While August long has been regarded by the movie industry as a throwaway month, where films not worthy of early-summer or Oscar-buzz fall release are dumped before slinking off to DVD, a growing number of exceptions have been sneaking onto the box office list. Here are 10 August movies that overcame being released during the dog days.
The Sixth Sense (1999) — Seemingly coming out of nowhere with a relatively inexperienced director (M. Night Shyamalan) and, with the exception of Bruce Willis, a largely unknown cast, the $40 million thriller with the much talked-about twist ending scooped up more than $293 million in American grosses. I see profitable people!
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) — The first two Bourne movies, The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy — came out in June and July, respectively. So shuffling this one to August might have seemed like a lack of studio confidence, but Universal needn’t have worried. The $110 million film went on to gross more than $227 million. (The fourth installment, The Bourne Legacy in 2012 with Jeremy Renner instead of Matt Damon, was also an August release but didn’t do nearly as well. It had a budget of $125 million and has grossed a little more than $113 million.)
District 9 (2009) — This debut feature from young South African director Neill Blomkamp had a lot of Internet buzz, but the lack of stars, as well as the explicitly political themes — a race of aliens is forced to live in squatter camps outside South Africa’s cities — should’ve been a tough sell to mainstream audiences. But the $30 million sci-fi thriller went on to make more than $115 million in the U.S. alone.
Inglourious Basterds (2009) — Quentin Tarantino’s blast of WWII-era brio ripped through the late-summer doldrums like one of his heroes in a Nazi foxhole. As with most things Tarantino, it got people talking and scored Oscar and Golden Globe wins for actor Christoph Waltz.
Julie & Julia (2009) — Based on a bestseller about the late pioneering TV chef Julia Child and starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, this drama paved the way for what has become a late-summer ritual: relatively small but mainstream films aimed at adults tired of the boom and bang of the Hollywood summer blockbusters. The $40 million film collected more than $94 million in grosses.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) — The previous Apes film, the Tim Burton reboot of 2001, was a disaster, so it wasn’t a shock that this reimagining from director Rupert Wyatt starring James Franco hit screens in August. But it not only generated strong reviews and good word-of-mouth, it performed decently at the box office, grossing more than $176 million on its $93 million budget. It paved the way for this year’s well-regarded Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, released in July.
The Help (2011) and Lee Daniels’ The Butler (2013) — Period pieces about African-American life in the South are seen as a risky proposition in Hollywood, but these two showed how wrong-headed accepted wisdom can be. The $25 million The Help — with the assistance of word-of-mouth and a fan base from the book on which it’s based — has raked in more than $169 million. It also won a supporting actress Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA for Octavia Spencer. The $30 million Butler went on to earn more than $116 million, though it was overlooked at Oscar time.
Blue Jasmine (2013) — Releasing a film in August used to lessen its chance of getting a lot of award nominations, because it’s likely to be buried under a barrage of fall releases. But an August date didn’t hurt this Woody Allen effort — even amid a season of bad publicity for the director. Star Cate Blanchett won Best Actress honors at the both the Golden Globes and the Oscars.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) — Because it’s a Marvel movie, it was guaranteed some level of success. But since it’s based on a relatively unknown comic series, lacked a huge star and, well, was being released in August, Hollywood was hedging its bets. Smart money said it might bring in $65-$70 million on opening weekend. Instead, it vacuumed up $94 million and has turned lead Guardian Chris Pratt into a bona fide star.
Box-office figures from IMDb.com.