Weekend Box Office (August 10 - 12, 2012)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Universal scored its industry-leading third number one opening of the summer with its franchise spy thriller The Bourne Legacy which knocked The Dark Knight Rises out of the top spot after a three-week reign atop the North American box office. Moviegoers also came out in healthy numbers for two new star-driven comedies as the political comedy The Campaign starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis and the marital tale Hope Springs with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones both connected with their target audiences. After back-to-back weekends when the Top 20 was down by more than 25% from last year, the marketplace rebounded back to normal levels for this time of year.

Jeremy Renner anchored a solid, but not spectacular, opening for his latest franchise pic The Bourne Legacy which debuted to $38.1M, according to final studio figures, from 3,746 theaters for an encouraging $10,185 average. It was more than $2M less than originally estimated on Sunday. The PG-13 film pulled in action fans despite the fact that star Matt Damon who played the title character of all three previous films, and director Paul Greengrass who helmed the last two installments, were gone this time. Adjusting for ten years of ticket price increases, Legacy sold almost the exact same number of tickets on opening weekend as the first film in the franchise The Bourne Identity from June 2002 - 4.7 million.

But given the cast and crew changes, Renner having no track record of anchoring a major film, and being among the last in a long line of summer action offerings, Legacy's performance was reasonably good. The weekend gross was also close to the $40.8M of 2006's Casino Royale which asked James Bond fans to forget Pierce Brosnan and accept newcomer Daniel Craig. Universal's decision to bump its release date back a week from August 3 to August 10 certainly paid dividends as it would have split the action crowd with Total Recall last weekend. Plus the juggernaut The Dark Knight Rises was a week older this frame.

Legacy played well across gender lines with men making up 52% of the crowd, according to studio research. Those 30 and older were a very high 69% as teen appeal was not strong. Produced for $125M, a reasonable cost for today's franchise action films, The Bourne Legacy earned mixed reviews from film critics and audiences alike. The CinemaScore grade was a B which means word-of-mouth going forward will probably be only so-so. And the Friday-to-Saturday bump of 4% was about the same as the one posted last week by Recall which fell apart in its second weekend. Also challenging its legs will be the opening of another adult-skewing action sequel this Friday in The Expendables 2.

Opening to good results in the runner-up spot was the Will Ferrell-Zach Galifianakis political comedy The Campaign with $26.6M from 3,205 theaters for an impressive $8,296 average. It was the third best opening of the year for an R-rated comedy behind only the $54.4M of surprise smash Ted, and the $36.3M of 21 Jump Street. Ferrell, who has not been seen on-screen with a major film in two years, flexed some starpower and fans eager to see him again turned out. The story involving rival bumbling political candidates provided very relevant subject matter which sparked interest in comedy fans. Plus the marketplace had almost nothing else offering laughs for grown-ups and reviews were better than necessary to sell this type of broad comedy.

Produced for $60M, The Campaign will have no problem reaching a domestic gross that beats its production cost. Legs may not be that great as the CinemaScore grade of B- indicates that consumers were not terribly satisfied so word-of-mouth should be mixed. Campaign opened much like Ferrell's last R-rated comedy Step Brothers which opened four years ago in late July with $30.9M when it also faced competition from both a Dark Knight hit and the Summer Olympics. Ferrell does have fans around the world and huge global crowds saw Galifianakis in both Hangover films so international potential is there, although a story about the world of American elections is not an easy sell.

It was two for Batman Begins, four for The Dark Knight, and now The Dark Knight Rises ends its reign at the top of the box office at three weeks. With another franchise action film making a solid debut, the final Batman film from Christopher Nolan dropped 47% to $19M boosting the domestic total to $389.6M after 24 days for Warner Bros. Its 2008 predecessor enjoyed a smaller 39% decline in its fourth frame despite having to compete with the start of the Beijing Olympics. TDKR rose up to number 15 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters passing the $381M of last summer's final wizard flick Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 which had the benefit of 3D surcharges.

The Bane blockbuster is running 12% behind the pace of the Joker flick and still seems to be on a trajectory to end with roughly $445M from North America. Overseas, Rises made $35.1M, off a troubling 48%, for an international total of $446.6M and global haul of $836.2M. Nolan's Gotham City trilogy has now amassed an incredible $2.2 billion worldwide and counting. The final chapter also just secured a release date in China for August 27 which should undoubtedly guarantee it a spot in the billion-dollar club.

Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones enjoyed a respectable start for their relationship comedy Hope Springs which bowed to $14.7M from 2,361 playdates for a $6,205 average. The PG-13 film about a middle-aged couple seeking counseling to enliven their marriage grossed $19.1M since its Wednesday release and played, as expected, to the Meryl crowd. Studio research showed that the audience was overwhelmingly adult female - 66% were women and 69% were 40 or over. Reviews were positive but not very enthusiastic and paying audiences were not especially excited as the CinemaScore grade was a B.

Older skewing films tend to have good legs so Sony is hoping to keep Springs in theaters until the fall and make its grosses over the long-term. The studio has utilized the first half of August to target older women before with 2009's Julie & Julia starring Streep which debuted to $20M representing only 21% of its final gross of $94.1M, and 2010's Eat Pray Love with Julia Roberts which opened to $23.1M which was 29% of its $80.6M total. Both were adapted from best-selling books, though, whereas Hope came from an original screenplay. Plus with Sunday's close of the Olympics, the target audience will become more available in the days ahead. Sony and MGM acquired domestic rights for a fee in the mid-teen millions and Sony handled marketing and distribution duties.

A pair of sophomores followed with each dropping on a different trajectory. Sony's expensive sci-fi remake Total Recall tumbled by a troubling 69% to only $8M. By comparison, Arnold Schwarzenegger's 1990 original opened at the same level but dropped only 41% to $15.1M in its second weekend. The Colin Farrell actioner has collected a disappointing $44.1M in ten days and looks headed for a $60-65M finish from North America putting even more pressure on international markets to deliver big crowds. An overseas expansion this weekend into new territories like Russia, Japan, and Mexico resulted in an estimated $18.7M frame from 38 markets raising the offshore cume to just $27.5M. Fox's kid sequel Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days fell a reasonable 45% to $8M pushing the ten-day total to $30.4M. A final take close to the $52.7M of the last installment of the series should result.

The top ten's only toon Ice Age: Continental Drift held up well again with $6.4M, off a slender 26%, lifting the sum for the 3D Fox pic to $143.7M. Universal's hit comedy Ted followed with $3.2M, down 43%, and a cume to date of $209.8M.

3D dance sequel Step Up Revolution fell 50% to $2.9M giving Lionsgate $30.3M to date. Fox's alien comedy The Watch crumbled 66% to $2.2M and has banked only $31.4M to date.

The reality stunt pic Nitro Circus the Movie 3D debuted to poor results outside of the top ten with $1.2M from 800 locations for a dismal $1,480 average. Since debuting on Wednesday, the R-rated Jackass-type flick aimed at young men has grossed $2.2M in five days. Opening to good results in platform release was Spike Lee's Red Hook Summer with $40,070 from four New York locations for a $10,018 average. The Variance/40 Acres release earned decent reviews and expands to new markets later this month.

The top ten films grossed $129.1M (off $5M from estimates) which was down 4% from last year when Rise of the Planet of the Apes stayed at number one with $27.8M; but up 1% from 2010 when The Expendables debuted on top with $34.8M.

Compared to projections, The Bourne Legacy opened ahead of my $33M forecast while The Campaign and Hope Springs both debuted very close to my respective predictions of $25M and $14M.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter.

Watch the trailer for Paranormal Activity 4. For a review of The Dark Knight Rises visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Expendables 2, Sparkle, ParaNorman, and The Odd Life of Timothy Green all open.

# Title Aug 10 - 12 Aug 3 - 5 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Bourne Legacy $ 38,142,825 3,745 1 $ 10,185 $ 38,142,825 Universal
2 The Campaign 26,588,460 3,205 1 8,296 26,588,460 Warner Bros.
3 The Dark Knight Rises 18,979,397 35,737,330 -46.9 3,690 4 5,143 389,588,216 Warner Bros.
4 Hope Springs 14,650,121 2,361 1 6,205 19,103,178 Sony
5 Total Recall 8,013,040 25,577,758 -68.7 3,601 2 2,225 44,101,432 Sony
6 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days 8,002,166 14,623,599 -45.3 3,401 2 2,353 30,356,174 Fox
7 Ice Age: Continental Drift 6,380,929 8,609,040 -25.9 3,103 5 2,056 143,694,981 Fox
8 Ted 3,223,675 5,644,680 -42.9 2,208 7 1,460 209,848,585 Universal
9 Step Up Revolution 2,941,818 5,927,462 -50.4 1,898 3 1,550 30,256,580 Lionsgate
10 The Watch 2,221,451 6,527,915 -66.0 2,463 3 902 31,396,079 Fox
11 The Amazing Spider-Man 2,121,235 4,400,315 -51.8 1,585 6 1,338 255,464,677 Sony
12 Brave 1,802,665 2,986,214 -39.6 1,259 8 1,432 227,245,531 Disney
13 Nitro Circus the Movie 3D 1,183,701 800 1 1,480 2,166,159 Arc
14 Beasts of the Southern Wild 722,883 1,154,768 -37.4 286 7 2,528 7,160,156 Fox Searchlight
15 Moonrise Kingdom 614,394 1,240,083 -50.5 447 12 1,374 42,074,792 Focus
16 Men in Black 3 508,001 654,529 -22.4 295 12 1,722 177,549,434 Sony
17 Ruby Sparks 443,102 395,913 11.9 261 3 1,698 1,240,600 Fox Searchlight
18 Magic Mike 422,331 1,414,372 -70.1 450 7 939 112,238,949 Warner Bros.
19 Madagascar 3 421,435 587,512 -28.3 306 10 1,377 211,686,199 Paramount
20 To Rome With Love 418,752 824,223 -49.2 264 8 1,586 15,089,051 Sony Classics
Top 5 $ 106,373,843 $ 91,075,642 16.8
Top 10 129,143,882 111,448,685 15.9
Top 20 137,802,381 119,032,824 15.8
Top 20 vs. 2011 137,802,381 149,882,720 -8.1

Last Updated: August 13, 2012 at 5:10PM ET

Watch Gitesh Pandya's weekly box office preview on CNN International airing live each Thursday at 7:40pm ET.