Weekend Box Office (July 11 - 13, 2008)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND A week before The Joker unleashes chaos, moviegoers passed the time by driving the comic book sequel Hellboy II: The Golden Army to a number one debut while also showing up in solid numbers for the 3D adventure Journey to the Center of the Earth. On the other hand, Eddie Murphy's new comedy Meet Dave was totally ignored and suffered a dismal debut becoming the summer's biggest flop. Holdover pictures in the top ten performed well with most dropping by less than 50%.

One superhero with an attitude problem replaced another in the top spot as Universal's actioner Hellboy II debuted ahead of the pack with $34.5M in its first weekend of release, according to final studio figures. Directed by Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth), the PG-13 film opened 49% better than the $23.2M bow of its 2004 predecessor which Sony released. It went on to gross a mediocre $59M but grew its audience on DVD and cable. Golden Army averaged a sturdy $10,780 from 3,204 theaters. Budgeted at $85M, the new Hellboy took advantage of a built-in audience of fans and the starpower that its director has generated after winning three Oscars for Labyrinth. Reviews were very favorable and the studio is keeping the door open for a sequel, even though del Toro will spend the next three years in New Zealand making back-to-back Hobbit films.

Close behind in second place was Will Smith's latest blockbuster Hancock which dropped 49% to $32.1M to boost its cume to a robust $164.1M after twelve and a half days. That's a near match to the $165M total that 2005's sci-fi action offering from Independence Day weekend War of the Worlds took in after its second session. The Steven Spielberg-Tom Cruise collaboration suffered a bigger drop of 53% and a smaller sophomore take of $30.5M, but did not have the extra revenue from night-before-opening previews like Hancock.

It was a strong hold for Smith especially with the solid debuts of two new action films. Hancock also gave the superstar actor his fifth consecutive $150M+ blockbuster further cementing his status as the most bankable star in Hollywood. The road ahead could be a rough one though given Friday's eagerly-awaited launch of the competing superhero juggernaut The Dark Knight, but a final domestic tally in the neighborhood of $250M could result. Overseas, the badass crimefighter soared to $179M in sales catapulting the worldwide cume to an eye-popping $344M in less than two weeks. The $150M production could fly to $500-600M globally.

Opening well in third place was the 3D adventure tale Journey to the Center of the Earth starring Brendan Fraser with $21M. The New Line/Warner Bros. film launched in 2,811 theaters and averaged a solid $7,477 per site. However, the grosses from 3D and traditional 2D theaters were like night and day. A whopping 70% of the total venues did not have equipment to offer the film in 3D and those theaters averaged only about $2,000 each. But the 854 sites that did screen the PG-rated film in 3D averaged close to $20,000 per playdate and accounted for more than 80% of the weekend business. Most of those charged higher ticket prices too which helped to boost the grosses. Reviews were generally good for the $60M-budgeted project. Journey also had a limited international premiere grossing $4.2M from five markets led by $2.1M in the United Kingdom and $1.5M in Brazil.

Disney and Pixar followed in fourth with WALL•E which grossed $18.8M in its third frame dropping 42%. The decline was bigger than Ratatouille's 38% dip during its third session a year ago this same weekend. The robot pic opened $16M better than the rodent comedy, but now their third weekend tallies are nearly identical as WALL•E's legs have not been as sturdy. Still, look for this latest animation gem to roll its way to roughly $220M domestically.

Angelina Jolie had an eventful weekend welcoming in two new babies and also having twin films in the top ten. Her action thriller Wanted placed fifth with $12M, down 40%, boosting Universal's cume to $112.5M. The actress also voiced Tigress in Kung Fu Panda further down on the chart. Jolie has now upped her counts for both children and $100M career blockbusters to six each.

Get Smart came in sixth with $7.2M, down only 35%, and reached $111.6M after 24 days for Warner Bros.

Stealing the 'Flop of the Summer' title from Speed Racer, Eddie Murphy stumbled into seventh place with a disastrous opening for his new comedy Meet Dave which grossed just $5.3M. The PG-rated film landed in 3,011 theaters and averaged a puny $1,744. It was the third worst opening in box office history for a film released in more than 3,000 theaters and certainly the poorest for a pricey star vehicle. The only films to open worse were last year's The Seeker: The Dark is Rising ($3.7M from 3,141 sites) and 2006's Hoot ($3.4M from 3,018 playdates).

Carrying a budget of roughly $60M, buzz was always bad for Meet Dave and the concept of Murphy playing a human-looking spaceship operated by a mini crew inside of him, with a captain also played by the funnyman, did not fly with audiences. Competition also played a part as every film that ranked higher also offered action, comedy, or both. Dave's opening was a far cry from the solid $34.2M debut that Murphy's comedy Norbit scored last year and joins the Oscar-nominated comedian's hall of box office shame along with The Adventures of Pluto Nash, Holy Man, and Best Defense.

Kung Fu Panda dropped 40% to eighth place with $4.4M sending the martial arts toon across the $200M mark with a total to date of $202.2M. The Paramount/DreamWorks pic is running 8% behind the pace of Disney/Pixar's Cars from 2006 and will probably finish with roughly $215M. The Abigail Breslin pic Kit Kittredge: An American Girl held up well in its second weekend of wide release slipping just 30% to $2.3M. Though it enjoyed the smallest decline in the top ten, it still has only collected $11M to date and seems headed for a $18-20M finish.

Also taking in the same amount was Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull with $2.3M in its eighth weekend, down 40%, raising the overall tally to $310.5M. The Harrison Ford adventure sequel is now within striking distance of fellow Paramount release Iron Man's $313.4M and could become the new top grosser of 2008. Warner Bros. fully intends to make it a three-picture race with The Dark Knight which could very well reach the same stratosphere by month's end.

Universal's The Incredible Hulk grossed $2.2M as well, off 53%, for a $129.9M sum. That puts the new green guy a scant 1% ahead of Ang Lee's Hulk at the same point in its 2003 run. Factor in higher ticket prices and the new Hulk has actually attracted fewer fans than the old one did, and cost a bit more. Budgeted at $150M, The Incredible Hulk should end up with about $135M edging out the $132.2M gross of Hulk, but will sell 13% fewer tickets. Overseas, the Edward Norton pic smashed the $100M mark boosting the international cume to $101.3M and the global tally to $231M.

The much more profitable Sex and the City banked $1.6M, down only 33%, and raised its total to a stellar $148.1M. A final domestic haul of $155M seems likely for the New Line film distributed by Warner Bros. The overseas performance for the $60M production has been sensational with $220.5M taken in to date accounting for 60% of the global haul of $369M. Astounding industry observers, Sex has become the fourth biggest global blockbuster of 2008 after the Paramount triumvirate of Indiana Jones, Iron Man, and Kung Fu Panda.

The summer's other fashion-related comedy You Don't Mess With the Zohan fell 46% to $1.1M giving the Adam Sandler vehicle $96.9M so far. The Sony release should inch its way to the $100M mark making it the comedian's lowest gross for a broad comedy since 2000's Little Nicky.

The top ten films grossed $139.9M which was down 17% from last year when Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix opened in the top spot with $77.1M; and off 5% from 2006 when Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest spent a second weekend at number one with $62.3M.

Compared to projections, Hellboy II opened close to my $37M forecast while Journey to the Center of the Earth bowed above my $17M prediction. Meet Dave debuted with less than half of my $13M projection.

For a review of Hancock visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Dark Knight, Mamma Mia!, and Space Chimps all open.

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

# Title Jul 11 - 13 Jul 4 - 6 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Hellboy II: The Golden Army $ 34,539,115 3,204 1 $ 10,780 $ 34,539,115 Universal
2 Hancock 32,080,560 62,603,879 -48.8 3,965 2 8,091 164,115,004 Sony
3 Journey to the Center of the Earth 21,018,141 2,811 1 7,477 21,018,141 New Line
4 WALL•E 18,793,588 32,509,203 -42.2 3,849 3 4,883 163,055,900 Buena Vista
5 Wanted 11,996,175 20,050,070 -40.2 3,157 3 3,800 112,455,060 Universal
6 Get Smart 7,201,376 11,109,408 -35.2 3,086 4 2,334 111,564,176 Warner Bros.
7 Meet Dave 5,251,918 3,011 1 1,744 5,251,918 Fox
8 Kung Fu Panda 4,411,412 7,318,635 -39.7 2,704 6 1,631 202,154,311 Paramount
9 The Incredible Hulk 2,324,345 4,899,280 -52.6 1,945 5 1,195 129,905,435 Universal
10 Kit Kittredge: An American Girl 2,303,054 3,296,929 -30.1 1,849 4 1,246 10,992,641 Picturehouse
11 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom... 2,260,327 3,774,807 -40.1 1,664 8 1,358 310,487,614 Paramount
12 Sex and the City 1,603,396 2,382,438 -32.7 1,025 7 1,564 148,105,143 New Line
13 You Don't Mess With the Zohan 1,071,854 1,981,251 -45.9 939 6 1,141 96,910,739 Sony
14 Iron Man 939,134 1,459,613 -35.7 710 11 1,323 313,421,025 Paramount
15 The Love Guru 549,853 1,806,545 -69.6 909 4 605 31,411,051 Paramount
16 Mongol 532,439 765,120 -30.4 252 6 2,113 4,355,846 Picturehouse
17 The Happening 446,470 1,438,889 -69.0 510 5 875 63,356,470 Fox
18 The Visitor 267,676 337,105 -20.6 167 14 1,603 8,534,730 Overture
19 What Happens in Vegas 265,951 225,705 17.8 286 10 930 79,201,583 Fox
20 The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian 258,898 551,513 -53.1 286 9 905 139,336,468 Buena Vista
Top 5 $ 118,427,579 $ 133,591,195 -11.4
Top 10 139,919,684 149,925,900 -6.7
Top 20 148,115,682 157,152,744 -5.8
Top 20 vs. 2007 148,115,682 177,549,382 -16.6

Last Updated: July 14, 2008 at 10:45PM ET

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