Weekend Box Office (June 27 - 29, 2008)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Metal ruled the North American box office as the robot adventure WALL•E and the assassin thriller Wanted featuring a gun-toting Angelina Jolie rocked the multiplexes hauling in an eye-popping $114M in combined ticket sales. It was the first time in history that two films opened with more than $50M each on the same weekend. Powered by the explosive openings of the pair of new releases, the weekend box office climbed to its highest point yet in 2008.

Robot love was in the air as moviegoers powered WALL•E into the number one spot with $63.1M in ticket sales, according to final studio figures. Playing in 3,992 sites, the G-rated space adventure averaged a sizzling $15,803 per theater and gave Pixar its ninth consecutive top spot debut. It was the seventh largest opening ever for an animated film and the third highest for Pixar after The Incredibles ($70.5M in 2004) and Finding Nemo ($70.3M in 2003). It was the second best bow for a G-rated film (after Nemo) and WALL•E also gave Disney its biggest opening in over a year. Film critics were in awe with the computer-animated pic giving it some of the best reviews of any film this year.

Pixar's last film Ratatouille opened to $47M this weekend a year ago and was equally loved by critics, but featured a premise involving a rat cooking in a kitchen which turned off some audiences. The company's previous effort Cars bowed to $60.1M in early June 2006 and featured a better premise, but got mixed reactions from critics. This time around, WALL•E successfully delivered a story that could be universally loved and was applauded by reviewers. It even overcame the liability of having very little human dialogue. With a CinemaScore grade of A plus a major holiday weekend coming up for Independence Day, long-term prospects look solid as positive word-of-mouth is sure to spread.

The lonely robot kicked off its weekend with a potent $23.1M on Friday, Saturday sales dipped by 5% to $22M, while Sunday dropped 18% to $18M. The Saturday decline was a bit unusual, but could be attributed to the upfront demand on Friday when most children were out of school. Studio research showed that 51% of the audience was female while 59% was under 25. Disney did report a high number of couples without children indicating that WALL•E is not only playing as a family film but as a date movie too.

Angelina Jolie's latest high-octane action vehicle Wanted may have settled for second place, but the Universal release scored a sensational debut that soared above all expectations. The R-rated pic launched with $50.9M over the weekend from 3,175 locations for a scorching average of $16,040 per theater. It was the seventh largest opening in box office history for any R-rated film and marks a new career high for the actress for a live-action opener. Her previous bests were also June action titles - 2005's Mr. and Mrs. Smith ($50.3M) and 2001's Lara Croft: Tomb Raider ($47.7M). Legally speaking, Jolie did not get top billing in Wanted but instead was third-billed in the credits after James McAvoy and Morgan Freeman and received the 'and' credit in the titles. Reviews were mostly positive.

The tale of an ordinary office worker recruited by a secret group of elite assassins was sold as a stylish action picture and was backed by a slick marketing campaign that accented the visual effects in the film. Russian director Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch, Day Watch) put his unique stamp on the $75M production and word of Jolie's nude scene certainly did not repel any ticket buyers. According to studio research, males made up 52% of the crowd while 51% was under 30. Friday started with a bang with a $19.2M opening day, Saturday slipped 8% to $17.6M, and Sunday fell 20% to $14.1M. Wanted also generated the third best opening for an R-rated summer film behind only The Matrix Reloaded ($91.8M in 2003) and Sex and the City ($56.8M last month).

Universal also rolled out the assassin pic in 22 international territories and grossed an estimated $33M giving Wanted an explosive global debut of $84M. Russia led the way with $11M, the U.K shot up $8M, and South Korea kicked in $6.7M. The hit film is part of the studio's summer slate of action entries along with The Incredible Hulk from earlier this month, July's Hellboy II, and August's The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.

WALL•E and Wanted capped off a sensational June box office that was on fire from start to finish. The marketplace could not be in better shape as it heads into the second half of 2008 which begins with the Fourth of July holiday session which gets an early start at 7pm on Tuesday night with the first showings of Will Smith's superhero actioner Hancock.

Dropping from first to third was the action-comedy remake Get Smart with $20.2M in its second weekend. Off 48%, the Steve Carell vehicle lost an understandable amount of business given the competition from new releases. The $80M-budgeted film has now grossed $77.5M in its first ten days and seems set to finish with $125-135M for Warner Bros.

The arrival of WALL•E prompted a larger decline than normal for rival animation entry Kung Fu Panda which dipped 47% to $11.7M in its fourth frame. With $179.3M tallied for Paramount and DreamWorks, the Po pic is running 6% behind the pace of 2006's June toon Cars which raced to $190.5M at this same point in its release.

Universal's The Incredible Hulk continues to show rapid audience erosion falling 57% in its third session to $9.6M. The Edward Norton starrer has smashed up $115.9M in 17 days putting it a scant 1% behind the pace of 2003's Hulk which stood at $117M at the same point in its run.

Mike Myers saw his latest comedy The Love Guru tumble 62% to $5.3M lifting the ten-day total to just $25.2M. The $60M production looks to end up with only $35-40M for Paramount.

Studio stablemate Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull joined the triple century club this weekend thanks to another solid hold. The Harrison Ford adventure dropped 39% and collected $5.2M in its sixth weekend boosting the cume to a stunning $300.1M. Add in Iron Man, Transformers and Shrek the Third and Paramount has distributed four of the last five megahits to break the $300M barrier. Crystal Skull now sits at number 28 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters after Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl which grossed $305.4M in 2003.

M. Night Shyamalan's eco-thriller The Happening collapsed another 63% to $3.9M for a $59.1M total for Fox. Sex and the City followed with $3.8M, off 42%, giving New Line and Warner Bros. an impressive $140.2M to date. Adam Sandler rounded out the top ten with Sony's You Don't Mess With the Zohan which dropped 57% to $3.2M giving the comedy $91.2M. Though a solid number, it is the worst total for one of the actor's broad comedies after the fourth weekend since 2000's Little Nicky.

A pair of May success stories dropped out of the top ten this weekend. The year's biggest blockbuster Iron Man finally fell out of the elite list in its ninth frame but still grossed $2.3M. Off 44%, the Marvel-Paramount smash saw its cume soar to $309.2M putting it at number 24 on the all-time hit list behind Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End which banked $309.4M last summer. With a hefty production cost of $185M, Iron Man should conclude its North American run with roughly $315M while its colossal worldwide total looks to reach beyond $600M.

Universal's hit horror film The Strangers tumbled 70% in its fifth scare to $632,115 boosting the total to a solid $51.5M. The R-rated fright flick cost just $9M and looks to end its run with $53M.

The top ten films grossed $176.9M which was up a sturdy 25% from last year when Ratatouille opened in the top spot with $47M; and up 27% from 2006 when Superman Returns debuted at number one with $52.5M.

Compared to projections, WALL•E was on target with my $63M forecast while Wanted soared much higher than my $36M prediction.

For NEW reviews of Hancock, WALL•E and Wanted visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Hancock and Kit Kittredge: An American Girl both open nationwide.

Marketplace - Shop for DVDs, electronics, books, and posters at discounted prices:

# Title Jun 27 - 29 Jun 20 - 22 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 WALL•E $ 63,087,526 3,992 1 $ 15,803 $ 63,087,526 Buena Vista
2 Wanted 50,927,085 3,175 1 16,040 50,927,085 Universal
3 Get Smart 20,211,242 38,683,480 -47.8 3,915 2 5,163 77,477,031 Warner Bros.
4 Kung Fu Panda 11,692,061 21,934,716 -46.7 3,670 4 3,186 179,276,754 Paramount
5 The Incredible Hulk 9,577,245 22,136,060 -56.7 3,349 3 2,860 115,859,210 Universal
6 The Love Guru 5,340,895 13,907,130 -61.6 3,012 2 1,773 25,222,377 Paramount
7 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom... 5,179,960 8,540,313 -39.3 2,556 6 2,027 300,085,447 Paramount
8 The Happening 3,907,948 10,482,146 -62.7 2,483 3 1,574 59,120,854 Fox
9 Sex and the City 3,808,288 6,532,394 -41.7 1,755 5 2,170 140,170,362 New Line
10 You Don't Mess With the Zohan 3,175,214 7,453,215 -57.4 2,147 4 1,479 91,190,129 Sony
11 Iron Man 2,257,113 4,030,272 -44.0 1,379 9 1,637 309,179,318 Paramount
12 The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian 1,037,841 1,790,715 -42.0 690 7 1,504 137,665,472 Buena Vista
13 Mongol 812,862 778,963 4.4 209 4 3,889 2,288,109 Picturehouse
14 The Strangers 632,115 2,122,410 -70.2 602 5 1,050 51,519,705 Universal
15 What Happens in Vegas 370,726 791,628 -53.2 361 8 1,027 78,344,563 Fox
16 The Visitor 295,387 383,584 -23.0 191 12 1,547 7,651,884 Overture
17 Baby Mama 205,720 247,160 -16.8 278 10 740 59,644,700 Universal
18 Made of Honor 190,960 166,972 14.4 291 9 656 46,012,734 Sony
19 Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic 181,610 67 1 2,711 181,610 Yash Raj
20 Forgetting Sarah Marshall 124,165 202,540 -38.7 194 11 640 62,725,000 Universal
Top 5 $ 155,495,159 $ 107,143,532 45.1
Top 10 176,907,464 135,822,136 30.2
Top 20 183,015,963 140,707,550 30.1
Top 20 vs. 2007 183,015,963 153,069,041 19.6

Last Updated: June 30, 2008 at 6:45PM ET

Watch Gitesh Pandya's weekly box office preview on CNN International airing live each Friday at 9:50am ET.