Weekend Box Office (August 8 - 10, 2008)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND The unstoppable box office superhero The Dark Knight once again defeated all foes and spent its fourth consecutive weekend at number one becoming the first film in nearly five years to accomplish the fourpeat. With the gold medal going to Batman, Seth Rogen and James Franco shared the silver with their new stoner comedy Pineapple Express which posted a solid five-day debut. The frame's other new release, the friendship sequel The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, debuted in fourth with commendable results. Showing signs that the summer box office is coming to an end, the top ten slumped to its lowest tally of the season.

Moviegoers once again drove The Dark Knight to the top spot as Warner Bros. grossed $26.1M in its fourth weekend, according to final studio figures, to boost the 24-day total to an unbelievable $441.6M. The Caped Crusader continued to reach new milestones. Down only 39%, the superhero sequel shot up to number three on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters and sits behind only Titanic which grossed $600.8M during one theatrical run across 1997 and 1998, and Star Wars which took in $461M from multiple releases over different decades.

Of course, ticket prices were much lower during those years and Knight is not likely to match those films in admissions. The new Joker film has sold roughly 62 million stubs which puts it on the same level as 2003's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King which grossed $377M and sits at number ten on the all-time list. Coincidentally, the final Frodo pic was the last movie to spend four straight weekends at number one. Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ hit the top spot over four non-consecutive frames in 2004 including its first three sessions as well as its seventh outing which was the Easter holiday weekend. In today's crowded marketplace, especially in the summer when even megahits like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Transformers, and The Bourne Ultimatum only spend one week at the top, The Dark Knight's feat is truly incredible.

The new Batman movie also smashed the $700M barrier in worldwide grosses this weekend. Overseas audiences in 56 markets spent $35.5M allowing the international total to soar to $263.5M while the global tally climbed to a jaw-dropping $705.1M. Opening against the start of the Beijing Olympics, Knight saw stunning first-place numbers in Korea with $6.9M in five days which already puts it ahead of the lifetime gross of Batman Begins. The turnout was not as bright in Japan where it bowed in second place to $3.1M beating the opening of Begins by only 15%. The Dark Knight now looks set to reach the neighborhood of $520M from North America and more than $900M worldwide.

The stoner comedy Pineapple Express claimed second place with an opening of $23.2M over the Friday-to-Sunday period and a gross of $41.3M since its Wednesday launch. Rated R, the Rogen-Franco buddy pic played in 3,072 theaters and averaged $7,567 per joint for the best average in the top ten. The Judd Apatow production got off to a red hot start with a blistering $12.1M bow on Wednesday driven by older teens and young adults rushing out on the first day to see the much-buzzed-about comedy. Pineapple lost some steam as the weekend came with $7.9M on Friday, a 3% dip to $7.7M on Saturday, and no drop on Sunday which also posted $7.7M. Friday-to-Saturday declines are not uncommon during the summer, but when a midweek launch takes some fuel out of the Friday gross, usually some kind of increase will occur on Saturday.

The action-comedy basically played out like a highly-anticipated sequel over the five-day period. A whopping 44% of the cume was collected on Wednesday and Thursday nearly matching the 45% ratio of last summer's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix which grossed $62.6M of its five-day $139.7M tally on those two first days when fans rushed to theaters. Non-sequels opening on a Wednesday in July or August generally take in 30-35% in the first two days of play. Produced for $27M, Pineapple looks to be a profitable venture regardless of what kind of legs it displays. Studio research showed that 58% of the audience was male while the CinemaScore grade was a solid A-. Reviews were generally good. Competition will heat up fast with this Wednesday's launch of rival R-rated action-comedy Tropic Thunder starring Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey, and Tom Cruise.

The adventure sequel The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor finished in third place in North America, but on a worldwide basis it remained at number one this weekend. Domestically the Universal actioner tumbled 59% to $16.5M boosting the ten-day tally to $71M. That was a much harder fall than the sophomore declines for the first two installments in the Brendan Fraser franchise. The Mummy fell by 43% in 1999 while The Mummy Returns dropped by 51% in 2001. Both of those launched on the first weekend of May to kickoff their respective summer seasons. A final gross of $100-110M could result stateside for the $145M-budgeted pic. Overseas where the film is generating more excitement, Dragon Emperor hauled in a stunning $56.1M this weekend from 49 territories and raised its international cume to $141.1M. The global gross soared to $212M with a few big markets like Japan and China still to come.

Girlpower drove The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 to a fourth place debut with $10.7M for the weekend and $19.6M since opening on Wednesday. That represented a healthy 45% increase over the $13.6M five-day bow of the first Sisterhood in June 2005. That film went on to gross a modest $39M for Warner Bros. and found more fans on video. The new Pants opened in 2,707 locations and averaged a decent $3,945 per site which was on par with the $3,807 three-day debut average of its predecessor. Reviews were positive.

Will Ferrell's latest comedy Step Brothers dropped 45% in its third weekend to $9.1M and lifted its total to $81.1M for Sony. The leggy musical Mamma Mia! grossed $8.2M in its fourth weekend slipping only 35%. Universal's cume rose to $104.1M with the Meryl Streep hit becoming the twelfth $100M blockbuster of the summer. The industry had 14 at this point last year. For the Oscar-winning actress, the ABBA songfest marks her fourth time joining the century club. The studio placed its bets on expensive action movies this summer with The Incredible Hulk, Wanted, plus the Hellboy and Mummy sequels. However, Mamma Mia! could very well fly past all of them if it keeps up its stellar pace and become Universal's top-grossing film of the year. Overseas, the film grossed another $14.7M and boosted the international sum to $173.4M and the global tally to an amazing $277.5M.

Brendan Fraser's second offering in the top ten, the 3D adventure Journey to the Center of the Earth, folllowed with $4.9M, off a mere 27%, giving New Line and Warner Bros. $81.8M to date. The Will Smith superhero flick Hancock fell 35% to $3.3M for a $221.7M sum for Sony.

The Pixar toon WALL•E was the oldest resident in the top ten and followed with $3.1M in its seventh session. Down 32%, the Disney release has banked $210.2M thus far. Kevin Costner rounded out the top ten with his political comedy Swing Vote which tumbled 50% to $3.1M in its second term. With only $12M in ten days, look for a disappointing $20M finish.

The top ten films grossed $108.3M which was down 19% from last year when Rush Hour 3 opened in the top spot with $49.1M; but up 4% from 2006 when Talladega Nights stayed at number one with $22.1M in its second frame.

Compared to projections, Pineapple Express and Sisterhood both opened somewhat lower than my respective five-day forecasts of $42M and $23M.

Check the updated list of all-time domestic blockbusters featuring The Dark Knight's new position and the updated chart of the top ten films of this summer.

For a NEW review of Tropic Thunder visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend's crowded frame when Tropic Thunder, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Mirrors, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Henry Poole is Here, and Fly Me to the Moon all open.

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

# Title Aug 8 -10 Aug 1 - 3 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Dark Knight $ 26,117,030 $ 42,664,219 -38.8 4,025 4 $ 6,489 $ 441,628,497 Warner Bros.
2 Pineapple Express 23,245,025 3,072 1 7,567 41,318,736 Sony
3 The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor 16,490,970 40,457,770 -59.2 3,778 2 4,365 71,048,920 Universal
4 The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 10,678,430 2,707 1 3,945 19,620,128 Warner Bros.
5 Step Brothers 9,128,662 16,506,526 -44.7 3,182 3 2,869 81,132,136 Sony
6 Mamma Mia! 8,208,580 12,615,515 -34.9 3,194 4 2,570 104,144,505 Universal
7 Journey to the Center of the Earth 4,871,478 6,662,406 -26.9 1,970 5 2,473 81,775,323 New Line
8 Hancock 3,317,450 5,087,756 -34.8 2,258 6 1,469 221,726,791 Sony
9 WALL•E 3,140,083 4,603,179 -31.8 2,144 7 1,465 210,206,582 Buena Vista
10 Swing Vote 3,125,290 6,230,669 -49.8 2,213 2 1,412 12,020,828 Buena Vista
11 Space Chimps 1,767,277 2,720,177 -35.0 1,631 4 1,084 25,564,347 Fox
12 The X-Files: I Want to Believe 1,290,738 3,385,878 -61.9 1,695 3 761 19,750,553 Fox
13 Hellboy II: The Golden Army 1,254,895 2,488,525 -49.6 1,015 5 1,236 73,539,575 Universal
14 Singh is Kinng 1,198,721 112 1 10,703 1,198,721 Studio 18
15 Brideshead Revisited 1,062,247 1,163,544 -8.7 349 3 3,044 3,346,544 Miramax
16 Wanted 735,090 1,239,980 -40.7 642 7 1,145 132,603,470 Universal
17 Get Smart 496,419 994,065 -50.1 432 8 1,149 127,477,637 Warner Bros.
18 Kung Fu Panda 473,427 626,363 -24.4 408 10 1,160 211,355,837 Paramount
19 Iron Man 426,502 580,179 -26.5 345 15 1,236 316,468,817 Paramount
20 Tell No One 355,311 460,366 -22.8 102 6 3,483 2,860,789 Music Box
Top 5 $ 85,660,117 $ 118,906,436 -28.0
Top 10 108,322,998 140,934,095 -23.1
Top 20 117,383,625 149,724,567 -21.6
Top 20 vs. 2007 117,383,625 149,485,273 -21.5

Last Updated: August 11, 2008 at 7:45PM ET

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