- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 10, 2006

Late summer, the month of August in particular, is traditionally Hollywood’s dumping ground: Like postholiday January, it’s a release window for movies that have a) no prayer of competing with popcorn blockbusters, or b) no business in the company of year-end Oscar bait. But occasionally, as may happen with the delightful low-budget comedy “Little Miss Sunshine,” which opened in the District last week to enthusiastic reviews, late-summer movies start small and finish huge. There’s no secret to their success, but, lately, the participation of actor Steve Carell seems to help.

The Sixth Sense — In August 1999, M. Night Shyamalan’s masterpiece opened with a healthy $26.7 million box office and, powered by word-of-mouth raves, went on to gross a staggering $293.5 million in the U.S. alone. It also knocked from its box-office perch another creepy late-summer hit …

The Blair Witch Project — With a budget of less than $100,000, no one expected much of this digital video production when it was released in a smattering of theaters in mid-July 1999. But after this Little Horror Flick That Could crossed the $100 million mark, the industry was abuzz with talk of a new era of indie filmmaking exploiting the untapped marketing potential of the Internet.

There’s Something About Mary — The Farrelly brothers’ sweet-and-sleazy romantic comedy (1998) looked like a dud with its measly opening-weekend take of $13.7 million. But it burned up the box office for the remainder of the summer, eventually earning $140.4 million domestically and another $108 million abroad.

The 40 Year-Old Virgin — This one was, of course, Mr. Carell’s triumph of last August, which surprised nearly everyone with its $100 million-plus domestic gross.

Rush Hour 2 — Sure, the first installment of this action-comedy franchise, 1998’s “Rush Hour,” was a success. But who knew Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker could notch an even bigger hit with this 2001 sequel? To date, its opening-weekend take of $67.4 million is an August record. “Rush Hour 3” is expected next year in — you guessed it — August.

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