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Weekend Box-Office Analysis (August 3-5, 2012)

Two weeks after the shootings in Aurora, Colorado the box-office of holdovers initially affected b the tragedy is slowly, but surely recovering. Nevertheless, the lack of strong openers for the second week in a row and the ongoing effect of the Olympics led to yet another decrease for the Top 12 cume. Down 10.2% to $113.6 million this weekend’s Top 12 was the lowest-grossing since April. What is even worse is that it is down 28.1% from the similar weekend last year when Rise of the Planet of the Apes surprised everyone with its potent opening. In fact this is the lowest-grossing first weekend of August since 2005. A lot of pressure is now on the potent trio of The Bourne Legacy, The Campaign and Hope Springs which should serve various segments of moviegoers next weekend to deliver the goods and fire up the late summer box-office.


Becoming the first movie since The Avengers to lead the box-office for three weeks in a row, The Dark Knight Rises easily held on to the top spot with a $36.4 million weekend (down 41.3%) and can now boast a total cume of $354.6 million after just 17 days. It’s an impressive numbers, isn’t it? Afterall, only two movies were faster in making it beyond the $350 million mark – The Avengers (10 days) and The Dark Knight (14 days). Why is it just so hard to be impressed then?

Obviously this is all about expectations vs. reality and the truth is that if the expectations towards The Dark Knight Rises’ box-office results weren’t sky high already after the preceding film’s phenomenal success, The Avengers' humongous performance ($200+ million opening, $100+ million second weekend, $600+ million total) elevated the box-office expectations to previously unknown levels. The Dark Knight Rises might be the first film ever that was universally considered a solid lock for $400 million well before its release. It was the first sequel in history to a $500+ million predecessor. One could go on and on about the superlatives regarding how universally beloved The Dark Knight is. Not only did it become the 2nd-highest-grossing film ever domestically when it was released in 2008, it also sold more units in the home video market than any other film in history aside from Finding Nemo. At the same time, The Avengers was following a bunch of movies well-received, but aside from the first Iron Man, not universally loved. Besides, the highest-grossing Avengers-related film hasn’t even made $320 million domestically. Then The Avengers came along and blew up in a way no one could have expected or anticipated. Before that everyone expected great things for The Dark Knight Rises anyway because of its predecessor’s success, but the predictions were at least somewhat kept in check. Most expected it to take the opening weekend record with something around $180-190 million and finish somewhere around $500-550 million. However The Avengers’ success led to some drastic adjustments. If The Avengers which seemingly had less going for it could break out in such fashion, what is it to stop The Dark Knight Rises from making $200 million opening weekend and $600 million in total?

Many things it appears. There is no denying the influence of Aurora. After delivering the 2nd-biggest midnight numbers ever, there was no reason for the film not to at least take the #2 spot among the biggest opening weekends, by then occupied by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 with $169.2 million. Yet the shooting put a damper on the excitement of moviegoers. Consciously and, more importantly, subconsciously movies in general and The Dark Knight Rises in particular became associated with the horrific tragedy. The film still finished high with almost $161 million in its opening, but there is no reason why four years after the predecessor it could open only $2.5 million higher. I believe that the Aurora effect extended at least all the way into the film’s second weekend. After that it started rebounding, but the damage was done. It is impossible to tell how much the movie has lost due to this effect, but I assume it is a sizable amount. However, even a fan of the film must admit that the gap between The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises is way too large (The Avengers is tracking $103 million ahead of The Dark Knight Rises at this point) to be accounted for solely by the shooting. The second major factor is the 3D premium. Of course, 3D is not nearly as big as it was in 2010, but it cannot be denied that it still helped to boost The Avengers’ gross by a lot. On opening weekend alone it contributed $35 million to its number. Extrapolating this percentage to the rest of its run would mean that it made over $100 million thanks to 3D alone. Of course that is not true as the 3D-share keeps getting lower throughout a film’s run, but it is safe to assume that at least $70-80 million came from that source.

However, even taking all of that into account, I expect there will always be a slight lingering sense of disappointment among box-office followers regarding The Dark Knight Rises’ run, especially because we will never be able to gauge its full potential (in a world where the shooting has not taken place). At this point it is safe to say that The Dark Knight Rises won’t reach $500 million and given the immense hype, the lack of strong competition and four years of inflation, that is a letdown. Its total gross will be great and it will turn into an amazing profit for Warner Bros., but it is a case of “should have and would have been more”.

So where do we stand now and how much can Christopher Nolan’s epic finale to his Batman saga salvage? After 17 days, the movie is already the 21st-biggest film ever in North America and the 3rd-biggest ever for Warner Bros., behind The Dark Knight ($533.3 million) and the last Harry Potter film ($381 million). The fact that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 opened to more than The Dark Knight Rises yet will be overtaken by the latter within less than a month shows how hugely frontloaded and thus ultimately unspectacular that film’s box-office performance was (aside from its humongous opening day and its midnight numbers). At this point The Dark Knight Rises is tracking $39 million behind The Dark Knight, coming off a worse weekend, but a better third-weekend hold. On the other hand, The Dark Knight faced a $40+ million opener in its third frame (The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor), something that its follow-up did not have to contend with. Its third weekend is the 6th-biggest ever, right behind Shrek 2 and ahead of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. It is also tracking almost $33 million ahead of Dead Man’s Chest and should hopefully at the very least hold on to this gap, if not enlarge it. Next weekend the movie will face fierce competition and, in all likelihood, relinquish the top spot to one of the openers. In order to secure its fourth weekend a spot among the 10 biggest 4th frames ever, The Dark Knight Rises needs to drop no more than 35.5% and that might be a tough task to accomplish. However, as the films recent weekday numbers and this weekend’s hold have suggested, it is finally stabilizing after the Aurora effect and the terrific word-of-mouth is kicking in just well. The important thing is that it is still THE must-see movie out there at the moment and should remain to be so for many weeks to come. It will play well into fall. On top of that, it will also be helped by the fact that there won’t be any competition for IMAX screens until Resident Evil: Retribution hits on September 14th. The Dark Knight Rises will most likely hit the $400 million mark before its 5th weekend and there is no doubt that it will make it inside the all-time domestic Top 10, pushing The Lion King out of it (after it got back in thanks to last year’s 3D re-issue). I also believe that it is a sure thing to pass Shrek 2’s $441.2 million total and become the 7th film ever to make it past $450 million domestically – and only the fifth to do so without a re-release. However after that, it will be a struggle. It might finish above the first Star Wars film ($461 million), but that is not a given. The very best that one can hope for is the all-time Top 5, but for that it’d need to make more than $474.5 million and currently that seems like a long stretch. Right now, a more realistic projection puts its final gross in the $455-465 million range. Of course, a lot depends on how badly Warner wants to have two movies in the all-time Top 5 and whether their desire will warrant an additional re-release push later in the movie’s run.


The #2 spot of the box-office this weekend went to the utterly unimpressive Total Recall. The Sony remake yielded $26 million from 3,601 locations for a per-theatre-average of $7,220. Total Recall is Hollywood’s yet another failed attempt to sell Colin Farrell as the lead in a high-profile vehicle. After Fright Night ($18.3 million), Miami Vice ($63.5 million) and Alexander ($34.3 million) one might think that they should have realized by now that his draw is non-existent, but similar to Clive Owen he keeps getting second (and third and fourth…) chances. Both are good actors, but there is no denying that American moviegoers could care less for them. The $125 million-budgeted picture is also yet another example of that remakes of popular movies certainly do not guarantee another success. In fact, the popularity of a beloved original might, in fact, limit the potential of the remake because those who have loved the first film might just ask themselves whether a remake is really something that mist necessarily be seen in theatres – or at all. Total Recall’s performance is certainly not a great sign for the upcoming Robocop remake. What puts Total Recall even more to shame is that the original film opened to almost exactly same numbers – and that with an R-rating (as opposed to the remake’s PG-13) and 22 years ago. Adjusted for inflation, the original film’s opening would come in at over $48 million and its total at over $225 million. However, the remake won’t even get close to the first film’s unadjusted $119.4 million finish. The “C+” CinemaScore indicates mediocre WoM. With the PG-13 The Bourne Legacy hitting next weekend (it was originally planned to open this weekend), the film will lose a large chunk of its audiences and will most likely wind up with $60-70 million domestically. A substantial overseas outcome is needed for the film to break even.


Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, the third movie in the enduring live action family series, took the third spot with a slightly disappointing $14.7 million. The flick averaged $4,335 from 3,391 locations (the franchise’s widest opening). The previous two films in the series opened to over $20 million each and both finished above $50 million. Dog Days is the franchise’s first summer opener. It appears as if the hype for the franchise has faded a little after the second film which opened well, but had awful legs for a family-oriented film, finishing with an opening-to-total multiplier of less than 2.3. On the other hand, the $22 million budget ensures the profitability of this third movie as well. On top of that, summer weekdays will also make sure that the film will enjoy significantly better longevity than its predecessor. For a similar example see how Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted behaved in comparison to its predecessor. Paranorman in two weeks is its only upcoming direct competition, but being that it is animated, the effect might not be as big. The “A-“ CinemaScore that the audiences awarded Dog Days also indicates a good reception by the moviegoers and thus a healthy run ahead. We are looking at a $40-45 million finish here which might be just enough to prompt a fourth movie.


Surviving Wimpy Kid’s competition rather well, Ice Age: Continental Drift lost just 37.1% of its previous weekend’s audiences and slipped two spots to #4. After a $8.4 million take in its 4th weekend, the animated sequel stands at $131.9 million. Continental Drift is now tracking well behind the other three Ice Age movies, in particular almost $34 million behind Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, the other 3D entry in the franchise. Yet, with a $700+ million worldwide gross in the bank, Fox has hardly any reasons to complain and there is little doubt that we’ll soon see yet another adventure involving the prehistoric friends. Continental Drift will likely be strongly affected by Paranorman in two weeks, but I expect it to rebound after that and play well into the Labor Day weekend which should give it another boost (as it does to all family-oriented films). Continental Drift is still headed for a total gross north of $150 million and that alone can be called a success for the 4th installment in a franchise that has never come across as particularly beloved in North America. A $155-160 million final cume seems to be in store for it.


After a disastrous opening weekend, the R-rated ensemble comedy The Watch tumbled 50.2% to $6.4 million and the 5th spot of the box-office. With $25.4 million in its pockets after ten days, the $68 million film has now reached about what many have expected for its opening weekend alone. The Watch is a terrible misfire given the names involved. Written by the successful duo of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg that has delivered such hits as Superbad ($121.5 million), Pineapple Express ($87.3 million) and The Green Hornet ($98.8 million), the film stars Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller and Jonah Hill. In particular the former two are used to much bigger hits. Some considered Stiller’s Tower Heist last year to be a slight disappointment with its $78 million total. The Watch looks like it might even fail to make half that number. It will end up as Stiller’s lowest-grossing major comedy since The Heartbreak Kid ($36.8 million). For Vaughn it’ll be his worst result ever for a widely released comedy. With The Campaign hitting next weekend and targeting its audiences, the movie will soon crumble. Losing a lot of theatres is inevitable and it should end up even missing $40 million. At this pace, The Watch will be lucky to wind up with a $38 million total. It’s an unredeemably terrible performance, rivaling those of John Carter and Battleship in terms of box-office disappointment.


Dropping one slot to #6, Ted stands as the polar opposite to The Watch. Well-received and defying all expectations, it turned into a gigantic R-rated comedy hit that come along only every once in a while. It might not be the new Hangover, but it is certainly closer to it than most ever believed it would be. In its 6th weekend, the film added $5.5 million (down 25.5%) to its already impressive total, putting it past the $200 million mark at $203.4 million. It has become only the 11th R-rated movie in history to break the $200 million barrier in the USA and will break into the R-rated all-time Top 10 within the next few days. By now Ted is tracking $19 million behind The Hangover, showing that, while it is a tremendous success, its WoM is still not comparable to that of the first Hangover film. Still it is strong enough to eventually bring the film’s multiplier above 4 and make it the only R-rated movie in Universal’s all-time Top 10. It’s no surprise that there are talks about a sequel already. Ted is looking to end up with about $220 million before it leaves the theatres.


Step Up Revolution is behaving similar to its immediate predecessor. Down 54.8% to the 7th spot of the charts in its sophomore weekend, the dance film grossed another $5.3 million for a $23.1 million total after ten days. With Nitro Circus 3D and Paranorman eyeing its 3D screens, its run might be soon cut short. At the same time, its $33 million budget will be easily recouped when foreign grosses are added in. At this point, it is already Summit Entertainment’s 8th-biggest non-Twilight movie and thanks to strong summer weekdays it should be able to approach the multiplier of 3, finishing with $35 million when all is said and done.


After being demolished by the bat two weeks ago, The Amazing Spider-Man recovered formidably.  Down to #8, the Sony reboot brought in $4.3 million (down 35.8%) and finally passed the $250 million mark with $250.6 million in its bag already. Prior to the film’s release, that number wasn’t a sure thing given the tepid reception of Spider-Man 3 and how seemingly unnecessary this reboot has seemed. It fared quite well, though. Boosted by a strong marketing campaign, solid reviews and the general fondness of the Spider-Man character by moviegoers, The Amazing Spider-Man now more than warrants a follow-up which will most likely increase upon this film which has proven that there is life left in the franchise. The Amazing Spider-Man is on track to finish with $265 million.


The good WoM for Pixar’s Brave finally kicked in last weekend and this frame it had yet another positive surprise in store. Despite facing direct competition, it delivered the 2nd-best hold in the Top 10, decreasing 32.9% for a $2.9 million weekend and $223.3 million total. The weekend take was enough for the 9th position at the box-office. Brave is now just $0.5 million away from passing WALL-E’s domestic total gross and with Labor Day still ahead, I believe it does have quite a bit of gas left in its tank. Pixar’s films like WALL-E or Up have stayed in theatres for well over 20 weeks and Brave is just in its 7th week. Brave is already the 15th-biggest animated film ever and while it has no chance at breaking $250 million and entering the Top 10, it could still move up a couple of spots as it should manage to crawl to $238 million when all is said and done.


Stephen Soderbergh’s male strippers dramedy Magic Mike spent its final week in the Top 10, at the 10th spot with a $1.4 million gross (down 47.3%). Its running total stands at $110.9 million which is already far more than anyone could have fathomed for this film. It will wind up with $115 million by the end of its run.


After five weeks of constant presence, Wes Anderson’s arthouse hit Moonrise Kingdom dropped out of the Top 10 and landed at #11 with $1.2 million (down 14.1%). Its running total stands at $40.8 million, making it Focus Features’ 6th-biggest hit ever. There is still some life left in it, though and I expect it to hang around outside of the Top 12 for a while. It should finish somewhere around $46-50 million before leaving the theatres, pushing it into Focus’ all-time Top 5.


The hugely acclaimed Sundance winner Beasts of the Southern Wild made it into the Top 12 in its 5th weekend after adding 110 theatres which prompted a 26.9% increase over the last weekend to $1.2 million. After five weeks its running cume amounts to $5.9 million. Still boasting a solid PTA, this movie will hang in there for a while and probably finish in the $12-15 million range.

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