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Weekend Weakness from the Top on Down

September 23rd, 2008

It was not a good weekend at the box office with just one of the four new releases beating expectations, and even then it was by just a rounding error. Overall box office receipts were $88 million over the weekend, which was down 13% from last week. More importantly, it was down 9% from the same weekend last year, which was not expected. Year-to-date, 2008 is still behind 2007, but at a margin of just $6.98 billion to $7.04 billion, and a strong fall and holiday box office would be enough to catch up.

As expected, Lakeview Terrace was able to capture top spot. However, with just $15.00 million, it was just above the low end of expectations. Add in reviews that are weak, but not terrible, and the competition this week, and I'm not bullish about the film's chances going forward. That said, it only cost $20 million to make, and this film should double that at the box office. Given that, if Samuel L. Jackson can help draw in some moviegoers internationally, it should have no trouble showing a sizable profit after its initial push into the home market.

Burn After Reading lived up to expectations perfectly, adding $11.04 million over the weekend for a total of $36.14 million. By this time next week, it should already be the second biggest Coen Brothers hit ever, and while it is not likely to earn as much as No Country for Old Men, topping $60 million on a $37 million production budget it a great performance, while it could end up as the best release this month.

On the other hand, My Best Friend's Girl was a step back for its star, Dane Cook, as it finished in third place with just $8.27 million. This was the biggest disappointment compared to Thursday's predictions, and it doesn't look like it will improve for here on out. The film was not screened for critics, and now we know why as the movie earned a pathetic 8% positive. That's bad even compared to September's average (sadly, it is a step up from Good Luck Chuck). I can't see how it could recover enough this weekend that theater owners will want to keep it much longer than they are contractually obligated too, especially with the level of competition increasing at the beginning of October.

Igor was a surprise entrant in the top five, althought this had as much to do with the weak competition as it did with its strength. It did beat expectations with $7.80 million over the weekend, which was enough for fourth place. Given the younger target demographic, even with very weak reviews, it should hold on well enough to come close to matching its production budget. I don't expect the studio to push it hard internationally, but it will likely be released on DVD just before Christmas, which should help it climb into profitability.

There was a tight race for fifth place with Righteous Kill topping The Family that Preys $7.42 million to $7.27 million. For both films, this is a steeper decline than predicted, and there's little hope it will get better from now on. At least The Family that Preys has a decent per theater average, at least compared to the rest of the top ten, but I expect both to fade out quite quickly.

Fellow sophomore release, The Women, placed seventh with $5.42 million over the weekend for a total of $19.32 million after two. This is a solidly average performance for a September release, but that is hardly high praise. Additionally, its per theater average has fallen below $2,000, so it is unlikely theater owners will keep it around for too much longer.

The final wide release of the weekend was Ghost Town, which did as best as one could hope for given its theater count. With an opening of $5.0 million, this is not the movie that will make Ricky Gervais a star in the states, but with the best reviews of the month, it should have good word of mouth, while becoming a bigger hit on the home market.

We've come this far, so let's just finish off the top ten, which ends with two films doing amazing business, albeit with two widely different expectations. Landing in ninth place was The Dark Knight with $2.92 million over the weekend for a total of $521.89 million. It also had the best week-to-week drop off, down less than 30%, which will help it on its way to $1 billion worldwide.

On the other hand, The House Bunny's box office has been more subdued so far, as it added $2.66 million to its total of $45.59 million. However, this is nearly twice what it cost to make, and it has spent a full month in the top ten, which is better than most films can dream of.

Speaking of which, Bangkok Dangerous fell to 16th place in only its third weekend of release, tying the record for fastest fall out of the top ten for a film that opened in first place. Other films that have done the same include Queen of the Damned and The Crow: City of Angels, while The Passion of the Christ did the same after it returned to the top during Easter weekend.

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Filed under: The Dark Knight, The House Bunny, Righteous Kill, Lakeview Terrace, The Family That Preys, The Women, Igor, My Best Friend's Girl, Bangkok Dangerous, Ghost Town, Chu Chu and the Philly Flash