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Thunder Starts to Make Noise

August 14th, 2008

As summer winds down, the box office potential of the wide releases slumps, but the number of wide releases increases. This week we have three (and a couple of not so wide releases that we will get to later), including one that is already in theaters. None are likely to set the box office on fire. That said, there's almost no chance that The Dark Knight will repeat as the box office winner, which will bring an end to its nearly month-long reign. However, it will hit a milestone of its own.

Tropic Thunder started its run yesterday and scored first place with $6.50 million. However, this was a little lower than expected and about half as much as The Pineapple Express opened with last week. Granted, this is not a disastrous opening and with stellar reviews and no Olympic Opening Ceremony to compete with, it could build over the weekend. Best case scenario has it showing small growth on Thursday and even better growth on Friday before having a 3+ internal multiplier over the weekend. This could give it more than $30 million over the weekend and about $45 million in total. However, earning a weekend box office in the mid-to-low $20 million range is more likely, while that would give it just over $30 million in total.

Coming up next, maybe, should be Star Wars: The Clone Wars. This is a risky project because it has become almost cool to attack the prequel trilogy, so the knives would be out for this film. That said, 22% positive reviews is still well below expectations and will certainly hurt the film's box office chances. Also hurting is the film's buzz, which didn't build as I was expecting at the beginning of the month. That said, it looks to be aiming for a solid $20 million weekend, maybe a little more, maybe a little less. Given the film's production budget, which is expected to be in line with TV movies and not theatrical releases, this will be more than enough to show a profit before long. Even if the film earns only half of that during its opening weekend, it will be considered a financial success and should help the TV show's run, which begins at the beginning of October.

It seems clear that The Dark Knight will finally be knocked out of top spot this weekend with two films tracking ahead of it. However, that doesn't mean there will be nothing interesting to report. First of all, the film is less than $10 million away from overtaking Star Wars: A New Hope and climbing into second place on the All-Time Chart. Secondly, how well it does this weekend will help determine if $500 million is still within reach. This film is shedding a serious number of theaters this weekend, and this is leading some to think it could fall by 50%, or more. That would cut its weekend haul to $13 million, which would make $500 million a stretch, especially if its decline in theater count starts to accelerate. (I think the studio would give a push over the top, however.) On the other hand, others think it could pull in $18 million and land in second place. That would leave it about two weeks away from $500 million while it would reach $510 million in total. The higher end is a little more likely and I'm going with a prediction of just under $17 million.

Direct competition is going to hurt The Pineapple Express this weekend as no other film in the top ten was hurt more by the arrival of Tropic Thunder on Wednesday. Even worse, it fell substantially on Tuesday as well, so its legs were not looking particularly strong to begin with. Its reviews are good, so this might be the Fanboy Effect taking place as Judd Apatow enthusiasts rushed out to see the film opening weekend. If this is true, the film should make between $11 and $12 million over the weekend, but I'm going to predict $12 to $13 million instead.

The final wide release of the week is Mirrors, a remake of an Asian horror film. This one involves ghosts. Big shock there. This is a genre that has been played out and it will likely perform as well as Pulse or Dark Water, which is not good news. Additionally, this film is not being screened for critics, and we all know what that means. Most are expecting the film to earn $11 million or so at the box office, but I don't see it performing quite that strong and $8 to $9 million is more likely. This should still give it fifth place, but The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor will be right behind it and could overtake it if there is any sign of weakness.


Filed under: The Dark Knight, Tropic Thunder, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Pineapple Express, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Mirrors