Dark Knight Dethroned
By John Hamann
August 17, 2008
It had to happen. After five weekends of record breaking ticket sales and complete dominance of the box office top 12, The Dark Knight was relegated to second this weekend, but still managed a fantastic hold, considering it had already earned $454 million heading into the weekend. This weekend's openers, Tropic Thunder, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Mirrors and Vicky Cristina Barcelona, faced off against the caped crusader and the Olympics, as the Beijing spectacle is gobbling up prime time hours.
Our number one film of the weekend, new for the first time in more than a month, is Ben Stiller's Tropic Thunder, a comedy that deserved to be bigger than it is. The movie within a movie chose a Rush Hour-esque release date, and it didn't pay off, as its Wednesday opening found only $6.5 million, almost $6 million LESS than what The Pineapple Express opened to a week earlier. The Thursday gross was respectable compared to opening day, as Tropic Thunder found $4.5 million, a drop from Wednesday of only 30% - Pineapple dropped 50% after its first day.
Tropic Thunder should get a marketing grade of F for its Wednesday opening, as the Friday gross eclipsed it easily, earning $8.3 million. Usually with mid-week openers, films will find their top grosses for five days on the Wednesday and the Friday, with a dip in the middle. Take War of the Worlds with Tom Cruise, for example. That one opened on a Wednesday, earning $21.3 million. It dipped 31% on Thursday before earning $21.9 million on its first Friday. Another example is this summer's Hancock - it earned $17.4 million on Wednesday, and earned $18.5 million on its first Friday. Most likely due to the Olympics and the odd time shift we are in due to the Games being played in China, we haven't seen the usual trend for Wednesday openers in consecutive weekends. The Pineapple Express had a $7.9 million Friday compared to its $12 million Wednesday, and now we have the complete opposite with Tropic Thunder.
For the three-day weekend, Tropic Thunder had a take of $26 million, which is neither really good or really bad. It has earned $37 million since opening on Wednesday. Tropic Thunder debuted on 3,319 venues and had an average of $7,834. August was once notoriously tough to open a film. Prior to 2000, the highest opener in August was The Sixth Sense, which found $26.7 million over its opening frame in August, 1999. Then the Rush Hour, American Pie and Bourne franchises changed all that, proving that big films could open large in the month of August. Tropic Thunder sported a fantastic cast, which included Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., and Jack Black. Iron Man, Night at the Museum and Kung Fu Panda combined to gross $780 million domestically, so obviously these three could draw an audience. Reviews were good - 84% fresh at RottenTomatoes - and it had some protests which gave it some free advertising as well. its biggest problem is the bloated budget - some estimates have Thunder costing more than $100 million, but I'm more apt to believe that this one came in just below. It's going to be tough for this one to recoup that much domestically, and I'm not entirely sure how this one will play overseas. Comedies notoriously don't work in those venues, but the action angle and star power may propel it. I think word-of-mouth is going to be good, and we should see at least some decent holds in the weekends to come.