Weekend Wrap-Up for July 6-8, 2007
By David Mumpower
July 8, 2007

But we don't want to be red shirts!

If a tentpole release can't break Spider-Man 3's $151.1 million weekend record in three days, what's the next logical step? Open on a Monday evening and give it almost seven days. This strategy was the one employed by Paramount for Transformers and it worked just as expected. The weird combination of Michael Bay explosions and Hasbro merchandising earned an estimated $67.6 million over the weekend, but this will not be the number you hear trumpeted by the studio. The one they will be selling is its six and a half day total. That number sounds a lot better, since it's $152.5 million, giving Transformers one of the best weeks in box office history.

What went right for Transformers? Pretty much everything. Ever since the short teaser showed a Martian probe getting destroyed by a Decepticon, buzz for Transformers has been deafening. Paramount capitalized on the excitement by maximizing the potential holiday week revenue possibilities, opening the movie on Monday night at 8 p.m. This is something that hadn't been done at the box office for a movie of this scale since the early 1940s. This daring release pattern accomplished its goal, with movie audiences rushing out to see CGI representations of their beloved Autobots. Transformers earned $36 million in its first 36 hours, then followed up that record-breaking success for Tuesday box office by anchoring the largest July 4th day of box office ever. Transformers' $29.1 million on that day was over half of the overall top ten's $57.9 million.

Box office analysts kept waiting for the moment when Transformers would lose its momentum. They're still waiting. Whereas most summer releases have started off with scintillating debuts then quickly dropped off, Optimus Prime's live-action debut showed sensational holdover appeal throughout the week, confounding expected box office behavior for such a fanboy-driven title. The end result is that Transformers is already the sixth most successful release of 2007 and it will surpass Wild Hogs for fifth place in a couple of days. The only question now is where does Transformers go from here? Critics are split on the project. It currently stands with a rotten rating of 56% at RottenTomatoes, but another few positive reviews would swing it to fresh. Fan reception has been largely positive. Some people have questioned the dialogue, but hey, it is a Michael Bay film. Comments about the special effects have been mostly glowing, and those are really the central drawing point of the movie. Many are going so far as to say this is the most impressive display of technology since Terminator 2: Judgment Day's T-1000. At this point, Transformers appears likely to escape 2007 tentpole release movie behavior by showing solid legs. A box office total in excess of $300 million is a distinct possibility.

The rest of the top ten is nowhere near as sexy to discuss. After the Tuesday releases of the two new titles for the week, nothing much changed on a daily basis. Ratatouille comfortably nestled into second place with the release of Transformers, and it remained there for the body of the July 4th holiday period. It earned an estimated $29 million this weekend, demonstrating impressing staying power from last weekend's $47.0 million. Only a week later, the project no longer looks to be the biggest disappointment in Pixar's brief but illustrious history. Its 38% decline combined with robust weekdays has taken it over the $100 million threshold after only ten days. Remy the master chef's movie has current box office of $109.5 million, which puts it in range of the $117.0 million Cars had earned in the same time frame. Given how much easier it is to sell a movie about cute toy cars as opposed to a rat serving fine cuisine, it's safe to move Ratatouille off the endangered list of struggling summer blockbusters. This is an unexpectedly quick reversal of fortune for the film.

Live Free Or Die Hard has been a similar beneficiary of a marvelous holiday week of box office. After earning a respectable $33.4 million last weekend, the latest Bruce Willis Blows Things Up outing falls an expected amount, 48%, winding up with $17.4 million for the weekend. Due to some glorious weekdays, however, it has a running total of $84.2 million now, significantly better than an action movie would normally expect after only $48.4 million in its first five days. A combination of holiday inflation and exemplary word-of-mouth (as I type this, it's currently the #240 movie off all-time on IMDb) has turned the tide on this one as well. The week of July 4th was kind to all three of the biggest movies over the entire holiday period.

The movie finishing in fourth place this weekend has not been quite so fortunate. License to Wed, the latest attempt to place Robin Williams in zany situations, earned an estimated $10.4 million over three days. Its six-day holiday total stands at only $17.8 million, and there is reason to believe it's going to vanish off the face of the planet sooner rather than later. Critics were emphatic in their rejection of the movie. Its current Rotten Tomatoes score is a dreadful 9%, meaning that we would have to find a sample size of eleven critics in order to find one drunk enough to mistake it for a quality release. Williams somehow cheated instant box office death with the similarly reviled RV, which earned an inexplicable $71.4 million, but reality has set in with License to Wed. Sadly, he still has a pair of comedies in the queue and will undoubtedly do countless others that will make most of us wish he had never been born.

Evan Almighty holds the last spot in the top five this week. The $200 million budget nightmare of a divine comedy accrued an estimated $8.1 million this weekend. Like the other titles in the top ten, it too received aid from the holiday week's exceptional box office. Unfortunately, it needed much, much more help than it actually received. Steve Carell's latest comedy stood at $60.7 million after last weekend, so while its current total of $78.1 million indicates strong holdover, it's not enough. Not nearly enough. Only if we gave it the box office of Transformers as well enough. It's probably going to creep up to $100 million, but even that is not a certainty. It needs worldwide receipts of approximately Titanic proportions to bandage this enough to be acceptable. You might think I am exaggerating here, but the general rule of thumb on foreign revenue is that the distributor only winds up getting around 15% of the gross. Currently, Evan Almighty is the biggest financial failure relative to budget for the summer campaign.

Six and seventh place this week go to a pair of summer success stories. 1408 falls only 33% to $7.1 million, giving it a running total of $53.8. Since John Cusack works cheap these days (sorry, Say Anything fans, but it's true), MGM is looking to turn a tidy little profit on this one. A larger scale version of such a financial windfall is Universal's Knocked Up. Another $5.2 million this weekend represents a decline of only 29% from last frame. Even better, it has a running total of $132 million, which is probably triple the total cost of the entire run of Freaks and Geeks, the much beloved dramedy that spawned most of the talent involved in this movie. Relative to budget, Knocked Up has become one of the most successful comedies of the last 15 years and while it has slowed down some, it might yet creep over $150 million domestically. It probably has another weekend or two in the box office top ten as well.

The rest of the top ten includes a couple of $100 million earners and Michael Moore's latest incendiary documentary. Eighth place belongs to Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, which brings in an estimated $4.2 million, giving it a grand total of $123.8 million. Nobody at Fox is crying over the total, but I suspect that everyone involved realizes they left some money on the table with this one. A better movie would have showed vastly more staying power after the $58.0 million debut. Sicko's performance continues to be a head scratcher. $3.7 more this weekend gives the attack on American health care only $11.5 million after ten days of general availability for consumers. Given the amount of free press the title has received, this level of box office does not feel like a winner for Lionsgate thus far. Sicko still has a chance to recover as it goes even wider in coming weeks but its $5,199 venue average in 702 exhibitions is not indicative of unmet demand. Ocean's Thirteen, on the other hand, faced an uphill battle due to the negative reinforcement movie goers received from Ocean's Twelve. So, another $3.5 million this weekend and a running total of $109.1 million has to feel like a win for Warner Bros.

The 11th place finisher this week merits special mention. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End earned an estimated $3 million over the weekend, taking it over the magical $300 million barrier. Its current box office of $301.7 million makes it the 25th most successful movie of all-time. Interestingly, the film it needs $3.7 million to surpass is Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. At World's End seems to be at the end of its box office run, but if it can manage another $13.2 million, it would overtake The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, thereby earning a spot in the top 20.

Overall box office for the top ten was down 23% from 2006. A lot of this is due to calendar configuration. Had July 4th fallen later in the week, Transformers would have not opened on a Tuesday and its weekend box office would have been much higher (unless July 4th had fallen on a Saturday). Still, given that Monday-through-Thursday's top ten combined for $175.9 million, the $48.4 million decline from 2006 sounds worse than it is.