Box Office Guru Wrapup: The Bat Still Going Strong, Three Weeks In

Mummy sequel a close second but the Swing Vote takes a dive

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Fan frenzy for the Caped Crusader kept the unstoppable juggernaut The Dark Knight in the number one spot for the third weekend in a row in North America narrowly beating the new adventure sequel The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor which settled for the silver medal. However on a global scale, the Mummy sequel won the gold with $102M worldwide beating out the Batman flick's $81M. Meanwhile, Kevin Costner's latest offering Swing Vote was met with apathy as it bombed and landed in sixth place with a dismal performance.

The Joker couldn't stop stealing more cash. Warner Bros. enjoyed a superb hold for The Dark Knight which only dropped by 42% in its third outing to an estimated $43.8M. Averaging a still-muscular $10,267 per theater, the superhero sequel boosted its total to a jaw-dropping $394.9M in only 17 days and could now cross the $400M mark on Monday. The dark PG-13 actioner also broke into the top ten among all-time domestic blockbusters and now sits at number eight surpassing the $380.3M of 2005's Star Wars Episode III.

The new Batpic is holding up so well that it is now virtually guaranteed to smash the $500M barrier too. The road ahead should be promising as late summer megahits that truly please audiences tend to have low declines in August. 2006's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest witnessed a 44% drop in its third outing at number one and its 17-day cume of $321.9M represented 76% of its eventual final. Last summer's The Bourne Ultimatum banked $164.7M by the end of its third session which accounted for 72% of its overall cume. At a similar pace, The Dark Knight would go on to approach the neighborhood of $520M for an astonishing box office run.

Internationally, The Dark Knight grossed an estimated $37M from 51 markets to boost its stellar overseas tally to $202.5M. That gives the comic book flick a worldwide cume of $597.4M with much more fuel still in the tank as major markets like Korea, Japan, Spain, France, Russia, and Germany have yet to open.

Opening close behind in second place was Universal's historical adventure sequel The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor which grossed an estimated $42.5M. Invading 3,760 locations, the PG-13 film averaged a solid $11,303 per site. It was the smallest debut in the franchise's history trailing the $43.4M of 1999's The Mummy and the $68.1M of 2001's The Mummy Returns. At today's ticket prices, those two figures would translate to about $60M and $85M, respectively. Dragon, which finds Brendan Fraser returning to fight ancient evil in China, was expected by many to bow at number one. Its tally was slightly lower than anticipated while Dark Knight's legs were stronger than expected. Jet Li, Maria Bello, and Michelle Yeoh were newcomers to this installment. Studio research showed that males made up 52% of the audience while 56% were 25 and older. Reviews were mostly negative.

Budgeted at $145M, Dragon Emperor got off to a potent start around the world where its release was strategically timed so the effects-driven actioner would hit the marketplace just a week ahead of the start of the Olympics in Beijing. Overseas, the film grossed $59.5M from 28 territories putting the global cume at a potent $102M. Universal is expecting to reach the vicinity of $375-400M in worldwide grosses. The previous two installments each collected $410-420M globally.

Will Ferrell's latest comedy Step Brothers posted a good second weekend grossing an estimated $16.3M ranking third for the frame. Off 47%, the R-rated Sony release has banked an impressive $63M in ten days and should find its way to $100-110M.

Fans kept singing in their seats to Meryl Streep's musical Mamma Mia! which slipped only 26% to an estimated $13.1M pushing the cume to $88M. The Universal hit is running ahead of last summer's Hairspray and 2006's Streep starrer The Devil Wears Prada which after their third weekends had grossed $78.9M and $83.5M, respectively. The ABBA songfest is proving to be a major crowdpleaser and a popular female-skewing alternative to the boy movies of summer.

Another film with legs, the adventure story Journey to the Center of the Earth, also held up well despite the arrival of a competing Brendan Fraser actioner. The New Line pic grossed an estimated $6.9M, off just 29%, and lifted its sum to $73.1M. Breaking the $100M mark has now become a possibility for the 3D pic.

Opening in sixth with a dismal debut was Kevin Costner's political comedy Swing Vote with an estimated $6.3M from 2,213 venues. Averaging just $2,847 per site, the PG-13 film was backed with little marketing support and failed to excite the voting public. Costner invested over $20M of his own money to help finance the flop which Buena Vista distributed.

A pair of hits from the double century club followed. Will Smith's Hancock dropped 37% to an estimated $5.2M and saw its cume climb to $216M for Sony. Disney's WALL?E dipped a mere 26% to an estimated $4.7M for a $204.2M total to date. It broke through the $200M mark on Friday and should edge past Kung Fu Panda in another week or two to become 2008's top-grossing toon.

Fox rounded out the top ten with two films that few are seeing. The sci-fi sequel The X-Files: I Want to Believe collapsed in its sophomore frame tumbling 66% to an estimated $3.4M. After ten days, the $30M pic has grossed only $17.1M and should end up with only $22-25M. The animated comedy Space Chimps slipped 37% to an estimated $2.8M for a cume of $22.1M. The X-Files team must be embarrassed by the fact that its film is being outgrossed by Space Chimps.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $145.1M which was down 8% from last year when The Bourne Ultimatum opened in the top spot with $69.3M; but up 25% from 2006 when Talladega Nights debuted at number one with $47M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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