The Film: Independence Day
Premiere Date: July 3, 1996
You would think it would be easy to remember the date that Independence Day opened, but Fox went and jumped the gun and opened on July 3rd, because that's how very much the world could not wait for Bill Pullman to unleash hell on marauding aliens. If disaster-porn has a patron saint, it's Roland Emmerich, and if it has a book of Genesis, it's Independence Day. Emmerich is back to the business of blowing up the White House this coming weekend with White House Down, some seventeen years since he did it in ID4. So how much has the film landscape changed since then? We took a look...
The #1 Movie in America: So, yes, Independence Day dominated the summer of 1996 (though, oddly enough, it was not the 1996 film that spent the most consecutive weeks at #1; that honor went to The Birdcage, of course).
It Was a Pinkett-Smith World: The limits of my ability to research such things prevent me from saying this with any degree of certainty, but I can't recall too many instances where the #1 and #2 movies at the box office belonged to both halves of a married couple. There was Will Smith rudely welcoming aliens to Earth in Independence Day, and in second place, Jada Pinkett was humoring the Klumps in The Nutty Professor. Now, to be fair, Will and Jada didn't officially get hitched until the following year, but still, that's some pretty solid intra-familial domination.
Action Summer: Emmerich had a whole lot of company from the other masters of mid-'90s action blockbusters this week in history, from Speed's Jan DeBont whipping through the countryside with Twister, to Michael Bay himself escaping from Alcatraz in The Rock. Sure, Arnold Schwarzenegger laid an egg with Eraser, but we got the rather exciting career stretch of Brian DePalma tackling Mission: Impossible.
Animated Torch-Passing: Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a strange movie to contemplate. It's incredibly dark and sinister and 2/3 of the way twoards being very ambitious in that regard, except there are also comic-relief gargoyles. It was not one of the best-received Disney movie, and it was put in much more stark relief by the release the previous year of Pixar's Toy Story. Toy Story, in fact, was still lingering around the box-office many months later.
Disaster Strikes: Speaking of films that were not very warmly received, two careers saw pretty significant setbacks due to miscalculated releases in the summer of 1996: Demi Moore was the subject of mountains of bad reviews for Striptease, while Jim Carrey turned off his Ace Ventura/Dumb and Dumber fanbase with The Cable Guy. Both Carrey and Moore would end up rebounding in 1997 (with Liar Liar and G.I. Jane, respectively), but only Carrey would move beyond that into a career detour that would include accolades for The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
First-Billed Stars of the Box-Office Top 10 in 2003: Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Eddie Murphy, John Travolta (Phenomenon), Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nicolas Cage, Sean Connery, Demi Moore, Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Tom Cruse, Jim Carrey.
First-Billed Stars of the Box-Office Top 10 in 2013: Brad Pitt, Henry Cavill, Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jesse Eisenberg, The Rock, Ethan Hawke, Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Chris Pine, Robert Downey Jr..