Box Office Guru Wrapup: Dark Knight Leads Sluggish Frame


The super hero sequel The Dark Knight Rises once again led the North American box office, however moviegoer excitement was sucked out of the marketplace as ticket sales slumped to the second lowest showing of this whole summer season. With many consumers still wary of heading to the local multiplex after last week's shooting tragedy, no compelling new releases hitting the screens, and the start of the London Olympics, momentum slowed down to a crawl with the Top 20 sliding down to only $133M - a low amount for July which is usually one of the busiest months of the year.

Following its massive opening weekend - the best ever for a 2D-only movie - The Dark Knight Rises fell an understandable 60% to an estimated $64.1M. It was larger than the 53% fall that its predecessor suffered four years ago in July 2008 but threequels often fade faster thanks to more upfront business. Warner Bros. did, however, hope that those that skipped seeing the film last weekend because of the Colorado shooting might help solidify the picture over this frame. But the decline was about what would be expected for the third chapter of a mega-franchise. Core comic book and action fans have been coming out, but some of the broader audience not as attached to the franchise are feeling less excitement now and have dropped out.

Still, Rises has amassed a mammoth $289.1M in only ten days making for the third best ten-day start of any film in history after just The Avengers ($373.1M) and The Dark Knight ($313.8M). TDKR has even landed in the list of all-time domestic blockbusters at number 50. TV ratings were huge for Friday night's opening ceremonies of the Olympics and Rises, like all films, took a hit on that day. But sales bounced back well on Saturday for the broader marketplace.

Studios usually see the Summer Games as formidable competition especially if the host city is not halfway around the world allowing for more live coverage. In 1996 when the U.S. hosted the Games in Atlanta, Hollywood took the bold move of starting the summer movie season earlier to get an extra week of playtime. Warner Bros. unleashed the disaster hit Twister on May 10 and went on to collect $241.9M beating out the $181M of what was supposed to be the summer kickoff film Mission: Impossible. At its current trajectory, The Dark Knight Rises could end its domestic run in the $440-450M range which would still be an impressive number seven all-time.

Overseas, TDKR launched in 40 new territories against the Olympics and grossed an estimated $122.1M this weekend from 57 total markets. That brought the international cume to $248.2M and the global tally to a stunning $537.3M after just the second weekend. Like the Joker film before it, the Bane flick should still be able to break the $1 billion mark in global box office thanks to growth from overseas markets.

Following a hard sophomore slide, Ice Age: Continental Drift settled in for a commendable 35% dip in its third weekend and held onto second place with an estimated $13.3M raising the 17-day sum to $114.8M. It was the smallest third-weekend gross for any film in the animated franchise as the others each did $17-20M despite lower ticket prices. The Fox fourquel is on course to reach the neighborhood of $150M from the domestic market - also the lowest in the series. Overseas has been a different story where the franchise continues to grow stronger. Drift pulled in an estimated $49.4M internationally helped by big Asian debuts in China, Korea, and India boosting the offshore tally to a staggering $514.1M and the worldwide haul to $628.9M with a whopping 82% coming from outside of North America. As with the last chapter, the $800M global mark should be broken.

Opening to poor results in third place was the sci-fi buddy comedy The Watch which managed to take in an estimated $13M from 3,168 theaters for a dull $4,104 average. Starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Jonah Hill, the R-rated pic about a group of suburban men who start a neighborhood watch only to discover that aliens have invaded their town came in well below many of the debuts that the individual stars have seen in past projects. Critics panned the Fox release and links in the news media between the film and the neighborhood watch killing of Trayvon Martin earlier this year didn't help.

Stiller is coming off of the so-so debut of the all-star comedy Tower Heist from last November as well as 2010's franchise flick Little Fockers which was the lowest-grossing in that series. Vaughn's The Dilemma from last year also opened poorly following a string of studio hits. Hill is hot this year thanks to his Oscar nod and spring hit 21 Jump Street, but the starpower from the cast failed to drive in business this time. Males made up the primary audience for Watch accounting for 60% of the crowd while 59% were 25 and older. With the final Batman pic also playing to adult men, competition was fierce and the start of the Olympics also provided a distraction for sports fans. Moviegoers were not impressed with what they got as the CinemaScore grade was only a C+ signaling a lousy road ahead.

It's been a tough summer for R-rated comedies with The Watch following the dismal debut of Adam Sandler's That's My Boy and Sacha Baron Cohen's The Dictator not faring too well either. Each carried a high price tag for a comedy and The Watch is estimated to have cost nearly $70M to produce. This has been in stark contrast to last summer when The Hangover 2, Bridesmaids, Horrible Bosses, and Bad Teacher all broke the $100M mark keeping adult audiences laughing all season. Seth MacFarlane's Ted has been the only standout hit this summer and Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis hope to score a hit in two weeks with their political comedy The Campaign.

Generating the smallest opening of the four-picture franchise, the 3D dance drama Step Up Revolution debuted in fourth with an estimated $11.8M from 2,567 locations for a mild $4,597 average. The PG-13 pic which moves the dancing-will-save-my-life concept to Miami played young and female like its predecessors with studio research showing that the crowd was 64% female, and 71% under 25. The CinemaScore was a moderate B+. Disney handled the first three Step Up films domestically while Summit released them overseas where substantial growth has been seen with recent installments. Summit, now part of Lionsgate, is handling the new chapter worldwide. Revolution bowed 25% below the $15.8M opening of the last film Step Up 3D from August 2010 and 43% behind the $20.7M of the first chapter which starred Channing Tatum. Reviews were mostly negative.

The hit comedy Ted still ranked in the top five in its fifth weekend with an estimated $7.4M, off just 26%. The year's top-grossing comedy has collected $193.6M for Universal to date. Sony's super hero reboot The Amazing Spider-Man followed with an estimated $6.8M, down 38%, for a $242.1M cume. The worldwide tally now stands at $654.8M.

Brave, 2012's highest-grossing toon domestically, declined by just 30% to an estimated $4.2M boosting the total to $217.3M from North America and $309.3M worldwide for Disney. Channing Tatum's latest hit Magic Mike fell 40% to an estimated $2.6M and has banked $107.6M thus far. Tatum has been on fire this year and has anchored three different $100M+ grossers over a six-month period. None were sequels or animated films and all had reasonable budgets making him a moneymaking machine.

Rounding out the top ten were mature-skewing films from notable filmmakers. Oliver Stone's Savages dropped 47% to an estimated $1.8M while Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom dipped only 24% to an estimated $1.4M. Totals stand at $43.9M for Universal and $38.4M for its subsidiary Focus.

It was an active weekend in the specialty marketplace. The indie comedy Ruby Sparks opened well with an estimated $152,000 from 13 sites for a solid $11,683 average. The latest film from the directors of the Oscar-winning Little Miss Sunshine collected $192,000 since its Wednesday debut and expands Friday into 20 more markets. Reviews were positive.

Proving again that NC-17 films can book theaters, buy ads in mainstream media, and connect with paying audiences, Matthew McConaughey's new hit man drama Killer Joe bowed to an estimated $38,000 from just three locations averaging $12,621 for LD Entertainment. Sony Classics generated a $9,511 average from three playdates for its new rock documentary Searching for Sugar Man which grossed an estimated $29,000 this weekend.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $126.4M which was down 25% from last year when Cowboys & Aliens opened at number one with $36.4M; and down 2% from 2010 when Inception debuted on top with $27.5M.

Follow Gitesh on Twitter.

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