Weekend Box Office (August 1 - 3, 2008)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND 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 $100M 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 43% in its third outing to $42.7M, according to final studio figures. Averaging a still-muscular $10,001 per theater, the superhero sequel boosted its total to a jaw-dropping $393.8M in only 17 days and might 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 $38M from 51 markets to boost its stellar overseas tally to $203.5M. That gives the comic book flick a worldwide cume of $597M 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 $40.5M. Invading 3,760 locations, the PG-13 film averaged a solid $10,760 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 $100M. 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 $16.5M ranking third for the frame. Off 47%, the R-rated Sony release has banked an impressive $63.2M 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 29% to $12.6M pushing the cume to $87.5M. 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 $6.7M, off just 31%, and lifted its sum to $72.9M. 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 $6.2M from 2,213 venues. Averaging just $2,815 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 39% to $5.1M and saw its cume climb to $215.9M for Sony. Disney's WALL•E dipped a mere 28% to $4.6M for a $204.1M 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 $3.4M. After ten days, the $30M pic has grossed only $17M and should end up with only $22-25M. The animated comedy Space Chimps slipped 40% to $2.7M for a cume of $22M. The X-Files team must be embarrassed by the fact that its film is being outgrossed by Space Chimps.

The top ten films grossed $140.9M which was down 11% from last year when The Bourne Ultimatum opened in the top spot with $69.3M; but up 21% from 2006 when Talladega Nights debuted at number one with $47M.

Compared to projections, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor opened a few notches below my $48M forecast while Swing Vote was close to my $8M prediction.

Check out the updated chart of all-time domestic blockbusters with The Dark Knight's NEW standing.

For a NEW review of The Mummy visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Pineapple Express and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 both open.

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

# Title Aug 1 - 3 Jul 25 - 27 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Dark Knight $ 42,664,219 $ 75,166,466 -43.2 4,266 3 $ 10,001 $ 393,751,065 Warner Bros.
2 The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor 40,457,770 3,760 1 10,760 40,457,770 Universal
3 Step Brothers 16,506,526 30,940,732 -46.7 3,094 2 5,335 63,172,026 Sony
4 Mamma Mia! 12,615,515 17,746,725 -28.9 3,062 3 4,120 87,470,125 Universal
5 Journey to the Center of the Earth 6,662,406 9,717,217 -31.4 2,285 4 2,916 72,927,314 New Line
6 Swing Vote 6,230,669 2,213 1 2,815 6,230,669 Buena Vista
7 Hancock 5,087,756 8,311,123 -38.8 2,782 5 1,829 215,883,222 Sony
8 WALL•E 4,603,179 6,422,186 -28.3 2,555 6 1,802 204,078,076 Buena Vista
9 The X-Files: I Want to Believe 3,385,878 10,021,753 -66.2 3,185 2 1,063 17,021,373 Fox
10 Space Chimps 2,720,177 4,536,838 -40.0 2,134 3 1,275 21,971,016 Fox
11 Hellboy II: The Golden Army 2,488,525 5,100,305 -51.2 1,959 4 1,270 71,234,335 Universal
12 Wanted 1,239,980 2,738,550 -54.7 895 6 1,385 131,320,095 Universal
13 Brideshead Revisited 1,163,544 339,616 242.6 189 2 6,156 1,698,007 Miramax
14 Get Smart 994,065 2,272,394 -56.3 728 7 1,365 126,500,884 Warner Bros.
15 Kung Fu Panda 626,363 1,055,932 -40.7 520 9 1,205 210,480,901 Paramount
16 Iron Man 580,179 310,654 86.8 407 14 1,426 315,687,768 Paramount
17 The Incredible Hulk 477,840 423,150 12.9 362 8 1,320 133,283,170 Universal
18 Tell No One 460,366 421,821 9.1 94 5 4,898 2,305,569 Music Box
19 Kit Kittredge 400,261 601,888 -33.5 450 7 889 16,224,319 Picturehouse
20 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom... 359,349 570,774 -37.0 332 11 1,082 314,331,661 Paramount
Top 5 $ 118,906,436 $ 143,592,893 -17.2
Top 10 140,934,095 170,701,895 -17.4
Top 20 149,724,567 177,634,686 -15.7
Top 20 vs. 2007 149,724,567 172,277,435 -13.1

Last Updated: August 4, 2008 at 8:00AM ET

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