Box Office Guru Wrapup: The Dark Knight Rises Again

Total Recall and Wimpy Kid take #2 and #3 in another sluggish weekend.

This weekend, a pair of new franchise films could not stop Bane and Batman from ruling the North American box office for a third straight time as The Dark Knight Rises continued to reign supreme, once again taking the gold medal position. The big-budget sci-fi remake Total Recall took home the silver while the bronze went to the kidpic Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days. Neither of the new releases showed major muscle and the overall Top 20 slumped 27% from last year's levels as overall moviegoing continued to be affected by a lack of exciting titles and the ongoing drama of the London Olympics.

For a third consecutive weekend, audiences made The Dark Knight Rises the most popular film in the land as the super hero saga grossed an estimated $36.4M, down a reasonable 41% from last weekend. The Warner Bros. smash has now grossed a mammoth $354.6M in only 17 days with $48M of that sum (14%) coming from 332 IMAX locations.

If estimates hold, the decline will be slightly less than the 43% dip that 2008's The Dark Knight suffered during its third frame while on the same calendar. That mega-smash did face stiffer competition as the new action release that weekend, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, bowed to $40.5M which was $14M higher than Total Recall's debut. But with threequels often eroding faster, the solid hold Rises saw this weekend could be partly due to moviegoers that skipped the film in the aftermath of the Colorado shooting coming out now. New action sequels are scheduled to launch on the next two weekends, but The Dark Knight Rises could be on course to reach $440-450M domestically.

Currently, Rises is running 10% behind the pace of its predecessor which banked $393.8M in its first 17 days with a $42.7M third-weekend gross. The Bane flick has tied Avatar as the third fastest film in history to break the $350M barrier. Only The Avengers and The Dark Knight have done it faster in 10 and 14 days, respectively. TDKR shot up to number 21 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters passing the $352.4M of last summer's 3D tentpole Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

Another impressive weekend gross was collected from overseas markets where the latest Batman film captured an estimated $67M from 58 markets, down a sizable 47%, boosting the international total to $378.4M and the global gross to $733M making it the second largest worldwide hit of 2012 after Avengers which grossed twice as much. The offshore cume is only about a week away from matching the $469M of TDK. Rises is now playing in most major markets around the world, however Italy is still to open at the end of the month and China - which has a quota on foreign films - has not yet been set. Breaking the $1 billion global box office mark seems very possible, putting the Christopher Nolan trilogy on course to gross a combined $2.4 billion or more.

The big-budget sci-fi remake Total Recall debuted in second place with an estimated $26M and failed to generate too much excitement with action movie fans. Averaging $7,220 from 3,601 theaters, the PG-13 redo opened only a hair above the $25.5M bow of the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger hit despite having ticket prices that were nearly twice as high and playing in 1,500 more theaters. The effects-driven film skewed 58% male while 53% of the audience was 30 and older, according to studio research. A lack of female appeal prevented it from attracting a broader crowd.

The Colin Farrell pic never did electrify ticket buyers too much and played out as yet another remake that people did not ask for. Critics and audiences agreed on the quality of the film. Reviews were mostly negative and moviegoers polled by CinemaScore gave it a pitiful C+ grade. And with The Bourne Legacy set to open this Friday and The Expendables 2 on the following weekend, large declines should be in order putting the $150M-budgeted pic on course to reach the neighborhood of $70M from North America. Recall opened at number one in a number of Asian markets this weekend collecting a modest $6.2M from a dozen territories led by Taiwan and Malaysia.

Opening in third place was the tween sequel Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days with an estimated $14.7M from 3,391 locations for a mild $4,335 average. The third chapter in the film franchise debuted well below the levels of the first two which each launched in mid-March over the past two years to $22.1M and $23.8M. The summer vacation storyline drew an upfront audience as Saturday sales tumbled 14% from Friday's opening day score. As a threequel, it could indicate a rocky road ahead although those polled by CinemaScore liked the film which earned an A- grade.

Reviews were mostly negative which is common for a kidpic franchise going into its third installment. Studio research showed that the audience was 58% female and 62% under 25. Dog Days cost only $22M to produce and summer yields stronger midweek grosses since students are out of school so surpassing the $50M mark like the last two films is still possible.

Two more Fox titles followed. The 3D animated comedy Ice Age: Continental Drift slipped 37% to an estimated $8.4M for a cume to date of $131.9M from North America. Overseas grosses vaulted to an incredible $587M putting the worldwide figure at $718.9M. The studio's underperforming alien comedy The Watch fell 50% from its opening weekend despite no new comedies for adults entering the marketplace. With $25.4M in ten days, the Ben Still-Vince Vaughn pic should end with just $40M.

The film that has really been getting grown-ups to laugh this summer, Seth MacFarlane's Ted starring Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis, smashed the $200M mark this weekend and enjoyed a major expansion into international waters. Domestically, Universal's leggy hit dipped only 26% to an estimated $5.5M for a total of $203.4M. But a potent $32M was made from 20 overseas markets boosting the offshore total to $77.3M and the global tally to $280.7M. Ted generated a sensational top spot debut in the U.K. with $14.3M and was also number one in a handful of other new markets like Germany and Russia.

The dance drama Step Up Revolution tumbled 55% in its sophomore round to an estimated $5.3M pushing the ten-day total to $23.1M for Lionsgate-owned Summit. The decline was similar to the 56% drop that the last film in the franchise, Step Up 3D, suffered two summers ago when it banked a better $29.8M in its first ten days. Look for Revolution to finish with less than $35M.

Sony's super hero reboot The Amazing Spider-Man crossed the quarter-billion threshold in North America this weekend thanks to its estimated $4.3M take in its fifth weekend. Down 36%, the big-budget Sony tentpole upped its sum to $250.6M. Overseas added $6.1M this weekend for a new international haul of $427.1M giving the studio $677.7M worldwide.

Two more summer blockbusters rounded out the top ten, one for daughters and the other for moms. The Disney/Pixar hit Brave grossed an estimated $2.9M, off 33%, for a $223.3M cume. With $16.5M from overseas, the Scottish princess broke the century mark internationally with $118M for a worldwide take of $341.3M. Channing Tatum's Magic Mike fell 47% to an estimated $1.4M giving Warner Bros. $110.9M to date.

Opening well in platform release was the Andy Samberg-Rashida Jones relationship comedy Celeste and Jesse Forever which debuted to an estimated $112,000 from only four houses for a sparkling $28,000 average. Sony Classics will expand into San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago, and Washington D.C. on Friday and adds more major cities throughout August before going nationwide over Labor Day weekend. Reviews have been good and indie comedies have been hot this year so the road ahead seems promising.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $111.2M which was down 28% from last year when Rise of the Planet of the Apes opened at number one with $54.8M; but up 4% from 2010 when The Other Guys debuted on top with $35.5M.

Follow Gitesh on Twitter.

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