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a weblog of wordplay by Eric Harshbarger

Filmed In Technicolor?

Earlier this year I pointed out a rare occurrence involving titles of films in the Top 10 (U.S. domestic) weekly results. For the week of 3 Feb 2012 there were three movies in the top ten that had a color mentioned in their titles: The Woman In Black (#2), The Grey (#3), and Red Tails (#7).

This does not happen very often.

Colors get mentioned in quite a few movie titles, of course, but even getting just two colors mentioned in the top ten is fairly uncommon (though, as I type this, Men In Black III and Snow White And The Huntsman are both in the top ten).

I'm not sure which I love more: movies or lists of movies, but when I discovered the online archive of Variety's domestic box office results, I could not stop myself from dutifully clicking time and time again, week to week, seeing if the recent 3-color week had ever been matched or better yet, beaten.

Turns out, it has.

I was able to research all the way back until about May 1982. After that the charts become very erratic, only listing a few movies in the chart for each week. Even in the more robust charts of the past thirty years I found several obviously mis-entered data, but I feel pretty confident the information is accurate enough.

I could have concerned myself with more than just the top ten movies each week, of course, but, you know, I didn't want to come across as obsessive or anything. The top ten seemed to be a reasonable way to look at things.

Anyway, going back in time, some of my encounters:

  • For a couple of weeks in March 2006, the following triplet of movies made the top ten: Ultraviolet, Aquamarine, and The Pink Panther. Suddenly I had to worry about the semantics of my original question. Do I count "violet" in this case even though it is a substring of a longer word? I do since the substring is an obvious etymological reference to the color itself. I would not, however, count the word "red" if it just happened to pop up in a title like No Holds Barred. But then we get to the next title. "Aquamarine" is a color itself ([MW3] "a pale blue to light greenish blue"), but do I count "aqua" ([MW3] "a variable color averaging a light greenish blue that is greener and paler than average robin's-egg blue (sense 1), paler and slightly bluer than average turquoise (sense 2a), paler and very slightly bluer than average turquoise blue, and greener and slightly deeper than average aqua blue") as a seperate color? I suppose I could, giving, in fact, four colors for this week, but it seems a bit desperate; surely I could do better?
  • July 2003 presents more issues. For three weeks during that month the following pair of movies charted: Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl and Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, and Blonde. The first movie is straightforward, but the second one has three colors in it (MW3 lists one definition of "blond/e" as "a light yellowish brown to dark grayish yellow" whether or not hair is being described). So, this week could count as a 4-color entry. But what would really be nice (and what I kind of had in mind when I started this silliness) would be four separate titles, each with a color in them. And, for that matter, it would be nice if they were four different colors. But maybe I'm just getting too picky?
  • The week of 11 October 2002 is more what I had in mind, but alas, it still only had three valid entries: Red Dragon (#1), Brown Sugar (#3), and White Oleander (#7). Oh, by the way, don't give me any crap about "white" or "black" (or "gray") not really being colors. I'm doing the hours of web research here... and I'm counting them.
  • A few more 3-color weeks occur going all the way back until 1986, but it's not until the May of that year that things started getting serious. The week of 2-8 May of that year had the following movies chart: Blue City (#2), Pretty In Pink (#9), and Violets and Blue (#10). But again, "blue" occurs twice, and one movie contains two of the colors; not quite what I'm looking for. Oh, by the way, bubbling under at #11 that week is The Color Purple, just out of the top ten range, but that does put three color-titles sequentially in the chart (positions 9-11).
  • A few weeks earlier (box office results for week of 25 April - 1 May) got rid of the duplicate "blue", but there was still only three distinct titles: Violets and Blue (#5), Pretty In Pink (#9), and The Color Purple (#10).
  • 1986 proved to be a colorful year as yet another week came close (three titles with three different colors). 10-16 January resulted in The Color Purple (#4), Black Moon Rising (#6), and White Nights (#7).
  • Finally! The week of 19-25 July 1985 gets us a true 4-color week. At that time the box office yielded: Silverado (#4), The Man With One Red Shoe (#6), The Black Cauldron (#9), and The Emerald Forest (#10). Note that The Black Cauldron was only released on the Thursday before the chart was compiled, but that one day was enough to position it in the top ten for the week. Also, MW3 does equate "emerald" with "emerald green" ("a variable color averaging a strong bluish green"), so it counts. Amazingly, the #7 movie of that week was Pale Rider, but "pale" is not considered a color unto itself.
So there, a 4-color week was found. The only other candidate I could find in the past thirty year's worth of charts was 24-30 Aug 1984 when there was Purple Rain (#3), Red Dawn (#4), The Woman In Red (#6), and Oxford Blues (#8); but the duplicate of "red" spoils it a bit.

Is there a week further back than thrity years that beats four colors? We'll probably never know. Like I mentioned before, the box office charts essentially fall apart after (er, before) May 1982. At least the online charts are incomplete. Maybe a trip to the library archives would yield more information on microfilm, but I don't think the question is that important. If someone else thinks it warrants that amount of work, and he/she finds a better week, do let me know.

-- Eric

P.S.: Did you know that the week of 9-15 February 1990 had three movie titles with flowers in the titles: Driving Miss Daisy (#2), Stanley & Iris (#6), and The War Of The Roses (#8) -- plus more vegetation with Steel Magnolias (#10). Am I the only one excited about this?!

P.P.S.: I took a little time and have actually now created a chart of all movie with colors in their titles since the beginning of 1982. The webpage contains a rather large image file.

[12 June 2012]

 Box Office Pa...
 Palindromic S...
 Dos Equis
 Box Office Pa...
 My Initial Su...
 Rock & Roll1
 Aye, Qs!
 This & That
 It's All Abou...1
 Non-Crashing ...
 Box Office Cu...
 All In A Row1
 Chemical Symb...1
 Over 636 Pali...2
 Omino Font
 Front Hook: S1
 History of Bo...1
 Front Hook: R
 Well, Moviego...6
 Front Hook: Q
 Front Hook: P
 Front Hook: O
 Front Hook: N1
 Front Hook: M
 Front Hook: L
 Front Hook: K
 Front Hook: J1
 Front Hook: I2
 Front Hook: H4
 Front Hook: G3
 Front Hook: F
 Front Hook: E
 Front Hook: D
 Front Hook: C
 Front Hook: B1
 Front Hook: A
 Multiple Solu...1
 And The Nomin...
 I want a cut ...2
 Scrabble Play...
 The answer is...2
 Pangrams and ...
 Pangrams and ...
 Secret Weapon...
 Colorful Citi...2
 Song, Song, S...2
 Favorite Numb...3
 Periodic Tabl...1
 Body Of Music...
 Filmed In Tec...3
 Cryptic Femal...1
 Colorful Film...1
 Elemental Bod...5
 Ambigrams Rev...1
 Calculated Wo...2
 Teacher Torto...2
 True Story
 Sending My Re...
 Word Dice3
 That Does It!3
 Lexomino Puzz...
 Morse Code Pa...5
 Bringing Ingo...7
 Dot, Dot, Das...2
 Repeated lett...3
 Palindromic P...7
 Palindromic P...
 Sick Pun4
 Typesetting 2...2
 What is a "wo...
 Hollywood Nam...
 Front Hooks
 Half Price
 Through The 7...
 Bourne To Run4
 V for Very Di...
 Scrabble: Ash...
 Scrabble, red...1
 A=1, B=2, C=32
 4 Sides To Ev...4
 Periodic Tabl...2
 String of Mov...3
 Where's Winsl...4
 Standardized ...2
 Unintended Am...1
 Web Too Dah T...1
 Too clever by...4
 Another wordy...
 Beyond BOOKKE...7
 Not Positive ...11
 Scrabble Tabl...2
 Another Pan-v...1
 Not So Frugal
 Not So Funny ...1
 Memory of GAM...5
 Musical Wordp...
 Chemical Abbr...1
 Movie Rebuses7
 Television Sh...1
 Even More Het...
 More Heterogr...3
 Those crazy H...2
 Alli says, "A...
 A Puzzling St...3
 Synonymous Co...1
 Rubik Font3
 Under A Spell
 State The Rea...2
 7x7 Scrabble ...
 7x7 Scrabble ...
 Scrabble Squa...4
 Tube Maps2
 GAMES Magazin...
 Superbowl: ST...
 Letter Shifti...1
 Projects of L...
 Slices of PI,...
 Slices of PI,...
 QWERTY vs. Dv...2
 Word Chemistr...
 Pangrammic Cr...1
 Comments for ...1
 Alphabet Soup4
 Book List
 Scrabble Tile...
 Letter Shifti...
 Pangrammic Cr...
 Word Searchin...1

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Comments about this article:
Magnolia isn't just the tree, it's the flower as well, so that's a legitimate four flowers that week.

Posted by: trip

Awesome chart.

Not sure 'Pope of Greenwich Village' meets your standard, especially if you were on the fence about 'Ultraviolet'

Posted by: John

That pope used to be a cardinal, though, surely. That has to count for something.

Posted by: lahosken

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