Box Office Guru Wrapup: Brüno Struts To The Top Spot

Ice Age and Transformers round out the top three.

Sacha Baron Cohen scored another number one hit with his latest shockfest comedy Brüno which opened atop the North American box office bumping two-time champ Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen to third place. The hit toon Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs remained in second while the new teen comedy I Love You, Beth Cooper was rejected and debuted in seventh. Overall ticket sales slipped from a year earlier.

Fans hit the multiplexes and drove Brüno to the top spot with an estimated $30.4M in tickets sold this weekend. Playing in 2,756 theaters, the fewest for a number one pic this summer, the R-rated film about the Austrian fashionista's quest for fame averaged a strong $11,040 per location. However, the daily breakdown signaled trouble ahead. Brüno banked an impressive $14.4M on its opening day on Friday, but collapsed by 39% on Saturday to $8.8M. Sequels and films with built-in audiences routinely suffer Friday-to-Saturday drops on opening weekend, but the Universal release plunged by an unusually hefty amount.

With a low CinemaScore grade of C, audiences probably spread negative word-of-mouth on the film once they had a chance to see it. Sunday's gross is estimated to dip by only 18% to $7.2M so it is possible that the final tally will be even lower. The controversial comedy will find out in the days ahead how much offensive humor (and male nudity) mainstream American moviegoers are willing to tolerate.

Comparing Brüno to Cohen's 2006 hit Borat makes for an apples-to-oranges comparison given the latter's more narrow November release. Fox opened the Kazakh reporter flick in only 837 theaters but still shot to number one grossing $26.5M for an incredible $31,607 average. Brüno's gross was 15% bigger, however it launched in more than three times as many theaters. Reviews were generally positive and studio research showed that the audience was 56% male and 54% age 25 or older.

Universal paid $42.5M for distribution rights in North America and eight overseas territories for Brüno which was financed by Media Rights Capital which has not disclosed the production budget of the film. Universal also spent heavily on a global marketing push as the studio controls the film in Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, South Africa, Austria, and the United Kingdom. Lavish red carpet premieres were held in many of these countries. The international performance was strong as Brüno grossed an estimated $20M overseas from 1,435 sites in the eight markets that Universal launched the pic in. The film also opened this weekend in several other markets like Spain, Greece, Poland, Israel, and Scandinavia through other distributors and invades France, Russia, and Brazil later this month.

Holding steady in second place for the second straight weekend was the animated comedy Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs which played to a much different audience grossing an estimated $28.5M. Off only 32% from its opening weekend, the 3D toon boosted its 12-day cume to a robust $120.6M virtually matching the $120.9M that its predecessor Ice Age: The Meltdown collected in its first dozen days of play. Fox released the two films differently with Meltdown being a Friday opener in March 2006 while Dinosaurs bowed on a Wednesday in July when weekday grosses are stronger since kids are out of school. The new installment is also taking advantage of higher ticket prices at theaters presenting the pic in 3D and could find its way past the $195.3M of Meltdown in North America.

Still attracting summer moviegoers in its third weekend was Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen which dropped out of first place after a two-week reign to gross an estimated $24.2M sliding 43%. The tentpole smash surpassed the $319.1M of the first Transformers flick this weekend raising its cume to a stunning $339.2M in 19 days. The Autobots sequel climbed up to number 16 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters ahead of the $336.5M of 2007's Spider-Man 3.

The new Transformers film is still on a trajectory to end its North American run at about the $400M mark allowing it to crack the all-time top ten. However, at today's admission prices that would amount to roughly 54 million tickets sold which would be equivalent to the number of stubs audiences purchased for Men in Black ($250.1M in 1997) and Twister ($241.9M in 1996). The average price of a movie ticket has soared 65% since 1996.

In its second hit, the gangster drama Public Enemies fell by 44% to an estimated $14.1M suffering the worst drop in the top ten. After 12 days, Universal has collected $66.5M and has a shot at reaching $100M. The fake engagement comedy The Proposal eased only 18% to an estimated $10.5M boosting the total to $113.8M for Buena Vista. Enjoying the best hold in the top ten was The Hangover which dipped only 12% to an estimated $9.9M. Warner Bros. has banked an incredible $222.4M to date and its R-rated raunchfest is still attracting large crowds despite the arrival of Brüno.

Moviegoers showed no love for the cheerleader this weekend. Fox's high school comedy I Love You, Beth Cooper bombed opening in seventh place with a measly $5M, according to estimates. Averaging a weak $2,691 from 1,858 sites, the PG-13 film tumbled 22% on Saturday after a dismal Friday bow and should fade quickly.

Toon titan Up slipped only 29% to an estimated $4.7M in its seventh frame to boost the cume to $273.8M for Disney. The tearjerker pic My Sister's Keeper followed with an estimated $4.2M, off just 28%, for a $35.8M total for Warner Bros. Rounding out the top ten with an estimated $1.6M was The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 which dropped 37%. Cume is $61.5M.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $133.1M which was down 5% from last year when Hellboy II opened in the top spot with $34.5M; and down 21% from 2007 when Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix debuted at number one with $77.1M and $139.7M over its Wednesday-to-Sunday debut period.

Author: Gitesh Pandya

www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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