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Summer Movie Memories: 1997

This summer sure seemed to fly by, didn’t it? Every year it feels like summer gets shorter and shorter. It flew by at the box office too. It feels like just yesterday everyone was raving about Top Gun: Maverick and anxiously awaiting seeing Nope in a cool, air conditioned theater. As September approaches we hope you’ve enjoyed our look back at past summers at the box office. We started by going back 20 years to 2002. Now, in our final installment we want to go back 25 years to 1997. 

In case this is your first time here we have a quick tutorial on how this works: 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 kids movies. So log onto your AOL account with your dial-up modem as we head on back to the 90s and the summer of 1997 at the box office.

Summer Action: Action films dominate the summer movie season and there was plenty to choose from in 1997. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones teamed up for Men In Black, earning the summer’s top spot at the box office. The sci-fi filmed catapulted Smith into superstardom and spawned several sequels and a simple formula for box office success: Will Smith + aliens = summer movie gold. Men In Black brought in more than $235 million at the box office. The Lost World: Jurassic Park came in second that summer making almost $228 million. Action movies were everywhere in the summer. Air Force One, Con Air, Face/Off, The Fifth Element and Spawn all hit movie theaters within a few months of each other. Here how intense things were back then: the summer of 1997 featured not one but two Nicolas Cage action movies (more on that later). Also of note since we mentioned Will Smith earlier- G.I. Jane also came out that summer.    

Surprise Summer Hit: George of the Jungle. Brendan Fraser cast as the title character in this Disney comedy seemed like an odd choice given his resume of dramatic roles. However, Fraser delivered in the live action film, deftly executing the physical comedy as a primitive man raised in the jungle. It was the top Disney film of the summer which is usually an honor taken by an animated film. Siskel and Ebert praised the film and Fraser’s performance. The storyline and gags suggested the film played for laughs beyond a childhood audience. 

Summer Flop:  Batman & Robin. Calling this movie a flop is being polite. On paper, the movie doesn’t seem so bad. It pulled in more than $106 million at the box office that summer, finished in the top ten, had a handful of Academy Award winners in starring roles including George Clooney as Batman, and opened the door for a potential Batgirl spin-off….ok sorry, I know that’s a sore subject right now. I was trying to put a positive spin on Alicia Silverstone’s part in the film. Joel Schumacher took over the franchise from Tim Burton and just went in a strange direction with this film. Not even George Clooney could save it and even he admits this was probably his worst film. Batman & Robin wasn’t just a flop, it almost doomed the franchise. 

Something For The Kids:  In the 90s children could always rely on Disney delivering a great animated G/PG rated film for them in the summer. 1997 was no different with Hercules. However, given the aforementioned George of the Jungle performed better at the box office it seemed to signal Disney might be in the latter stages of its animation dominance. 1997 also gave us Good Burger, Air Bud and Free Willy 3. 

The Summer Belonged To……… Aliens & Nicolas Cage. Cage was on fire in the late 90s with several summer action films and it may have peaked in 1997 where he had two films come out in the same summer in Con Air and Face/Off. Cage and John Travolta played off each other well in the classic good vs evil thriller. Con Air has the perfect formula for an over-the-top action film. And to top it all off these two films both came out in the same month! Meanwhile, Independence Day ushered in a brief alien craze and Hollywood took notice. A couple of films focused on alien contact in Men in Black and Contact. 

Oscar Buzz: Peter Fonda received a Best Actor nomination for Ulee’s Gold. Judi Dench was nominated for her role in Mrs. Brown. Hercules, Con Air, Face/Off, My Best Friend’s Wedding and Air Force One also received Oscar nominations. Men In Black received three Oscar nominations, winning one for Best Makeup.   

There’s our recap of the summer of 1997! We hope you enjoyed our look back at past summers at the box office. 

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Written by Andy Mattison

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