Ten years after The Notebook‘s first weekend in theaters, it’s clear that the now-classic weeper won the weekend of June 25–27, 2004. Even if you truly hated it, it’s become a repeat-viewing standby and a cultural touchstone.
But on that actual weekend in 2004, The Notebook wasn’t the movie that was driving conversation. The movie that did have viewers talking was, in fact, pretty much the opposite of it.
That weekend, Fahrenheit 9/11, the Michael Moore film, became the highest grossing documentary in Hollywood history. With a reported production budget of a mere $6 million, it earned $23.9 million. It would eventually earn a domestic total of more than $119 million. The Notebook, by contrast, came in fourth that weekend; it earned $13.5 million — about half of its $29 million budget — and went on to gross $81 million domestically. (The other big new movie that weekend was White Chicks, which came in second.)
Worldwide, Fahrenheit 9/11 has made about $222 million, nearly twice the $116 of Notebook. Those figures don’t count a gazillion teenage girls mobbing their local Blockbuster locations for rentals of the latter, but they do show that quotability doesn’t necessarily equal box-office success.
So there’s a lesson in all this: Fahrenheit 9/11 got the money and the talk, but The Notebook is the one that gets the 10th-anniversary excitement. A movie that didn’t make much of a splash can still have a long life; after all, engagement photo shoots inspired by Michael Moore aren’t exactly a trend we see happening any time soon.
Or maybe the bigger lesson is vice versa. Take your box-office news with a grain of salt, because today’s big excitement may be like Allie’s memory in The Notebook‘s: all too quickly, it fades away.