‘The Dark Knight’ Drills Through $500 Million

On Sunday, The Dark Knight became only the second film ever to cross $500 million domestically. It took just 45 days to reach the mark versus 98 days for Titanic, the only other film to cross the half a billion mark. However, Titanic had a much less frontloaded run than most blockbusters, which allowed it to stay in wide release for nearly a year.

With $503 million as of Sunday, The Dark Knight needs nearly $100 million more to sink Titanic, but with the weekend takes now slipping below $10 million, that possibility is becoming unlikely. It’s still not completely out of the realm of possibility yet, especially if Warner Bros. is able to keep all or most of its still lucrative IMAX screens for several more months. There’s also still a chance of the film being re-released January in theaters if the anticipated Oscar nominations are realized.

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‘Pineapple Express’ Loses Steam on Thursday

Pineapple Express couldn’t maintain its high from Wednesday. On Thursday, it fell a disturbing 50% for a $6 million daily gross. In two days, the stoner comedy has chugged $18.1 million worth of box office. This lower than expected Thursday leaves the door open for a possible repeat performance at the top this weekend from The Dark Knight. The Bat added another $4.7 million on Thursday, which brings the running tally up to $415.5 million. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest will likely fall one place on the all time chart on Friday when the Caped Crusader flies past it.

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Can ‘The Dark Knight’ Sink ‘Titanic’?

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Now that there is serious buzz about The Dark Knight becoming the highest grossing film of all time, I thought now would be a good time to look back at the films of yore that have had the honor of being known as the top dog of the domestic box office.

Gone With the Wind – 1939

Unlike today, back in the 1930’s there was not a standard practice for publishing box office ticket sales, let alone releasing weekend numbers every week. So it is fairly unknown what film(s) held the title before Gone with the Wind. Unofficially, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs may have held the record briefly when it was released in 1937, but that film has been re-released so many times over the last 70 years that it’s hard to tell how much money it actually made during its initial box office run. One of the very first feature films ever made, 1915’s The Birth of a Nation, may have been the highest grossing film for nearly 20 years, but that is still relatively unknown.

There’s no denying, though, that Gone with the Wind, was at one time the highest grossing film of all time. It was the first film to crack $100 million and nearly cracked $200 million with $189.5 million during its initial run in theaters that lasted for several decades. The film has been officially re-released twice in theaters. Once in 1989 and once in 1998. Those runs added a combined $9.2 million giving it a grand total of $198.7 million.

Gone with the Wind was one of the rare films from that era in which the opening weekend take is known. On the weekend of Decmeber 15-17, 1939, the film debuted with $945,000, which would probably be adjusted to slightly over $10 million in today’s dollars. That may not seem like a lot, but the number of theaters that existed back then was exponentially smaller, and the film likely opened at only a fraction of the screens that were available at the time.

Even after several decades of inflation, the Clark Gable starring film still lies among the highest grossing films of all time. It is in fact, the only film prior to 1970 that still has a place in the top 100. Gone with the Wind, though, is still the highest grossing film when adjusted for ticket price inflation. It is estimated to be the only film to sell over 200 million tickets, 60% higher than the current box office champion, Titanic. To give you an idea of just how big that number actually is, the population of the US during Wind‘s time was roughly 120-150 million, according to the US Census. In Titanic‘s time, the population was around 280 million so of course the latter film had a larger pool of potential moviegoers.

The Exorcist – 1973

Gone with the Wind remained at the top for over 30 years until America discovered how scary a possessed young girl could be. I am, of course, referring to The Exorcist. Any discussion concerning the box office limitations of an ‘R’ rated film ends here. The Exorcist is in fact the only ‘R’ rated movie to ever have been known as the top grossing film of all time. The film may be fairly tame by today’s horror standards where the blood, gore, and “shock factor” have ramped up substantially, but that does not take away from how truly terrified audiences were after seeing it.

During its initial box office run that started in 1973, Exorcist scared up a massive $193 million, or nearly $800 million when adjusted for ticket place inflation. The Director’s Cut, released in theaters in 2000, added an additional $39.7 million bringing its grand total to $232.7 million. The film has been spoofed countless times, and has spawned several inferior sequels and even prequels.

Like Gone with the Wind, The Exorcist is still in the top 100 grossing films of all time. When adjusted for inflation, the fright film still sits at number nine. More >>

‘Pineapple Express’ to Smoke Up The Box Office

This week, the two new openers, Pineapple Express and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, have chosen to get a jump start by opening on Wednesday. While both are comedies, they are targeting different genders so both have an opportunity to thrive.

The Judd Apatow brand of humor has been growing in popularity ever since The 40 Year Old Virgin hit it big back in August 2005. Since Virgin, the films that Apatow have been involved in (directing or producing) have, for the most part, become big hits at the box office. His films have helped some actors ascend to A-list status, such as Steve Carell. Carell headlined the star filled cast of Get Smart to strong results earlier this summer. Sony Pictures is hoping that last summer’s hits, Knocked Up and Superbad, have done the same thing to Seth Rogen whose name is above the title for the first time in Pineapple Express. This film is a real test for Rogen to see how much box office muscle he actually has. The ‘R’ rating will not hurt Express because this is what the audience has come to expect from an Apatow film. ‘R’ rated films have actually performed very well at the box office this summer, especially compared to recent years.

Tuesday midnight showings performed well and even exceeded Superbad. The high school set comedy opened on a Friday and posted the largest R-rated debut last summer with $33.1 million. For Express, look for $9 million on Wednesday (including Tues. midnights), $6 million on Thursday, and $29 million over the weekend for a strong five day start of $44 million. Even with Tropic Thunder debuting next Wednesday, the stoner action comedy could still ultimately smoke up 100 million greenbacks by the end of its run.

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 is hoping to build on its predecessor’s decent box office run from 2005. The first Sisterhood also opened on a Wednesday to a 5 day start of $13.6 million and finished with nearly $40 million. In the three years since, the film has gained some new followers on DVD, and two of actresses, America Ferrera and Blake Lively, have gained exposure from being the stars of their respective hit television shows, Ferrera in “Ugly Betty” and Lively in “Gossip Girl”.

Female led films have hit it big this summer with Sex and the City and What Happens in Vegas getting ready to conclude with strong totals of $155 million and $80 million, respectively. Mamma Mia! is still very much a contender in its fourth week of its strong box office run, but there should be enough room for both films to thrive this weekend, even with overlapping target audiences. The estrogen fueled Sisterhood 2 should make out with $12 million over the weekend and an $18 million five day start.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2

Even in its fourth weekend, The Dark Knight stands a chance of repeating again as box office champion. Pineapple Express will take away some of the repeat business from the 17 to 30 age group, but this blockbuster is playing to an extremely wide and diverse audience. Older moviegoers who are curious to see what the buzz is all about will not be distracted by anything else opening at multiplexes this weekend. Instead, Knight’s biggest competition will come from the start of the Summer Olympics, which tends to skew older in the television ratings. Still, Knight is not losing many screens this weekend. I’m going to make a pretty bold statement in predicting that the Batman will edge out Express with $30 million this weekend representing only a 30% drop from last week. That amount will also be enough to post the largest fourth weekend take in history. The total will soar to a massive $445 million, enough to dethrone Shrek 2 to become the top grossing film of the decade.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor has not been performing very well during the week. On Monday, it posted the largest drop among all wide releases and then again on Tuesday. There isn’t much in the way of overlap from the two new openers, which should help soften the blow. Look for a 58% drop to $17 million and a $71 million 10 day running total.

Predictions for the weekend of August 8-10, 2008:

  1. The Dark Knight – $30 million, -30%
  2. Pineapple Express – $28.8 million, NEW
  3. The Mummy 3 – $16.9 million, -58%
  4. The Sisterhood 2 – $12.4 million, NEW
  5. Step Brothers – $7.8 million, -53%
  6. Mamma Mia! – $7.3 million, -42%
  7. Journey to the Center of the Earth – $5.2 million, -22%
  8. Wall-E – $3.6 million, -22%
  9. Swing Vote – $3.5 million, -44%
  10. Hancock – $3.2 million, -37%

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‘The Dark Knight’ Soars Above ‘Spider-Man’

On Tuesday, The Dark Knight collected an additional $5.7 million, which ups its total to $405.7 million. That is enough to fly above Spider-Man to become the 7th highest grossing film of all time. That also means that Knight is now the top grossing comic book / superhero film ever. The 6th place film is Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest with $423.3 million. At Knight‘s current pace, it will pass up Dead Man’s Chest on Friday.

The Dark Knight
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‘Dark Knight’ Tops $400M on Monday

Early figures show The Dark Knight crossing $400 million on Monday, barely. The $6.28 million Monday tally puts its total at $400.031 million. The 18 days it took Knight to reach $400 million decimated the old record of 43 days set by Shrek 2. Now the question remains: Can it become the fastest to $500 million? Titanic is the only film to ever cross a half a billion, and it did so in 98 days. It’s still a little bit too far off to tell, but there is definitely a possibility of breaking that record.

UPDATE: It’s official. Warner Brothers has confirmed that The Dark Knight made $6.3 million Monday, enough to top $400 million.

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‘The Dark Knight’ Fends off ‘The Mummy 3’

Despite a decent opening, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor wasn’t able to dethrone The Dark Knight over the weekend. Elsewhere, Swing Vote misfired with a opening outside of the top five. The overall box office fell behind last summer’s pace when The Bourne Ultimatum opened to $69.3 million setting the record for the biggest August opening.

The Dark Knight defied industry expectations and my own prediction that pegged Batman playing second fiddle to The Mummy 3. It’s the first film to stay on top for three consecutive weekends this year. Over the weekend, Knight collected an estimated $43.8 million, dipping only 42% and lifting its total to a gigantic $394.9 million in only 17 days. That tally now puts it at eighth among the top grossing films of all time sitting just behind Spider-Man. It’s on pace to become the fastest film to $400 million on Monday or Tuesday.

Dark Knight was second on Friday with $12.7 million, but the film rose a massive 37% on Saturday with $17.4 million, reclaiming its number one position in the process. It’s projected to fall 21% on Sunday with $13.7 million.

The latest Batman film continues to outperform to Dead Man’s Chest model. The second Pirates film fell 44% versus the 42% Knight fell during each of their third weekends. Knight‘s current multiplier (total divided by opening weekend) of 2.49 is quite a bit higher than Dead Man’s Chest‘s multiplier of 2.37 obtained through the same point during its run. Chest finished with a 3.12 multiplier so if Knight continues to slightly outperform it, then a 3.3 multiplier or higher could result, which would be more than enough to allow Batman to swoop past $500 million. Even topping Titanic‘s $600 million record breaking run is still a slight possibility, especially if the drops continue to flatten.

The Mummy 3 may have finished first on Friday with $15.4 million, but the film fell to second place on Saturday with $14.8 million, dropping 4%. The film is projected to fall 17% on Sunday to $12.3 million. This gives it an estimated opening weekend of $42.5 million, which is on par with the The Scorpion King when adjusted for inflation but below the openings of The Mummy and The Mummy Returns. A strong third frame from The Dark Knight likely cut into The Mummy 3‘s potential. Still, the film should easily top $100 million, especially with minimal competition the rest of the summer.

Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Domestically, the film may have disappointed, but the addition of international superstar Jet Li led the film to massive openings overseas. More >>

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