Daily Box Office Analysis
By David Mumpower
July 31, 2012

Mob warfare has really changed.

Theoretically, we should be spending this week discussing last weekend’s new openers. The problem is that the most recent entrants into the marketplace were so ineffectual that they were effectively sacrificed to the box office deities on behalf of Batman. If The Dark Knight Rises is the superstar quarterback earning $20 million a year plus endorsements, The Watch and Step Up Revolution are not even the backup QBs holding the clipboards. They’re the practice squad players who only play if somebody good gets hurt.

The Watch is the most doomed project since Big Trouble. The Tim Allen comedy you probably do not know was a 2002 release, at least technically. The Barry Sonnenfeld production features a deep cast of talented actors including several performers who would later become integral players on popular television series. Omar Epps of House, Jason Lee of My Name Is Earl and Sofia Vergara of Modern Family were joined together in a very funny film.

There was just one problem. Dave Barry, the world’s reigning champion of gentle humor, chose to include an unfortunate subplot in the climax of Big Trouble, which was faithfully adapted in the movie. All of the primary characters wound up on a plane, partially aware of the fact that there was a bomb onboard. Yes, Big Trouble was a movie about a bomb on a plane. Its original release date was September 21, 2001, 9/21/11. For obvious reasons, the movie was delayed several months prior to release and there was virtually no marketing push when it was about to debut. Big Trouble never had a chance.

I mention all of this in combination with The Watch, because you may not be aware that the original title for this Vince Vaughn/Ben Stiller comedy was The Neighborhood Watch. Fox originally advertised the movie as such in February. Soon afterward, a young Floridian named Trayvon Martin became a national headline for all the wrong reasons when he was shot by George Zimmerman, a (psychotic) member of the local – you guessed it – neighborhood watch. Worst of all, the initial trailer for the movie featured the film’s third major star, Jonah Hill, pretending to shoot teenagers.

Fox chose to change the title to The Watch while keeping the release date of the last weekend of July. The stated directive was to switch the focus of the marketing campaign to the science-fiction nature of the premise. The plot is basically District 9 as a comedy with Stiller, Vaughn and Hill portraying the incompetent cops.

Seven days prior to the release of The Watch, a psycho whose name we at BOP are choosing never to mention by name killed a lot of innocent people in Aurora, Colorado. The primary commercials for The Watch feature Stiller and Vaughn repeatedly shooting a (presumably) dead body. Fox correctly gave up at this point. The Watch never had a chance. There are some movies that fate seems to hate.

After debuting to $12,750,297, the $68 million production of The Watch is clearly a loser. Its abysmal reception (currently 15% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes) reflects the thought process that this movie didn’t deserve to be a hit anyway. Its Monday revenue of $1,588,869 is indicative of the fact that consumers have reached a silent consensus to stay far, far away. After four days in theaters, The Watch has domestic receipts of only $14,339,166. There is no good news here. Like the earlier 2012 comedy Wanderlust, The Watch will be quickly forgotten and available on home video much sooner than anticipated.

The unlikely franchising of Step Up has surprised everyone in the industry over the past few years. Clearly, a subset of movie goers loves double-jointed, uber-limber dancers defying gravity in unimaginable ways. BOP’s Dan Krovich is one of them and in fact claims that the best usage of 3D special effects to date is not Avatar but instead Step Up 3D. He’s wrong and obviously very strange, but this insight into his madness reflects that awesome dance moves are marketable. At least, they have been for three movies and counting (plus an unrelated pair of instances involving yard-stomping and serve-you-ing).

2006’s Step Up debuted to an impressive $20,659,573 while inflicting Mr. Bland Channing Tatum on the world. 2008’s Step Up 2 the Streets overcame an abominable title on its way to a solid $18,908,826 opening weekend. Despite the box office inflation of 3D ticket pricing, Mr. Krovich’s beloved Step Up 3D only managed $15,812,311, which indicated that people can only watch so much dancing before their self-esteem kicks in.

Step Up Revolution confirmed this with what I believe to be a franchise killing $11,731,708. Monday’s follow-up performance of $1,473,125 will not cause any Summit Entertainment executives to start jumping out of buildings, and not just because the company has been swallowed by Lionsgate. The frugal $33 million budget is unlikely to be recouped domestically but given the (shockingly) lucrative nature of the franchise to date, everyone was playing with house money on this one anyway. With only $13,204,833, Step Up 4 hardly qualifies as a revolution, though.

Given the relatively insignificant new titles in release, we are again left with the most depressing box office conversation possible this week. The Dark Knight Rises earned $62,101,451 over the weekend, which is right in line with my stated projection from last Friday. My exact quote was “If anything, the current data pointedly suggests that a sub-$65 million weekend is in the offing. Assuming this is true, the movie will be in the $285-$290 million range after Sunday.”

Of course, the manner in which The Dark Knight Rises acquired its weekend total of $62,101,451 was unexpectedly adventurous. I also mentioned “If the [Friday] number is under $18.6 million, Warner Bros. has a lot of problems with this movie, at least domestically.” I had expected a 41% expansion from Thursday to Friday if not a bit higher. Instead, the movie only grew 34% to $17,734,545.

On Saturday, the news was much sunnier as it increased 39% to $24,712,417. The Dark Knight’s second weekend increase from Friday to Saturday was only 22%. Even better, The Dark Knight Rises had a better Thursday to Saturday expansion of 87.2% while The Dark Knight managed 71.7%. Yes, The Dark Knight Rises was dealing with smaller numbers so its growth was easier but any good news for Batman 7 is welcome by now.

Sunday’s results were largely positive as well. Yes, The Dark Knight Rises was overestimated by $2 million, but the movie dropped only 20% to $19,654,489. Given that The Dark Knight fell 16% and had much more box office momentum at the time, I would describe that $19.6 million as fairly solid, all things considered. The $62.1 million overall weekend total is impressive given the lackluster Friday. The question becomes whether this is an aberration or representative of relaxed customer concerns over the events of Aurora, Colorado.

What we know before we evaluate Monday’s box office is that The Dark Knight Rises fell 52% from Sunday to Monday last week. Also, The Dark Knight fell 56% on its second Monday from its second Sunday. In other words, we can safely range the expected performance for day 11 of The Dark Knight Rises between $8.6 million and $9.4 million. Anything lower than $8.6 million is a disappointment while anything higher than $9.4 million is a positive sign moving forward. $9 million is the line of demarcation for an expected performance.

Last Friday, I projected that The Dark Knight Rises would earn $32 million from Monday to Thursday this week. The only assumption for this total was that the film would fall 50% from last week’s Monday-Thursday earnings of $64.1 million. In order to reach that amount, Batman 7 would need to earn $8 million a day with more than average on Monday and Tuesday, less than average on Wednesday and Thursday. Again, this is the normal pattern of weekday behavior for titles in release. Thursday’s total should be only about 80% of Monday’s revenue, give or take a bit. These are the numbers we will track over the next four days of columns.

Alas, The Dark Knight Rises earned only $8,160,046 on Monday, a 58% decline from Sunday. The film is now unlikely to reach $32 million for this batch of weekdays, because its Wednesday/Thursday performance should be around $13 million. $30 million for Monday-Thursday is more likely now as once again The Dark Knight Rises fails to meet even the most reasonable of expectations. While the movie will cross $300 million on its 12th day of release, it should only be around $317 million through Thursday and just short of $350 million after Sunday, probably $348 million (although I expect Warner Bros. to say $350 million). There simply is not any box office momentum right now.

BOP’s Tim Briody and John Hamann both referenced some calculations I performed last Saturday. The gist of them is simple. If The Dark Knight Rises continues to decline 50% or so from this point forward on weekdays as well as weekends, we would be discussing a 24-day total of $378 million or so. The 31-day first month of revenue would be $393 million. Around day 38, the movie should cross $400 million. And that’s about all The Dark Knight Rises would earn.

There is obviously still a lot of play in these calculations, but I currently have a difficult time finding a scenario where the movie earns north of $425 million. Less than $405 million is still a distinct possibility if the rate of decay grows worse from here. In that scenario, The Hunger Games would earn more than The Dark Knight Rises, meaning Nolan’s final Batman film is at best the third largest domestic release of the year. With The Hobbit looming in December, The Dark Knight Rises could feasibly slip to fourth. This is a shocking turn of events, albeit because of a series of misfortunes totally beyond the control of Warner Bros.

Combined box office revenue for the top ten yesterday was $16.6 million. The top ten is down 27% from Thursday’s $22.7 million. This will be a slooooow box office week.