The Film: Dazed and Confused
Premiere Date: September 24, 1993
It's not always easy to place into proper context a film that becomes a cult hit. It's not that Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused was widely ignored upon opening, but it's definitely one that earned the bulk of its massive reputation via exposure on VHS and DVD. But what did the film universe look like when Linklater was sending his baby out into the world?
The #1 Movie in America: After establishing himself as America's #1 child star, with two Home Alone films and a My Girl under his belt, it was time for Macaulay Culkin to change up his image a bit. And so we ended up with Culkin playing a murderous grade-schooler, opposite the angel-faced Elijah Wood, in The Good Son. America showed up out of curiosity, at least at first, but the dark side of Kevin McAllister kind of freaked people out.
The Summer Holdovers: Despite the cooling of September and the ushering in of the fall, two of the bigger summer blockbusters were still going strong. Jurassic Park was the biggest movie of whole year and it dominated the summer multiplex season. In its 16th week, it was still packing people in. But it wasn't just creature movies that were cleaning up at the box office that year. Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones were teaming up for a film version of the classic TV series The Fugitive, a movie that managed to make big money, get great reviews, and capture the public consciousness ("I didn't kill my wife!" was a meme before there were memes).
Oscar Hopefuls: The beginning of the fall is often said to be the beginning of Oscar Season, and there were a bunch of future nominees already hanging out in the Top 10 in September 1993. Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence was platforming this week, opening small and waiting to build up good reviews and momentum for a wider release. While Scorsese's costume drama rattled some fans who had been riding the wave of Goodfellas and Cape Fear, it ultimately ended up getting recognized by year-end award-givers, particularly for the performance of Winona Ryder. Another future player in the Supporting races was John Malkovich, whose performance in In the Line of Fire scared voters into nominating him. Finally, another summer holdover, Nora Ephron's Sleepless in Seattle, would later nab a Best Screenplay nomination.
The Controversial Bomb: Though it finished in second place for the weekend, the college-football drama The Program fell far short of expectations, never recouped its budget, and ended up better known for controversy, when teenagers allegedly copied a scene in the movie where football players laid down in the middle of a road at night.
The Per-Screen Winner: One of the better word-of-mouth films of 1993 was the film adaptation of Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club, which at this point in the year was still hanging around 100 theaters and really packing the audiences in.
Also In The Top 10: Bruce Willis and Sarah Jessica Parker teamed up for a police thriller in Striking Distance; Mel Gibson made his directorial debut with The Man Without a Face; and in a genre of adult-focused comedy that doesn't seem to exist anymore, Kathleen Turner and Dennis Quaid teamed up as married spies in Undercover Blues.
First-Billed Stars of the Box-Office Top 10 in 1993: Macaulay Culkin, James Caan, Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis, Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dennis Quaid, Kathleen Turner, San Neill, Mel Gibson.
First-Billed Stars of the Box-Office Top 10 in 2013: Sandra Bullock, Justin Timberlake, Hugh Jackman, Chris Hemsworth, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Paula Patton, Patrick Wilson, Julis Louis-Dreyfus.