Summer Is Over at the Box Office
By John Hamann
August 24, 2008
It was great while it lasted, but the big business side of the summer movie season is officially over, and we are left in the dumping ground of August. Four new entries entered the fray this weekend, including The House Bunny from Sony, Death Race from Universal, MGM's The Longshots, and The Rocker from Fox, which opened on Wednesday (or did it?). Only two of these were able to surpass five-week-old The Dark Knight, and none got by last weekend's champ, Tropic Thunder. With softer wide releases, films with limited runs have a chance to shine, and Hamlet 2 did just that this weekend.
Our number one film of the weekend is Tropic Thunder, and after a questionable opening weekend in the last frame, the Ben Stiller-directed comedy held fairly well. Tropic Thunder earned $16.1 million and dropped an okay 38%. Any drop below 50% was going to be good news for Tropic Thunder and Paramount, as the action/comedy carries a production budget of $95 million (or higher as some report). With a $25.8 million opening, Thunder had to avoid concurrent 50% plus drops, and it did, beating out a pack of soft openers to take the crown for the second straight weekend. All of a sudden, Tropic Thunder has an outside chance of earning $100 million domestically. After two weekends of release, Thunder has a domestic cume of $65.7 million, and with its 84% fresh rating at RottenTomatoes and good word-of-mouth, could continue to play strongly over the next few weekends.
Finishing a somewhat surprising second this weekend is The House Bunny, the new comedy with Scary Movie's Anna Faris. While not a breakout success, The House Bunny did earn a solid $15.1 million from 2,714 venues. It had a venue average of $5,564 - the best in the top twelve. This is Faris's first above-the-title role, as she is probably best known for her roles as Cindy Campbell in the Scary Movie franchise. The Scary Movie series had four films open to a combined $150 million, making Faris a known quantity to The House Bunny audience. Away from the Scary Movie franchise, Faris has made big splashes with smaller parts in lesser-seen movies like Lost in Translation ($44.5 million domestic total) and Just Friends ($9.2 million open, $32.6 million domestic total). The House Bunny isn't going to conquer the box office world, but it does provide a good star turn for Anna Faris. While The House Bunny came in at only 40% fresh at RottenTomatoes, Faris got good reviews, and despite the low score, it ties Death Race as the best reviewed opener of the weekend.
Finishing third is Death Race, which continues a tradition of having a Jason Statham flick open in late August/early September. With a lot of action already in the top ten, Death Race lost out to The House Bunny, finding only $12.3 million over opening weekend. Statham has now had seven films open in either August or September, the strongest being The Transporter 2, which opened to $16.5 million in 2006. Death Race does open slightly better than last year's late August release from Statham, War, which opened in fifth with $9.8 million. Death Race cost $45 million to make, and will likely find only $25 million in domestic sales. International grosses should easily make up for the difference, though.