Daily Box Office Analysis
June 17, 2008

Yet another unsuspecting viewer experiences the after-effects of watching The Happening.

Today marks the return of BOP's Daily Box Office Analysis for the summer campaign. As always, I am your host for these proceedings. I only mention this to say that I had a pretty serious surgery a couple of months ago and I'm still rehabbing my injuries. So, some of these updates will not be as detailed as they have been in years past and I will probably miss a few days along the way. I feel quite blessed to be doing these at all given what has transpired, but I don't want to artificially raise expectations about how much I will be able to write this column.

Now that the elephant in the living room has been properly petted, let's get started with 2008 summer box office discussion. The big news today would be the first weekday results of the recent openers, The Incredible Hulk and The Happening. We'll start with the former, which my fellow BOP writers and I had declared an opening weekend success story in the Weekend Wrap-Up and Monday Morning Quarterback. While the title opened 11% lower than its predecessor, The Hulk, as well as 23% lower if adjust for inflation, the reality is that it had to overcome the stigma of that film, no easy feat. Finding $55.4 million worth of people (roughly 7.8 million at current $7.11 average ticket pricing) willing to give Marvel a second chance is an extraordinary feat.

In chronicling daily numbers, what we should be able to do is trace the moment wherein The Incredible Hulk begins to show the legs that The Hulk absolutely did not have. The 2003 title earned 47% of its business during its first three days, an almost unprecedented example of frontloading at the time. Starting later on this week, we will compare the weekdays to show/prove that the 2008 release is catching up. That day will probably come on Tuesday or Wednesday since The Hulk made only $6.11 million on its first Monday. For now, however, what we want to focus on is that The Incredible Hulk made $6,010,405 on its first weekday while putting that in understandable 2008 terms.

The question then is simple. How does this total stack up against other recent first Monday performances? Kung Fu Panda, last weekend's big opener and a true box office heavyweight, earned $6,316,507 on its first Monday. Given how much more of a family film that title is, the fact that Hulk came within $306,000 of matching it is an impressive feat. The other major opener last weekend, You Don't Mess with the Zohan, made $2,205,813, a number we will keep in mind for The Happening in just a moment. The Incredible Hulk also beat Sex and the City's first weekday total of $5,512,485 as well as The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian's $4,774,987. Of course, that title was a May release, so the comparison is not quite as clean. Iron Man is not a good comparison for the same reason but in case you are wondering, its first Monday was $6,934,568, a depressed number since kids were not out of school for the summer yet. So, The Incredible Hulk's $6,010,405 looks closer than it should when evaluating the two Marvel releases in tandem. Don't be fooled by this trick of box office behavior.

As for The Happening, its $3,131,387 is good enough for third place again. Given that the title earned $30.5 million over the weekend, well below You Don't Mess with the Zohan's $38.5 million debut, you already know that The Happening has (perhaps surprisingly) held up better. The one cautionary aspect to this news is that Zohan appears to have dreadful legs. Given the fact that everybody and their grandmother expects the same thing to be said of The Happening, however, this is a somewhat surprising turn of events. 42% improvement for a wildly despised M. Night Shyamalan horror film over an Adam Sandler comedy is an upset on the order of Buster Douglas over Mike Tyson.

Box office for the combined top ten this week was at $20,586,002, an increase of 9% from last Monday's $18,897,724 as well as a 37% improvement from the first Monday in June's $14,977,656. We are getting into the meat of the summer box office campaign now.