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Burn on Fire at the Box Office

September 15th, 2008

Four films opened wide this weekend, and all four finished in the top four, which is the first time that's happened in more than a year and a half. The strength of the new releases helped the overall box office bounce back, as it was up 49% from last weekend at $101 million. More importantly, it was up more than 28% from the same weekend last year, which ended a seven-week losing streak. Year-to-date, 2008 is still behind, but the gap was closed somewhat with 2007 leading with $6.92 billion to $6.87 billion.

Burn After Reading was not the favorite to win the weekend race, but it did just that with $19.13 million over the weekend, which was about 50% more than expected. Given its reviews and its pedigree on both sides of the camera, it should maintain its momentum rather well over the coming weeks. And it could reach $60 million, or more, which is significantly above our original prediction.

The Family that Preys also beat expectations this weekend, but at $17.38 million it do so by much less than Burn After Reading. It was also the second weakest opening for a Tyler Perry movie, better than just Daddy's Little Girls. The reviews were not bad, just missing the overall positive level, which is better than average for this time of year. But poor legs are likely to follow and it could have trouble matching original expectations.

Continuing the winning streak, Righteous Kill also beat expectations earning $16.29 million, but thanks to better than expected competition, it had to settle for third place over the weekend. Since its reviews didn't improve and the novelty of seeing Robert De Niro and Al Pacino on screen together will wear off soon, I don't expect this film will earn strong legs. On the other hand, it is aiming at a more mature target demographic, which tends to mean weaker openings but better holds. We will have to see which way it goes, but by this time next week we should have a much clearer picture.

The only new release to not beat expectations was The Women, as it pulled in $10.16 million over the weekend. It had the worst per theater average of the new releases, and the worst reviews, but it also has a target demographic that is chronically under-served. I think the latter will mitigate and serious declines, but theater owners will not be excited in keeping this one in theaters for too long.

There was a three-way tie for fifth place this weekend, but Tropic Thunder won out with $4.18 million over the weekend to reach $100 million on its 31st day of release. The House Bunny and The Dark Knight were very, very close behind with the former adding $4.15 million and the latter pulling in $4.13 million. Both films are showing amazing legs, and The House Bunny has earned more than enough to cover its production budget, even after theater owners take their share.

On the one hand, Bangkok Dangerous plummeted, falling from first to eighth with just $2.59 million over the weekend and $12.72 million in total. This coming weekend the film should tie the record for fastest fall out of the top ten for a film that opened in first place, currently held by Queen of the Damned and The Crow: City of Angels.

Ending on a high note, Tropic Thunder wasn't the only film to reach $100 million this weekend as Step Brothers also reached that milestone, doing so 51 days into its run. The number of $100 million films from 2008 has now grown to 17 with Journey to the Center of the Earth about two weeks away from joining the rest. However, I'm not entirely impressed with the rest of the year when it comes to $100 million movies. There are a number that have a shot, but not enough that I think reaching the record is that likely. (The current record in 29 set in 2003, while 2007 had 28 such films.)


Filed under: The Dark Knight, Tropic Thunder, Step Brothers, The House Bunny, Righteous Kill, The Family That Preys, The Women, Bangkok Dangerous, Chu Chu and the Philly Flash