Weekend Box Office (August 10 - 12, 2012)
THIS WEEKEND Another wave of new releases enters North American multiplexes looking to knock Batman out of the top spot. Action fans get the CIA thriller The Bourne Legacy while comedy fans get to choose between two dynamic duos - Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis in the political pic The Campaign or Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones in the relationship film Hope Springs. With the London Olympics coming to a close on Sunday, movie attendance should still be affected one more time but many will be ready to head back to theaters again. Not since late June has any major studio release beaten expectations so there still remains a funk affecting the overall entertainment option of going out to the movies.
Universal takes the bold step of moving ahead with its signature franchise with a new cast and crew in The Bourne Legacy. The PG-13 installment sees Jeremy Renner taking over for Matt Damon as a new CIA operative who once again is double-crossed by his government superiors and on the run. Writer Tony Gilroy directs this time and brought along his crew giving the new pic a different look and feel. Legacy's success will depend primarily on how much of the existing Bourne fan base the studio can retain given all the changes. Each film in the series grossed more than its predecessor and 2007's The Bourne Ultimatum was a monster hit in the world of spy movies grossing $227.5M domestically which still today beats all James Bond and Mission: Impossible films.
Plenty of good will is there from the most recent chapter, but without Damon, many will drop out this time. Renner has made a name for himself recently playing second banana in The Avengers and the most recent Mission pic. But this is the first time he is being asked to anchor a major studio picture so while he is a well-respected actor, he is untested in this situation. Reviews have been decent and overall slightly positive but Legacy really needed better notices from film critics to persuade a mass audience of adults to take a chance on it. Legacy does have a brand name working for it and action fans are eager to move on to the next major title after The Dark Knight Rises. Debuting in 3,746 theaters, The Bourne Legacy could bow to roughly $33M.
Election years bring out political films and Warner Bros. answers the call with its Will Ferrell-Zach Galifianakis comedy The Campaign. The R-rated picture finds the two comics playing rivals during an election for a congressional district and puts into play plenty of humor poking fun at our country's electoral process. Ferrell sells best in these types of roles playing confident buffoons in powerful positions. Plus he can make films work in both PG-13 and R worlds. Fans who liked him in Anchorman, Step Brothers, and Talladega Nights should take interest here. Plus he hasn't had a major wide release in two years so moviegoers are ready to see him again in the type of role they expect from him.
Zach Galifianakis has won over many fans from his Hangover films, but outside of those he has been a tougher star to sell. But the election theme is a good one in this moment in time and reviews have been more than good enough for a comedy of this kind. Competition won't be fierce either, however audiences have been rejecting star-driven R comedies this summer from Vince Vaughn, Adam Sandler, and Sacha Baron Cohen so some may not be interested in giving it another try. Opening in 3'205 locations, The Campaign might take in around $25M this weekend.
Making no mistake that it's aiming directly for an older and more mature audience, Sony unveils its marriage counseling comedy Hope Springs anchored by 60+ heavyweights Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. The PG-13 film about a middle-aged couple off to seek help on how to fix their stale relationship also stars Steve Carell in a supporting role as the therapist and is from filmmaker David Frankel who last directed Streep in the smash hit The Devil Wears Prada. But with Hope there is no established book audience here and the great one is not playing an eccentric character.
Older audiences, especially women, have had nothing big to be excited about for some time so direct competition will be weak. Many star-driven films have shown that if you offer the right product, this audience will make its way out to the box office - and not just on the first weekend only. Starpower is solid, marketplace conditions are good as many have extra time in August to try out a film like this, and reviews have generally been positive. Streep coming off of her first Oscar win in over a quarter-century this past February also can't hurt as she is a huge box office superpower with this demographic. Now playing in 2,361 theaters, Hope Springs could find itself with about $14M this weekend and roughly $18M over the five days since its Wednesday bow.
Just like The Avengers before it, The Dark Knight Rises will end its reign atop the box office chart after three weeks thanks to the new star-driven product flooding the marketplace. The trilogy-concluding super hero flick stabilized last weekend and may once again show a decent hold. Competition is a factor but there is still much love from the fan base to capitalize on. A 45% decline would give Warner Bros. about $20M and a cume to date of $392M with the quadruple-century barrier set to come down next week.
Total Recall was not too impressive out of the gate last weekend. With weak audience buzz and a new PG-13 big-brand actioner ready to steal away summer thrill-seekers, look for a 55% tumble to around $11M giving Sony roughly $50M in ten days. Fox's kidpic sequel Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days has much less to worry about with nothing major opening that would distract twelve-year-olds. But it is a sequel with an upfront audience so a 45% slide could result. That would give Wimpy about $8M and a total of $30M in ten days.
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LAST YEAR Holding onto the number one spot, but by a much more narrow margin than expected, Fox's Rise of the Planet of the Apes captured $27.8M and broke the $100M mark in its second weekend. Disney's acclaimed drama The Help blasted past expectations and debuted in second with a stellar $26M and an incredible $35.9M over five days. The future Oscar contender went on to gross $169.7M making it one of the top non-sequels of the year. The horror pic Final Destination 5 bowed in third with $18M on its way to $42.6M for Warner Bros. Sliding down to fourth was the hit kidpic The Smurfs with $13.7M followed by Sony stablemate 30 Minutes or Less which opened to just $13.3M on its way to $37.1M.
This column is updated three times each week: Thursday (upcoming weekend's summary), Sunday (post-weekend analysis with estimates), and Monday night (actuals). Opinions expressed in this column are those solely of the author.
Last Updated: August 9, 2012 at 1:15PM ET
Watch Gitesh Pandya's weekly box office preview on CNN International airing live each Thursday at 7:40pm ET.