Here’s your weekend box office returns (new releases bolded):
1. The Dark Knight Rises - $ 64.0 million
2. Ice Age: Continental Drift - $ 13.3 million
3. The Watch - $ 13.0 million
4. Step Up Revolution – $ 11.8 million
5. Ted – $ 7.3 million
6. The Amazing Spider-Man - $ 6.8 million
7. Brave - $ 4.2 million
8. Magic Mike – $ 2.5 million
9. Savages – $ 1.7 million
10. Moonrise Kingdom – $ 1.3 million
While many were focused this week on how people’s reactions to last week’s Colorado tragedy would affect theater attendance, the number to really look at are the 40 million who saw Danny Boyle’s latest production. And never had to leave their house. That is the record number of viewers who tuned in Friday night to see rings forged and children’s nightmares come to life in the form of commentary by Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira. While you or I may not have watched or even cared about a 4 1/2-tape delayed spectacle with a cameo by Kenneth Branagh, the summer Olympics over the years have proven to take a bite out of the box office. Was this weekend the exception or the rule?
As the numbers came in about Friday night, it would have been very easy to look at the surveys taken last week which suggested that 20-25% of moviegoers were still a bit skittish about venturing out to their local multiplex. The threat of Colorado copycats being reported in the news could not have helped matters, but law enforcement was well out in front in nailing these nuts so good on them. There was shock, SHOCK I tell you, as The Dark Knight Rises dropped 76% from Friday-to-Friday. A bit steeper than The Avengers‘ 64% and its 2008 predecessor’s 65% dip, but still relatively on par with The Hunger Games‘ 72% drop and well ahead of Harry Potter‘s final chapter falling 84%. Harry had to battle the real Voldemort though while The Dark Knight Rises only had to compete with a 100-foot tall one that was eventually defeated by Mary Poppins.
So what are we talking here – an additional 11% dip on a film’s whose Friday numbers were peppered with $ 30 million in midnight shows because of a madman or because people were watching the Queen jump out of a helicopter? Amongst the biggest opening weekends of all time, The Dark Knight Rises again comes in third (60.2%) in relation to their second week drops. The Avengers (50.3%) and The Dark Knight (52.5%) held a bit better while The Hunger Games and Deathly Hallows 2 suffered more at 61.6% and 72%. Overall, the final chapter in Nolan’s trilogy is about $ 23 million off the pace of the second; a pace still good enough to make it the third fastest film in history to hit $ 300 million and the fifth highest grossing film of all time.
As for the newbies opening this weekend, the prospects are hardly as favorable. The Step Up films, despite getting more pleasantly goofy have become less and less popular with moviegoers making steady declines in opening and overall grosses. Revolution‘s $ 11.8 opening is right in line with that decline. But it looks positively glowing compared to the bath that Fox is going to take on The Watch. The $ 68-million budgeted film is the studio’s second bomb of the summer after Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, but can they blame this one on the Olympics?
The 2000 Summer Olympics were held in late September, so excluding it from the equation we can still look back as far as 1992 to compare this year’s opening ceremony numbers. Here are the top 10 films since in the past 20 years to open during the three weeks of the Olympics during the official summer movie season.
Alien vs. Predator ($ 38.2 million), Tropic Thunder ($ 25.8), Pineapple Express ($ 23.2), The Princess Diaries 2 ($ 22.9), Exorcist: The Beginning ($ 18.05), Hero (2004) ($ 18.00), Unforgiven ($ 15.0), A Time to Kill ($ 14.8), Star Wars: The Clone Wars ($ 14.6), The House Bunny ($ 14.5)
The titles in bold represent those that debuted on the first weekend of the Olympics. The Watch with its $ 13 million opening puts it 4th on that list and 12th overall, behind Without a Paddle ($ 13.5) and just ahead of Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid ($ 12.8). Yikes. A Seth Green/Matthew Lillard/Dax Shepard vehicle from 2004 beating a Ben Stiller/Vince Vaughn/Jonah Hill trifecta in 2012. That’s not even half of what previous Stiller/Vaughn pairings – Dodgeball ($ 30.0) and Starsky & Hutch ($ 28.1) – did and it is Stiller’s weakest live action opening since 2007′s The Heartbreak Kid ($ 14 million).
Can we really gauge just what kind of an effect these events have from either a business or social perspective? Numbers in the top ten are down 43% from last weekend, but where did we expect them to go after the third biggest opening in box office history. The 2008 Olympics showed a 23% drop from the previous weekend but the opening of the 2004 Summer games saw a 22% rise, also with an alien film and a sequel aimed at young girls. There are too many factors week-to-week, month-to-month and year-to-year to draw general comparisons and always point to a single percentage of telling the entire story. Put films in theaters that people want to see and they will show up. Make them good enough and they will come back with friends.
The Dark Knight Rises and Ice Age: Continental Drift are over half-a-billion dollars worldwide. Brave has done $ 300 million worldwide and has not yet even expanded overseas. Ted is going to hit $ 200 million domestically this week and The Amazing Spider-Man will be at $ 250 (and over $ 650 internationally.) Even something as small as Beasts of the Southern Wild with almost $ 4 million in the bank on only 208 screens is slowly drawing in people. How much more could it have made if people weren’t home watching the Olympics? We may never know. And who really cares? Just go see a movie.