Box Office Guru

Box Office Guru Wrapup: Moody Superheroes Rule the Box Office

While the Human Spaceship Belly Flops

by | July 13, 2008 | Comments

A week before The Joker unleashes chaos, moviegoers passed the time by driving the comic book sequel Hellboy II: The Golden Army to a number one debut while also showing up in solid numbers for the 3D adventure Journey to the Center of the Earth. On the other hand, Eddie Murphy‘s new comedy Meet Dave was totally ignored and suffered a dismal debut becoming the summer’s biggest flop. Holdover pictures in the top ten performed well with each dropping by less than 50%.

One superhero with an attitude problem replaced another in the top spot as Universal’s actioner Hellboy II debuted ahead of the pack with an estimated $35.9M in its first weekend of release. Directed by Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth), the PG-13 film opened 55% better than the $23.2M bow of its 2004 predecessor which Sony released. It went on to gross a mediocre $59M but grew its audience on DVD and cable. Golden Army averaged a sturdy $11,200 from 3,204 theaters. Budgeted at $85M, the new Hellboy took advantage of a built-in audience of fans and the starpower that its director has generated after winning three Oscars for Labyrinth. Reviews were very favorable and the studio is keeping the door open for a sequel, even though del Toro will spend the next three years in New Zealand making back-to-back Hobbit films.

Close behind in second place was Will Smith‘s latest blockbuster Hancock which dropped 47% to an estimated $33M to boost its cume to a robust $165M after twelve and a half days. That’s an exact match to the total that 2005’s sci-fi action offering from Independence Day weekend War of the Worlds took in after its second session. The Steven Spielberg-Tom Cruise collaboration suffered a bigger drop of 53% and a smaller sophomore take of $30.5M, but did not have the extra revenue from night-before-opening previews like Hancock.

It was a strong hold for Smith especially with the solid debuts of two new action films. Hancock also gave the superstar actor his fifth consecutive $150M+ blockbuster further cementing his status as the most bankable star in Hollywood. The road ahead could be a rough one though given Friday’s eagerly-awaited launch of the competing superhero juggernaut The Dark Knight, but a final domestic tally in the neighborhood of $250M could result. Overseas, the badass crimefighter soared to $180.2M in sales catapulting the worldwide cume to an eye-popping $345M in less than two weeks. The $150M production could fly to $500-600M globally.

Opening well in third place was the 3D adventure tale Journey to the Center of the Earth starring Brendan Fraser with an estimated $20.6M. The New Line/Warner Bros. film launched in 2,811 theaters and averaged a solid $7,321 per site. However, the grosses from 3D and traditional 2D theaters were like night and day. A whopping 70% of the total venues did not have equipment to offer the film in 3D and those theaters averaged only about $2,000 each. But the 854 sites that did screen the PG-rated film in 3D averaged close to $20,000 per playdate and accounted for more than 80% of the weekend business. Most of those charged higher ticket prices too which helped to boost the grosses. Reviews were generally good for the $60M-budgeted project. Journey also had a limited international premiere grossing $4.2M from five markets led by $2.1M in the United Kingdom and $1.5M in Brazil.

Disney and Pixar followed in fourth with WALL•E which grossed an estimated $18.5M in its third frame dropping 43%. The decline was bigger than Ratatouille‘s 38% dip during its third session a year ago this same weekend. The robot pic opened $16M better than the rodent comedy, but now their third weekend tallies are nearly identical as WALL•E‘s legs have not been as sturdy. Still, look for this latest animation gem to roll its way to roughly $220M domestically.

Angelina Jolie had an eventful weekend welcoming in two new babies and also having twin films in the top ten. Her action thriller Wanted placed fifth with an estimated $11.6M, down 42%, boosting Universal’s cume to $112M. The actress also voiced Tigress in Kung Fu Panda further down on the chart. Jolie has now upped her counts for both children and $100M career blockbusters to six each.

Get Smart came in sixth with an estimated $7.1M, down only 36%, and reached $111.5M after 24 days for Warner Bros.

Stealing the ‘Flop of the Summer’ title from Speed Racer, Eddie Murphy stumbled into seventh place with a disastrous opening for his new comedy Meet Dave which grossed just $5.3M, according to estimates. The PG-rated film landed in 3,011 theaters and averaged a puny $1,760. It was the third worst opening in box office history for a film released in more than 3,000 theaters and certainly the poorest for a pricey star vehicle. The only films to open worse were last year’s The Seeker: The Dark is Rising ($3.7M from 3,141 sites) and 2006’s Hoot ($3.4M from 3,018 playdates).

Carrying a budget of roughly $60M, buzz was always bad for Meet Dave and the concept of Murphy playing a human-looking spaceship operated by a mini crew inside of him, with a captain also played by the funnyman, did not fly with audiences. Competition also played a part as every film that ranked higher also offered action, comedy, or both. Dave‘s opening was a far cry from the solid $34.2M debut that Murphy’s comedy Norbit scored last year and joins the Oscar-nominated comedian’s hall of box office shame along with The Adventures of Pluto Nash, Holy Man, and Best Defense.

Kung Fu Panda dropped 41% to eighth place with an estimated $4.3M sending the martial arts toon across the $200M mark with a total to date of $202M. The Paramount/DreamWorks pic is running 8% behind the pace of Disney/Pixar’s Cars from 2006 and will probably finish with roughly $215M. The Abigail Breslin pic Kit Kittredge: An American Girl held up well in its second weekend of wide release slipping just 29% to an estimated $2.4M. Though it enjoyed the smallest decline in the top ten, it still has only collected $11M to date and seems headed for a $18-20M finish.

Rounding out the top ten was Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull with an estimated $2.3M in its eighth weekend, down 40%, raising the overall tally to $310.5M. The Harrison Ford adventure sequel is now within striking distance of fellow Paramount release Iron Man‘s $313.4M and could become the new top grosser of 2008. Warner Bros. fully intends to make it a three-picture race with The Dark Knight which could very well reach the same stratosphere by month’s end.

Three films fell from the top ten this weekend. Universal’s The Incredible Hulk took in an estimated $2.2M, off 55%, for a $129.8M sum. That puts the new green guy a scant 1% ahead of Ang Lee’s Hulk at the same point in its 2003 run. Factor in higher ticket prices and the new Hulk has actually attracted fewer fans than the old one did, and cost a bit more. Budgeted at $150M, The Incredible Hulk should end up with about $135M edging out the $132.2M gross of Hulk, but will sell 13% fewer tickets. Overseas, the Edward Norton pic smashed the $100M mark boosting the international cume to $101.3M and the global tally to $231M.

The much more profitable Sex and the City banked an estimated $1.7M, down only 28%, and raised its total to a stellar $148.2M. A final domestic haul of $155M seems likely for the New Line film distributed by Warner Bros. The overseas performance for the $60M production has been sensational with $220.5M taken in to date accounting for 60% of the global haul of $369M. Astounding industry observers, Sex has become the fourth biggest global blockbuster of 2008 after the Paramount triumvirate of Indiana Jones, Iron Man, and Kung Fu Panda.

The summer’s other fashion-related comedy You Don’t Mess With the Zohan fell 46% to an estimated $1.1M giving the Adam Sandler vehicle $96.9M so far. The Sony release should inch its way to the $100M mark making it the comedian’s lowest gross for a broad comedy since 2000’s Little Nicky.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $140.9M which was down 17% from last year when Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix opened in the top spot with $77.1M; and off 5% from 2006 when Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest spent a second weekend at number one with $62.3M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,