As a companion piece to Wednesday’s 1993 Movie Preview (by the lovely and talented Heather Fanipac, who has since been fired), let’s take a look at the utterly fascinating box office grosses of 1993:
1993 is basically remembered as Jurassic Park’s year, grossing $357,067,947 (equal to $670,681,400 today) and taking over the crown as the highest-grossing film ever worldwide for a few years until Titanic came along in 1997. Its success wasn’t really surprising; everyone knew it was going to be huge. Meanwhile, Carnosaur (which people were actually mentioning in the same breath as Jurassic Park, seriously) quickly went extinct, only making $1,753,979.
The real surprise megahit of ’93 was Mrs. Doubtfire, which raked in $219,195,243 (equal to $409,884,500 today). It was no Beverly Hills Cop, but great for a Robin Williams comedy, especially considering his previous effort, Toys, made just $23,278,931. Although he had a few more hits, Williams would never come remotely close to that kind of success for a movie he starred in again. Not even Bicentennial Man.
Let’s take a look at the top 10 highest-grossing films that year:
- Jurassic Park: $357,067,947
- Mrs. Doubtfire: $219,195,243
- The Fugitive: $183,875,760
- The Firm: $158,348,367
- Sleepless in Seattle: $126,680,884
- Indecent Proposal: $106,614,059
- In the Line of Fire: $102,314,823
- The Pelican Brief: $100,768,056
- Schindler’s List: $96,065,768
- Cliffhanger: $84,049,211
The big surprises there are Indecent Proposal, In the Line of Fire, and The Pelican Brief, which all did better than you would think, but these “adult thriller” types were pretty popular at the time. I’m definitely surprised that Schindler’s List didn’t make more, but I suppose it wasn’t the kind of movie people were lining up to see on date night. And The Firm took in more than I would have thought, but of course, it did have Wilford Brimley in it.
Cliffhanger also did pretty decently, and almost made as much in 1993 as Expendables 2 made in 2012 ($85,028,192). It probably has something to do with John Lithgow. It surprisingly did much better than Demolition Man ($58,055,768), which came out the same year and had a bigger budget and marketing push, plus seashells to wipe your ass with.
Speaking of action stars of the ’90s, let’s just get right to the most amazing thing about the 1993 movie grosses. If you’re as old and withered as I am, you’ll recall that leading up to the summer of ’93, the big buzz was which blockbuster would come out on top: Jurassic Park or Last Action Hero. It was like the Ali/Frazier of early ’90s Hollywood. With both movies coming out just a week apart (Jurassic Park on June 11, and Last Action Hero on June 18) it looked to be a real slugfest for the attention of Stussy-wearing theater-goers everywhere. Surprisingly, Last Action Hero actually had a much bigger budget than Jurassic Park ($85 million vs. $63 million). Sure, Jurassic Park had tons of toys and T-shirts, but Last Action Hero actually had its logo painted on the side of a rocket! … which appealed to somebody, I guess, even though nobody really saw it…
Anyway, we all know how that turned out. Jurassic Park was rightfully huge at the box office, and Last Action Hero BOMBED. Like, astonishingly so. Last Action Hero ended up being the 26th highest-grossing movie that year, grossing just $50,016,394. The movies that made more than Last Action Hero are mindblowing:
- Free Willy: $77,698,625
- Philadelphia: $77,446,440
- Groundhog Day: $70,906,973
- Grumpy Old Men: $70,172,621
- Cool Runnings: $68,856,263
- Dave: $63,270,710
- Rising Sun: $63,179,523
- Demolition Man: $58,055,768
- Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit: $57,319,029
- Tombstone: $56,505,065
- The Three Musketeers: $53,898,845
- Rookie of the Year: $53,615,089
- Beethoven’s 2nd: $53,443,066
- Dennis the Menace: $51,270,765
- Sommersby: $50,081,992
Wow, seriously, Sommersby?? Dennis the Menace??? How the hell did Last Action Hero fail that miserably? I mean, it got shellacked by Cool Runnings, for chrissakes. Well, see the opening date info above. It came out a week after one of the biggest movies ever because the studio thought it could go toe-to-toe with a special effects-heavy Spielberg movie with dinosaurs in it, which was just ridiculous. That was probably most of the problem, and it also didn’t help that everyone pretty much thought it sucked. The plot was dumb, and nobody wanted to see Arnold parody himself, they just wanted to see the action, not be reminded how dumb that action is. It was just a recipe for disaster.
That being said, looking back on it now as a slice of ’90s cheese, it’s actually a fun flick. So Jurassic Park may have won the battle, but… well, it still won the war pretty easily too, but Last Action Hero really isn’t that bad.
The Nightmare Before Christmas performed a little better than I thought, coming in just behind Last Action Hero at $50,003,043. Meanwhile, Addams Family Values and Wayne’s World 2 waged a battle of unnecessary sequels, with the Addams’s ($48,919,043) earning a narrow victory over Wayne and Garth ($48,197,805), even though the first Wayne’s World movie grossed an impressive $121,697,323 just the year before. But they were probably still pleased with the sequel’s gross… NOT!!
Oh, in case you were wondering, The Beverly Hillbillies didn’t fare as well as The Fugitive, making just $44,029,386. But as a consolation, it did manage to beat Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III ($42,273,609), which made almost half as much as TMNT II ($78,656,813) and one-third as much as the first TMNT ($135,265,915). Turtle power!
OK, OK, I know what you’re all thinking, which movie made more money between Super Mario Bros. and Coneheads? I won’t keep you in suspense any longer… the winner was…
CONEHEADS! That’s right, even though Super Mario Bros. the game sold more than 40 million copies, the movie only managed to drum up enough interest to earn $20,915,465 at the box office (why? probably because it was incomprehensibly dumb), while Coneheads grossed slightly more at $21,274,717. And nobody ever mentioned Coneheads again.
Also of note, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, made good on its threat, considering it only grossed $15,935,068, so there was no reason to continue the franchise. By that point, Jason’s corpse was as rotten as Bernie’s, and the sequel to possibly the most underrated comedy of all time earned just $12,741,891. Sadly, I don’t think my dream of seeing that trilogy complete will ever happen. But it did do better than Mike Meyers’s other 1993 comedy, So I Married an Axe Murderer ($11,585,483). And speaking of completed trilogies, RoboCop 3 really crapped the bed, with only $10,696,210. Not too many people bought that one for a dollar.
Meanwhile, Army of Darkness, which everybody loves, managed to pull down just $11,502,976. That’s more than the first two Evil Dead movies combined, but AoD obviously had a bigger budget and a big star cameo with Bridget Fonda.
Also, Look Who’s Talking Now really went to the dogs, with $10,340,263. But don’t worry, John Travolta, your comeback starts next year!
F*cking Leprechaun made just $8,556,940, while the best teen comedy of all time, Dazed and Confused, grossed only $7,993,039, but had a pretty small theater run.
And finally, the biggest bomb of the year was probably Ernest Rides Again, which actually had a pretty sizable theater opening but raked in just $1,450,029, less than Carnosaur, and much less than even the likes of Mr. Nanny ($4,348,572). Even Ernest Scared Stupid managed to scrounge up $14,143,280 in 1991. Sadly, it appeared America’s love affair with Ernest was over, and his next few “movies” would go direct-to-video: Ernest Goes to School (1994), Slam Dunk Ernest (1995), Ernest Goes to Africa (1997) and Ernest in the Army (1998), which all earned less than what you just earned while reading this.
Check out the rest of 1993 and see how much Airborne made at Box Office Mojo!