Moviegoers found almost nothing worth paying money for at North American multiplexes as the top ten films at the box office slumped to their lowest gross in five years giving the new fall movie season a disastrous start. Nicolas Cage’s latest thriller Bangkok Dangerous suffered one of the worst action openings ever for the Oscar-winning actor, but thanks to a sluggish marketplace it was good enough to claim first place. Summer holdovers performed relatively well with five pics in the top ten dropping by less than 40%, but most wide releases crawled to averages of less than $2,300 as theaters struggled to find ticket buyers.
Bowing to only $7.8M, according to estimates, Bangkok Dangerous enjoyed a less-than-spectacular number one debut with a lackluster $2,943 average from 2,650 locations. The R-rated hitman pic gave Cage his second worst opening for an action film since becoming a major player in that genre with 1996’s The Rock. Over that twelve-year span, only last year’s Next posted a weaker debut for an action film with just $7.1M and a $2,618 average. Reviews were poor and Lionsgate’s marketing push was moderate at best.
The weekend after Labor Day is typically one of the slowest frames of the year. With students back in school and a new football season starting, studios generally avoid opening any strong films at this time which in turns helps the box office slow down. But this year with a major tropical storm hitting the east coast and election hoopla getting bigger after the political conventions, moviegoing just was not a priority for people. The top ten films grossed a dismal $47.6M making it the worst showing since this very same weekend in 2003 when the top ten stumbled to $46.2M. The Top 20 grossed $59.7M that year and is estimated to reach $61M this weekend. Factor in ticket price increases and less stubs were definitely sold this time around. Final grosses to be reported on Monday will show if this entire frame will come in lower than that sluggish session from five years ago when David Spade’s Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star led the chart with only $6.7M in its debut weekend. Bangkok also delivered the smallest gross for a number one film since Dickie.
Following its three-week rule of the box office, the war comedy Tropic Thunder retreated back to a close second place finish with an estimated $7.5M dipping only 35%. After its fourth weekend, the Paramount release has collected a solid $96.8M and should cross the century mark next weekend. Sony’s comedy The House Bunny climbed up one notch to third with an estimated $5.9M in its third session dipping only 29%. Total stands at $37M.
The Dark Knight dropped only 34% to an estimated $5.7M and raised its amazing North American cume to $512.2M. Overseas, the Warner Bros. sensation raked in an estimated $11.8M boosting the international tally to $437.2M which allowed the worldwide gross to soar to a staggering $949.4M. The Christian Bale-Heath Ledger showdown now sits at number six among all-time global blockbusters sandwiched right between last summer’s megahits Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End ($961M) and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix ($938M).
Don Cheadle’s political thriller Traitor held up well in its second weekend dropping 41% to an estimated $4.7M to push the 12-day tally to $17.7M. The Overture Films release should finish off in the vicinity of $30M. The Vin Diesel actioner Babylon A.D. fell 58% to an estimated $4M for Fox putting the ten-day total at $17.2M. A $25M final should result.
Another macho action pic Death Race followed with an estimated $3.6M, off 43%, giving Universal $29.8M to date. The spoof comedy Disaster Movie slipped 44% in its sophomore session to an estimated $3.3M. Lionsgate has seen just $10.9M in sales and should conclude its run with a mere $19M or so.
Two successful summer comedy leftovers rounded out the top ten. Mamma Mia! eased 36% to an estimated $2.7M boosting the stellar domestic cume to $136.3M allowing it to enter the top ten list of summer blockbusters. Universal’s singing sensation smashed through the $400M worldwide mark this weekend thanks to a stellar international frame that saw an estimated $15M. That was enough to push the overseas sum to $280.1M and the global gross to an eye-popping $416M. Mamma is now Universal’s top-grossing film of the year both domestically and worldwide beating out the studio’s many action offerings like The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Wanted, and The Incredible Hulk which all cost more to produce.
Sony’s stoner comedy Pineapple Express took in an estimated $2.4M, down 32%, and has grossed $84.2M thus far.
The top ten films grossed a pathetic estimate of $47.6M over the weekend which was down 23% from last year when 3:10 to Yuma opened in the top spot with $14M; and off 3% from 2006 when The Covenant debuted at number one with $9M in its opening frame.