‘Tropic Thunder’ Defeats ‘The Clone Wars’

After four incredible weeks atop the box office, The Dark Knight was finally brought down to Earth by the Frat Pack. Tropic Thunder launched with a solid $25.8 million from 3,319 theaters over the weekend and $36.8 million since its Wednesday debut. The action comedy became the 7th ‘R’ rated film of the summer to open over $20 million compared to just three from last summer and one from 2006. The $6.5 million Wednesday opening day was considerably lower than the $12 million opening Wednesday tally from Pineapple Express, but Tropic Thunder displayed consider growth as the weekend progressed. It’s nearly $26 million weekend tally was slightly better than the $23.2 million from Pineapple‘s first weekend. This makes the long term prospects better for Thunder, but on the down side, the budget for the film is reported to be over twice that of Pineapple‘s.

Tropic Thunder

Opening in third to un-franchise-like results was Star Wars: The Clone Wars with just $14.6 million from a very wide 3,452 theaters. The animated film was never expected to come even close to the heights of the live action Star Wars films, but most of the industry pegged it to open in at least the low-20’s range. Even worse, the film dropped nearly 20% on Saturday and another 33% on Sunday, indicating a very frontloaded film. Most of the die-hard fans have already seen the animated space opera, which is set between Episodes II and III, and its not creating much interest among more casual fans of the franchise. The Warner Bros. film will likely finish below $40 million.

The Star Wars franchise suffered another blow this weekend thanks to The Dark Knight. $16.4 million from over the weekend was enough to push it past the original Star Wars to become number two on the all time domestic chart. The Bat has collected a massive $471.1 million in just 31 days and is on pace to crack $500 million by Labor Day.

Debuting in fourth place to decent numbers was Mirrors. The ‘R’ rated horror film from 20th Century Fox opened to $11.2 million from 2,664 theaters. With the arrival of another ‘R’ rated action comedy, Pineapple Express posted a large 58% drop for a $9.8 million weekend and $62.7 million 12 day total. An $80-$85 million final should result.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor continued to fade away falling over 50% with $8.2 million in its third weekend. With $86.2 million so far, a total just north of $100 million is likely. In seventh, Mamma Mia! continued to impress with $6.1 million in its fifth weekend, off only 26% from last week. After similar openings, the ABBA musical will pass Hairspray‘s total in just a few days. Another chick flick, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, fell 46% in its second weekend with $5.8 million. The $32 million 12 day total is considerably higher than its predecessor through the same point in its run. In ninth, Step Brothers continued its predictable run dropping 47% with $4.8 million in its fourth weekend. With $90.7 million so far, a $100 million+ total is likely.

In tenth place, Vicky Cristina Barcelona posted the largest opening for a Woody Allen film in nearly a decade. The well-reviewed film debuted with $3.8 million from just 692 sites for a good $5,427 per theater average. That average indicates that there might be room for Vicky to expand in the coming weeks.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Falling to 11th in its sixth weekend, Journey to the Center of the Earth dropped just 31% to $3.3 million. With $88 million in the bank, the 3D feature may be able to squeeze out a $100 million total. Another 3D film, Fly Me to the Moon, opened in 12th place with $1.9 million from 452 digital 3D screens. The animated film did not enjoy the success that Journey had for several reasons. Moon was shown only in 3D and had to share many of its screens with Journey, while the latter film opened in both 3D and 2D locations. Moon was also distributed by a rookie studio, Summit Entertainment.

Another animated film, Wall-E, fell out of the top ten in its eighth weekend, with $1.8 million and a running tally of $214.1 million. The lovable robot is now the highest grossing animated film of the year.

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Box Office Data Source: The Numbers

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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 >>