Daily Box Office Analysis for August 13, 2008
By David Mumpower
August 14, 2008

A person who paid $7.50 to see Along Came Polly finally takes their revenge.

Tropic Thunder, the Ben Stiller/Robert Downey Jr./Jack Black comedy, entered theaters yesterday and was promptly met with a resounding yawn. The movie earned only $6,503,141, a number that has to be disappointing to Paramount even if they argue to the contrary.

For perspective, let's ignore the record-setting $12,085,679 Pineapple Express made seven days ago and instead focus on Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, which earned $5,730,334. Effectively, the star of the #2 movie of 2006, Night at the Museum, and the current #2 and #6 movies of 2008, Iron Man and Kung Fu Panda, edged a movie whose biggest star is Ugly Betty by only a few hundred thousand. Yes, kids are back in school this week in a lot of places. And yes, this is more of a weekend film anyway due to its subversive tone.

Even so, the first day of box office is far from the slam dunk the industry had expected it to be. In fact, if the film drops 50% tomorrow (Traveling Pants 2 fell 44% and Pineapple Express fell 50% last Thursday), it's not even certain to beat The Dark Knight tomorrow. I don't mean to be doom and gloom here, but Tropic Thunder's first day of box office has created more questions than answers. The most obvious ones are these. Is this the latest example that shrewd satire is much less welcome than obtuse, brutally obvious satire a la the "Insert Genre Name Here" Movies we are getting once a quarter? Or is this another example that anything war-related, no matter how humorous it may be, is an automatic pass for most consumers?

Tomorrow's decline will tell us quite a bit about whether it's premature to write off Tropic Thunder and Friday's numbers may yet save it. Either way, this is several million less than was expected of this project's first day. At a minimum, moving the project to Wednesday appears to have been a mistake. Given how hot Robert Downey Jr. was coming off of Iron Man, a day one result that effectively matches that title's fifth day performance of $6,505,784 is not good.

With regards to the rest of the top ten, the only big news is what I mentioned yesterday. WALL•E passed Kung-Fu Panda to become the fifth biggest film of the year as well as the most successful animated film of the year. $502,634 yesterday represents an 11.0% decline from Tuesday, second lowest among the top ten. It has a running total of $211,834,786 now.

The other continuing story is The Dark Knight, and a couple of readers have pointed out I broke my word on this one. I had promised to end every column with an update regarding where it currently stands relative to Titanic. I have no excuse on this matter. I simply forgot. So, here is the latest. A 14.6% decline on Wednesday gives Batman $3,002,302 on Wednesday as well as a running tally of $451,888,386. That number represents 75.2% of Titanic's $600,788,188. The Dark Knight appears likely to pass the original Star Wars on Saturday, which is quirky considering one of its competitors in the marketplace will be Clone Wars. The other interesting note here is that Titanic needed 88 days to reach the amount The Dark Knight managed in only 27 days. After the same time period in its release, Titanic was barely over $200 million at $204,530,935.

Box office for the top ten combined for revenue of $19,026,341. That's a substantial increase of 21.3% from Tuesday's $15,689,415. As I stated would be the case yesterday, it is, however, a steep decline of 42.6% from last Wednesday's massive $33,173,395.