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).

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).


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