Batman Begins Drops Box Office Ball
Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for June 17-19, 2005
By John Hamann
June 20, 2005
Warner Bros. and Batman Begins actually got some good news today when the estimate for the opening weekend went higher when actuals were released today. I surmised on Sunday that the actual number would be lower than the estimate, but I was wrong as the opening figure moved from $46.9 million to $48.7 million for the Friday-to-Sunday portion of the weekend. Having tracked box office for over eight years, I can count on one hand how many times a blockbuster has been over-estimated. My thinking here is that WB knew they had a disappointing weekend figure, and decided to low-ball their estimate, looking for some sign of positivity after a disappointing weekend. If not, the weekend multiplier moved from 3.1 to 3.2 - and while that might not look like much, it is significant, as it may be indication of word-of-mouth is spreading in a postive way. It also tells us that Batman Begins played more like a new film than a sequel, and kept a good trend from Wednesday to Sunday. Either that, or folks went to the movies for Father's Day. Check out BOP's Monday Morning Quarterback for more insight on why Batman Begins disappointed over the weekend.
Mr. & Mrs. Smith didn't fare as well as Batman in the actuals department today. The Fox thriller dropped from $27.3 million to $26 million, giving the film a 48% drop instead of 46%. Madagascar dropped from $11.1 million to $10.7 million, and Revenge of the Sith became the fourth film to gross more than $10 million this weekend, as its actual was raised from $9.7 million to $10 million.
The column below has not been updated with actual figures, but the chart at the bottom is updated with actuals.
Weekend Estimates Column:
This was supposed to be it. This was the weekend that would break the downturn in the box office – Batman Begins was a lock to gross over $60 million over its opening weekend, and a lineup of strong holdovers was supposed to push the total over the top, breaking last year’s top ten weekend total of $128 million. However, like the last 16 weekends of box office woe, a sure-fire opener disappointed (again), and the holdovers saw higher than expected weekend-to-weekend drops. May was always going to be a tough month to beat, with strong openers and holdovers throughout the month. This weekend, though, we were up against a soft weekend last year when Dodgeball was on top – the streak was sure to be over. However, if that is true, why am I now looking at War of the Worlds to break the streak in two weeks time?
The number one film of the weekend is Batman Begins, but I don’t think WB rebooted their franchise the way they wanted to, at least over opening weekend. Over the Friday-to-Sunday period of its opening, Batman Begins earned $46.9 million from a huge 3,858 venues, but if that estimate holds when actuals are released tomorrow, I’ll eat my shirt. That estimate is good for an average of $12,165, and carried an inflated weekend multiplier (Friday gross divided by weekend gross) of 3.1 (which will go lower tomorrow). I don’t think there was anyone out there looking for a gross below $60 million for the Friday-to-Sunday portion of the opening weekend, and around $100 million for the first five days. So, a bloated $46.9 million for Friday-to-Sunday is disastrous, and only $71.1 million for the first five days is not what WB was looking for. I’m sure you’ll hear someone for WB saying how happy they are that Batman Begins opened to where the rest of the Batman franchise debuted, but that person won’t be exceedingly truthful. Sure, the franchise has opened between $40.5 million (the first Batman in 1989) and $52.8 million (the third one in 1995), but these numbers are from ten years ago or more. Adjusted for inflation, the Batman range is between $56.3 million for Batman Returns and $73.2 million for Batman Forever. The $46.9 million open for Begins is about $15 million lower than where it should be. What happened? A lot of things happened that led to the disappointing debut, but I think the one that has to be looked at the most is the effort put into marketing. Herbie: Fully Loaded, a kids movie that doesn’t open for another week, got more play in the marketing department than the Warner Bros $135 million production. Did they think that this one had such a built-in audience that they didn’t have to work at it, that people would just show up? No film is that blessed - even Revenge of the Sith had to work at its marketing leading up to its debut. Batman Begins had all the tools it needed to break out – good reviews, a built-in fanboy audience, and a summer opening. Warner Bros failed to bring any buzz forward on this one, and if anyone there thinks that good reviews and word-of-mouth are going to prop it up in the weeks to come, let me know, and I’ll send you a ticket to Cinderella Man. The opening for Batman Begins is another notch in a nasty trend that Hollywood to this point seems to be ignoring.
Second spot goes to last weekend’s champ, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, but the drop was more significant than expected. The Fox espionage flick grossed $27.3 million in its second weekend, as people forget to care who Brad Pitt is sleeping with. The Smiths fell a higher than expected 46% from their debut last weekend, considering buzz, good word-of-mouth and decent reviews. Still, because of its powerful opening weekend, the thriller should cross the $100 million threshold on Monday, as its total after ten days stands at $98 million. The Smiths should finish around $175 million, if the holds improve slightly in the weeks to come.
In third spot is Madagascar, the last film this weekend to gross more than $10 million (last year there were five). The DreamWorks Animation release earned $11.1 million in its fourth weekend, down a not very kid-friendly 35% from the previous frame. As Madagascar has dropped off, so has the DreamWorks Animation stock. The day the film opened the DreamWorks stock was priced at about $32, today the stock has dropped to $26 from an all time high of about $42. Madagascar currently sits with $147.2 million, and doesn’t look like it will finish above the $200 million mark. However, it will be close to $200 million, and I think results will be better than expected when the new Wallace and Gromit flick opens in October, which may lift that stock price a bit.
Finishing fourth this weekend is Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. The final episode in the Star Wars saga continues to move up the biggest films of all time list with a $9.7 million gross this weekend. Revenge of the Sith dropped 35%, but passed Finding Nemo and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers on the all-time list this weekend. So far, the George Lucas film has earned $347.8 million; however, finishing ahead of The Phantom Menace ($431 million domestic) looks to be out of the question.
The Longest Yard lands in fifth spot this weekend, however still holding very well with its thought-to-be-much-leggier competition in Madagascar and Revenge of the Sith. The Longest Yard finished the weekend with $8 million, down 42% from the previous frame. Sandler has to be happy with push Yard has got from Sony, the Sith and Madagascar TV spots have long dried up, but the Longest Yard spots still get play. Yard now sits with $131.9 million, and could push Sandler’s $160 million threshold as he looks for a career best.
Sixth spot goes to The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl, the film Robert Rodriguez probably should have pushed back while working on Sin City. Shark Boy and Lava Girl misbehaved this weekend, dropping a higher than expected 47%, earning $6.6 million. It's a good thing these films are made on the cheap, as it has a two week total of only $24 million.
Way back in seventh is Hilary Duff’s The Perfect Man. Already an early favorite for the dog of the summer or early Razzie nominations, The Perfect Man grossed a smaller than expected $5.5 million over its opening weekend. Even fans of Duff (the girl not the beer) must have jumped ship for this one, as the Universal release had an average of $2,624 from only 2,087 venues. Surprisingly, this is a step up from 2004’s Duff-Fluff called Raise Your Voice, a film I’m sure all of BOP’s readers remember. That one earned New Line $4 million over opening weekend and $10.4 million total. The Perfect Man was not so perfect when reviews were counted. Of the 74 reviewers that had to sit through this one, only seven (yes seven) gave it a thumbs up, leading to a decidedly rotten score of 7% (reading the reviews, I counted way too many uses of the term ‘ickiness’). For Universal, this one probably put them back only $20 million, so the burn shouldn’t be too bad. The real burn comes next weekend for Duff, when Disney’s Herbie: Fully Loaded opens big.
Finishing way back in eighth are Russell Crowe and Cinderella Man, the film for which Universal has blamed a bad release date for its poor performance. I wonder if maybe the title is more at issue than the release date, as a film for men with Cinderella in the title doesn’t seem right, and boxing films usually don’t target women. Whatever the case, Cinderella Man earned only $5.2 million in its third weekend, down a nasty 46%. Currently, the film sits with a total of $43.6 million, probably $50 million off where Universal and Crowe hoped it would be.
Ninth spot goes to The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, the second film in the top ten to go virtually ignored by young girls. Sisterhood grossed $3.2 million this weekend, down 45% from the previous frame. The based-on-a-book WB film has now earned a not bad $30.2 million, a number The Perfect Man will never see.
Tenth spot goes to a film I couldn’t figure out until I saw the budget figure. The Honeymooners finishes tenth this weekend with a gross of $2.6 million, down a laughable 54% from the previous frame. The Paramount flick had a budget of $25 million and won’t make it back – it sits with an ugly total of $9.5 million after two weekends.
Overall, things were close to 2004, but close doesn’t count unless you come out ahead. Even with the potentially bloated Batman estimate, the top ten box office narrowly missed last year’s totals. My math tells me last year’s June 18th - 20th top ten earned $128.1 million, while this year’s top ten earned $126.1 million. So much for a sure thing.