Thunder Dethrones Knight
DreamWorks/Paramount’s R-rated comedy “Tropic Thunder” rolled into the marketplace as forecast this weekend, with a chart-topping $26 million in estimated first-frame grosses and $37 million since its Wednesday bow.
That finally rousted “The Dark Knight” from atop the domestic heap, as Warner Bros.’ Batman sequel finished second over its fifth frame with $16.8 million and a $471.5 million cume. Lucasfilm’s “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” — a Warners-distributed CG-animated feature — opened in third place with $15.5 million.
New Regency’s Fox-distributed horror film “Mirrors” debuted in fourth place with $11.1 million. And Sony’s R-rated comedy “Pineapple Express” dropped 57% from its opening session to $10 million in fifth place and a 10-day cume of $62.9 million.
Woody Allen’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” from MGM and the Weinstein Co., bowed outside the top 10 with a solid $3.7 million from a barely wide 692 playdates.
Industrywide, the session’s $132 million in collective grosses represented a 2% uptick from the comparable frame a year earlier, according to data service Nielsen EDI.
Seasonal grosses are pacing even with tallies from the record summer 2007 boxoffice at $3.80 billion.
Year to date, 2008 is off 1% from the same portion of last year, at $6.47 billion.
Among the weekend’s limited openings, Summit unspooled its 3-D animated feature “Fly Me to the Moon” in 452 theaters — all 3-D venues — and grossed $2 million. That was right in line with expectations, and Summit distribution president Richie Fay said he hopes to boost “Moon” playdates as 3-D screens become available.
Overture debuted its drama “Henry Pool Is Here” in 527 locations and grossed $800,000. Any expansion for the Luke Wilson starrer appears unlikely, as its per-theater average was a limp $1,518.
IFC debuted its French-language release “Girl Cut in Two” on two screens and grossed $19,480, or a sturdy $9,740.
Elsewhere in the specialty market, Miramax expanded its period drama “Brideshead Revisited” by 152 theaters for a total of 501 and grossed $746,000 — or a thin $1,489 per venue — with a $4.7 million cume.
Freestyle Releasing expanded the wine tale “Bottle Shock” by 69 locations for a total of 117 and grossed $406,313, or a palatable $3,472 per site, with a cume of $850,488.
Paramount Vantage expanded its documentary “American Teen” by 29 playdates to a total of 105 and grossed $102,812, or a light $1,036 per engagement, with a cume of $656,207.
Sony Pictures Classics’ drama “Frozen River” added eight theaters for a total of 15 to gross $61,263, or an acceptable $4,084 per venue, with a cume of $256,376.
“Tropic” — which stars Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. — drew audiences comprised 57% by males, with a big 67% of patrons 25 or older. Stiller also directed the film and bested his previous biggest opening as a helmer, a $19.8 million bow for 1996’s “The Cable Guy,” EDI noted.
Execs said there didn’t seem to be much impact from a pre-release controversy over a comedy riff in “Tropic” involving a mentally retarded screen character, which drew a protest from advocates for the mentally challenged.
“We’re thrilled with the opening, and we’re expecting it to play great over the next few weeks with the great reactions to the film,” DreamWorks spokesman Chip Sullivan said.
A $90 million production, “Tropic” will have execs hoping for foreign grosses a bit hotter than the usual tepid tallies for American comedies. The big-name cast — which also includes a much-discussed role by Tom Cruise as a foul-mouthed movie exec — should help in that mission.
“Dark Knight” — which until this weekend had topped the domestic boxoffice for four consecutive weekends — now ranks as the second-best domestic grosser ever, behind the $600.8 million haul for “Titanic” in 1997-98. The Warners film passed 1977’s “Star Wars” ($461 million) on Saturday.
“Dark Knight” posted another better-than-expected weekend hold, with a skimpy 36% drop in weekend grosses from the previous session. So Warners — which previously projected the Christian Bale starrer for a $520 million total domestic gross — has raised its estimate to $530 million. [thr]