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Summer's Stormy End

September 2nd, 2008

The Dark Knight did what few films in the past decade were able to do, lead the box office charts for four weeks in a row. Now Tropic Thunder is one weekend away from tying that mark. However, it was able to win this weekend thanks to weakness in the new releases, which caused the box office to slump. From Friday to Sunday the industry brought in $98 million, which was 8% lower than last weekend and 17% lower than the same weekend last year. Over four days, $124 million was earned, which was again 17% lower than the same weekend last year. Year-to-date, 2008 fell further behind $6.67 billion to $6.73 billion, but that is still less than a 1% difference and certainly not an insurmountable lead.

It wasn't entirely unexpected, but Tropic Thunder was able to earn top spot with $11.52 million from Friday to Sunday and $14.60 million when you include Monday. So far the film has brought in $86.94 million, and while it is unlikely that it will reach $100 million by this time next week, it will hit the century mark eventually. On the other hand, it was an expensive movie and it will need to perform relatively well internationally to show a profit by its initial push into the home market. But it will show a profit, the question is just when: internationally, DVD / Blu-ray sales, PPV, etc.

On the other hand, we have Babylon A.D., which opened with just $9.48 million over the three-day weekend and has $11.54 million after four. There are two major problems here, firstly its cost. The film was originally budgeted at $45 million, but that was raised $60 million after there were problems during filming. (Additionally, some think it went over that budget by a significant margin.) Secondly, as the reviews would predict, the movie didn't do particularly well in maintaining its box office numbers. The film started off in first place on Friday but was in fourth place on Monday, barely ahead of House Bunny, which cost half as much to make. The film might do better internationally because of the international scope of the story. However, I still have a hard time imagining the movie earning a profit any time soon.

The Dark Knight landed in third place, which was one place higher than it was last weekend. Wow. It pulled in $8.62 million / $11.13 million over the weekend to lift its total to $504.80 million. It reached the $500 million mark in just 45 days, which would have made it the third fastest film to reach $400 million. That said, at this point in its run, Titanic made more than $25 million over a three-day weekend. In fact, it didn't dip below $10 million over a weekend until more than four months into its run. Given that, there will be no more major milestones for The Dark Knight domestically (barring a re-release) but every dollar it makes here is one less dollar it needs to make internationally to reach $1 billion worldwide.

The House Bunny matched expectations perfectly to land in fourth place with $8.32 million / $10.18 million over the weekend. The film took just nine days to match its production budget and now has $29.73 million after eleven, making it a midlevel hit, which should help Anna Faris get another lead role, while supporting cast like Kat Dennings, Emma Stone, Rumer Willis, etc. should be pushed into more prominent rolls.

The Traitor was a surprise entry in the top five, opening with $7.87 million / $10.01 million over the weekend for a total of $11.51 million since Wednesday. Reviews were better than most films earn this time of year, but not strong enough that I thought it would be a selling point, especially with the older target demographic who tend to read and trust critics more. However, the film slowly climbed the charts and placed third on Monday, which bodes well for the film's future, and with a low production budget, it could still show a nice profit after its initial run in the home market.

Disaster Movie lived up to its name, earning just $5.84 million from Friday to Sunday and $6.95 million including Monday. It is one of the worst movies of the year and saw its box office performance weaken considerably as the weekend wore on. I expect the film to collapse next weekend, while it will fail to match its production budget. However, it will likely make enough on the home market to show a profit eventually, and Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer will continue to be allowed to ruin the name of spoofs.

Missing the top ten was College, which landed in 15th place with just $2.15 million / $2.62 million. Its reviews were better than two of the three other wide releases, but they were still in the single-digit range. The only good news left is the production cost, which was below $10 million. I don't think this movie will match that, even worldwide, but the unrated DVD could sell enough to become profitable.

The last wide release of the week was Hamlet 2, which actually expanded into 1,500 theaters. This expansion did not go as badly as I expected. Granted, opening in 20th place with $1.70 million / $2.13 million is hardly a wonderful performance; however, its running tally of $3.15 million is already more than most prospective sleeper hits earned in total.

Moving onto the sophomore class, there were three such films that failed to reach the top five this week, starting with Death Race. That movie fell 50% over the three-day weekend to $6.30 million, while it has made $24.74 million in total, if you include Monday. Not a strong performance, but as expected. On the other hand, I was expecting The Longshots to hold better than a 43% drop-off to $2.31 million. Its total of $8.19 million is completely forgettable. The same can't be said for The Rocker, which had one of the five worst openings for a truly wide release last weekend and plummeted more than 60% this weekend, earning a mere $970,000 in 2,784 theaters. It will be tough to beat Meet Dave's theater count drop-off record of 2,523, but it is possible given its per theater average.

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Filed under: The Dark Knight, Tropic Thunder, The House Bunny, Death Race, Traitor, Babylon A.D., Disaster Movie, The Longshots, The Rocker, Hamlet 2, College