Though Hollywood would like to think all of summer is the Silly Season in regards to box office, the truth is, every four years, July takes a slight hit. The Olympics seemed to catch the attention of casual moviegoers this weekend, as prospective smash “The Dark Knight Rises” took a strong second week drop of 60%, ruling the roost over a sea of uninspiring options with a still, very formidable $64 million. While “The Dark Knight” ruled over summer 2008, only four more ’08 releases in that frame sputtered over the $100 million mark. One was inexplicable worldwide smash “Mamma Mia!,” but triple digits were just barely reached by “Step Brothers,” “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” and “Tropic Thunder.” Judging by this weekend and the remaining summer schedule, the industry looks like will be lucky to halve that number.
With the frontloaded numbers for “The Dark Knight Rises” partly attributable to massive pre-sale interest, one can say that the picture most definitely has a stigma attached. While mostly tasteful media coverage of the tragedy in Aurora could not help but mention the film in conjunction with the lives lost, that combined with the film’s significantly smaller last-minute ad presence helped diminish the picture’s profile. Had it been a violent shooting at a screening for another film, the association would not be so stark. Unfortunately, fans and non-fans are aware that “The Dark Knight Rises” is an extremely intense film with a decidedly dark tone.
Of course, maybe it’s a zeitgeist thing. “The Dark Knight” came at the end of eight years of George W. Bush, an administration associated by detractors with violence, war and terrorism. Making a downbeat blockbuster that fed off that energy worked in hooking a receptive audience. But after four years of President Barack Obama, making overtures towards the collapse of the economy wasn’t enough to distinguish “The Dark Knight” from its predecessor. One also wonders how much the tragic death of Heath Ledger (and the prospect of seeing one of his final performances on screen) played into the previous film’s success. Whatever the case, these films are, even to their supporters, long and grim, and considering the superhero genre deluge, it’s not a surprise to see ‘Rises’ landing much softer than “The Dark Knight.” However, the film should soon be coasting past $500 million worldwide and Batman still remains one of the surest box office brands in movie history. While a 60% drop is steep for a film like this that usually has long summer legs, “The Dark Knight Rises” is still breaking some records, becoming the third-highest 10-day total ever this weekend. Moreover, an A grade CinemaScore ensures the film will stick around theaters all summer long and probably landing with $450 million domestically.
Speaking of topicality, “The Watch” followed a flood of controversy with an immensely unappealing (and half-hearted) ad campaign that sealed its fate, resulting in numbers likely less than half of what you’d expect from a re-teaming of the stars of “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.” That film collected $114 million domestic eight years ago, and since then Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn have remained big comedic leading men, though results have been spotty. Vaughn carved out a niche for a while, churning out a big film every year while avoiding oversaturation, though last year’s “The Dilemma” was a serious underperformer, and when you’re as choosy as Vaughn, bombs tend to weigh more.
Stiller is more of a classically bankable leading man, taking advantage of his own ubiquity, though he may have been stricken with the same career curse of “Tower Heist” co-star Eddie Murphy — the aging vet earns more goodwill playing to the kids than to the adults. Stiller was the lead presence in the “Night at the Museum” and “Madagascar” films, which domestically have collected over $1 billion in box office receipts. During this post-“Madagascar” period, his only real hits that played to non-family audiences have been the star-studded “Tropic Thunder” and “Little Fockers,” the latter which registered the lowest stateside gross in that franchise. Ironically, this has the least effect on Jonah Hill‘s career — while it’s still uncertain whether he’s leading man material, he usually relies on strong collaborators and names, and in this case the heat falls on Stiller and Vaughn considering Hill’s still fresh off “21 Jump Street.” Oh, and Richard Ayoade: still anonymous.
It’s uncertain how much the general public knew of the studio’s reshuffling of the film, formerly titled “Neighborhood Watch,” in the wake of the Trayvon Martin case. Though what was certain was the film’s unfocused ad campaign. The idea of a couple of wacky guys forming a neighborhood watch seems like it could carry a mainstream comedy all its own, but commercials and trailers for the film emphasized that the characters would use this power to throw their weight around and to harrass neighbors, which, topical or not, isn’t all that funny. And Fox really didn’t put much effort into getting the word out, with only a very small handful (single digits) of official stills landing before the film and a quickie “outtakes” trailer that arrived like an afterthought the week of release that suggested watching the actors goof their lines was funnier than the actual movie.
Some expected shuffling should occur between movies two, three and four in the top five, with “Ice Age: Continental Drift” registering a decent third weekend hold, though it doesn’t appear to have the consistent legs of its predecessors. $600 million worldwide and counting seems less impressive than the series’ norm, but no one’s complaining as Blue Sky keeps these films budgeted around only $100 million. Speaking of failing franchises, “Step Up: Revolution” posted the lowest opening of the series thus far, continuing this franchise’s downward box office trend. That is, stateside — “Step Up 3D” actually grossed $117 million overseas compared to $42 million domestic. They love their hoofers and their 3D, those wacky foreigners.
With the momentum of having the best legs in the top ten, “Ted” lapped blockbuster “The Amazing Spider-Man” and should cross $200 million domestic by next weekend. Don’t cry for ‘Spider-Man,’ even if it should finish around $270-$280 million domestic, the first “Spider-Man” film not to surpass $300 million in the states — Marc Webb‘s copying of Sam Raimi‘s homework is soon to cross $700 million worldwide, with more on the way. “Brave” is pretty much finished and should land around $225-$230 million, while “Magic Mike,” “Savages” and “Madea’s Witness Protection” stay in the top ten because something has to.
In limited release, “Ruby Sparks” was the highest grosser, with a solid $152k at thirteen theaters — not exactly showing breakout potential but a sure bet to play well into the summer. The strongest per-screen in the indie market, however, was for “Killer Joe,” which collected $37.9k at three locations. Other debuts include two competing docs, with “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” grabbing $45k at five theaters and “Searching For Sugar Man” opening on three screens with a $28.5k tally. Interest was a bit muted, however, for “Klown,” which generated only $17.9k of interest from three theaters. Support your local arthouse theater, boys and girls.
1. The Dark Knight Rises (WB) – $64.1 million ($289.1 mil.)
2. Ice Age IV (Fox) – $13.3 million ($114.8 mil.)
3. The Watch (Fox) – $13 million
4. Step Up: Flash Mobs Are A Thing (Lionsgate/Summit) – $11.8 million
5. Ted (Universal) – $7.4 million ($193.6 mil.)
6. Spider-Man Deja Vu (Sony) – $6.3 million ($241 mil.)
7. Brave (Disney) – $4.1 million ($217 mil.)
8. El Miguelito Del Magico (WB) – $2.4 million ($107 mil.)
9. Savages (Universal) – $1.6 million ($44 mil.)
10. Madea’s Why Didn’t They Call It Witless Protection, That Would Have Been Hilarious (Lionsgate) – $1.3 million ($63 mil.)