Weekend Wrap-Up
Damon-less Bourne Takes The Dark Knight Down
By John Hamann
August 12, 2012

Don't tell Scotty.

With $370 million earned prior to the start of this mid-August weekend, The Dark Knight Rises was ready to give up the box office crown it has held heavily for the last three weekends. Chris Nolan's superhero epic had been number one for 21 straight days. The Bourne Legacy looked a little weak heading into its debut this weekend, but expectations were that it only needed about $25 million to win. I say weak because this Bourne lacked Matt Damon, who was sadly swapped for Jeremy Renner. This was a bad trade for a well-placed star who has never carried a film on his own (save for The Hurt Locker, which earned $17 million). Also on tap this weekend were two star-driven comedies, The Campaign with Will Ferrell/Zach Galifianakis and Hope Springs with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones.

Our number one film of the weekend is no longer The Dark Knight Rises, as the baton is handed to another franchise, Universal's Bourne series. The Bourne Legacy (an ugly title) did decent business, but was obviously lacking Damon, as the fourth Bourne release earned only an okay $40.3 million from 3,745 venues. Universal stuck to the release pattern it used for the The Bourne Supremacy, keeping the venue count well below 4,000. Tracking was foreshadowing a $45 million debut, so this opening throws under that number somewhat. Unless it goes directly into the tank from here, Universal has likely rebooted their franchise. This opening reminds me of The Amazing Spider-Man, another reboot that while successful, was completely overshadowed by the much bigger success of its predecessor. Waiting a few more years, bottling up viewer anticipation, and taking a different approach may have made Sony hundreds of million more dollars on the Spidey reboot, and I think the same can be said for the Bourne series. These franchises are far too stuck in the present. Look what Marvel accomplished by looking to the future.

The last Bourne movie (Ultimatum) with Matt Damon opened to $69.3 million in 2007. Preceding that title was The Bourne Supremacy, which took in $52.5 million in 2004. It was a great franchise for a decade, with the original release, The Bourne Identity, changing the way action films were made, in much the same manner as The Matrix changed sci-fi in 1999. The Bourne Identity was released in 2002 and opened to $27.1 million. In the process Damon transformed into an action star. The original Bourne was made for $60 million, and went on to earn over $120 million on the domestic side, along with $92 million internationally. Thus, a franchise was Bourne (I had to make make the pun). Revenues spiraled upward, with the third film earning over $440 million worldwide, but costs had also increased. Universal had a financial outlay of $110 million on production costs for the third film alone.

Universal's new problem is that these costs for The Bourne Legacy are the same or higher, and domestic revenue is now going to be way, way down. Even if Legacy matches the opening-to-total multiplier that the third film had (3.28), the domestic box office will only equal the production budget on this one ($125 million). This does not include approximately $100 million in advertising costs. Universal will have to rely on Renner to bring in foreign audiences, which shows the casting mistake. Had Universal chosen Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, or someone more suited for international success, I believe this would have rebooted better. They also needed to dump Tony Gilroy, who may have had writing credits on the last three, but was never going to breathe new life into a franchise that was already getting stale.

The audience, star and film-maker believed there was no more story to tell, and that the franchise was out of new ideas. Jason Bourne was successful as a character, and there was no other place to go. On the artistic side, that makes perfect sense, but the Bourne franchise had earned Universal a half-billion from the domestic side alone, and with Universal seemingly constantly struggling, giving up this jewel wasn't an option. Former Bourne director Paul Greengrass was definitely out, calling any fourth film in the series The Bourne Redundancy, an apt title from this perspective. Damon didn't want to work with Gilroy; hence, we saw Renner brought in.

Renner is either a really smart guy, or he has a fantastic agent. After his major debut film got lucky with a Best Picture Oscar for The Hurt Locker (against Up, District 9 and Inglourious Basterds – all of which were much better films), Renner appeared in Ben Affleck's The Town as a supporting actor, had a cameo in Thor, moved on to Mission: Impossible (again supporting a bigger star in Tom Cruise), then got the gift of being in The Avengers, supporting all the real stars. Even The Bourne Legacy is a crutch for Renner, as he shows up as the lead in a franchise that he didn't create. Next up for Renner should be Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters in January, another role with that "known" feel to it.

Finishing second is a true star-driven comedy, and I am not talking about Hope Springs. The Campaign, starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis is the runner-up at the box office this weekend, and is something I cherish at the box office in August. The Campaign is a new idea, well-played. With the election season heating up, The Campaign is perfectly timed and executed well. Audiences caught on and the comedy opened to a strong $27.4 million this weekend. Released to 3,205 venues by Warner Bros., The Campaign had a location average of $8,562. Directed by Jay Roach of Meet the Parents/Fockers and Austin Powers fame, The Campaign earned a 67% fresh rating at RottenTomatoes, finishing with a better score than The Bourne Legacy (53% fresh).

The Campaign has already out-grossed Ferrell's last movie, Casa de mi Padre, at $5.9 million, but that movie never saw a release beyond 500 venues. This one appears to be behaving more like Ferrell's The Other Guys, which opened to $35 million in August pf 2010 and went on to earn $120 million stateside. The Campaign again proves that Ferrell is much better at the box office when paired with a decent co-star, like Mark Wahlberg in The Other Guys, John C. Reilly in Stepbrothers ($31 million opening, $100 million domestic gross), and Jon Heder in Blades of Glory ($33 million opening, $115 million domestic finish). For Galifianakis, his star only continues to grow. The Hangovers have grossed a combined $532 million domestically, and Due Date also earned over $100 million.

Dropping to third is The Dark Knight Rises, which continues to carry the mark of the Aurora shootings 24 days ago. After the strong but sullied opening of $160 million, to the big second weekend dip at $62 million, to last weekend's recovery to $35.7 million, The Dark Knight Rises has been analyzed to death. This weekend, the latest Batman film earned $19.5 million, and dropped 45%. Comparatively, The Dark Knight, that film earned $26.1 million in its fourth weekend, a 39% decline from its third weekend of $42.7 million. By this point, the second film in the franchise had earned $441.6 million. The Dark Knight Rises has much lower domestic total of $390.1 million. The worldwide total has now eclipsed three-quarters of a billion, so it is seeing a large amount of success despite the tragedy.

Fourth place goes to our last new arrival, Hope Springs, the new dramedy with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. This title caters to an older audience, who oftentimes don't rush out to see films over opening weekend. Sony's senior sex comedy opened to $15.6 million over the Friday-to-Sunday period, and has earned $20 million since opening Wednesday. While Hope Springs did not have a three-day opening on the same level as other recent Streep comedies like It's Complicated ($22.1 million) or Julia & Julia ($20 million), this has to be considered a success, given that The Campaign is also vying for comedy dollars and the somewhat sensitive subject. Hope Springs should be another leggy hit for the Oscar winning actors, possibly matching the legs of It's Complicated, which had an opening-to-total multiplier of 5.1. Reviews were solid at 77% fresh, scores that are better than both It's Complicated and Julie & Julia. For Tommy Lee Jones, this is his second film of the summer, following Men In Black III, which has earned $620 million at the global box office thus far.

Fifth goes to Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, which is exactly what these days are for this franchise. Despite being a kid flick, Dog Days had its best day of last weekend on Friday, and has been slipping at the polls ever since. After opening to $14.6 million, Diary 3 grossed $8.2 million, which gives it a drop of 44%. Unlike Total Recall, this Wimpy Kid was made on the cheap, costing only $22 million to produce. It has earned that amount and more, as it has a gross so far of $30.6 million.

Finishing in sixth place is Total Recall, the poorly made and poorly executed remake of the 1990 original. After an opening that failed to improve on the 1990 version, Len Wiseman's vision got rocked again this weekend as the Colin Farrell release earned only $8.1 million and falls 68%. Don't forget that this Recall cost Sony $125 million to make and has a gross so far of only $44.2 million.

Seventh is Ice Age: Continental Drift, which is now in its fifth weekend. After an $8.6 million finish last weekend, Ice Age 4 continues to hold well, dropping only 22% and grossing $6.8 million. While the domestic gross is only okay at $144.1 million, Ice Age 4 has earned more than $600 million overseas – and that is not a typo. Sometimes we wonder why so many sequels get made. The explanation is because they are HUGE overseas.

That drops Ted to eighth as the Universal super powered teddy bear continues to earn. Ted took in another $3.3 million in its seventh weekend of release, declining 42% as it lost about 500 screens this weekend. Ted has now grossed an amazing $209.9 million and has to be considered one of the big success stories of the year.

Ninth is Step Up Revolution. Summit's dance movie earned $2.9 million and declined 52%. The dance film cost $33 million to make, and once it gets started overseas you will see why the studio spent that much (Step Up 3D earned $116 million overseas). Tenth is The Watch, which you definitely should not do. The Watch will soon be out of its misery, but earned $2.2 million and dropped 66%. The $70 million release has now earned a sad $31.4 million. Actuals may reveal that The Amazing Spider-Man surpasses The Watch. The Sony film is also claiming a $2.2 million estimate, reflecting a 50% drop from last weekend. Its current domestic box office total is $255.5 million.

Overall, the box office perks up a bit with some better openings than last weekend. This weekend, the top 12 films pulled in $140.8 million, which exceeds last year's $129.3 million. On this weekend in 2011, Rise of the Planet of the Apes was on top for the second straight weekend and The Help debuted. Next weekend, things get even busier. New releases include The Expendables 2, The Odd Life of Timothy Green, the animated ParaNorman, and the Whitney Houston film, Sparkle.