July 28, 2012



How much of Friday’s mediocre boxoffice is attributable to a post-Aurora uneasiness about going to multiplexes, how much to competition from the most watched Olympics Opening Ceremonies in history, and how much to simple lack of enthusiasm about the movies on display?  All three probably played a part.

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (Warners) was less successful on Friday than its overly optimistic preliminary numbers suggested.  At $18.1M, it was up only 37% from Thursday’s take, and down a thunderous 76% from opening day.  In comparison, The Dark Knight rose 41% on its 2d Friday, off just 65% from its opening day (in fairness, Rises had a much higher Thursday midnight number that inflated its opening day somewhat).  However one cuts the numbers, Rises is now almost $19M behind Dark Knight, and it’s increasingly unlikely to catch up, possibly running $50-100M behind Dark Knight‘s $533M US total.  Rises will still be a blockbuster success, certainly in the all-time Top 10 US grossers and possibly even in the Top 5… but it’s not quite where the saga was expected to end.  (It should be noted, though, that Rises might have significant upside overseas compared to Dark Knight, which as blockbusters go underperformed internationally, with less than 50% of its business outside the domestic market–so the worldwide total is a very open question, with the film opening gradually beyond the US.)

OPENINGS:  If there’s one lesson to be taken from this summer, it’s that a movie star can make only so many terrible pictures before the audience eventually catches on.  Adam Sandler felt that pinch in June, and now  Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill–combined–are having their turn.  THE WATCH (20th) had a certain amount of taint coming in, thanks to a title change and unimpressive marketing, but a $4.5M opening day is frankly terrible.  The movie is headed for a $12-14M opening weekend, which could be Stiller’s and Vaughn’s worst (for a non-indie) in a decade, depending on whether it can beat The Heartbreak Kid‘s $14M start.  Unless Watch overperforms internationally, it has no hope of recouping its $150M (including marketing) cost.

Expectations weren’t high for STEP UP REVOLUTION (Summit), and the movie lived down to them with a $4.9M opening day, 25% below the last entry in the franchise.  Because of its teen audience, it tends to be frontloaded, so even though its Friday was higher than The Watch, it could fall behind for the weekend with $12-13M.  However, as a franchise it does astonishingly well overseas (Step Up 3D made almost 3/4 of its total boxoffice internationally), so it could still end up being a minor success.

HOLDOVERS:  Things seem to have stabilized since last Friday, when the news hit of the tragedy in Aurora, and films were generally down in a typical range.  The problem for the studios is that everything in release seems to be running out of steam quickly.  ICE AGE 4 (20th), BRAVE (Pixar/Disney) and TED (Universal) are holding up best, with weekend drops that shouldn’t exceed 30-35%, but only Ice Age 4 will make over $10M this weekend (probably around $13.5M).  The other 2 are nearing the end of their runs, with Brave already over $200M and Ted all but certain to get there.  THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (Sony) is unlikely to get beyond $260M, which is a lot of money, but more than 20% behind the least successful of the Sam Raimi trilogy. and 35% behind the original Spider-Man, despite 3D ticket prices this time around. SAVAGES (Universal), the most violent film currently in the market, appears to have been the picture hurt worst by Aurora, and probably won’t get past $50M.

LIMITED RELEASE:  BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (Fox Searchlight) expanded its run by 65% to 208 theatres, but will probably go up only marginally for the weekend, with a merely OK $4K per-theatre average.  RUBY SPARKS (Fox Searchlight), despite hyping some screenings with cast and director Q&As, isn’t creating much excitement with a $9K average likely in 13 theatres.  MOONRISE KINGDOM (Focus/Universal) is tailing off with a $1500 average and a probable $40-45M final total, still the 2d best any Wes Anderson picture has ever done.  TO ROME WITH LOVE (Sony Classics) is headed toward a $15M or so total, very fine for Woody Allen if Midnight In Paris is regarded as an aberration.  The excellent documentary SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN (Sony Classics), despite rhapsodic reviews, will probably have only around a $7500 average at 3 theatres.  William Friedkin’s KILLER JOE (LD), with its NC-17 rating controversy, should start with a $16K average in 3 NY trailer parks.

NEXT WEEKEND:  The major arrival is TOTAL RECALL (Sony), with Colin Farrell as Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Now that the summer’s animated blockbusters are mostly out of the way, the more modest kids franchise DIARY OF A WIMPY KID:  DOG DAYS (20th) will make its stand.  In limited release, the very good CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER (Sony Classics) will try to walk the (500) Days of Summer road and navigate its way from Sundance sweetheart to popular success.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."