As the film industry worries about audience fears at movie theaters, there's a temptation to pass some quick judgments about the long-term impact of the Aurora tragedy on movie attendance.
This weekend at least, we should not overlook the more important X factor —the opening of the Olympics. That made a difference in two crucial ways. First, unlike most summer weekends, television provided major competition. That's why the studios tried to stay out of the Olympics' way.
So there is nothing to panic about. This weekend's estimated grosses are ahead of the last summer Olympics in 2008, roughly $135 million to $121 million (even better after adjusting for higher ticket prices). The top 10 without "The Dark Knight Rises" would be below the total four years ago (the fourth weekend of "The Dark Knight"). But a second weekend for the current Batman film — #1 for the weekend despite a 60% drop — makes for more of a "go to" film than the previous entry (fourth-ranked), so this isn't too surprising.
The top new movie four years ago was "Pineapple Express," which got much better reviews than this year's two new releases, "The Watch" and "Step Up Revolution," which marked unimpressive openings.
Did "The Dark Knight Rises" lose moviegoers after the Colorado shootings? This weekend will come into better focus with 20/20 hindsight, when the Olympics and Aurora have receded into the rear view distance.
3. "The Watch" (20th Century-Fox) – #3 for weekend; Metacritic score: 36
$13,000,000 in 3,168 theaters; PSA: $4,104
Though its neighbors-battling-aliens story has nothing to do with the Trayvon Martin tragedy, this film already had its violence-in-the-news issue when initially publicized as "Neighborhood Watch." Fox managed to minimize that damage, but even with a cast of recent marquee draws — Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill– yet another raunchy frat boy genre entry could not overcome blah or worse reviews, particularly with "Ted" still grossing well.
What it means: The closing ceremony for this likely won't come too much later than the one in London. And with a high $60-million budget, the road to profit will be steep.
4. "Step Up Revolution" (Lionsgate) – #4 for weekend; Metacritic score: 43
$11,800,000 in 2,567 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $4,597,000
After three earlier editions in this dance/musical series, and one previous already in 3-D, Lionsgate took over distribution from Disney (its newly merged partner Summit was co-producer of the previous films). The result is a gross about 25% below what "Step Up 3D" achieved without Olympic competition in 2010.
What it means: With a reported production cost of over $30 million, this will need to do considerably better internationally. The last effort did reach $116 million outside the US, so this seems doable.
1. "The Dark Knight Rises" (Warner Bros.) – #1 for weekend
$64,100,000 in 4,404 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $14,350; Cumulative: $289,100,000
First things first: $64 million for a second weekend–without a 3-D surcharge–is a terrific gross. A steep second week fall (60%) is not unusual for the third in a series (particularly when the previous entry was a bigger event film). That the gross fell at the level it did is a factor of Olympics competition, more mixed reaction than initially anticipated (and the lack of a villain at the level of Heath Ledger's Joker), plus some post-Aurora fears. But that's in the overall mix, not remotely the whole story.
What it means: There is no question that this film will remain strong for weeks to come, and reign as one of the major successes of the year. The damage from the violence looks minimal.
2. "Ice Age – Continental Drift" (20th Century-Fox) – #2 for weekend (week 3)
$13,300,000 (-35%) in 3,869 theaters (-17); PSA: $3,438; Cumulative: $114,847,000
The third weekend for this fourth animated "Ice Age" installment, despite the Olympics, held up even better than the third for the previous series entry, an indication that it's moviegoing as usual here.
What it means: Fox's animated studio Blue Sky now has its seven (out of seven) $100-million-plus hit.
5. "Ted" (Universal) – # 5 for weekend (week 5)
$7,400,000 (-26%) in 3,129 theaters (-85); PSA: $2,365; Cumulative: $193,600,000
Holding very well in its second month, with the best hold of any week in its run, and $200 million just around the corner. Hard to see any any weakness here –even though the film has been around longer, this week its gross and PSA are better than "Amazing Spider-Man."
What it means: Not only is this (in unadjusted numbers at least) Mark Wahlberg's biggest hit, it is the biggest testimony to his draw yet. And compared to what "The Watch" with its multiple leads is failing to bring in, it makes his marquee appeal undeniable.
6. "The Amazing Spider-Man" (Sony) – # 6 for weekend (week 4)
$6,800,000 (-38%) in 3,160 theaters (-593); PSA: $2,152; Cumulative: $242,000,000
Approaching $250 million with more to come, this continues a strong performance domestically.
What it means: This is headed for over $750 million worldwide. Sony already is committed to a 2014 release for the next installment, which seems reasonable considering the series' continued appeal.
7. "Brave" (Buena Vista) – #7 for weekend (week 6)
$4,237,000 (-30%) in 2,551 theaters (-348); PSA: $1,642; Cumulative: $217,261,000
More evidence of steadfast audience attendance – this weekend's percentage falloff will be by far the least of any in the run.
What it means: This should approach $250 million, great for most films but more routine for Pixar. Much of the world has yet to open this, and it will need to outperform the domestic level to become a major success.
8. "Magic Mike" (Warner Brothers) – #8 for weekend (week 5)
$2,400,000 (-44%) in 2,075 theaters (-531); PSA: $1,177; Cumulative: $107,000,000
Now late in the run, it has passed $100 million
What it means: With its microbudget, this is one of the biggest success stories of the year (with creative team profit participants the major beneficiaries). This is now, including ticket price adjustments, Steven Soderbergh's biggest grossing film other than the "Ocean" series since his tandem of "Traffic" and "Erin Brockovich" more than a decade ago.
9. "Savages" (Universal) – #9 for weekend (week 4)
$1,800,000 (-47%) in 1,414 theaters (-922); PSA: $1,266; Cumulative: $43,900,000
Nearing the end of the run, the gross is just approaching the production budget. This will fall a bit short of Oliver Stone's previous film "Wall Street – Money Never Sleeps." Still, for an unconventional summer release without a lot of review support, this has managed to amass a reasonable gross.
What it means: A fall release in most of the rest of the world, the film will need to gross the normal multiple over US performance to be profitable.
10. "Moonrise Kingdom" (Focus) – #10 for weekend (week 5)
$1,387,000 (-24%) in 853 (-22); PSA: $1,626,000; Cumulative: $38,396,000
With its seventh top 10 weekend, this becomes one of the most consistent non-Oscar boosted specialized releases of recent years, equally the number also achieved by "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel."
What it means: This still has a way to go before it's through.
11. "Madea's Witness Protection" (Lionsgate) – #11 for weekend (week 5)
$1,320,000 (-41%) in 1,111 theaters (-429); PSA: $1,188; Cumulative: $62,747,000
Hanging around and still adding gross late in its run, this has exceeded expectations.
What it means: The summer release (Tyler Perry's films usually have spring or fall dates) will help propel this into a higher gross than his previous five over the last three years.
Stay tuned for my analysis of the the indie grosses in Arthouse Audit, which follows the studio grosses every Sunday.