Box Office Guru Wrapup: Bourne and The Campaign Dethrone the Batman

by Gitesh Pandya | Sunday, Aug. 12 2012



Universal scored its industry-leading third number one opening of the summer with its franchise spy thriller The Bourne Legacy which knocked The Dark Knight Rises out of the top spot after a three-week reign atop the North American box office. Moviegoers also came out in healthy numbers for two new star-driven comedies as the political comedy The Campaign starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis and the marital tale Hope Springs with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones both connected with their target audiences. After back-to-back weekends when the Top 20 was down by more than 25% from last year, the marketplace rebounded back to normal levels for this time of year.

Jeremy Renner anchored a solid, but not spectacular, opening for his latest franchise pic The Bourne Legacy which debuted to an estimated $40.3M from 3,746 theaters for an encouraging $10,749 average. The PG-13 film pulled in action fans despite the fact that star Matt Damon who played the title character of all three previous films, and director Paul Greengrass who helmed the last two installments, were gone this time. Adjusting for ten years of ticket price increases, Legacy sold roughly 400,000 more tickets on opening weekend than the first film in the franchise The Bourne Identity from June 2002.

But given the cast and crew changes, Renner having no track record of anchoring a major film, and being among the last in a long line of summer action offerings, Legacy's performance was reasonably good. The weekend gross was also close to the $40.8M of 2006's Casino Royale which asked James Bond fans to forget Pierce Brosnan and accept newcomer Daniel Craig. Universal's decision to bump its release date back a week from August 3 to August 10 certainly paid dividends as it would have split the action crowd with Total Recall last weekend. Plus the juggernaut The Dark Knight Rises was a week older this frame.

Legacy played well across gender lines with men making up 52% of the crowd, according to studio research. Those 30 and older were a very high 69% as teen appeal was not strong. Produced for $125M, a reasonable cost for today's franchise action films, The Bourne Legacy earned mixed reviews from film critics and audiences alike. The CinemaScore grade was a B which means word-of-mouth going forward will probably be only so-so. And the Friday-to-Saturday bump of 6% was just slightly better than the one posted last week by Recall which fell apart in its second weekend. Also challenging its legs will be the opening of another adult-skewing action sequel this Friday in The Expendables 2.

Opening to good results in the runner-up spot was the Will Ferrell-Zach Galifianakis political comedy The Campaign with an estimated $27.4M from 3,205 theaters for an impressive $8,562 average. It was the third best opening of the year for an R-rated comedy behind only the $54.4M of surprise smash Ted, and the $36.3M of 21 Jump Street. Ferrell, who has not been seen on-screen with a major film in two years, flexed some starpower and fans eager to see him again turned out. The story involving rival bumbling political candidates provided very relevant subject matter which sparked interest in comedy fans. Plus the marketplace had almost nothing else offering laughs for grown-ups and reviews were better than necessary to sell this type of broad comedy.

Produced for $60M, The Campaign will have no problem reaching a domestic gross that beats its production cost. Legs may not be that great as the CinemaScore grade of B- indicates that consumers were not terribly satisfied so word-of-mouth should be mixed. Campaign opened much like Ferrell's last R-rated comedy Step Brothers which opened four years ago in late July with $30.9M when it also faced competition from both a Dark Knight hit and the Summer Olympics. Ferrell does have fans around the world and huge global crowds saw Galifianakis in both Hangover films so international potential is there, although a story about the world of American elections is not an easy sell.

It was two for Batman Begins, four for The Dark Knight, and now The Dark Knight Rises ends its reign at the top of the box office at three weeks. With another franchise action film making a solid debut, the final Batman film from Christopher Nolan dropped 45% to an estimated $19.5M boosting the domestic total to $390.1M after 24 days for Warner Bros. Its 2008 predecessor enjoyed a smaller 39% decline in its fourth frame despite having to compete with the start of the Beijing Olympics. TDKR rose up to number 15 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters passing the $381M of last summer's final wizard flick Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 which had the benefit of 3D surcharges.

The Bane blockbuster is running 12% behind the pace of the Joker flick and still seems to be on a trajectory to end with roughly $445M from North America. Overseas, Rises made $34.2M, off a troubling 49%, for an international total of $445.3M and global haul of $835.4M. Nolan's Gotham City trilogy has now amassed an incredible $2.2 billion worldwide and counting.

Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones enjoyed a respectable start for their relationship comedy Hope Springs which bowed to an estimated $15.6M from 2,361 playdates for a $6,607 average. The PG-13 film about a middle-aged couple seeking counseling to enliven their marriage grossed $20.1M since its Wednesday release and played, as expected, to the Meryl crowd. Studio research showed that the audience was overwhelmingly adult female - 66% were women and 69% were 40 or over. Reviews were positive but not very enthusiastic and paying audiences were not especially excited as the CinemaScore grade was a B.

Older skewing films tend to have good legs so Sony is hoping to keep Springs in theaters until the fall and make its grosses over the long-term. The studio has utilized the first half of August to target older women before with 2009's Julie & Julia starring Streep which debuted to $20M representing only 21% of its final gross of $94.1M, and 2010's Eat Pray Love with Julia Roberts which opened to $23.1M which was 29% of its $80.6M total. Both were adapted from best-selling books, though, whereas Hope came from an original screenplay. Plus with Sunday's close of the Olympics, the target audience will become more available in the days ahead. Sony and MGM acquired domestic rights for a fee in the mid-teen millions and Sony handled marketing and distribution duties.

A pair of sophomores followed with each dropping on a different trajectory. Fox's kid sequel Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days fell a reasonable 44% to an estimated $8.2M pushing the ten-day total to $30.6M. A final take close to the $52.7M of the last installment of the series should result. Sony's much more expensive sci-fi remake Total Recall was not as lucky and tumbled by a troubling 68% to an estimated $8.1M. By comparison, Arnold Schwarzenegger's 1990 original opened at the same level but dropped only 41% to $15.1M in its second weekend. The Colin Farrell actioner has collected a disappointing $44.2M in ten days and looks headed for a $60-65M finish from North America putting even more pressure on international markets to deliver big crowds. An overseas expansion this weekend into new territories like Russia, Japan, and Mexico resulted in an estimated $18.7M frame from 38 markets raising the offshore cume to just $27.5M.

The top ten's only toon Ice Age: Continental Drift held up well again with an estimated $6.8M, off a slender 22%, lifting the sum for the 3D Fox pic to $144.1M. Universal's hit comedy Ted followed with an estimated $3.3M, down 42%, and a cume to date of $209.9M. 3D dance sequel Step Up Revolution fell 52% to an estimated $2.9M giving Lionsgate $30.2M to date.

Two films tied for the ten spot with estimates of $2.2M each. Fox's alien comedy The Watch crumbled 66% and has banked only $31.4M to date while Sony's 3D super hero reboot The Amazing Spider-Man fell 50% with a domestic total of $255.5M thus far.

The reality stunt pic Nitro Circus the Movie 3D debuted to poor results outside of the top ten with an estimated $1.2M from 800 locations for a dismal $1,460 average. Since debuting on Wednesday, the R-rated Jackass-type flick aimed at young men has grossed $2.2M in five days. Opening to good results in platform release was Spike Lee's Red Hook Summer with an estimated $42,100 from four New York locations for a $10,525 average. The Variance/40 Acres release earned decent reviews and expands to new markets later this month.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $134.2M which was even with last year when Rise of the Planet of the Apes stayed at number one with $27.8M; but up 5% from 2010 when The Expendables debuted on top with $34.8M.

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