Box Office Labors through Holiday
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
August 31, 2008
Labor Day historically marks the end of the summer box office campaign. It is also noteworthy for being one of the slowest movie periods on the calendar. Never has that been more accurate than this weekend, however, as the combined box office total for the top twelve was the lowest in the 2000s. Being the worst Labor Day is like being the least talented member of N'Sync.
Speaking of Lance Bass, Tropic Thunder was the number one film again this weekend with an estimated $11.5 million over the Friday-to-Sunday period. Combined with The Dark Knight, we have had the same two films in first place for seven consecutive weekends, a rare semblance of box office consistency in an era of the one-and-done temporary blockbuster. Tropic Thunder fell only 29% from last weekend, although all of the titles in release have artificially inflated holdovers due to the holiday. After 19 days in theaters, the $100+ million production has earned $83,834,000. While this is not going to be the most profitable of movies during its domestic run, it appears likely to earn $100 million, which is an impressive feat for a Hollywood satire. Three weeks spent in first place will also boost its credentials on the home video market.
Babylon A.D. debuts in second place this weekend amidst a sea of negative press. The $60 million disaster of a Vin Diesel vehicle earned only $9.7 million during its first three days in release. Along the way, it was critically reviled to a level generally reserved for the Uwe Boll oeuvre. Only a pair of the 44 Rotten Tomatoes critics who watched the film gave it a thumbs up, a gloriously heinous fresh rating of 5%. More amazingly, the movie's director, Mathieu Kassovitz, washed his hands of it during an incendiary interview with a blogger at AMC TV. The auteur (?) stated that Fox took the film away from him and cut a movie so heinous that "parts of the movie are like a bad episode of 24". Given these parameters, an opening weekend of almost $10 million doesn't seem that horrible, but then again, it's not our $60 million.
The story of the weekend oddly occurs with the third place entrant. The Dark Knight achieves something only Titanic had accomplished previously. An $8,750,000 Friday-to-Sunday performance is not impressive on its own (My Big Fat Greek Wedding earned $11.1 million in its 20th weekend, after all), but what does stand out is its running total. $502,421,000 gives it the extraordinary honor of being only the second $500 million domestic earner in box office history. Yes, the picture changes somewhat once we adjust for ticket price inflation, but in terms of actual dollars accrued, Titanic and now The Dark Knight are two of a kind. BOP speculated in its Daily Numbers Analysis a few weeks ago that the film would wind up in the $520-$530 million range, and that latter number is now being endorsed by Warner Bros. They are, however, allowing for the possibility that it might wind up with as much as $550 million if it runs indefinitely in IMAX, bringing in a few million a week sans decline. That's probably ambitious but we are reticent to rule out anything about this title's historic box office run.