Daily Box Office Analysis for August 18, 2008

By David Mumpower

August 19, 2008

Gee, I've never seen Kiefer Sutherland hold a gun before.

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There are four new releases in the marketplace this week. So, today's analysis has a little bit of everything. Whether you love Iron Man, George Lucas, Jack Bauer or threesomes, we've got it covered in theaters right now. And Batman remains a big factor despite the fact that the world's greatest detective has been in theaters for five weeks.

This past weekend, Tropic Thunder became a part of box office trivia along the lines of Lost in Space. After The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor failed by $2.2 million and Pineapple Express failed by $2.9 million (despite earning $5.3 million more during its first week), The Dark Knight had been living a charmed life and had taken a mystique of invulnerability. A month at the top of the box office during the summer is huge; five weeks would have been the longest summer streak since The Sixth Sense in 1999. Tropic Thunder became the 2000s answer to Lost in Space, the movie that ended Titanic's run at the top, by delivering a rather emphatic knockout punch to The Dark Knight.

Tropic Thunder earned $25.8 million compared to Batman's $16.4 million over the weekend. For the five day period, the difference was even more dramatic. Since the Ben Stiller/Jack Black/Robert Downey Jr. satire was released into theaters, it had earned $36,845,588 through Sunday. Over that same time period, The Dark Knight made $22,196,066. While many observers (myself included) were disappointed with the five-day performance of Tropic Thunder, beating the number two earner of all time by 66% is no small feat.

With regards to the daily behavior of Tropic Thunder, we chronicled the madness of Pineapple Express last week. That title had a record start, fell 50.5% on Thursday, regained momentum with a 32.1% gain on Friday, fell back 3.1% on Saturday, then virtually matched that number on Sunday before falling 49.8% on Monday, and 14.7% on Tuesday. Tropic Thunder has been nowhere near as erratic. After the comedy's modest $6.5 million debut, it fell a respectable 30.4% on Thursday before spiking huge on Friday with 81.2% growth. That $8.2 million was not its best day of the time frame, either. It increased another 16.7% on Saturday to $9.6 million before experiencing a 16.3% fall on Sunday to $8.0 million. Tropic Thunder's $36.8 million five-day tally is only $4.5 million less than Pineapple Express' $41.3 million, but the way it got there is much less exciting. As such, its behavior moving forward should be much more predictable than the stoner comedy that appears to be frontloaded after all.


Yesterday's box office results bear this out to some degree. Tropic Thunder fell 55.2% to $3,590,742, easily good enough for first place. The Sunday-Monday drop is as average as they come, meaning it is not showing signs of good legs or bad legs. Instead, the comedy is simply do what most opening weekend movies do on their first Monday. The concern here is that Tropic Thunder has a six-day total of $40,436,330 against a budget of somewhere between $100 and $150 million depending upon whether you believe the studio or Newsweek. In short, even if it makes another $40 million from here (and I'm dubious on that), it is unlikely to be earn back its budget domestically. This has to be a disappointment to Paramount, who moved the title back specifically because of Downey's success with Iron Man as well as to give it a chance to breathe far away from the Bat. Results of this decision are mixed at best.

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