Friday, September 05, 2008

25 Years Ago

It's a copy of this amusing post at Glenn Kenny's Some Came Running, but I thought it might be fun to look at what was big at the box office 25 years ago this week. Can you guess what the #1 movie was that Labor Day weekend?

  1. MR. MOM    
  2. RISKY BUSINESS
  3. EASY MONEY
  4. NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION
  5. RETURN OF THE JEDI
  6. HERCULES
  7. FLASHDANCE
  8. TRADING PLACES
  9. STAYING ALIVE
  10. WARGAMES
  11. STRANGE BREW
  12. CUJO
  13. SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT III
  14. ZELIG
  15. METALSTORM: THE DESTRUCTION OF JARED-SYN


I have seen 12 of the top 15, although I only saw MR. MOM, RETURN OF THE JEDI, WARGAMES, STRANGE BREW and METALSTORM at the theater (I have yet to see ZELIG, CUJO and STAYING ALIVE). I had just received my driver's license the previous April and went to a lot of movies in Champaign-Urbana, but it was not so easy to get into R-rated movies in those days, or at least it wasn't for me. The others I caught on cable or on home video.

What's interesting about the chart that would never happen today is how long some of these films played. I saw WARGAMES in June right after it came out, and here it is, back in the Top 10 in September. It had been out 14 weeks by that time. RETURN OF THE JEDI had been out 15 weeks and FLASHDANCE a whopping 21.

You'll also notice, particularly when you move farther down the list below the top 15, how much more varied the selection was in those days. The five new films debuting that week were MORTUARY, NIGHTMARES, DEATHSTALKER, STRYKER and TURKEY SHOOT. All were low-budget exploitation movies that would never see the inside of a theater today. In fact, there is no such thing as a theatrically released low-budget exploitation movie anymore, and I really believe we're worse off for it. Believe it or not, even though it never rose higher than 12th, DEATHSTALKER (a hilarious sword-and-sorcery flick I oughta review here) stayed in regular release for at least 14 weeks!

Oh, and METALSTORM? It was in 3D. I saw it at the historic Virginia Theater in Champaign, which, sadly, rarely shows movies anymore, save for Roger Ebert's annual film festival and occasional other special events.

3 comments:

Matt Farkas said...

Wow, who'da thunk the early '80s would ever look so good? I love that HERCULES with Lou Ferrigno scored the number six slot!

I've seen 10 of this list of 15, missing out primarily on the most-mainstream and non-fantastic fare (EASY MONEY, FLASHDANCE, STAYING ALIVE, STRANGE BREW, and SMOKEY III). Marty, you should definitely try to check out ZELIG, which is a funny and fascinating Woody Allen film that thematically and stylistically anticipates FORREST GUMP somewhat (and is a lot easier to digest, clocking in at about 75 minutes). I can also recommend CUJO as a good, scary horror film.

Regarding the demise of theatrically-exhibited exploitation fare in the mid-'80s, were you aware of the efforts of the Reagan administration to overturn the effects of the 1948 U.S. v. Paramount case, which just coincidentally allowed independent film-makers to flourish and compete with the majors from the '50s through the early '80s? (See link below:)

http://caliber.ucpress.net/doi/abs/10.1525/fq.2001.55.2.22

Robert said...

It's a strange world where a Woody Allen movie co-exists with Luigi Cozzi and Charles Band titles among the top box office draws.

J.D. said...

I remember seeing HERCULES when it came out in theaters. It seems so wonderfully dated now. METALSTORM was a pretty cool film too but I doubt it holds up watching it 2D. One of the many ROAD WARRIOR wannabes.