Box Office Guru Wrapup: Hulk Scores Incredible Opening at #1

Box office has a Banner weekend.

by | June 15, 2008 | Comments

Two new releases that were both follow-ups to widely hated summer films from
recent years rocked the North American box office and were each embraced by
moviegoers who spent a combined $85M on the pair. The comic book actioner The
Incredible Hulk
smashed its way to number one with a solid debut while M. Night Shyamalan‘s
latest thriller The Happening soared
above the industry’s pessimistic expectations to land in third with a sturdy
opening of its own. The overall marketplace remained sizzling hot thanks to five
consecutive weekends of $50M+ openers which have given multiplexes a wide range
of popular holdovers for their customers.

Five years after Ang Lee gave it a go, Marvel and Universal tried a second take
at the angry green man with The
Incredible Hulk
and generated an impressive first-place debut with an
estimated $54.5M. Leaping into 3,505 theaters, the PG-13 film from director Louis Leterrier
averaged a fantastic $15,561 per site. It was still below the level of 2003’s The Hulk
which bowed to $62.1M ($73M at today’s ticket prices), but the new Hulk
was not expected to soar that high. With so many fans feeling cheated the first
time around, it was known that some would take a wait-and-see approach with this
reboot of the franchise.

Budgeted at roughly $150M, The Incredible Hulk stars Edward Norton
as Bruce Banner with Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, and William Hurt
co-starring. Reviews were mostly good and were much better than those for Lee’s
film. Initial audience reactions have been encouraging too as the actioner’s
CinemaScore rating was an A-. Studio research showed that The Incredible Hulk
skewed male, as expected, with men making up 60% of the crowd. 52% were 25 and
older and an ethnically diverse audience came out as 54% were non-Caucasian.
Friday got off to a potent $21.7M start, Saturday fell an unsettling 15% to
$18.4M, and Universal is estimating an unusually low 22% Sunday decline to

Marvel listened to the complaints of fans and made the new Hulk more
action-packed and kept it under two hours in length. Plus Universal’s marketing
department took no chances and even used shots of Robert Downey Jr.‘s
cameo as Tony Stark in the television commercials to tap into Iron Man‘s
current popularity. The not-so-jolly green giant ranks sixth among this summer’s
biggest opening weekends. Overseas, The Incredible Hulk debuted to an
estimated $31M from 38 territories.

Dropping down to second place was the animated comedy Kung Fu Panda
with an estimated $34.3M for a moderate 43% decline. After ten days, the
Paramount-DreamWorks title has amassed an impressive $118M. So far the
Jack Black pic
is matching the performance of the Disney/Pixar offering Cars almost
dollar for dollar. That film opened on the same early June weekend in 2006 with
a nearly identical $60.1M before dropping 44% to $33.7M on the sophomore session
for a ten-day cume of $117.1M. Cars went on to gross $244.1M. A similar
final tally for Kung Fu Panda may result.

Fox scored a better than expected opening for the M. Night Shyamalan
thriller The Happening which landed
in third with an estimated $30.5M. Attacking 2,986 locations, the director’s
first-ever R-rated film averaged a sensational $10,214 per theater. It was the
second biggest debut of the year for a R pic after Sex and the City‘s
$56.8M. Negative buzz and horrible reviews did little to scare away audiences
from the supernatural eco-thriller and tickets buyers responded to the studio’s
marketing campaign which highlighted the Friday the 13th release date as well as
the rating. Shyamalan’s built-in audience of fans also were a main reason for
the strong start.

After his last film Lady in the Water
bombed in 2006 with a $18M bow and weak $42.3M final, the waters became very
unfriendly for the director, especially with film critics. But The Happening
fought off the bad buzz and played to a broad audience as studio research showed
that 52% of the crowd was under 25 while males and females were equally
represented. Overseas, the creepfest grossed an additional $32M offering up some
variety to the summer box office which so far has been driven by action and

Long-term prospects for the $50M-budgeted film look shaky though. The Mark Wahlberg
starrer debuted to $13.1M domestically on Friday, fell a disturbing 22% to
$10.3M on Saturday, and is estimated by its studio to drop a modest 30% to $7.2M
on Sunday. Plus the disaster tale has earned a troubling C- average from over
9,000 users of Yahoo Movies so not too many recommendations will be floating
around this week.

Audiences abandoned
Adam Sandler‘s
newest comedy You Don’t Mess With the Zohan
which tumbled 57% to an estimated $16.4M in its second weekend in theaters. It
was the worst drop of any film in the top ten. Considering the fact that most of
the comedian’s films decline by 45-50% in the sophomore session and that no new
comedies opened against it this weekend, the soldier-turned-hairdresser pic
could be suffering from terrible word-of-mouth. Compared to Sandler’s other
broad comedies from this decade, Zohan posted the largest second weekend
decline and the second smallest sophomore weekend gross trailing just the 2000
disaster Little Nicky. His effort from last summer I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry
dropped 44% to $19.1M while 2006’s Click fell
50% to $19.9M. At its current pace, Zohan looks to find its way to

Steven Spielberg and company ranked fifth with
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
which fell 41% to an estimated $13.5M. The Paramount title has been holding up
nicely and lifted its total to $275.3M after 25 days. Harrison Ford’s latest
adventure now sits at number 36 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters
just behind the $279.2M of 2004’s Meet the Fockers. The De Niro-Stiller
comedy’s haul would be about $310M at today’s ticket prices however. For
Spielberg, Crystal Skull is his highest-grossing film since 1993’s Jurassic

Dropping 52% in its third weekend was Sex and the City
which bagged an estimated $10.2M giving the ladies of HBO a stunning $119.9M
from North America alone. Overseas, the New Line/Warner Bros. film took in a
sizable $23.3M to push the international cume to $136M. Worldwide, audiences
have spent an amazing $256M on Sex with the $300M barrier looking to fall
later this month.

For the second straight weekend
Iron Man posted the smallest decline in the
top ten. The Tony Stark adventure dipped 31% to an estimated $5.1M, despite the
arrival of his green Marvel buddy, and raised its tally to an amazing $297.4M.
That put the Paramount release at number 27 on the all-time domestic list right
behind the first Pirates of the Caribbean which looted $305.4M in 2003.
The Pirates total would be roughly $358M at today’s prices though. Look
for Iron Man to zoom past the $300M mark by the end of the week.

Three May hits rounded out the top ten. Universal’s The Strangers
dropped 54% to an estimated $4.1M to boost the cume to $45.4M making it the
top-grossing horror title of the year so far. The Chronicles of Narnia:
Prince Caspian
collected an estimated $3M, off 47%, for a total of $131.7M
for Disney. And Fox’s comedy What Happens in Vegas laughed up an
estimated $1.7M, down 51%, giving the Cameron Diaz-Ashton Kutcher pic a robust
$75.8M to date.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $173.4M which was up 26% from last year
when Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer opened in the top spot
with $58.1M; and up 24% from 2006 when Cars stayed at number one with

Author: Gitesh Pandya,

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