Studios dumped out their usual trash over Labor Day weekend and moviegoers responded by avoiding most of them. That allowed Robert Downey Jr. to rock both the opening and closing ceremonies of the summer movie season as Tropic Thunder retained the number one spot for the third consecutive weekend. Five films opened or expanded nationally and were scattered all across the Top 20, most with weak results. Meanwhile, The Dark Knight moved up a notch in its seventh session and broke through the $500M mark over the long holiday weekend putting an end to what turned out to be a better-than-expected summer box office.
Still ahead of the pack for a third time, Tropic Thunder grossed an estimated $14.3M over the four-day Friday-to-Monday holiday weekend and lifted its impressive total to $86.6M after 18 days of release. The Ben Stiller-directed war comedy saw its three-day take of $11.5M drop only 29% from last weekend and joined the Batman juggernaut as this year’s only films to rank number one for three or more weekends. The $90M DreamWorks production is on course to end its run in the vicinity of $110M for Paramount which coincidentally also kicked off the summer blockbuster season at the top in May with Iron Man.
Leading all new releases, but lacking muscle, was Vin Diesel’s return to the action genre with Babylon A.D. which bowed to an estimated $12M over the long holiday weekend. Fox’s latest clunker enjoyed the widest launch by far among debuting titles but generated a lackluster $3,540 average over four days from 3,390 theaters. During the Friday-to-Sunday portion, the R-rated thriller grossed $9.6M for a weak $2,822 average. Babylon A.D. capped off a summer that the studio would like to forget following such misfires as Meet Dave, The Rocker, and The X-Files: I Want to Believe. Some were not costly films and others Fox just distributed for a fee, but the studio still failed to score a $100M+ summer grosser for the first time in eleven years.
The comic book overachiever The Dark Knight smashed through the $500M mark and placed third in its seventh weekend with an estimated $11M. Warner Bros. bumped its stunning cume up to $504.7M and surpassed the quintuple century barrier on Sunday in its 45th day of release. The new Batman epic has now sold approximately 70 million tickets beating out Spider-Man which snapped up roughly 69 million stubs in 2002. Knight is on a trajectory to end its North American run with about $525M translating to around 74 million admissions. Overseas, The Joker’s antics attracted an estimated $19.2M boosting the international total to $417M and the global gross to an eye-popping $921.7M. That was enough for The Dark Knight to break into the all-time top ten list of worldwide blockbusters. Shattering the $1 billion mark is a virtual guarantee.
Sony’s sorority comedy The House Bunny ranked fourth for the weekend with an estimated $10.2M over four days in its second term. The Anna Faris starrer has grossed a solid $29.8M in 11 days and could finish in the neighborhood of $45M. The budget was only $25M.
Overture Films saw a respectable debut for its Don Cheadle political thriller Traitor which bowed to an estimated $10M over the long weekend and $11.5M in the six days since opening on Wednesday. The PG-13 pic landed in 2,054 theaters and averaged a good $4,869 over four days representing the second best average among films in wide release. Reviews were somewhat positive.
Jason Statham’s latest action offering Death Race fell to sixth grossing an estimated $8.2M over the long weekend pushing the 11-day total to $25M. The $45M Universal release should end up with $35-40M.
Moviegoers finally said no to spoof kings Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg as their newest comedy Disaster Movie flopped taking in an estimated $6.9M over four days. Opening in 2,642 locations, the PG-13 pic averaged a weak $2,604 for Lionsgate. Disaster‘s three-day bow of $5.8M was less than one-third of what the filmmakers saw on opening weekend for their most recent hits Meet the Spartans and Epic Movie which both debuted at number one with respective takes of $18.5M and $18.6M.
Two hit comedies followed. Universal’s musical sensation Mamma Mia! sang to the tune of $5.8M, according to estimates, and raised its cume to $132.9M. The studio released a new sing-along version in selected theaters on Friday which helped give sales a boost over the holiday weekend. A final domestic tally of $140-145M could result for the $65M songfest. Sony’s stoner hit Pineapple Express collected an estimated $4.5M and took its sum to $80.9M. The final gross for the $27M production should reach $85-90M.
Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona popped back into the top ten with an estimated $3.5M over four days. The MGM release has now taken in $13.3M which is an impressive number for the veteran filmmaker. The Javier Bardem tale also generated the best average among all movies in wide release. Look for a final take at or slightly north of $20M.
With seven other comedies ahead of them on the charts, two new R-rated laughers stumbled in wide release this weekend grossing less than $3M each over four days. MGM’s teen pic College failed miserably with an estimated $2.6M from 2,123 locations for a dismal $1,241 four-day average. Focus expanded its expensive Sundance acquisition Hamlet 2 from 103 to 1,597 theaters in the second weekend and walked away with just $2.1M, according to estimates, for a pitiful four-day average of just $1,330. Cume for the Steve Coogan pic is an embarrassing $3.1M which will not help the distributor recoup the $10M it paid for the indie comedy. Hamlet 2 is shaping up to be this year’s Happy, Texas which Miramax bought for around $10M at 1999’s Sundance but grossed a measly $1.9M from 146 theaters in commercial release that fall.