Behold, the summer movie blockbuster season is wrapping up as we enter the dog days of August. This year it has looked a little different because the world has not been quite itself for the past year. Traditionally, summer is the biggest season of the year for Hollywood box office. A long time ago in what seems like a galaxy far far away Hollywood took the summer off. That is no longer the case, in fact it is quite the opposite. In Part 1 we looked at the movie that got the ball rolling on the summer movie season, Jaws. (here). In Part 2 we went back to the 80s and checked out the summer box office in 1989 (here). In Part 3 we went into the 90s and looked at the summer of 1994 (here). In this edition we check out what may have been peak summer box office- the summer of 1998.
Since it’s the summer and no one has time to read about every movie that came out that year we’ve broken the box office down to a few categories which will include the best movie of the summer, movies that won Oscars, flops and any popular kid’s movies. So dust off your first iMac and put on some Chumbawamba as we dive into 1998…
Summer Action: If you love action movies there were plenty to choose from throughout the whole summer. Deep Impact, Armageddon, The Negotiator, Blade, The Mask of Zorro, Lethal Weapon 4 and The X Files: Fight the Future were among some of the top action movies at the box office. There was so much summer action Hollywood gave us not one but TWO action movies involving an asteroid hitting earth (Deep Impact and Armageddon). The X Files movie was a big step for the sci-fi franchise that brought it from TV to the big screen. Blade was another solid sci-fi movie with a solid performance from Wesley Snipes. In late July Tom Hanks led a stellar cast in Saving Private Ryan (more coming on this film later). Antonio Banderas paired with Catherine Zeta-Jones in The Mask of Zorro was also great casting.
Surprise Summer Hit: Can’t Hardly Wait. If you’re from the Dawson’s Creek generation then you know this movie. If you aren’t then it can best be summarized as the quintessential coming-of-age teen comedy of the late 90s. The class of 1998 at Huntington Hill High School has graduated and marking the occasion with the ultimate house party. Filmed on a $10 million budget and has one of the best ensemble casts of young actors and actresses from the 90s: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ethan Embry, Peter Facinelli, Melissa Joan Hart, Seth Green, Donald Faison and Lauren Ambrose just to name a few. Here’s a snapshot of how loaded this cast was: Selma Blair and Jeremy Miller were both in this movie and only appeared in one scene. And the movie did a great job representing all the diverse cliques and groups that make up high school. For those who graduated that year it was the exclamation point to the end of school and the beginning of the next step.
Summer Flop: Godzilla. The team behind the smash hit Independence Day sought to give the franchise a late 90s facelift which included changing the monster’s look. The movie was heavily marketed in the spring and only showed parts of the monster in previews and TV spots. Sadly, the movie relied too much on special effects and not enough on plot, casting or writing. Godzilla did not live up to the hype and the big reveal for what the monster looked like did not pay off either.
Something For The Kids: Disney was in a class by itself in the 90s as the go-to source for children’s movies at the box office. They kept the animation domination going with Mulan and also introduced the world to Lindsay Lohan with The Parent Trap in the summer of 1998. 20th Century Fox’s Dr. Dolittle also did well at the box office.
The Summer Belonged To……… Saving Private Ryan, Armageddon and the action genre. If you love explosions, thrilling stunts and intense natural disasters then this was the summer for you. Hollywood cranked out a ton of films during this summer from right after Memorial Day all the way to Labor Day and most of them delivered at the box office. When you have 2 different movies about people bracing for an asteroid to hit Earth you know it’s a good summer for action.
Oscar Buzz: Saving Private Ryan received 11 Oscar nomination and ended up winning 5 Oscars (2 for sound, 1 for editing and ‘Best Director and ‘Best Cinematography’). 1998 was a big year for Hollywood and as strong a movie as Saving Private Ryan was it also faced fierce competition from films that came out toward the end of the year.
There’s a recap of the summer of 1998 at the box office. In our next installment we will take a deeper look at another film from the summer of 1998 that many thought would get some Oscar buzz. Stay tuned for more summer memories!