Weekend Box Office (August 22 - 24, 2008)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND The final days of summer took their toll on the North American box office as moviegoing slowed down dramatically allowing Tropic Thunder to remain in first place for a second straight weekend. Among the frame's four new releases, young females showed the most muscle powering the sorority comedy The House Bunny into second place while adult men pushed Jason Statham's latest action pic Death Race into third. Ice Cube's football drama The Longshots barely made the top ten while the Rainn Wilson comedy The Rocker was dead on arrival bowing at unlucky number thirteen.

Ben Stiller and his platoon of actors stayed in control of the box office with a healthy second weekend for Tropic Thunder which grossed $16.3M, according to final studio figures. Dropping only 37%, the R-rated action-comedy displayed a good hold and bumped its 12-day total to a solid $65.8M. The $90M Paramount release looks set to find its way to $105-115M.

Anna Faris attracted a solid opening to her new comedy The House Bunny which performed above expectations with $14.5M. The PG-13 movie finds the star of the Scary Movie franchise playing an ex-Playboy bunny who becomes a house mother to a sorority of misfits. Sony released the film in 2,714 sites and averaged an encouraging $5,355. With so many action films and R-rated comedies aimed at guys over the past month, Bunny served as effective counter-programming for young women who showed up in impressive numbers. According to studio research, an incredibly high 68% of the audience was female while 54% was under 21. The production budget was $25M.

Finishing in third place for the weekend was Universal's new Jason Statham actioner Death Race with $12.6M from 2,532 locations. Averaging a respectable $4,985 per theater, the R-rated pic performed in line with the actor's other offerings debuting higher than 2006's Crank ($10.5M) but lower than 2005's Transporter 2 ($16.5M). Both of those opened over Labor Day weekend. As expected, adult men made up the bulk of the audience with studio research showing that 63% of the crowd was male while 52% was 25 and older. Death Race carried a $45M pricetag making it more expensive than most of the action hero's previous starring vehicles.

Hollywood's biggest superhero ever followed in fourth as The Dark Knight pulled in $10.5M in its sixth weekend. Sliding only 36%, the Warner Bros. megasmash pushed its record cume up to $489.4M and should surpass the $500M mark next weekend. The magic continued overseas with an estimated $34.7M from 62 markets this weekend sending the international total soaring to $382.1M. With the global tally now standing at a towering $871.5M, The Dark Knight should easily become only the fourth movie in history to top $1 billion at the worldwide box office following Titanic, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.

Suffering the worst decline in the top ten was Star Wars: The Clone Wars which tumbled 61% to $5.7M pushing the ten-day tally to $25M. The Warner Bros. animated entry should finish up with $36-38M. Sony's Pineapple Express followed closely with $5.5M, down 44%, putting the stoner comedy's cume at $73.8M. The horror flick Mirrors dropped 55% to $5M in its second weekend and has scared up $20.2M after ten days. A $30M tally is likely by the end of the run.

Universal's musical smash Mamma Mia! dipped just 29% to $4.3M and raised its domestic haul to $124.5M. This Friday the studio will release in selected theaters a new sing-along version of the hit film for Labor Day weekend which includes on-screen lyrics to all the songs to encourage audience participation, and prolong the box office run. Mamma's overseas sum zoomed to $232.5M pushing the global gross to a stellar $357M. The studio's The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor grossed $4.2M, down 49% for a $93.9M total. The overseas tally climbed to $222.4M giving the China-set adventure sequel a muscular $316M worldwide with 70% coming from outside of North America.

The new Ice Cube football pic The Longshots opened in tenth with only $4.1M averaging a weak $1,953 from 2,089 locations. The PG-rated film was released by MGM and earned lukewarm reviews.

Fox's new Rainn Wilson comedy The Rocker debuted to pathetic results and failed to make the top ten. The PG-13 pic headlined by the co-star of The Office bowed to $2.6M from 2,784 theaters (the most for any new film this weekend) and averaged a pitiful $947 per site. It was the worst opening in box office history for a film bowing in 2,600+ theaters. Audiences ignored the pic sending a message to Hollywood that Wilson is not yet ready to graduate from second banana in the sitcom world to leading man of a theatrical release. Since its Wednesday launch, The Rocker has collected just $3.7M in five days.

Making a moderate splash in limited release was the quirky indie comedy Hamlet 2 which debuted with $439,925 from 103 theaters for a mediocre $4,271 average. A smash at this year's Sundance film festival where it was bought by Focus for a hefty $10M, the R-rated tale tells of a high school drama teacher and his students who put on a controversial musical in order to save their arts program. The distributor is hoping that this weekend's limited debut will spark word-of-mouth that will fuel Wednesday's national expansion into 1,500 theaters in time for the long holiday session. But given this start, the road ahead will not be a smooth one. In 1999, Rushmore debuted in the same number of theaters but grossed $1.8M on opening weekend with a $17,881 average on its way to $17.1M overall. Almost Famous launched in 131 sites with $2.3M and a $17,669 average on its way to $32.5M. Hamlet 2 will need plenty of fan support if it wants to stay on screens into the fall season.

The top ten films grossed $82.7M which was off 2% from last year when Superbad stayed in the top spot with $18M in its sophomore frame; but up 9% from 2006 when Invincible debuted at number one with $17M.

Compared to projections, The House Bunny powered ahead of my $8M forecast while Death Race was on target with my $13M prediction. The Longshots was close to my $6M projection but The Rocker debuted with less than half of my $8M forecast.

Check the NEW updated chart of the top ten films of this summer.

For NEW DVD  reviews of The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning and Gossip Girl: The Complete First Season visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Babylon A.D., Disaster Movie, Traitor, and College all open.

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

# Title Aug 22 - 24 Aug 15 - 17 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Tropic Thunder $ 16,272,195 $ 25,812,796 -37.0 3,352 2 $ 4,854 $ 65,839,915 Paramount
2 The House Bunny 14,533,702 2,714 1 5,355 14,533,702 Sony
3 Death Race 12,621,090 2,532 1 4,985 12,621,090 Universal
4 The Dark Knight 10,542,424 16,379,293 -35.6 3,163 6 3,333 489,416,885 Warner Bros.
5 Star Wars: The Clone Wars 5,661,456 14,611,273 -61.3 3,452 2 1,640 24,999,054 Warner Bros.
6 Pineapple Express 5,452,163 9,808,295 -44.4 2,620 3 2,081 73,780,191 Sony
7 Mirrors 5,010,663 11,161,074 -55.1 2,664 2 1,881 20,211,066 Fox
8 Mamma Mia! 4,314,840 6,096,250 -29.2 2,326 6 1,855 124,469,900 Universal
9 The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor 4,177,950 8,205,720 -49.1 2,422 4 1,725 93,921,245 Universal
10 The Longshots 4,080,687 2,089 1 1,953 4,080,687 MGM
11 Vicky Cristina Barcelona 3,005,031 3,755,575 -20.0 692 2 4,343 8,571,505 MGM
12 The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 2,807,076 5,785,250 -51.5 2,170 3 1,294 38,319,055 Warner Bros.
13 The Rocker 2,636,048 2,784 1 947 3,686,460 Fox
14 Step Brothers 2,301,992 4,807,904 -52.1 1,639 5 1,405 95,586,358 Sony
15 Journey to the Center of the Earth 2,188,254 3,348,341 -34.6 1,051 7 2,082 91,871,213 New Line
16 Fly Me To The Moon 3D 1,422,547 1,900,523 -25.1 540 2 2,634 4,172,139 Summit
17 WALL•E 965,559 1,836,332 -47.4 785 9 1,230 216,252,003 Buena Vista
18 Bottle Shock 651,671 392,440 66.1 324 3 2,011 1,671,490 Freestyle
19 Hancock 643,128 1,720,241 -62.6 588 8 1,094 226,357,065 Sony
20 Kung Fu Panda 579,281 283,677 104.2 437 12 1,326 212,685,098 Paramount
Top 5 $ 59,630,867 $ 77,772,731 -23.3
Top 10 82,667,170 106,423,430 -22.3
Top 20 99,867,757 119,620,243 -16.5
Top 20 vs. 2007 99,867,757 100,585,044 -0.7

Last Updated: August 25, 2008 at 7:00PM ET

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