Daily Box Office Analysis for August 6, 2008
Pineapple Express Lights Up The Dark Knight
By David Mumpower
August 7, 2008

What have they done with Blake Lively's disembodied head?

The Dark Knight is experiencing a new sensation at the box office right now. It is only the third most popular film in release. Yesterday, both new openers, Pineapple Express and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, earned more than the Batman. The premises of 4:20 and mobile denim proved to be a bigger threat than The Joker.

No, you do not need your eyes checked and no, I am not joking. Both Pineapple Express and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 beat The Dark Knight yesterday. In fact, Seth Rogen and James Franco's stoner comedy absolutely smoked (pun unintentional) the competition. As first reported in Variety this morning, potheads across North America showed an unusual amount of focus by making it to theaters on time yesterday. The end result is that Pineapple Express has beaten The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement to become the best Wednesday opener for the month of all time. And it shattered the old record. Princess Diaries 2 earned roughly $8.5 million in its debut. Pineapple Express beat that total by a full 42.6%, earning a whopping $12,085,679. To put this in perspective, I was considered bullish on this movie yet I only expected it to earn about $10 million on Wednesday and Thursday combined. It's already surpassed that amount by $2 million after a single day. Folks, that's huge.

The obvious concern here is frontloading. Back in 2001, a Will Smith biopic called Ali opened to $10.2 million on its first day in release, which happened to be a Tuesday (and also Christmas Day). After showing a lot of promise that first day, it died at the box office, earning only $24.5 million over the next five days and eventually winding up with final domestic box office of $58.2 million. This is the fate Pineapple Express must avoid.

Clearly, a lot of young males with certain bong-related preferences showed up en masse on opening day to celebrate these 21st century Doobie Brothers. If Pineapple Express is not frontloaded, look out. The afore-mentioned The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, the previous record holder for a Wednesday debut, earned an additional $28.7 million after its $8.5 million debut. This is a Wednesday-Sunday five-day multiplier of 4.38. Were Pineapple Express to demonstrate that sort of behavior, we would be talking about a $52.9 million five-day debut.

Obviously, I think this is a tad ambitious. The standard rules are in play wherein a larger first day naturally deflates the five-day multiplier. Also, young males do have a tendency to exhibit exactly the sort of fanboy rush that causes frontloading. Whereas The Princess Diaries 2 fell only 32.7% to $5.7 million on its second day in theaters, I expect a decline much closer to 50% for Pineapple Express. If that happens, the title will still have almost $20 million in its coffers by the time the weekend begins. It is likely to surpass the entire domestic run of the last slapstick stoner comedy, Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay ($38.1 million) by Sunday. For a film with a $25 million budget, this is a spectacular achievement. After a single day in release, it's almost halfway to recouping that amount.

Similarly successful on a smaller scale is Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2. Its $5,730,334 debut represents almost as much as its predecessor, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, earned during its first three days in release. That title's Wednesday/Thursday take was only $3,741,809, an amount the sequel had earned by evening exhibitions last night. Clearly, this is much more demand for this project, presumably due to the presence of lead actresses in Ugly Betty and Gossip Girl. While the new film is unlikely to duplicate the marginal 24.8% drop the first one had on its first Thursday, even a 50% decline puts it ahead of the game. That would be about $8.6 million, indicating that Traveling Pants 2 will have surpassed the opening weekend of the original, $13,575,149, by Friday. Like Pineapple Express, it looks to be a winner.

Also, there is one other aspect to yesterday's numbers that may interest box office wonks. BOP has long supported the notion that the idea of competition is wildly overstated in the movie marketplace. Whenever there is a potential indication that competition has negatively impacted a title, we track it. Sometimes, the readings are false (Hellboy 2: The Golden Army being a perfect example of this) while other times show a hint that the dial has moved a bit, so to speak. Yesterday may have had such an instance as Step Brothers fell 22.6% from $2,460,950 on Tuesday to $1,904,953. Sure, this is not a huge impact by any stretch, but the other Apatow comedy in release had experienced previous weekday declines of 11.9%, 10.5%, 5.5%, and 12.3% prior to yesterday. Clearly, the release of a competing comedy from the same production team impacted the title at least a small amount.

Combined top ten box office for Tuesday was $18,403,522. With the addition of two strong new releases, that number spiked huge to $33,173,395, an increase of 80.3%. Yesterday was one of the five biggest weekdays of the summer.